Popular Merryweather & Sons models

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Merryweather & Sons made an incredible number of steam fire engine models. On this page we concentrate on the most popular, and best selling, engines. It is interesting to note that some models, such as the ‘Victoria’ seem to have found favour mostly in the new world. Others such as the ‘Greenwich Gem’ are to be found on nearly all the five continents. I have also tried to point out the identifying features that distinguish one model from another.
1863 Merryweather & Sons

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Admiralty pattern.
Admiralty pattern also known as the Ââ€ËÅ“ConquerorÂâ€ËÅ“. This was a double horizontal model, which won the first prize in its class at the Crystal Palace trials of 1863. The winner at the trials was the “Sutherland“, which was purchased by the Government for use at Devonport Dockyards. This would seem to explain why it was called the Admiralty pattern. It was popular with many dockyards, in Britain, Europe and around the world.
1880 Merrywetheather & Sons

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‘Metropolitan’ or ‘London Brigade’ type.
The ‘Metropolitan‘ or ‘London Brigade’ model is recognisable by the single [horizontal] cylinder and flywheel fitted to one side of boiler. As its name implies it was originally designed for the Metropolitan (London Fire Brigade). It first appeared in about 1880 and was configured so that one man at the rear could stoke, manipulate the suction and delivery, and command the working parts without moving from his position, a condition which has not hitherto been attained.” The engine could also be stoked whilst en-route to a fire. The 350gpm model cost £450 whilst the smaller 260gpm model cost £400. (Not to be confused with an earlier (1866) horizontal model of the same name).
1885 Merryweather & Sons

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Greenwich horizontal model.

Merryweather introduced the Greenwich pattern steam fire engine in 1885. It had a horizontal double cylinder pump, which was produced in numerous sizes from 300 to 1,800 gpm. This type of steamer can be identified by the mid-ships mounted pump and air vessel. This is similar to earlier models but now Merryweather have shortened the distance between the boiler and the pump. In later years they also produced a double-vertical model.

1896 Merryweather & Sons.

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Greenwich Gem.
This period is probably as good as it gets in the design of British steam fire engines. Shand Mason & Co. were producing their ‘Double Vertical’ while Merryweather & Sons were making the popular “Greenwich Gem” steam fire engine. The Gem was constructed for customers wanting “a first-class double cylinder steam fire engine of light weight and small capacity“. The smallest size had a capacity of 225 gpm, weighing 23 cwt. This model was first introduced in 1896 at the London Fire Tournament and could be produced in sizes from 200-500gpm. By 1910 over 250 of this pattern had been sold both home and abroad. It was brought for the purpose of enabling “any ordinary working man on an estate to take charge of the engine after an hour?s instruction“. It also allowed the operator to work the engine, stoke the boiler, attend to the lubrication, and manipulate the suction and delivery hose without stirring from the position at the back of the engine. This was due to the fact that the machinery was all at the back of the boiler, and that the boiler was also coaled and stoked from the rear.
True the Fire King, brought out a few years later, had a short reign, but by this date the internal combustion engine was already making its self-felt and the days of the steam fire engine were drawing to a close. A few people did marry a steam engine to a motor vehicle but they were few and far between.
1883 Merryweather & Sons

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Valiant model.
The ‘Valiant’ steam pump was designed by the company, in 1883, for the British Government working on behalf of the Admiralty. They were acting on a suggestion put forward by the Captain of H.M.S. Valiant for a pump sufficiently portable to allow for it to be taken ashore on a boat, and powerful enough to quickly fill the tanks of warships.
Merryweather came up with a portable machine that weighed just 7cwt. It could be hand drawn or horse drawn and came in at least three sizes. As well as its naval application and fire fighting work it was used for irrigation, mining, and as a versatile power plant. Many thousand units were made during more than half a century of production. During the Great War the Government took over control of Merryweather’s Greenwich factory and increased production of Valiant’s. More than 2,000 pumps were supplied to the Allied Armies for use in the trenches and other theatres of war. Like the troops a great many of these machines never returned home. Nevertheless a number of these versatile machines exist today both in museums and private collections.