THE STEAM FIRE ENGINE.
As the Steam Fire Engine occupies the foremost place in the Fire Department, it should naturally receive great attention in the matter of the construction of its different parts. A good Steam Fire Engine should be built for three things, viz,, service, durability, and economy. In the first, the Engine should be so put together as to withstand long service ; in the second so as to withstand the wear and tear of the streets, and in the third so as to call for as small an amount of fuel as possible, and so as to raise steam quickly. A great many builders go to great trouble to build an Engine to raise steam quickly, and overlook all other points. Now it is well known that the first few minutes at a fire are worth hours afterwards, and on that account builders of Steam Fire Engines try their best to make the Engines raise steam in as short a time as possible.
In England there arc but two factories for the building of Steam Fire Engines. Both of these factories turn out plain, unadorned apparatus, and yet for durability they cannot be equalled anywhere. There has been one Engine in service in London for the past ao years, and it is now almost as good as new. In the American Engine there is too much attention given to fine finish, and not enough to strength. I have never seen an American Engine last seven years without a new boiler being put in. 0* the English Engines, Shand, Mason & Co. use the upright tubular boiler, the same as is used by our Amoskeag, Gould. Jeffers, etc., and the other builders, Merriwethcr & Sons, use the Field, or drop tube boiler as it is commonly known. This boiler is used in America by only three builders; Silsby, La France, and Clapp & Jones. It has been thought strange that the English builders have not sent their machines to America for exhibition. The reason why they have not is that these Engines would appear too clumsy to the American eye, for they are plain finished and carry their own hose with them, which, of course, takes away from their appearance. Beside a fine finished Silsby, or Clapp & Jones, they would not be looked at, and yet for strength and service the American Engines could not compete with them.
In America there are twelve Steam Fire Engine builders regularly engaged in manufacture, as follows : Clapp & Jones, of Hudson. N. Y,; Silsby, of Seneca Falls, N. Y.: La France, of Elmira, N. Y.; llunniman. of Boston, Mass.; Button* Son, of Waterford, N. Y.; Nefi & Levi, of Philadelphia: Ives & Bro., of Baltimore ; ColeBtothers, Pawtucket, R. I.; Jeffers, of Pawtucket; Ahrens & Co., and Latta, of Cincinnati, O.; The Amoskeag Co., of Manchester, N. H„ and the Paterson Engine Works of Paterson, N. J. Of these only the first three use the drop tube boiler, all the rest, with one exception, use the upright tubular boiler. This exception is the Latta of Cincinnati. This builder uses, in fact, a double boiler, one inside of the other with a circulating coil. When these Engines were first built many of them had square boilers.
Let me now turn to the Steam Fire-engine in active service. By all practical Engineers the piston is recognized as superior to the rotary build. In one thing the rotary has no equal, which is steadiness of motion while working. This is caused by the cogs and cams revolving in opposite directions to each other, which throws the centre of gravity exactly in the middle of the Engine, and consequently the machine can only hum and buzz. To work a rotary Engine it requires a great deal of steam, and this explains why the rotary uses the Field boiler, as no other style could gen. erate steam fast enough to supply the wants of this Engine. There is also in all rotary Engines a great deal of steam lost by leakage while working, and in ninety out of a hundred rotaries the pump leaks. This must be caused by the tremendous pressure on the revolving cams, which soon causes a wear and tear on their surface. All these are detriments to a Steam Fire Engine.
Take the Piston Engine—of the ten piston Engines named, five of them are horizontal piston Engines and the remainder are vertical, The Gould vertical Engine, built by B. S. Nicols, of Burlington,Vt., increases the list of American Engines to thirteen, I put this Engine by itself because I think it is the best of all the piston build. It also uses the upright tubular boiler. Now there are two strokes, horizontal and vertical, and it has long been a question among Engineers which is the better. The horizontal Engine nearly always gives a long, steady stroke, and the vertical a short, quick stroke. The last forces the most water, but is the worse on the hose as it is driven into it in quick jerks, while the former puts it into the hose more steadily. In all horizontal Engines a backward and forward motion, with puffing and blowing, is visible—this is caused by the horizontal movements of the piston, while in the vertical form the Engine always dances like a person with St. Vitus’ dance ; this is caused by the vertical movements of the piston. All these things should be examined into carefully by Steam Fire Engine builders.