The Horses

Much of the romance of the steam fire engine can be attributed to the horses that pull them.

Most breeds of draft horses today are much larger than they were one hundred years ago. Large cities often had beautiful matched teams of recognized breeds, but in smaller communities many of the horses used to pull the steam fire engines were mixed breeds, what ever type of carriage horses that were available. Horses with obvious Morgan blood lines were often seen.

Just as the firemen who ran them, the horses that pulled them were frequently volunteers who had other jobs to do when there were no fires. The teams that pulled our engine over the years belonged to a local livery and pulled an ice wagon. The town had a loud alarm to signal a fire, and the horses so loved their volunteer duty, that if the ice wagon driver was not on his wagon when the alarm sounded, he would find his wagon at the fire station with the horses ready to pull the engine.

When the steamer was no longer used and the last team was put out to pasture to relax for the rest of their days a few miles from town. One day the prevailing wind carried the sound of the alarm to the old fire horses. They promptly went over or through the fences that held them and down the highway to the fire station where they were found waiting to be hitched to the old steamer gathering dust in the corner .

One of those volunteer teams pulls the engine at a dead run down Main Street some time before the street was paved. There is little to hold on to when riding the engine and traveling at this rate must have been a real thrill ride. The engine, which weighs over 6000 pounds, does have brakes on the rear wheels with their only control on the rear step for the fireman. Close examination of the photograph shows the man on the near side has his foot right over the wheel, and there are no fenders. A close look at the horses will also show that they are much lighter than the heavy horses used today to pull the engine in parades.

 

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