08/14/12 254 W - + 7 - 3 Letter to the Editor - Old-Time Steamers

Published in today's News & Observer, in response to the August 12 story about the steamer demonstrations at the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo:

Old-time steamers
Allow me to add a historical footnote to the Aug. 12 article about antique engines at the South Atlantic Fire-Rescue Expo. A century earlier, steam fire engines (or steamers) were a regular feature of the annual convention of the N.C. State Fireman’s Association. Each year’s event, held in different cities, included an annual tournament. Fire companies and fire departments from the mountains to the coast participated.There were two steamer contests, with trophies awarded for quickest steam and longest distance of water stream.

At the 1894 convention in Winston, for example, the contest was entered by Greensboro, New Berne, Salem, Wilmington, Winston No. 1 and Winston No. 2. New Berne won the $50 prize for quick-steaming, with a time of 3:19 2/5 .

Wilmington won the $20 prize for long distance, “throwing 275 feet.” A strong wind assisted their victory. The steam engine contests were discontinued in the 1910s. They were replaced by motor contests beginning in 1930. The last tournament was held at the 1940 conference in Salisbury.

Raleigh’s 1905 American LaFrance steamer was restored to operational condition to help celebrate the department’s 100th anniversary this year. It made its debut in downtown Raleigh at the Centennial Birthday Party, which was held on June 16, versus this weekend, as noted in the article.

Mike Legeros
Raleigh Fire Department Historian
President, Raleigh Fire Museum

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