“The steam fire engine can hardly be said to have been “invented.” It is a combination of two previously well-known devices-the pump and the steam engine. The only problem presented to those who made the first portable steamer was how to keep down the weight of a machine capable of pumping a large quantity of water, so that it could be moved about the streets with facility.”
The former favoured horizontal engines while Shand Mason & Co opted for vertical pumps of which the single cylinder model was a great favourite. It can be identified by the large flywheel, at right angles to the chassis, located behind the boiler (see the photographs of the ‘City of Chester’ and ‘Lymington FB’ engines below).
In later years Merryweather also produced a popular single cylinder pump, the ‘Metropolitan’,but in their engines the flywheel is located beside the pump in line with the chassis, (Taymouth and Prudhoe are good examples of this model). They also re-arranged the layout of their popular ‘Greenwich’ model, converting it from an horizontal engine to a vertical one, as the Blenheim example shows.
London Science Museum has in its fire fighting collection “Sutherland“, a Merryweather & Sons steamer purchased by the Admiralty for Devonport Dockyard in 1863. It was the third steamer built by Merryweather and took part in the trial of steam fire engines at Crystal Palace in 1863 where, in competition with six other engines, it won the first prize of £250 in the large engine class (over 30cwt., not exceeding 60cwt.). It remained in service with the Admiralty until 1905 when replaced by a ‘Greenwich Gem’. It was used again briefly in 1918 before being presented to the Science Museum in 1924. Its original specification described it as weighing 2 ton 18cwts. and 8 lbs. and rated at 60 horse power. It had two cylinders 8 5/8″ x 24″ stroke and two double acting pumps 6 1/8″ x 24” stroke and an output of 800 gpm. In 1890, after almost 30 years service, a new boiler was fitted to it and explains why its present day appearance differs from that in old photographs.
1876 Shand Mason & Co.
“Sedwick’s Brewery“. This lovely engine was constructed for a Watford brewery after fire had devastated the previous premises. It remained in service until 1913 when it was refurbished and sold to a Norfolk country estate. In 1979, now in a derelict state, it was discovered and restored to working order. The engine is currently owned and worked by Derek Wheeler and is a popular exhibit at rallies. At some time in its working life it has had “quick steam” raising apparatus fitted to it.
Burton on Trent.
According to a Shand Mason catalogue I have seen the brigade purchased an “Equilibrium” ,a triple cylinder model, in 1876 which remained in use until the 1920-30’s when it was acquired by Sir Thomas Stafford Bazley, Bart. In 1966 the family loaned it to the Fire Brigade Society who managed it until 1992 when it was put up for auction at Sotheby?s. Fortunately Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service were able to purchase it privately prior to the auction and it is now on display at Burton on Trent fire station.
Although I deeply interested in British steam fire engines history I am no expert on them and it would appear from several very knowledgeable writers that the engine on display may be a William Rose machine and not a Shand Mason. If this is so it is probably a “Metropolitan” model which was introduced in 1897 which has double cylinders.
There seems to be more to the history of this engine that needs to be researched.
Visitors to the main building & reception of The Fire service College will be able to see ‘Bryn Y Pys’, North Wales on display. However it is no thought that it orginated from there. It would seem to be a Volunteer model first introduced in 1877, (27 years from the unlikely, estimated date of C1850), and produced in several sizes.
Photograph and details supplied by Frank Sidney.
1880 Shand Mason & Co.
London. Fire Brigade Museum. have “Victoria”, a single cylinder Shand Mason & Co. on display, it is one of 18 purchased by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade at that time. It was sold at a later date and its history is unknown but in July, 1936, it was presented to the brigade by the Metropolitan Water Board.
1880 Merryweather & Sons.
This was one of two small single cylinder engines purchased by North Eastern Railway. It had a capacity of 125gpm and was stationed at Gateshead. After acquisition in 1986 it was restored by apprentices of British Railway Engineering, Derby. Currently on display at the National Railway Museum, York, which has a number of fire fighting appliances.
c1880 Shand mason & Co.
“City of Chester”. Single cylinder vertical model maintained in working order by Cheshire Fire Brigade.
Glasgow Museum has a vertical ‘Greenwich’ on display in “John Brown shipyard” livery. It looks to have been restored.
1881 Shand Mason & Co.
Bridewell Museum has on display the Shand Mason & Co. ‘Equilibrium’ model purchased by J. and J. Coleman in 1881. This triple cylinder engine was brought to protect their factory after a serious fire damaged their mustard packing department. It was capable of delivering 600-7oogpm and cost when new £700. It remained in service until WWII and was passed to the museum in 1951. This steamer appears to have survived the dreaded red gloss paint and retains its livery “CARROW WORKS FIRE BRIGADE Norwich”
London. Fire Brigade Museum has twin cylinder Shand Mason & Co. in its collection. Sadly the museum has few details of its history, although they know that it passed through the hands of the Metropolitan Water Board where, whilst in its possession, it underwent a rebuild. Later it spent time with Rickmansworth & Uxbridge Water Co. who presented it to the London Fire Brigade in 1937.
1885 Merryweather & Sons.
‘Metropolitan‘ single cylinder, vertical, model. Purchased for the protection of Taymouth Castle, at the head of Loch Tay, the home of the Marquis of Breadablane. Now on display at the Country Life Museum, Sandy Bay, Devon.
Believed to be unrestored and in its original livery.
The ‘Milestones’ Museum which opened in Basingstoke, Hampshire, in 2000 has an Shand Mason & Co. ‘London Brigade Vertical’ on display. This steamer, rated at 350 gpm, was delivered to Bournemouth Fire Brigade, 21st September, 1885. At trials that took place to mark its arrival it raised 100 lbs of steam from cold water in eight minutes and 55 seconds. After 35 years service it was sold to the nearby town of Lymington who paid £100 for it in June 1920. In 1928. the brigade acquired a Leyland motor pump and the steamer was discarded. It was discovered derelict in 1965 and restored by members of the Lymington Fire Station. It remained on display at the station until put on display at the newly opened museum in 2000.
350gpm. ‘Metropolitan‘ Single-Cylinder horizontal model. At Whitsun, in 1887, a Jubilee demonstration was held in Oxford to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. It was attended by 80 fire brigades and thousands of firemen from around the country. As a result of the success of this event Oxford Volunteer Fire Brigade was able to purchase a new £450 steamer, its second, which it christened ‘Victoria. Among its refinements were self starting injectors and a by- pass to return unused water to the suction side. It was also fitted with with independent brakes on the rear wheels. It was in service until 1921. Since then it has been well maintained and was last steamed in 1960. I believe that it is presently on display in the foyer of Oxford fire station, although owned by Oxford Leisure and Arts Dept.
‘SAVED’ edition 2 1988 p29.
A History of the British Fire Service by G. V. Blackstone. p250
John Magee-an Australian correspondent. http://steamers.8m.com
1887 Merryweather & Sons
The Museum of Science and Engineering has a Merryweather & Sons on display. This is a 260 gpm ‘Metropolitan’, model, recognizable by the single horizontal cylinder and a flywheel fitted to one side of the boiler. It was designed, according to its maker, “….to meet the requirements of Brigades, where the Firemen and all the appliances are carried upon the Engine…..and an essential feature for Country Brigades, where long distances frequently have to be traversed, and where extensive districts are protected.” This engine was originally purchased by Aldershot Volunteer Fire Brigade, October 1887. In 1903 the brigade took their steamer to competitions in France where they won first prize and a gold medal. Prudhoe Urban District Council acquired it in 1912 for £250 and used it for over 20 years. During the Second World War the National Fire Service used it for training purposes. It was given to its present custodians in 1948 and is in the livery of Prudhoe Urban District Council that the engine is displayed today.Restored.
C1890 Merryweather & Sons.
Possibly a ‘County Council’ model. This was purchased for the protection of Tichbourne Park, a country estate in Hampshire. Little is known of its history and it is now on display at Arlesford Fire Station, Hampshire.
Restored and presently lacking any form of detailing.
1890 Merryweather & Sons.
Double Vertical ‘Greenwich’ model. For many years the Greenwich model was always had an horizontal engine but as vertical engines became popular and easier to manage the company modified the layout of this model. Restored and in working order.
Once used for protecting Blenheim Palace this engine, one of several owned by the palace over the years, is now housed at Banbury Fire Station.
(28/12/2009 Royston Morris informed me that he had seen this engine at with Preston Steam Services in Canterbury.)
1890 Shand Mason & Co.