Some Types of Old Time Fire Engines.

Some Types of Old Time Fire Engines.

From the little double force pump used in Egypt two hundred years before Christ, the earliest fire extinguishing apparatus of which we have any record, to the large and powerful steam fire engines of to-day, what a jump! Yet we learn from the description given by Heron of Alexandria in his Spiritalia, that the latter is but the development of the Egyptian device, and that it is to the men of 2000 years ago that we owe the fundamental principle upon which our modern apparatus is constructed.

As with so many others of the inventions of the ancients which have since been resurrected, the use of force pumps for fire extinguishment was lost sight of, and for centuries the inhabitants of the continent of Europe were forced to rely for protection upon buckets and hand syringes.

In the sixteenth century an improvement was made in Germany upon this primitive equipment, by the invention of an immense syringe on wheels and hung on pivots. This was made of sufficient size to contain up to a hogshead or more of water and was worked by means of a screw piston. The water was poured into it through an opening near the nozzle.

In the seventeenth century a return was made to the force pump of the old Egyptians. De Caus in a work published in 1615 describes a German engine then in use, consisting of a single cylinder force pump mounted on a sledge, and furnished with a movable play pipe. The mode of operation is shown in our illustration.

Here we have the rude beginning of our present fire engines. From time to time hereafter additions and improvements were made in the form and equipment of the apparatus. The air chamber and goose-necked play pipe were introduced, wheels were added, and finally a most important step was made by the invention by Vander Heide of Amsterdam, of flexible leather or sail cloth leading hose, which displaced the inflexible pi|;c, and of the suction hose which did away with the need of refilling the tank by hand. Minor changes in form and details of construction were also introduced in various places and at different times, as shown in the cuts, until the height of perfection in the construction of the hand engine was reached in those great machines, perfect in their mechanism and elaborate in their finish, which were the glory of the men who “ ran with the machine ” in the palmy days of the great volunteer departments.


But the day of steam had come and with them another radical change in fire extinguishing methods. The first steam fire engine was built in London by Braithwaite and Ericsson in 1829, and in 1840 P. R. Hodge of New York built the first one ever constructed in America. It was not, however, until 1852 that an engine, built by A. B. Lattain the city of Cincinnati, successfully demonstrated the superiority of the steamer over the old hand tub, and the movement was finally set on foot which has since revolutionized the fire service of all civilized countries and has resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property annually from the flames.

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