12/04/11 419 W - + 3 - 1 Handbook For American Fire Engine Company Steam Engines

Ever wondered how to operate a steam fire engine? Here's a document that tells you how. It bears the lengthy title of Handbook of the Steam Fire Engine with Instructions for the Running, Care, and Management of the Machine and Directions for Operating the Heater, Also Suggestions for the Care of Hose, and Other Useful Information. It was published in 1897 by the American Fire Engine Company, which later merged with the LaFrance Fire Engine Company. You know where that lead! Below is an excerpt. Read the entire document, which was created via OCR software, from a transcription that appears in Those Magnificent Old Steam Fire Engines by W. Fred Conway, published 1997 by FBH Publishers, New Albany, IN.


The engineer should start up the machine gradually, but before doing so he ought to satisfy himself that the joints and connections in the suction hose are air tight, that the discharge gate is open and the churn valve closed, and that the fire has been properly attended to. Let the cylinder cocks be open and the exhaust nearly closed, and all the bearings and journals well oiled. The wheels should be properly blocked, especially if standing on a grade. When starting, the throttle valve should be opened slowly at first, or condensed steam will be thrown out of the stack on the dome, and is liable to stain it.

The automatic air cocks on the upper pump heads must be opened immediately after starting. They serve to promptly relieve the upper pump chambers of air, and may be closed as soon as water is ejected from their orifices.

When condensation has ceased, the engine being warm, the drain cocks should be closed and the machine speeded up gradually until a good pressure of steam is obtained.

After the engine is fairly started, do not stand too close, but let your position be a step back; and, with your face towards the machine, endeavor to train your eyes and hands to command the entire situation. While it is perfectly proper to be near the throttle, in order to promptly close it in case of bursting hose or failure of the water supply, do not acquire the habit of constantly clinging to the same, for there are other duties equally as important that require your attention.

In the general hurry and rush, avoid all excitement, and let your duties be attended to in a calm and collected manner.

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