Burgers and A Steam-Powered Fire Engine

brown lantern ale house

When we finished varnishing last week, we decided to head to the Brown Lantern Ale House for a couple of their great burgers and Mac & Jack’s African Amber Ale. Brown Lantern is one of our favorite places for a casual dinner in Anacortes.

When we’re staying on our boat at Anacortes Marina, we often don’t know when local events are scheduled. Partly because we live in Oregon, but also because we’re usually more focused on getting ready to take the boat somewhere and/or working on the boat and don’t pay attention. However, because we’re in walking distance of everything in town and along the waterfront, we often discover what’s going on by seeing things along our walks.

That happened last weekend. We walked to Brown Lantern for dinner, and on our way back to the boat we passed an antique steam-powered fire engine on a trailer. The trailer was being parked along the side of the street as we walked by. We were intrigued by the fire engine, and wondered why it said SFFD on the back and F.D.N.Y. on the sides. So, we wandered over to look at it closer and met Doug Blackburn, the owner/operator of the antique engine. He had just arrived in town and planned to display and run the steam engine over the weekend at the Anacortes Antique Engine & Machinery Day.

steam fire engine on trailer

As we were walking back to our boat after dinner, we passed this beautifully restored and fully functional steam-powered fire engine that had just arrived in Anacortes on a trailer. It was in Anacortes to be on display over the weekend at the Anacortes Antique Engine & Machinery Day.

We learned that this steam-powered fire engine was built in 1899 and used by the San Francisco Fire Department until 1909. It was pulled by horses and became obsolete when motorized fire trucks became more common. This particular engine was among those that were used to fight the massive San Francisco fire that followed the 1906 earthquake.

This fire engine has been restored to perfect working order. It was really interesting to learn about its history and how it works. Incredible craftsmanship! And why does it say San Francisco on the back and New York on the sides? It was built for and operated in San Francisco, but had been used a few years ago by Twentieth Century Fox in the production of “Hello, Dolly,” so it had to be marked accordingly for the film. The New York placards were left on the sides.

steam fire engine, right side

This view of the fire engine is the right side with F.D.N.Y. posted on it.

steam fire engine, rear

This is the rear view of the fire engine that has SFFD posted on it.

steam fire engine left side

This view of the fire engine is the left side with F.D.N.Y. posted on it.

steam fire engine placard

The placard on the boiler shows the particulars about the building of this fire engine: No. 2653, built by the American Fire Engine Company in Elmira, New York, in 1899.

If you’re interested in learning more, we found a series of three YouTube videos filmed in 2011 that demonstrate how this steam-powered fire engine works. Here are the links to the videos:

Part 1 Antique Fire Truck (Steamer Pump) @ Wilcox Farms

Part 2 Fire Truck (Steamer Pump) @ Wilcox Farms 2011

Part 3 Fire Truck (Steamer Pump) @ Wilcox Farms 2011

2 thoughts on “Burgers and A Steam-Powered Fire Engine

    • Yes, amazing workmanship, especially considering it was built over 100 years ago. All the parts were made by hand, even the bolts that hold the frame together. And because the bolts were custom crafted, they are not interchangeable and each bolt only matches up to the hole in the frame where it was designed to be used! So interesting…

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