While enrolled in a basic genealogy online course through Boston University I discovered that you can tell a great deal about the lives of people from looking at old photos and analyzing the objects around them. Nothing is meaningless. To test my research skills I decided to work with a favorite photograph of my maternal grandfather, at the time a young FDNY Lieutenant.
My homework assignment to myself was to find out about the truck and the firehouse. With only visual clues, architecture of the building and a partial side view of the truck, with the engine company number on driver’s door obscured and an “AF” manufacturer’s emblem on the hood, this is what I found (I did not go to my mother or her siblings for any information that would speed the process):
The FDNY Engine Company in the photo is Engine Company 256 housed in the firehouse at 124 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. That was a simple matter of researching the ladder companies that drove the Aherns Fox Pumpers in the FDNY. This was not a common engine. Once I knew the houses to which these engines were assigned, I searched for photos of the firehouses and matched the architecture cues to identify the house.
Once that was done, it was a fast look through the FDNY equipment listings for Ahrens Fox fire engines and everything fell into place. The truck in the photo is a 1938 Ahrens Fox Model HT-1000 GPM Pumper and Hose Car. Its Ahrens Fox registration number is AF #3442. That is a match to FDNY Engine 256. It left the factory on May 18, 1938: Shipped by Ben E. Graf via B&O and Erie railroads to New York, NY on June 25, 1938.
The engine remained in the FDNY inventory until the early 1960’s when it was sold to Paragon-Texaco Oil Co. It was one of the last remaining in the FDNY inventory.
You can learn a great deal from an old photo! Now I need to go to the FDNY and see if I can name the firefighters in the photo.
If you are interested in the specifications on the truck, as delivered, here they are:
Model HT 1000-GPM piston pumper and hose car with two-door enclosed cab. 27’ long, weight 18,300 pounds, frame by Parish Pressed Steel Co. Reading, PA. Brown-Lipe 4-speed transmission #T-297496. 50-gallon copper fuel tank under seat. Timken HX7 front and HX19 worm-drive rear axle, 5.4 to 1 ratio. 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, 16” hand brake. Budd disk wheels, Goodyear 11.25” x 20” 14-ply balloon tires, single front and rear, spare tire on left running board. Ross 760/770204 steering with horn button. Radiator # 539659 with Brewer-Titchener dash-controlled radiator shutters. Painted NY red lacquer. Hosebed with slatted floor and adjustable rear windshield with 6 Waugh or Lyons hand straps, loop size to fit man’s full sleeve in turnout coat. Compartments including waterproof box for 1/4 fold 9’ Atlas life net. Approved wire mesh basket 6” deep x 24” wide at top front of hosebed. Suction basket holder on tailstep.Hercules HXE motor #321758, 53/4″ bore x 6″ stroke, 200 brake horsepower, high-compression aluminum heads, 935 cubic inch, compression ratio 5.44 to 1. Triple ignition (18 spark plugs), Bosch ZR6 two-spark magneto, Exide 6X6K-25-3-R battery on right running board, Auto-Lite MR-4108 starter with IGC-4064 distributor, Delco-Remy 1106629 generator with 5821 regulator. 2” Zenith updraft carburetor with Air-Maze air cleaner and flame arrester. Ahrens-Fox 6-cylinder high-pressure piston pump, rated 1000 gpm @ 160 psi, 500 @ 320, 400 @ 400, 250 @ 600, at maximum 14’ lift and engine speed of 1600 rpm or less. 3” discharge gates. Engine-to-pump gear ratio 14-62 (4.4286 to 1). Pump pistons 31/4” x 6” minor (2.1417 GPR), 41/4” x 6” major (1.2238 GPR). Ross relief valve.12-volt starting, lighting, Sireno type 51 siren on vacuum chamber, 10” chrome-plated Corcoran-Brown 2205 swiveling searchlight at right of cab atop 12” locomotive bell. Tachometer, revolution counter, speedometer, 1000,000-mile odometer, temperature gauge, fuel gauge, oil-level gauge, ammeter, oil-pressure gauge, and viscometer on dash. Two 10” chrome-plate Corcoran-Brown 29233 headlights. Two 6” red cowl lights, Guide model 361H. Two red and white chrome-plated Guide 280R tail lights. Two 4” chrome-plated rear hose pickup lights. 6 chrome-plated lights under hood, with independent switches. Red Mars light atop center of cab. 2 chrome-plated Dietz King tubular lanterns on sides of body. Homelite model R gasoline-engine driven generator with pilot light and 3 extra outlets. Two 500-watt Crouse-Hinds floodlights, one 250-watt Crouse-Hinds spotlights, with bulbs. Three 100’ lengths of #16 two-conductor mine cable. 3 sets twist-lock connectors.Hiland enclosed cab, V windshield, safety glass, metal floor boards, leather upholstery, 2 rear-view mirrors, 2 Bosch QW12/1 semaphore signals with red lights, warning light atop cab, 2 adjustable sun visors, 2 Bosch NY1851 electric windshield wipers, 2 electric defrosters, bell on right of cowl. F.D.N.Y. in 4” block letters on cab doors.Morse 2000-gpm turret pipe atop cab roof, with 3” and 31/2” connections under each side of hosebed. Two 12’ scaling ladders. One each Elkhart 21/2 gallon soda-and-acid and Foamcrest 21/2 gallon foam fire extinguishers. 6-foot hook. 8-pound flat head axe. McElligott double-female Elkhart clapper valve with 300-pound pressure gauge and ground support. Crow bar. Two 41/2” suction spanner wrenches.1 Zerk high-pressure grease gun. Set of wrenches. 10-ton hydraulic jack. 8-ounce canvas hood cover, and 8-ounce canvas hosebed cover, with securing straps and strap eyes. Weed skid chains for driving wheels.