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The Motor Fire Engine: 1913

The Motor Fire Engine: 1913

"Under the hood of the motor fire engine" with the New York Fire Department circa 1913. View full size. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. The truck seems to be a Robinson. What's the big bulby thing?


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Fire Engine Engine

Buffalo Marine (Buffalo Gasoline Engine Co.) 6 1/4" x 6 3/4" bore and stroke six cylinder (1242.5 cubic inch displacement) developing 110 hp at 1000 rpm.

The starter

I strongly suspect the starter is an inertia-style starter whereby the crank winds a large spring, which when fully wound, is then released, its energy then being transferred to the crankshaft.

That is a monstrous motor, I am puzzled as to the make. Hall-Scott built the biggest gas engines around, but I can't find where they supplied engines to any Robinson fire trucks.

The smaller Robinson fire apparatus were based on Samson vehicles, but this larger Robinson appears to be built on a dedicated, truck-style-and-size chassis. Very large gas engine suppliers were rare in 1912/1913, so I am really surprised by the massive size of this motor - that makes me think Hall-Scott.

The surviving Robinson fire appliances number less than a handful. There's an excellent display of Robinson fire apparatus pics at the SPAAMFAA site.

Big bulby thing

Otherwise better known as an accumulator, as hydraulic systems or any liqiud systems would use to absorb system pressure surges.

Spark Plugs

Two spark plugs per cylinder. Check out the crank starter -- Ouch!


That is one seriously big motor, would love to know the details on it. I feel a google coming on.

Big Bulby Thing

Positive Displacement Pumps (Rotaries and Pistons) cause a pulse in the water column every time the pump cycles. The "Big Bulby Thing" is an air chamber which helps smooth the pressure pulses. There is usually a small one on the intake side and a larger one on the discharge side.

A lot of times they are brass and either nickel or chrome plated.

Batt 11

Big bulby thing

I suspect it has something to do with priming of rotary pumps, which early Robinson fire engines had. It’s interesting that despite the fact that this one looks painted, on most of them it was a shiny brass finish.

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