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Museum Collections Restorations:

Circa 1820 Protection Hand Engine Pump Restoration July, 2009

The Comstock Firemen's Museum's committee invited the SFFD Historical Society to take part in their 2009 Virginia City Firemen's Muster. They asked if it would be possible for us to bring along the Protection engine, as this year the muster would feature hand engines.

The Society's Board of Directors gave their approval to take the Protection as well as a competition hose cart.  The restoration and preservation committee knew that it had been nearly twenty five years since the Protection has been paraded, displayed and pumped in a muster competition, and that no museum preservation practices had been applied to the engine since 1991.   In preparation for the trip to Virginia City, Nevada, the pump needed to be inspected and tested.  The inspection revealed that leather gaskets and seals which had been installed in the 1979 restoration were broken or cracked beyond repair.  This was not at all surprising since no one had been maintaining the 200 year old engine for almost twenty years.

Air Chamber

The copper air chamber of the pump.  The ornate painted air chamber cover has been removed. This was the normal running condition of the engine.  The air chamber covers were only used for parades and formal presentations of the machine.

1820 Protection Engine Pump Restoration 7
Old Gaskets

The broken seals found inside the pump.  Every seal and gasket would have to be replaced.

1820 Protection Engine Pump Restoration 6
To inspect the pump, the cowling was removed and the chains that pull the pistons up and the connecting rods that push the pistons down were disconnected. The pistons were slid out of the cylinders, and the cylinders unbolted from the pump cavity.  It was discovered that the check valves had broken from their leather hinges and would have to be replaced. All the parts were cleaned and surfaced.
Broken Gaskets and Check Valves
New Check Valves
The broken gaskets and broken check valves.
New check valves were installed.

1820 Protection Engine Pump Restoration 5 In the foreground, observe the hand forged circa 1820 iron square top bolts located at the rear end of the wash box. The inlet piping has been changed from the original to allow for a direct hydrant or water tank supply to the pump.  The Protection is one of the first New York side stroke hand engines built.  Its small overall size can only take a crew of about 15 firemen.  The cylinders, however, at 7 inches, are very large for size of the machine. 

Derek from Pacific Belt and Supply came to the workshop to measure and diagram the necessary replacement gaskets.  Within two days the gaskets were made and returned.  The pump was put back together and tested for proper working order.  The test was successful.

On Thursday, the 16th of August, the Protection was transported to Virginia City inside an enclosed trailer in order to arrive safely at the sanctioned muster of the California Firemen's Muster Association.    The Protection would compete in the Class IIA Hand Engine Class division which is composed of engines that have cylinders between 4 and 7 inches in diameter and  a 2 ½ inch discharge.  In this class there are engines that could have been built 40 to 80 years after the Protection.  These newer machines are larger in size and built to handle a pumping crew of 40 to 50 firemen.  The Protection's crew size is 15 or less.  The SFFD Muster Team would have a great challenge in front of them.

On Saturday afternoon, the Muster Team was ready for the competition.  Thanks to the new tight gaskets and a foreman who knew how to manage his crew in time with the hose cart team, the Protection won first place in her class with a time of just over 34 seconds.   

ist Place PresentationMuster chairman Steve Frady, a former Chief of the Virginia City Volunteer Fire Department, presents to Paul Barry, SFFDHS, president, the first place prize for the Protection's Class IIA win.  The SFFDHS Team also won 2nd Place in the over 40 open hose cart competition.

For a photo view of the Virginia City muster click here






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