This coal fired steam engine could pump 700 gallons per minute. It operated in Brooklyn, and was similar to the engine used in this station when it opened in 1904.
Steam engines were not widely welcomed by the Volunteer Fire Department. A Very tradition bound organization, they were mistrustful of the new technology. Many realized that steam engines pulled by horses would change what it meant to be a fire fighter significantly. It would require fewer men than the old hand-drawn, hand-pumped engines. Only after the establishment of the paid fire department in 1885 was there was a strong effort to place steam powered pumpers in every engine house. Steam engines remained the standard for may years. The last official horse drawn steam engine run was in 1922.
In general terms
the engine worked by burning coal to boil water to
Produce steam. The water in the big boiler expanded into steam it
would move pistons or turbine like gears which in turn operated the pumps used to deliver water to the fire.