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Steam Fair Fire Engine.
Since our beginnings in 1987, water was a major factor in our rally requirements. Steam engines, particularly when working hard, required vast quantities of it. It became obvious as the years went by that permanent arrangements needed to be made, and initially a large static mains fed tank provided the basic needs, with help from visiting fire appliances. In 1989 Les Morris, one of our founder members acquired a vintage Denis F8 fire appliance which was naturally put to good use for a few years. She was however, very old and being petrol powered not economically run. Due to moving house Les had to sell his appliance in 1993 so other arrangements had to be made. Over several years we were able to borrow a Dennis ‘D series Ex- Devon Fire Brigade machine from a local body repairer, and this was used for several years until his intentions to sell were announced. By then it was becoming obvious that something more permanent would be required for the future years.
The Rally was expanding in size, the number of full sized engines was much greater with several working areas involving power by steam engines. These could not be moved and needed water to be transported to them around the site. A decision was therefore taken during the winter of 2002 – 2003 to purchase our own fire appliance for site use. This would be cared for and operated by Les, who is a retired full time fire-fighter.
It was not a good time to be looking for a second hand fire engine as at that time the Government were acquiring many appliances being released from brigades around the country to replace the fleet of ancient ‘Green Goddess’ - ex AFS machines held in reserve until a few years ago. However in February 2003 we located an EX- Devon Fire and Rescue appliance for sale in Cornwall, it had been used for some time by a demolition company. The appliance proved to be in good mechanical order, though the body was pretty rough and it had been stripped of all equipment. This latter fact was not a problem to as Les had a fair stock of equipment and the ability to acquire some more. The appliance was a Denis R. S 135 water - tender ladder and was ideal for our needs i.e. diesel engine, 400 gallon water tank, and a pump in working order. We returned it to Devon and within the next few months many hours work was spent refitting it with hose reels and all the necessary kit needed for its new role, plus a good tidy up to get it looking as smart as possible.
It attended its first rally in August 2003 and quickly proved its worth. In addition to its main role as water carrier, it also carries a vast array of tools used to set up, run and pack away the site, plus of course its original role as a fire – fighting vehicle. It can still be of use if required on site as we are situated mid way between the nearest fire stations at either Brixham or Paignton. Some initial problems and defects were eventually cured, and it has now completed 7 years of service, having proved to be a valuable asset at our expanding rally.
A small band of people on site who have undergone firefighter training for various careers, which can be called upon to give assistance if required; although it is usually manned at the rally by Les assisted by his son Alan also a founder member since he was 9 years old!
The appliance attends other local rallies, fetes and carnivals where its capabilities are often put to good use, though the main purpose of these visits is to publicise our own Steam Fair of course. Our secretary Sandie Armstrong who works for a local pleasure boat and ferry company arranged for gold lettered, hardwood signs to be made for the body sides and these lettered ‘Torbay Steam Rally Group (before we became association) really look the part. During the winter months the appliance lives under a silk parachute coat, tucked away in a barn beyond Totnes.
Various means of supplying water are used by other Steam rallies including tractor towed farm tanks but steam engine owners tell us the water is often of dubious quality and in some cases injectors have had to be dismantled to clear foreign material. We pride ourselves on being able to supply clean, fresh mains water from our own bulk tanks to all visiting engines, the owners of which are well pleased with the service we provide. The idea of running our own fire appliance has proved great success and we cannot think of a better way of providing water. The appliance is a familiar sight on the rally field and on road runs etc and in 2009 ‘starred’ in a Roslyn Pitches film in Cornwall.
Our fire appliance, which has served us well for 8 years finally became unroadworthy last year and has been sold to a local demolition contractor. We are now the proud owners of a very smart new fire appliance which will carry on the good work of the previous one. It is a Dennis D.S./Carmicheal Watertender, ex Hertfordshire fire brigade, and more recently , an industrial machine with Lawson Mardon at Bridgenorth.We aquired it in November 2011, and it has now been fitted out to our requirements for water supplies and fire cover on the rally field.It came complete with 4 working breathing apparatus sets, but little else, it now carries our 135 Lacon ladder plus a wide range of equipment.