Blaze somewhere? World’s earliest fire engine, a 1914 John Morris, can still help | autos | Hindustan Times
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Blaze somewhere? World’s earliest fire engine, a 1914 John Morris, can still help

A 1914 John Morris fire engine was the oldest participant at The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally on Sunday. It was one of the two earliest fire engines known to have existed in the world.

autos Updated: Feb 26, 2017 19:37 IST
Gulshankumar Wankar
1914 John Morris
A 1914 John Morris fire engine was the oldest participant at The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally on Sunday. It was one of the two earliest fire engines known to have existed in the world. (Gulshankumar Wankar / HT Photo)

A giant fire engine rolled out on the roads of New Delhi on Sunday morning. There was a clanging bell, but no fire alert, a big hose-pipe but no water, uniformed firefighters cheering and not out to douse any fire.

Because the vehicle they were on was special: A 1914 John Morris.

The oldest participant at The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally on Sunday, the John Morris fire engine was bought by the Nizam of Hyderabad from Manchester-based John Morris and Sons Ltd, in 1914. Powered by a four-cylinder motor, it was one of the two earliest fire engines known to have existed in the world.

What’s more? Every piece in the fire engine is functional – the gears change smoothly, the analog meters show readings accurately and the solid rubber tyres are running strong.

The other one of the two – in UK, is out of order.

People participating with John Moris 1914 Years of manufacture oldest 80HP Vintage rail car during the 51th Statesman vintage and classic Car Rally in New Delhi, India on Sunday, February 26, 2017. ( Photo by Sonu Mehta/ Hindustan Times) (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

It was transferred to the Nizam Guaranteed State Railways in 1946, and later became a part of the Indian Railways. Today a team of Lalaguda Railway workshop, Hyderabad, maintains the engine, which is otherwise on display at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri.

“The best part is that government is keen to conserve this machine,” tells Sandeep Kumar, a junior engineer of the Lalaguda workshop. “Every year, they send a designated engineer from the workshop to New Delhi for its care. Senior mechanics teach juniors the art of its maintenance, and that’s how we can ensure its preservation in the future too,” he adds.

The hose and the pipes of the 1914 John Morris fire engine. The conservation of brass fixtures deserves an award. (Gulshankumar Wankar / HT Photo)

“Thanks to Yashpal Gupta, a former railway officer and vintage automobile enthusiast, the fire engine was restored in 1981. It can still pump out water at 400 gallons per minute,” tells Shubho, a designer at the National Rail Museum.

But can it douse a fire today?

“Well, depends on how big the fire is,” says the designer.