South America and the New World

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Latin America is very well represented with regard to British steam fire engines. Research I have done seems to show that they took to the technology very much in its infancy. Their engines appear to have been passed from one town to another and a number remain in preservation to this day. The earliest I have come across is a superb 1872 Merryweather still in working order. Speaking of which all the engines I have traced are Merryweather & Sons models, apart from one Shand Mason & Co “Valiant” type.

Further north Canada has a few early steamers in preservation, while over the border the USA examples tend to be engines that have been purchased from the UK in modern times for display in a museum.


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1925 Conversion of a LATIL (French) chassis (originally 4 wheel drive 4 wheel steer) being the front half,, the rer half is the rear part of a Merryweather steamer, spliced mid way along the chassis, there is a Power take off from the Road Engine to drive the steam pump!, via a series prop shafts and angle drives. Located in the Corpo De Bombeiros, Museu Historico, at the Central Fire Station, Rio De Janerio.”
Credit for this photograph and imformation above: John C. Thompson
This appears to be a Double Vertical “Greenwich” model which was produced in four sizes. A number were supplied to the London Fire Brigade and the British Admiralty for use at dockyards.

High Volume steam pump (1896 Merryweather & Sons used as a relay pump) Located in the Corpo De Bombeiros, Museu Historico, at the Central Fire Station, Rio De Janerio.
Photograph and imformation: John C. Thompson

1872 Merryweather & Sons

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Whitby, Canada
1872 Merryweather & Sons
Whitby’s horizontal steamer arrived October 1872. It was constructed so to be frost proof to survive the Canadian climate and cost $3,000. In 1926, after 44 years service, it was presented to the York Pioneer Society after which its whereabouts became unknown. In 2001 it was spotted on television by a Whitby resident, a Mr Harold McGary, who had spent some time trying to track it down. It saw in the background of a televison programme featuring a retiring Toronto Fire Chief. As he told me in an e.mail “The 1872 horizontal medium single engine that now resides on display is the same one that was in Toronto up until 2003 at which time it was located and proved to be Whitby’s long lost engine. In order to repatriate the engine it was necessary to find and purchase another to make a trade with Toronto. After a further 2 year search an 1874 Size 2 Silsby was purchased from a private collection in the USA and traded to Toronto. At this time then, Toronto has the Silsby and Whitby has the little Merryweather.” The photograph is as it was when at Toronto but since arriving home things have moved on. The illustrations on both sides of the driver’s box have been removed and re-lettered “WHITBY 1872”.
After a lengthy search a whistle similar to the original was on e-Bay and fitted to the Merryweather. “The current project” writes Harold, “is to replicate the missing suction air bell and hose coupling“. I can only applaud Harold,s single minded quest, he has my complete admiration.
Shand Mason & Co

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1882 Shand Mason & Co

This machine is described as a No 4 size steamer in a Shand Mason catalogue. Of interest is the fact that the pump has been placed amidships, standard layout for the larger sizes of this model as it redistributed the weight better. Of the eight preserved examples of this model that I am aware of this is the only one with the pump positioned here.
In 1869 Shand Mason & Co. brought out the Equilibrium model. It had a vertical engine with three cylinders and double acting pumps giving it a smoother action than those pumps with double cylinders or the single cylinder models which required a flywheel.
Over the years it was produced in six sizes. The No 1 size had a capacity of 350gpm while the largest, No 6 size, had a capacity of 1,800gpm. With the larger sizes, No5 (1,350gpm) & 6 1,800gpm) the pump is placed in front of the boiler instead of at the rear. This allowed the extra weight to be more evenly distributed over the chassis. These larger engines, of which the Montreal steamer is one, tended to be purchased by Docks, Arsenals, Large Manufactories, Railways etc and for floating steam fire engines.
There is some element of doubt as to the date of this machine. The museum are not sure of its age but believe it to be 1882. They believe it was acquired when Montreal FD merged with a small suburb and took over their appliances. To add to the confusion a Shand Mason catalogue records that Montreal did in fact purchase a Equilibrium at some time, but do they mean the city fire department or the suburb force?
My sincere thanks to Harold McGary for locating this engine & Martin Labelle, Jim Lanigan and to Harold McGary for their kind help in trying to workout the history of this engine.
Photo credit belongs to “Pompiers Auxiliares de Montreal”. This volunteer group maintains an excellent firefighters’ museum which can accessed via

1886 Merryweather & Sons.
This engine originated from the UK, The Cutler Mill Paper Company, Scotland. It was rescued and restored before being shipped to Canada where it now resides on the 11th floor of a high rise office block. According to Merryweather a catalogue the firm once owned a ‘Greenwich Gem’.

Montreal Fire Museum has a Merryweather & Sons steamer, boiler No 936, possibly a “Greenwich” horizontal model from the late 1880’s.
1872 Merryweather & Sons

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Santiago, Chile
1872 Merryweather & Sons.
Jeronimo Carcelen, a member of the 5th Company of the Santiago de Chile Fire Brigade kindly sent me a number of photographs of this superb horizontal engine as well a several small video clips of it in a display. He tells me that “America” was acquired in 1873 when the Company was founded. It was passed on to the 9th Company when they were formed twenty years later. Here it served for the next 20 years before passing back to the 5th Company where it has remained, in perfect working order, to this day. The company’s love and respect for the steamer is such that when a volunteer of 55 years service died recently he was cremated, and at a touching ceremony, his ashes pumped through the engine at full pressure and out via twin lines of hose.
If I had a favourite top 10 this would be high up in it; along side Tehidy House.
1874 Merryweather & Sons.
A fire station in La Serena has this early British steamer on display. Nothing known about it as to model etc.
1883 Merryweather & Sons. The 3 company bomba germania, Temuco, has a ‘Metropolitan’ steam fire engine on display. Although restored it would appear from photographs I have seen that part of the hose storage and the drivers seat is missing.

1896 Merryweather & Sons.
Valparaiso is Chile’s most important seaport with a ‘Greenwich Gem’ in preservation.

Shan Mason & Co

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Havan, Cuba
1872 Shand Mason & Co 

‘Equilibrium’ model Shand mason Christened CERVANTES. This steamer is located at the Gran Templo National Masonica (Freemasons Headquarters), Ave. Salvador Allende ( Calle Carlos III ) between Calle Belascoain and Chavez, Centro Habana. The steamer is on the 3rd floor of the museum which was opened in 1955. The Equilibrium, a triple cylinder model, was first introduced in 1869. It was probably one of the most powerful engines of its era and came in sizes ranging from 350gpm- 1,00gpm: so if the details are correct this is an early example this triple cylinder model and the oldest preserved Shand Mason engine that I am aware of.

Ref: Shand Mason catalogue
Photo and location supplied by Ray Gardiner

1894 Merryweather &Sons

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Havana, Cuba
1894 Merryweather & Sons.
‘Victoria’ Model for Havana, Cuba. A small engine which may have been horse drawn as it has seating for a driver, with crane-neck chassis and iron wheels. This type of engine was built in 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 gallon per minute capacity. Preserved examples I know of are to be found in Peru, India and Cuba. It used to be located at the fire station in Calle Corralles but has nowed ben moved
to the fire brigade museum, in an old fire station, Calle Zulueta #257, % Animas y Neptuno, Havana

Details and photograph by kind permission of The International Steam Pages at
and in particular 
Ray Gardiner and Rob Dickinson.

Merryweather & Sons

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Matanza, Cuba
1894 Merryweather & Sons

This ‘Victoria’ model is one of three such steamers that I have knowledge of that are located in Cuba. Christened LA CARIDAD it was delivered to Cuerpo De Bomberos Del Comercio De Union De Reyes in 1894 It is housed in Parque de los Bomberos, Matanzas Ray. A copy of a Merryweather catalogue that I have details three as being produced for the island so it would seem that they have all been preserved. Havana had two engines and one was sent to Guines. This museum also has two American steam pumpers in its collection

Ref: Shand Mason catalogue
Photograph and location supplied by Ray Gardiner

Shand Mason & Co

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Havana, Cuba
1901 Shand Mason & Co

A splendid example of the popular Shand Mason ‘Double Vertical’ model. It seems to be very much in its original condition and livery. The Double Vertical was introduced by the company in 1889 and was produced in a number sizes. 200gpm; 260gpm; 300gpm; 350gpm; 450; 600gpm; 1,000gpm This engine used to be located in the Automobile museum, Havana, Cuba but it may have been relocated in the last year or two.

Ref: Shand Mason catalogue
Photograph and information supplied by Ray Gardiner

1901 Shand Mason & Co. 
Described as a Shand mason engine. However the photograph I have seen of it would seem to be that of a earlier machine such as Merryweather ‘Victoria’ model.
1882 Merryweather & Son

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Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico

1882 Merryweather & Sons.

A lovely example of a London Brigade (Metropolitan) model. It served in Mexico City until 1941 when it was donated to Xalapa fire department. Christened “Hidalgo”, in honour of the father of Mexico it was still being used in 1952 when a large fire swept through the principal market of the city.
Merryweather & Sons ‘Victoria’ model is on open air display in the city. Location and details unknown although a Merryweather catalogue records that the city once possessed two small examples of this model. This horse-drawn one is built on the a crane kneck chassis, very popular in North America, with iron wheels, popular also in the tropics where they were able to withstand the ravages of wood devouring insects. The model was first produced in 1889 so this example must post date this.

United States of America
c1868 Merryweather & Sons
This early example of a ‘Volunteer’No 1 size, medium single-cylinder engine, was sold by Bonham’s at auction in 2004 to Sut Marshall, an American from New Hampshire, for £13,000, plus premium and tax. The engine’s livery was described as original and includes the coronet of Earl of Jersey on the side of the fittings box who purchased it for his estate at Middleton Park, Bicester, Oxfordshire. However the brass and copper work have a decidedly odd aspect about it, judged by a photograph I have seen of it, taken prior to the sale. The single horizontal cylinder has a 5½ in bore and 18 in stroke giving it a capacity of up to 450gpm. The engine is fitted with a Merryweather and Jakeman’s patent boiler No. 2990 of circa 1910, presumably a replacement for the original. It is believed that the steamer has not been fired up in more than 70 years.
Merryweather & Sons

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Sherbourne, Greenwich Gem
c1885 Merryweather & Sons
The Central insurance Company, Van Wert, Ohio, U.S.A. have a Greenwich Gem in its collection. This double cylinder, vertical engine was previously part of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn , Michigan. The engine was originally in use at Sherborne, a small historic Dorset town, in the south of England.
1890 Shand Mason & Co.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall, Phoenix, Arizona, has an horse drawn steam fire engine in the livery of Rugby Fire Brigade. It has come a long way from it original home in England. Because of the angle the photograph was taken it is not possible to identify the model.
Note; I believe that the date of this engine may be several years out as my records show that Rugby acquired its first steamer in May 1893

San Jose Fire Museum.
This American Museum has a Merryweather & Sons ‘Valiant’ model on display.
1904 Merryweather & Sons.
A ‘Greenwich Gem’ model is on display in York Fire Museum, Pennsylvania. How it arrived here I know not. It was christened Loveday, after the daughter of the Mayoress of Lostwithiel (Mrs. C. Hext) whose husband Captain Hext, was also the Chief Officer of this Cornish Fire Brigade. A newspaper report of the event recorded that…”The Gem was a very useful appliance by any standards, having a maximum pumping capacity of 250 gallons a minute. It could maintain three jets to a height of about 160 feet each with a pressure of 120lbs. to the square inch“. Sadly I have no further knowledge of this engine or when it travelled across the Atlantic to its present home.