One of our newer acquisitions, this is a Gleason and Bailey (G&B) hand engine dating from the 1880s. Donated to the Museum in 2013, we have since rebuilt the pump, sealed the basin, and sourced both a drafting hose as well as an adapter to attach the hose. Since we finished our work, we’ve pumped the G&B several times, most recently at the annual CAFAA muster in Westminster, Maryland, in June of 2015.
When we first received the engine, we pumped it at our 2014 Steam Show, with a group of willing volunteers providing the necessary power. Unfortunately, after only a short period of pumping, the engine was unable to continue to do its job. A parking lot tear down revealed that the gaskets that formed much of the valve system had died, which prevented the water from being pushed down the hose.
After removing the pump, we found that the original gasket material had torn where it hinged at the base of the pump. On top of the gasket is a weight, which helps to close the valve. This setup is known as a clapper valve, and is reasonably effective at moving the smaller quantities of water associated with hand engines of this size. After removing the top part of the pump, including the braces (handles), pivot, and air chamber, the gaskets were replaced with new ones made here at the Museum.
After rebuilding the valves, the pump was reassembled and the interior of the box the pump sits in was repainted. Since completing this work, we have also recaulked the bottom of the box, as it leaked significantly whenever the engine was pumped. Now, with a good team of strong backs, we can get a solid stream of water to fly more than 30 feet through the air, for as long as we maintain our pace!
To find out more about this and other fire engines of the 19th century, be sure to explore our website and then come to the Museum for a visit. We have all sorts of interesting pieces of history to share with you, and you might even get to operate a real fire engine!
The Fire Museum wishes to extend our thanks to the following for their assistance in getting the Gleason & Bailey back in fire fighting form:
George Miller, Miller Machine
Tim Atkins, Sunbelt Rentals of Hunt Valley
Ken Wilson, Tipco Technologies