Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page

Fire Engine 1911

The Rushden Echo, 3rd February, 1911, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Another Steam Fire Engine For Rushden

On most advantageous terms the Rushden Urban Council have acquired a second steam fire-engine, and the town of Rushden can now be safely described as being thoroughly equipped for coping with possible outbreaks. The Northampton Town Council recently purchased a motor fire-engine, with petrol pumps, and in consequence they were able to dispense with a steam fire-engine with a pumping capacity of 200 or 250 gallons per minute. This is the engine which the Rushden Urban Council have wisely purchased. The engine, which has a horizontal slide-bar, is of handsome appearance, and is in excellent condition. In case of fire it would prove to be of the utmost value. At the same time the Rushden Urban Council have been able to dispose of the old manual to the parish of Yardley Hastings, where a voluntary fund has been raised to purchase an engine. The old manual is in good condition, and should serve the requirements of Yardley Hastings for many years to come.

Mr. Fred Knight, J.P., who is chairman of the Rushden Urban Council, and who also fills the office of captain of the Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade, felt that when the borough of Northampton had for disposal such a desirable steam engine as the one in question it would be a splendid chance to acquire, at a reasonable cost, a useful addition to Rushden’s fire conquering equipment, particularly with the added inducement of being able to dispose of the old manual, and the officers and members of the Fire Brigade were at one with him. With such an unusual chance before them, the members of the Rushden Urban Council had no difficulty in at once deciding to buy the steamer from the Northampton Corporation, and the purchase has now been completed, the engine arriving at Rushden on Wednesday and being now safely housed in the up-to-date fire-station on Newton-road.

With a couple of steamers such as Rushden now happily possesses it will not in future be necessary to call in outside assistance in case of outbreaks of fire. The pumping power of the two engines combined is about 600 gallons per minute. The captain, officers, and men of the Rushden Fire Brigade, which is entirely a voluntary organisation, and every member of which is ready for self-sacrificing labour of the most arduous character at a moment’s notice, are to be heartily congratulated on, the possession of adequate means for coping with fires, and the members of the Rushden Urban Council are to be complimented on the sagacity they have shown in seizing so golden an opportunity to augment the town’s equipment for the fighting of flames.

The Rushden Echo, 10th February 1911, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade - An Excellent Fire-Station - and Two Steamers

We have pleasure in publishing in this issue an illustration of the Fire Station in Newton-road, Rushden, the home of the Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade, the Captain of which useful organisation is Mr. Fred Knight, J.P., the Chairman of the Rushden Urban Council for the year. Very valuable work has been done by the Brigade from time to time, and, with the second steamer which has now been purchased, we have every confidence that they will acquit themselves as efficiently as any volunteer brigade in the country.

Rushden now possesses a magnificent supply of water, a competent brigade, and an effective equipment for fire-fighting. This is a fact which ought to tell with the insurance companies, and one which might reasonably be expected to result in a decrease in fire-insurance premiums. The slight cost of the extra steamer will doubtless be saved very many times over.

Appended we give a description of the two steamers.

Rushden’s First Steamer

The steam fire engine of the Rushden fire Brigade was specially constructed for the Brigade by Messrs. Shand, Mason, and Co., the well-known London firm of fire engineers, in 1907. It is a light 300-gallon machine of the makers’ popular “Double Vertical” type and is fitted with their patent variable steam expansion arrangement. The principal features of the engine are two double-acting steam cylinders working directly upon a corresponding pair of double-acting pumps, the whole being placed vertically at the rear of the quick-steaming boiler furnishing the motive power. The design of the engine is such as to ensure smooth steady working and a regular flow of water whether the machine is working at high or low pressure. This smooth and even running, practically without vibration, which is a noticeable feature of the Shand-Mason “Double-Vertical” engine, is a very important consideration, as it has a considerable influence upon the life of the hose and suction pipe apart from the minimising of wear and tear in connection with the engine. The variable expansion gear with which the Rushden steamer – like the latest constructed for the London Fire Brigade – is fitted, allows of the steam in the cylinder being used more or less expansively as desired, the movement of a lever being all that is necessary to vary the cut-off from three-quarters to half-stroke. The effect of the expansion arrangement is considerable economy in steam consumption and consequently a saving of fuel and a reduction in the weight of the machine. The boiler is of the Shand-Mason inclined water-tube type in which steam of 100 lb. pressure can be raised from cold water in from 6 to 7 minutes or with the aid of the firm’s quick steam-raising apparatus in 4½ to 5 minutes. The stoking door of the furnace is at the side away from the suction inlet and delivery outlets, an arrangement which greatly facilitates the effective working of a steam fire engine. The engine is mounted upon strong steel wide frames, axles and springs, with high wood-spoke wheels, and is provided with a large hose box (the lid of which forms seats for the firemen) and coachman’s seat. A powerful double lever brake controls the running of the machine. The engine projects a 1 1/16 inch stream of water to a height of 150 feet or two, three, or four jets simultaneously to good working heights.

The New Arrival

The engine is one of Merryweathers’ single cylinder direct acting or twist bar type of the “Volunteer” pattern, and was the first steam fire engine to be acquired by the Northampton Fire Brigade. The pumping capacity is 260 to 300 gallons per minute. The machinery is placed horizontally in front of the boiler, and the fire door is in rear, enabling the engine’s fire to be lit and stoked when travelling. The advantage of this is especially important in the case of a country brigade, where long distances may frequently have to be traversed in reaching a fire. Under ordinary circumstances a good solid fire and pressure of steam can be ensured by the time the scene of the conflagration is reached.

The engine was built for Northampton at the time when Mr. J. S. Norman was Captain of the Volunteer Fire Brigade, and the following particulars respecting it, taken from Merryweathers’ Day Book of the period, may be of interest.

Northampton Volunteer Fire Brigade,
Per J. S. Norman, Captain, Northampton.

One Merryweathers’ patent single cylinder S.F.E. having a steam cylinder 5½ inches in diameter, and a gunmetal direct and double acting pump 4½ inches diameter, with 12in. stroke. Seat and footboards for firemen, and seat and footboard for coachman with tool box in front over main pump and with usual fittings complete.

Engine painted in red and gold lined throughout and varnished in the best manner and including :-

1 copper strainer for suction hose.

2 long copper branch pipes and 2 short do. and 6 G.M. nozzles (one each 15/16in., ⅞in., ¾in., and two ⅝in.)

2 water bags for wheels.

2brass head lamps and fitted.

2 brass gauge lamps to boiler.

Engine, hose and suction wrenches, and wheel wrench.

1 shifting wrench.

3 stoking irons, 1 oil can.

Spare valve facings and gauge glasses.

1 feed pump suction hose and strainer.

1 cooling hose and jet.

1 leather-pad, 3 tube plugs, 1 starting lever.

2 branchpipe supports.

Pole with patent grab for instantly releasing horses in event of falling or on arrival at a fire, and two sway bars.

Engine written each side of tool box and emblazoned with the Borough Arms.

The following is a copy of a letter written to the makers a few months after the engine was supplied.

Volunteer Fire Brigade,


I have much pleasure in informing you that we have put the new steam fire engine to a severe test. We were called to a flour mill fire at Blisworth on the morning of the 2nd. On arriving there we found the nearest supply of water to be (measured distance) 500 yards uphill, with a rise of upwards of 90 feet, through which distance she pumped for about 5 hours, much to the satisfaction of myself, the members of the Brigade, and all that saw her; in fact, she has exceeded our expectations.

Yours respectfully,
(signed) J. S. Norman, Captain.

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the Fire, Police & Crime index
Click here to e-mail us