Steam Engines


Restoring the gold leaf decoration
on steam powered fire apparatus.

Building a steamer required a lot of equipment and a variety of talents. A hand tub could be built and repaired by a much smaller crew. The construction of steamers led to fewer manufacturers with larger factories. Each factory had a paint crew that was usually hired full time. As time passed these painters developed distinctive styles of decoration for each manufacturer. Each individual engine would have unique details of color and designs, but the overall look of a LaFrance was different from an Amoskeag or Nott steam engine.



On a steamer there are no large side panels to decorate, like on a hand tub. The vehicle has only a framework of metal. This was the Victorian era. Architecture, furnishings, and clothing were all highly decorated. Steam engines had gold stripes and scrolls on every available surface.

Andy Swift and Tom Hopkins towing an Amoskeag steamer at Firefly RestorationWater tank with date 1907 and flags on 1907 Amoskeag steam fire engine

The transition from steam to gasoline powered fire apparatus began with steam engines being pulled by motorized tractors. By 1910 motorized fire engines were being produced by all the major manufacturers. Fire engines evolved and improved along with other gasoline vehicles. Fire engines needed to be large, heavy and fast. Several mechanical innovations were developed first on fire engines and then later used on commercial trucks.

Boston chief's car with black edge stripes and ornament on hood. Vesuvius in Firefly Restoration shop.Vesuvius before restoration. Steam fire engine Vesuvius with frame rails gilded, but no stripes or shading. Vesuvius frame rails with lines and shading added.

This vehicle is an Amoskeag steam pumper with an American LaFrance tractor. The two builders used different styles of decoration. The American LaFrance front section has Renaissance scrolls on the frame, hood, seat and fenders. The rear half has no scrolls. The Amoskeag Mfg. Co. originally made locomotives. Their paint shop had been using a newer style of decoration, popular with many steam locomotive manufacturers. The designs were flatter and more geometric in the Eastlake or Craftsman style.

Fly wheel with nichol plating, gold leafing and painted lines.
1913 Seagrave tractor pulling steam fire engine.