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Barney, Gene and Tom: 1925

Barney, Gene and Tom: 1925

June 15, 1925. Washington, D.C. "Last run of Barney, Gene, and Tom, District Fire Department horses." And the subject of an article in today's Washington Post. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Tom's missing memorial

The Post just ran a follow-up to the John Kelly column linked to in the caption. No luck so far in the search for Tom's memorial marker.

Faithful Fire Horses

Washington Post, Jun 13, 1925

Faithful Fire Horses

Glory Be! Old Barney, Gene and Tom, faithful fire horses, remainders of other times, are to spend there remaining days in clover on the farm of the Home for the Feeble and Infirm. It is a fine place for the aged warriors, whose gallant and daring runs before the coming of the motor engines and ladder trucks thrilled the youth of Washington and made their elders stop and admire. There was not chance that these equine heroes, whose brave hearts and iron limbs never failed when called upon, should be condemned to auction block and perhaps sold to those who would abuse and torture them. The citizens of Washington would not have permitted it. They would have gone down into their pockets and subscribed a fund sufficient to take care of them as long as they live. The District Commissioners found a way to provide for them, and it is well.


The boilers in fire pumpers were started cold. A layer of wood strips over dry shavings was already laid in the firebox, with coal handy to add as soon as possible. When the alarm went off, the fire was lit and in very short order there was steam to run the engine and the draft blower, usually long before the pumper arrived at the fire and hoses were laid. This was due to the construction of the boiler, which had a large number of small pipes instead. There was not a lot of excess water to heat up in order to raise steam, which was generated on demand as there was no reserve to speak of. Once the draft blower was operating, steam pressure built up very fast. The blower was a steam jet that worked through a venturi in the stack.

In some firehouses, there was an auxiliary boiler that was connected to the engine boiler to keep it hot.

How it worked?

It takes awhile for those boilers to build steam. I wonder if they had time to build up steam on the way to the fire, or did they keep it partially stoked when it sat waiting for a fire.

Driving it home

These shots remind me of a similar feeling that is very common today: the last of a time honored tradition, due to obsolescence.

The feeling is somewhere between finding out Kodachrome is no longer produced, or listening to an old, scratchy vinyl LP.

The world of this era is gone, and will forever exist only in photographs. These people here are watching another corner being turned.

The pumper today

E-18's pumper at the annual Antique Fire Apparatus Muster. This muster is held at the Soldiers Home in DC.


You there! Next to the tree. You at least have a tie on, but where is your HAT?

Sparks Flying

A few years ago there was a documentary about old-time firehouses on a local TV station. A woman who was a small child around the time this photo was taken described the drama of these horse-drawn fire engines. She vividly recalled how both the steam-powered pump and the horse's shoes would be spitting sparks as they raced down the street, the hooves pounding and bell ringing. It must have been an incredible spectacle.


Such powerful and amazing animals. Kudos to the photographer!

There's a clown in every picture.

Looks like Tom is sticking his tongue out at the camera.

What I wouldn't give to have seen this glorious sight. Most in the crowd are smiling with delight at the spectacle. The sound of the horses gallops and wheels churning must have been thunderous. A sound never to be heard again.

Whoa, Nelly!

Those horses are some lookers, aren't they? Their teamwork is a little rusty, though.

Interesting shot

Note that all four of Tom's feet are off the ground!


I love the expressions of the horses, especially Tom (far right). They seem almost human. I hope they enjoyed their retirement.

Mounted Cop

Barney, Gene, and Tom are being followed by an iron horse.


A classic photo; especially like the lady just to the right of Tom on the far curb. Look at her delight in seeing these marvelous animals perform as they were trained to do! Excellent!

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