Hello Friends and Family,

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Hall of Flame Museum, Part 4

As the fire engines on display progress to more modern forms, we encounter a Babcock Horse-Drawn Aerial Truck from 1890. As the cities modernized and buildings were being built taller, fire fighters needed ladders to reach the upper stories. This engine even includes the first mechanically powered ladders — such vehicles were called "aerials".

The little boy in me came out when I spotted the steering wheel for the rear wheels to facilitate navigating narrow city streets in these long vehicles. What little boy who grew up seeing any form of ladder truck with the rear steering did not want to drive the back end? I sure wanted that job.

Next up is a Howe Horse-Drawn Rotary Sweep Pumper from 1882. In addition to pulling the engine to a fire, the horses had the role of supplying the muscle for turning the rotary pump. The sign in the next photo shows what it looked like in action.

One of the details I noticed both in the previous photo and this sign was the stake used to prevent the rig from moving about as the horses walked around the engine. Makes sense but probably the result of trial and error.

Here is a horse-drawn chemical engine that was used by the Phoenix Fire Department around 1890. The tanks could be transported to a fire quickly, arriving before the pumpers and ladders.

Here a closer photo of the tanks including the small hand-held fire extinguisher to the left-center of the photo.

When I first saw this exhibit, I thought it looked a 1920's version of Darth Vader. Actually, the "helmet" was to supply air to a firefighter who might enter a burning building for purposes of rescue or initial fire suppression. A hose attached to the back of the mask and a compressor forced air into the hose. Note the sign on the uniform reads, "1 TUG - MORE AIR. 2 TUGS - LESS AIR. 3 TUGS - HELP ME OUT".

The mask had a number of failings — the hose could be easily damaged or obstructed, the visor could be obscured by water vapor and communication was non-existent. These masks were made obsolete by re-breathers, canisters and compressed air apparatus which became available in the 1930s.

This Metropolitan steam fire engine dates to 1904. Steamers, as they were called, used a steam engine to pump water for fire suppression. They were sized from small (for rural volunteer fire departments to large (for big cities).

The key factor favoring steamers was that they could pump much more water than a crew of men with the old hand pumpers — and they could pump for much a much longer period of time. This image shows a closeup of the machinery for the Metropolitan steamer.

I was surprised to see this curious piece of firefighting equipment — it is a "Pung" fire sleigh. These were commonly used in the snowy regions of the northern United States. This one was a converted Studebaker wagon and used to carry hose, ladders and other equipment.

One of the delights for the young museum visitors is an American La France fire engine from 1951. Kids (of all ages) are encouraged to climb aboard and check out what it is like to operate a real fire engine.

In this case, two very young firefighters are going to the aid of fire victims.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com