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.
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.
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: