Thursday, January 24, 2008
SFD in the Past
How far back does this one go?
Pictured here is is a horse drawn steam operated fire engine that was once in service for the city of Salisbury. More specifically this is an 1879 Silsby Steamer. It was damaged and rebuilt in 1899 by the American Fire Engine Co. This piece of equipment is still in the possesion of the Salisbury Fire Department and is currently stored/displayed at the Chesapeake Fire Museum in Hebron MD. It will move to permanet display in SFD heritage Center Museum when it opens later this year in the new fire station on Cypress St.
Judging by the automobiles in the background this photo probably dates to the 1960's The lot where you see the cars parked is the current location of the parking garage across Market Street from Headquarters Fire Station, (Station 16).
Engineers operating this piece could "get up steam" in a matter of minutes when an alarm was struck. Usually by the time the steamer arrived at the fire there was enough steam built up to begin pumping and supply water to the hose lines. The boiler was usually fired with soft coal. Once up to steam the boiler could continue to be fueled with coal or wood. This piece of equipment had the ability to get it's water from a hydrant system or operate from a static source such as a pond or a river. The only other thing needed to keep this thing in service was a little clean water, a few tons of oats and hay for the horses, and a shovel to clean up the exhaust products.
This steamer has never been functional in my time with the fire dept. My Dad was a boilerman in the Navy and offered his services at one time to repair the steamer and get it into working order. The Chief at the time was very receptive to Dads offer but due to the fact that pieces for repair would have to be custom made and finished it was decided to leave things as they were. I do know that over the years some repairs have been made to the tongue, axles, and wheel hubs as well as some custom restoration on the wood finish on the wheels.
I have been told the horses used for this steamer had a dual purpose for the City. They were used to tow the city's sanitation wagon each and every day in different areas of the city. When the alarm was struck, (signaled by the bell recently removed from Station 16) the driver of the sanitation wagon had to un-harness the horses and turn them loose. It's my understanding the horses knew what the tolling bell meant and on their own would run to the firehouse in order to be hitched to the steamer.
Please remember, the city was far from being the size it is today and it is very conceivable the horses could hear the bell toll and could realize the need to return the firehouse.
I'm not sure who owned the horses pictured here but I am sure they were borrowed or rented for what ever event the steamer was participating in when this photo was taken, more than likely a parade. Many times over the years the Salisbury Babtist Temple and Reverend Oren Perdue donated their horses for parade use and for that the SFD is eternally grateful.
Once again---Thanks to BC for the photo.