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Museum Collections: Apparatus - Water Tower Co. No. 1

1902 75 foot Gorter Water Tower

Gorter Water Tower Gorter Water Tower
Gorter Water Tower 1927 Kleiber_with_1902_gorter_water_tower1
1927 Kleiber_with_1902_gorter_water_tower1

Builder: Henry H. Gorter, San Francisco Fire Department Corporation Yard

SFFD Shop Number: WT-3 (note: The WT stands for Water Tower.  The number 3 designates that it was third water tower to be placed into service in the SFFD.)

Condition: Good, preserved.

Location: In storage

Crew: Two firemen on each shift
Members of water tower companies could be identified at fires and other emergencies by their all black helmets.

Service History:

1902  Housed with Engine Co. No. 4, 144 - 2nd Street (horse drawn)
1906  Relocated to 524 - 10th Street due to the earthquake (as unmanned special unit)
1910  with Engine Co. No. 4, 676 Howard Street (horse drawn)
1921  July 21st, with Engine Co. No. 6, 356 - 7th Street  (motorized tractor added)
1925  with Engine Co. No. 4, 676 Howard Street
1955  with Engine Co. No. 19, 1300 - 4th Street
1957  with Engine Co. No. 12, 115 Drumm Street
1958  with Engine Co. No. 4, 676 Howard Street
1968  with Engine Co. No. 19, 1300 - 4th Street
1970  with Engine Co. No. 12, 115 Drumm Street
1975  Company disbanded
1975  Transferred to the roster of the Museum

Tractor Combinations:
1921  July 21st, converted from horse drawn to motorized.  A 1921 American LaFrance Type 17-6 tractor, registry #3452, shop number, TR-25, was attached to the tower.  (TR stands for tractor)
1928  July 27th, 1926 Kleiber, registry #4228, tractor, shop number, TR-29
1929   November 26th, 1926 Kleiber, registry #4229, tractor, shop number, TR-30
1961   January 4th, 1939 Ahrens-Fox tractor, shop, TR-42
1971   March 1st, 1950 Seagrave tractor, shop number, TR-57
1975   Re-coupled to the 1926 Kleiber, shop number, TR-29 and transferred to the roster of the Museum  

This is the second water tower built by Henry H. Gorter a machinist at the Fire Department's Corporation Yard.  Mr.Gorter built his first water tower, a 65 foot apparatus, in 1898.  That first tower was designated as Water Tower Co. No. 1.  When this larger 75 foot tower was placed into service in 1902, it took over the designation of Company No. 1.  The 1898 unit then became Water Tower Company No. 2.  This 1898 tower is also still in existence. 

Water towers were ordered to greater alarms of fire at the special call of the Chief.  The towers were usually used for fires in large warehouses or at pier fires along the waterfront.  They were also used in the heart of the city at fires in the ever growing number of high raise buildings. 

All of San Francisco's water towers, there were four in service at one time, could pour a tremendous amount of water onto a fire. In addition to the Gorter nozzle on the tower, there is also a Gorter monitor battery on the chassis deck.  The tower nozzle normally carried a 2 ¼ inch tip.  The deck battery normally carried a 1 ½ inch tip.  When both monitors operate with a 2 ½ inch tip, and are in full operation, they can deliver 3,500 gallons of water per minute onto a fire.  Under the tower deck there are two 1 ¾ inch SFFD Square Thread outlets that can be used for hand held hose lines.  Water pressure is used to raise the 44 foot tower mast to a perpendicular position.  The tower has eight 3 inch inlets to achieve the maximum water flow.  However, to raise the mast it is only necessary to have one 3” hose line with a minimum water pressure of 120 pounds.  The mast telescope pipe can be extended to 71 feet, and with the correct elevation of the nozzle, water can flow from 75 feet above the ground. 

This tower can place a slightly effective stream of water into a 9th floor window and on to an 8th floor roof, a fairly effective stream of water into an 8th floor window or on to a 7th floor roof and an effective stream of water into a 7th floor window or on to a 6th floor roof.  The deck monitors can place a fairly effective stream of water into a 3rd floor window or 2nd floor roof and an effective stream of water into a 2nd floor window.  The tower nozzle normally carried a 2 inch tip and the deck battery a tip of 1 ¾ inches.  Two sets of four nozzle tips, 1 ½, 1 ¾, 2, and 2 ½ inches, are carried on the small water towers.

THIS 75 FOOT GORTERWATER TOWER BUILT IN 1902 IS THE LARGEST STILL IN EXISTENCE IN THE UNITED STATES.  There were about 150 water towers built in America, but only five were over 70 feet.  This 75 foot tower is the only one of those five remaining.

THIS TOWER WAS THE LAST MANNED WATER TOWER IN THE UNITED STATES when it was placed out of service in 1975.  At that time there were other water towers in service in other departments, but they were all in a reserve status and not manned.  When Water Tower Co. No. 1 was disbanded, the unit was transferred to the roster of the Museum. 

Water Tower No. 1 has been displayed and demonstrated by the Department's muster team at the 70th, 75th and 100th 1906 Anniversary firefighter musters in the City.  The SFFD Historical Society has preserved and maintained this unit in its operating condition.  This water tower could be placed back into service at any time by the Chief of Department.

1926 Kleiber Tractor:

Builder: Kleiber Company, San Francisco, 11th and Folsom Streets
Continental 6 cylinder, 120 HP with solid disc wheels and hard rubber tires

Manufacturer's Number: 4228

SFFD Shop Number: TR-29

Condition: Fair, preserved

Location: In storage

Crew: Driver

Service History:

1926   Truck Co. No. 13, 115 Drumm Street
1928   July 27th, Water Tower Co. No. 1
1954   Water Tower Co. No. 2. 356 - 7th Street
1970   Water Tower Co. No. 2 was placed out of service and the tractor was placed into a reserve status
1975   This tractor was re-coupled with Water Tower Co. No. 1 and assigned to the roster of the Museum collection

The Kleiber Company, who manufactured automobiles and trucks, was a family owned San Francisco business located at 11th and Folsom Streets. This tractor is one of the 25 trucks built by the company.  In 1926, the Department bought two truck tractors and placed them into service at truck companies.  It turned out that these tractors were not powerful enough to pull the weight of the trailers with their ladders, equipment and firemen up the steep San Francisco hills.  The tractors were removed from the truck companies and put into service with the water towers.  The tractors original hard rubber tires were converted to pneumatic tires in 1929.

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