No. 153: Pump Like An Egyptian

Pause for a moment, fellow traveler, to give a hat-tip to Ctesibius. Or should that be a nemes* tip? Ctesibius was an inventor in Egypt during the second century BCE. (That was the Ptolemaic Dynasty, of course.) He’s credited with creating the first force pump, a machine to move water. Without Ctesibius, our nation’s fire houses would be full of buckets, not trucks.

Well, buck(et) that.

What Ctesibius created, others improved. Over the passage of centuries a fire-fighting machine evolved. Early models were on skids; the people fighting fires dragged their machine to wherever they were needed. Most of them were called “hand tubs” because firefighters had to form a bucket brigade to fill the engine, whose pump then shot water at flames.

As cities grew larger, so did the fire engines. Wheels replaced skids – and, eventually, horses replaced the men who had pushed/pulled fire engines to wherever they were needed.

The horses eventually got a break. The first modern engine, mounted on a truck body, debuted in Springfield, Mass., in 1905. By the 1920s, fire engines – fire trucks – were ubiquitous. So was their signature color: In an era when just about everything with wheels was painted black, the fire engines were red. And so they are, even now.

The paint on this old machine has faded, and small wonder: It was built in 1946. It’s a Ford, powered by a flathead 6. How long did it serve? How many homes did it save? How many horses? I bet Ctesibius would want to know.

Shoshone, Idaho, 2,060 miles northwest of Atlanta. (Photos by Senior Junkyard Correspondent Harold “Tex” Colson)

* A pharaonic fedora, sort of

Published by oldcarguy

Sisyphus in a fedora.

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