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While many people feel that museums are mostly informative and educative rather than entertaining, they have obviously never been to the Vintage Fire Truck Museum of Jeffersonville Indiana. Its main aim, or purpose, is the collection of rare objects and historically connected materials of significance to society that helps all visitors understand everything that has changed in the nature of firefighting. From the devastating 1666 fire in London it was clear that changes were needed. That watershed event is when 7/8 of London burned down and the process of needing changes in firefighting was readily acknowledged. Firebreaks were used to help slow the spread of that incredibly tragic inferno by using gun powder to blow up buildings – but many more changes were soon to be seen.
We were guided through by Bill Stone and his knowledge astounded us. Seriously. We have firefighters in our own family and still learned a ton! We can’t tell you ALL of their secrets – but will share a few of our favorites
Vintage Fire Truck Museum Talks About the Industrial Revolution
The first thing to have in mind while going on a visit to the vintage fire museum is fire – how to quench the fire, tools used, and so on. There were two main creations during the industrial revolution that also revolutionized the current fire fighting techniques we use today. 1) The creation of pumps from the age of exploration and how they were used to expell water from the now larger ships on the seas and 2) utilizing brass that was proven not to rust and hold up well. It became the go-to metal for hose nozzles and connections.
It was a very labor intensive operation when you had to fight a fire with up to 60 men being needed to just work the hand pump for the water. That is where the real brotherhood of firefighting came in – you were voted in with a secret ballot. Yes, they were political! If you kicked a dog, beat your wife, etc the gang would want nothing to do with you. They wanted decent people that they could rely on as well as be proud to associate with. When they voted on letting you join the company, everyone had two different colored marbles. You did not want to be black-balled out of the opportunity! Even though firehouse staffs are considerably smaller today, they still have that great code of honor.
Basically it is those two things that led the way as hand pulled carts transitioned to horse pulled carts and then steam engines came into the picture. A company with 15 wagons pulled by horses could eventually be replaced by 1-2 steam wagons. This saved a ton of money with smaller staff as less manpower was needed and the care and storage of the horses was expensive.
Chemicals were the next development around the Civil War – and we learned of the evolution of the fire extinguisher that we use today. Fire Grenades were a thing for a little while and even came in decorative colors. They suck the oxygen out of the environment to suffocate a fire and worked well except for two things: the people in the area fighting the fire needed the air and the chemicals were toxic. We chalk this up to a great idea with poor execution. Oops!
Those steamers were eventually replaced with “modern” trucks from 1915 to 1930. Less than 400 of the steamers have survived through today because they were scrapped for the World War II construction efforts. Miss Sarah is sitting in a souped up Ford with lights and siren running.
There is so much more to learn – from how flat bottom river boats needed smaller steam engines and how that translated to fire fighting equipment, to fire call boxes, to alarm systems! I was amazed to learn that a fire station would be on the road in under a minute – when they were still pulled by horses! The care and maintenance of the horses translated to a relationship with Dalmatians. Those were excellent coach dogs in Europe and protected the horses from wild dogs. These spotted “enforcers” were slightly hard of hearing and unaffected by the loud noises associated with a roaring fire and sirens so they would guard the unhitched teams until the fire was out.
Vintage Fire Truck Museum is more than just a nationally recognized museum where you can find an old collection of fire engines as well as materials/tools used in firefighting dated back to the 16th century. Yes, we can definitely refer to firefighters as heroes who risk their lives to save others from fire disasters at any point in time. It is an occupation that needs dedication and abject commitment. That was the belief of Mr. Conway, who basically started this museum with his private collection. See that orange sticker on the phone? His company made those when he realized how it could help people call their local department and get help faster. Again, another simple addition to the cause.
OK, I didn’t even scratch the surface on everything we learned on our tour! You really need to make a point of stopping by yourself – whether you have that little boy or girl who dreams of being a firefighter along with you, or if you are like my husband and almost went into the profession yourself. (My family went law enforcement and I was still entertained and educated!)
The vintage fire museum is made available to all ages. There are no age restrictions as fire is a severe factor which has claimed many lives and properties, mostly due to negligence and ignorance. According to FEMA, in 2009, there were 356,200 home fires in this country, resulting in 2,480 deaths, 12,600 injuries, and a monetary loss of over $7 billion. Vintage Fire Museum is not only about showcasing firefighting artifacts and engines, but they also offer several educating sessions that would inform children properly about the dangers linked with fire, how to avoid it and most importantly how to respond to any fire outbreak.
The vintage fire truck museum can be visited from Tuesday to Saturdays between 10 am to 5 pm from March through to December. Fridays and Saturdays same time from January to February. They are also known to host other kinds of events apart from showcasing and exhibition. You can check their list of events on their website.
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