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Hand & Horse Drawn Apparatus

The listing below contains information on seven of the the museum's major holdings of hand and horse drawn apparatus.  Return to the Hand and Horse Drawn Apparatus Main Page for other pieces of apparatus.

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Horse drawn 2d size steam fire engine. Ex - Ocean City, NJ.  Rated at 600 gpm.  Rotary engine and rotary pump. 

Silsby apparatus was very popular with volunteer departments because of the simplicity and reliability of its pumps and engines.  Silsby featured rotary gear engines and pumps which could pump water with a combined total of four moving parts in the pump and engine.  The disadvantage to the design was its prodigious appetite for coal because of the very inefficient engine.  This would have been a serious defect in a mill engine, but fire fighters were not so much concerned with fuel efficiency as reliability, and the Silsby fire engine would almost always perform despite lack of proper maintenance or inexperienced engineers.  Silsby was second only to Amoskeag in the number of steamers produced.  This engine was used by Ocean City, New Jersey.  Since Ocean City is on flat, sandy ground the engine does not have brakes.  It was in use as late as the 1950s pumping out flooded basements on the Jersey Shore.  It was restored by Henry Crost.  The rig originally had a Silsby fire tube boiler, but this was replaced by a Fox water tube boiler in 1902.

American F.E. Co.
Horse drawn 2d size fire engine. Ex - Reno, NV.  750 gpm. 


The American Fire Engine Company built this second size "Metropolitan" steam fire engine in 1904 and sold it to the fire department of Reno, Nevada, where it served until about 1925.  It was built in the old Ahrens Fire Engine Company factory in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In 1904 the American Fire Engine Company was re-organized as the American La France Fire Apparatus Company.  ALF manufactured the Metropolitan for the next 10 years, until the shift to motorized apparatus. The Metropolitan was one of the final steam fire engine designs and was an excellent machine.  Many were attached to motorized tractors to keep them in action well into the 1920s.

Horse drawn hose wagon. Ex - Chicago, IL.  Built by Chicago FD Shops.

The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry donated this hose wagon to the Hall of Flame in 1965.  It was probably built by the Chicago FD shops around 1900, or it could have been built by the Peter Pirsch Fire Apparatus Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Pirsch built a lot of apparatus for the CFD.  It is very well constructed, with rubber tires, a very strong frame and suspension, a foot gong, fire extinguishers and a lantern.  It could carry five to ten firemen to the scene, as well as hundreds of feet of hose and hundreds of pounds of coal.  The wagon was refurbished at the museum by Henry Crost, a restorer at the MSI.

Horse drawn hose wagon. Ex - Chicago, IL. 

George Getz purchased this wagon in 1965 from the estate of a collector.  Provenance was vague, but it was used by the Chicago  Fire Department, probably around 1900.  There was no manufacturer's plate.  It could well have been made in the Chicago shops, or it might have been made by Pirsch in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, a popular supplier for Chicago Fire.  Mr. Getz partially refurbished the rig, but it was not up to museum standards, and it remained in storage until 2006, when we rolled it into Don Hale's shop for restoration.  Don was forced to replace a number of rotted wooden sections, and he greatly reinforced the chassis.  The wheels also required rebuilding.  All of the original paint was gone, so Don produced an approximation of a hose wagon at the turn of the century. Don finished the restoration in early 2007.

Second size horse drawn hose wagon.  used by Petosky, MI FD. 

In 1907 the town of Petoskey, Michigan purchased this  hose wagon from the Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company of Columbus, Ohio.  From about 1880 onwards wagons of this type replaced reel style hose tenders.  Cotton jacketed, rubber lined hose, available since the 1870s, could be flaked down in the bed of these wagons, together with tools, ladders, and coal for a steam fire engine.  An entire engine company crew could also ride in the wagon.  The older hose tenders, which carried leather hose on large reels, could not carry any other equipment, and could only accommodate two or three firemen on the tail board.   

A second size wagon of this type could carry about eight hundred feet of 2 ½ inch hose, a pair of fire extinguishers, and assorted tools.  It would accompany a horse drawn steam fire engine.   A “steamer” and hose wagon, manned by from 6 to 10 firefighters, would constitute an engine company. Three or four firemen could ride in the hose bed, usually on a removable plank seat. 

Few hose wagons have survived.  When fire departments phased out their horse drawn apparatus in the years 1910 — 1925, they found ready  purchasers for their hose wagons from local teamsters, merchants, and farmers, who still used horse drawn wagons, and who favored the sturdily built fire hose wagons.   

This wagon was used by a Michigan farmer who sold it to a local collector around 1950.  The hose bed, seat, and railings had been ruined or lost by the farmer.  In 1962  George F. Getz, Jr., bought the wagon from this collector.  Its poor condition did not allow its exhibit.  In 1999 Don Hale rolled the wagon into his shop to begin a full restoration, and in April of 2000 the wagon was placed on permanent exhibit in this gallery.




Horse Drawn Hose Tender.  Ca. 1895. 



In 1895 the town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin built a large stand pipe, reservoir, pumping station, and system of water pipes and hydrants.  The fire department purchased two horse drawn hose tenders to take advantage of the new water system.  One of them was acquired and refurbished by the Hall of Flame in 1960.  

Following a fire alarm, members of the volunteer fire department would assemble at the fire house and hook the two carts up to the first two horses to be supplied by  a local teamster , who would receive a handsome premium for his services. They would then drive the cart to the nearest hydrant, connect it, and continue rolling the cart to the scene of the fire.  Unrolling up to 500 feet of 2½ inch hose from the cart, they would connect a play pipe and signal the hydrant man to turn on the water.  They then had water  with a hydrant pressure of 50 to 70 pounds per square inch.  Pressure at the nozzle would be 15 to 30 pounds per square inch, depending upon hydrant pressure, how much hose was in use, and what size tip was being used on the play pipe. 

Many towns declined to buy a steam fire engine and used hydrant pressure alone to fight fires.  It was not a successful approach because hydrant pressure was rarely more than one third of the pressure that a steam pumper could generate.  With anything more than 200 feet of hose, the pressure at the delivery pipe would be little more than  15 to 30 pounds per square inch, far below the ideal of 50 pounds per square inch.   

Despite this inadequacy, Lake Geneva continued to rely on its two hose carts until the purchase of a motorized fire engine around 1915.  

Horse drawn Chief's Buggy. Ex - Chicago, IL. 

Built by the Kenosha, Wisconsin firm of  Peter Pirsch, this chief's buggy once belonged to the Chicago Fire Department.  It was donated to the Hall of Flame by  the  Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  Municipal departments furnished buggies for chiefs at the battalion level and above.  It was important for a chief to arrive at a fire scene as soon as possible, so that he could size up the fire, plan for the positioning of arriving apparatus, and call for additional support if he deemed it necessary.

The carriage was restored in 1999 by Don Hale.


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