Fire Apparatus


Restoring the gold leaf decoration
on antique fire apparatus.

In the age of steam, fire engines could pump water faster than hand engines and for extended periods of time. These advances made water towers possible. One or more steam engines could pump water into a tower. The tower would rise up using water power, and spray onto the roof or into a window. As city buildings became taller, it was a great advantage to deliver the water from above street level.

This water tower was built by the San Francisco Corporation Yard in 1898. The newly built Eiffel Tower was in the news at that time. Henry H. Gorter designed this unique water tower with curved braces to resemble the Paris tower. It fought the 1906 San Francisco earthquake fire, and was restored for the 100th anniversary of that historic event.

San Francisco city hall 1906
Drawing of a water tower in action.Front spring detail of 1898 Gorter water tower



A two wheeled hose vehicle is a cart, and a four wheeled one is a hose carriage. This hose carriage has a blue spool and vermilion running gear. It is a delicate looking vehicle, yet strong enough to carry heavy wet hose. The carriage was hand pulled by the firemen with rope from two small spools below the front axle.

1880s Silsby hose carriage restored by Firefly RestorationLettering on Wallkill NY 1880s Silsby hose carriage restored by Peter AchornSpoke and hub design on wheel of 1880s Silsby hose carriage 1880s Silsby hose carriage in Firefly Restoration shop with spool decorated by Ken SoderbeckFifth wheel stripes on 1880s Silsby hose carriage by Peter AchornDetail of stripes and gilding on 1880s Silsby hose carriageGilded carved wood frame ends on 1880s Silsby hose carriage.