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FDNY: 1913

FDNY: 1913

New York Fire Department "auto extension pipe" hose truck (?) circa 1913. "Couple Gear" on radiator. View full size. George Grantham Bain Collection.


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The Water Tower and Couple Gear tractor

The water tower in this picture is the predecessor to today's aerial platforms, "Bronto Skylifts" and Snorkels. Essentially it is an elevated water nozzle and most of these units used hand cranks to raise them out of the "bedded" position to being upright and then another gear to raise the tower to the appropriate height for operations. These rigs were only used for "high rise" fires of the day or major conflagrations. You never saw them in use at a house fire.

The Couple Gear here I cannot tell if it was a true "auto engine" or "engine over electric engine" powering the drive train. Many of the "hybrids" of the time used an auto engine to be the power plant for elected motors to drive each wheel or axle, exactly the same principle used today on diesel locomotive trains today. Couple Gear made both types of "trucks".

This was obviously a horse drawn water tower that was "married" to a auto truck of the day. But the ironic thing about it is that it is a true "tractor and trailer" as the water tower trailer does not have a "tiller" position (steering of the rear axle of the trailer, you can tell by the height of the rear trailer wheels) but not uncommon. It only has one fifth-wheel assembly (where the old front wheels of the wagon meet up with the modern tractor).

Not too many of these rigs exist today. The Manchester, CT Fire Museum has one from the Hartford Fire Department and earlier this year, brought it out and actually pumped water through it!

Water tower

This type of transitional apparatus when the switch was being made from horse to motorized was called a water tower. The long structure on the back of the apparatus was raised in a vertical position and used similar to a tower ladder today to get a stream into upper floors.

Re: hybrid truck?

It can't be battery-powered if it has a crank starter and huge radiator.

hybrid truck?

Couple Gear also made some of the first hybrid trucks...

"Couple-Gear trucks, known for their heavy-duty abilities, made a mark with a model that offered four-wheel drive and four-wheel power steering by using a geared motor built into the hub of the wheels. This was followed with a hybrid version that used a four-cylinder gas engine to power a generator, thus eliminating the batteries and the transmission."

I wonder if this was a battery powered truck or a hybrid!

Four wheel steer

These old Couple Gear trucks had four wheel steering. It enabled them to make tight turns and maneuver in the city.

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