A rare steam fire engine is now part of the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum collection in Port Hope, Ont.
The firefighting apparatus arrived at the museum’s temporary home on Tuesday as officials and dignitaries gathered for the unveiling of the Amoskeag steamer, which was built in 1866 and is named Contingent.
Museum curator Will Lambert calls the steamer the crown jewel in the museum’s collection.
“It is the answer to a dream and a prayer. The museum has wanted this for 35 years,” said Lambert.
The museum partnered with the Ingenium (formerly the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa) to secure the steamer, which Lambert says is the second-oldest among the 30 known to exist in Canada. The oldest is at the Fire Museum in Yarmouth, N.S.
Lambert says the steamer was one of 118 built by Amoskeag and delivered to the Charleston Navy Yards in 1866. Ingenium purchased it in 1967 from a private American collector.
Lambert says most steamers were used during the 1800s and into the 1900s but were eventually scrapped or lost to scrap metal drives during the First and Second World Wars.
“This has been the primary thing we wanted to add to the collection,” said Lambert. “Now, we not only have a steamer, we have a very old one with really great history, and it’s well documented.”
The steamer will be temporarily housed at the Trade Tech Industries building on Robertson Street since the museum was forced to close its physical location in March 2018 after 33 years. The Mill Street building, which housed hundreds of artifacts, sat on contaminated land from the former Eldorado nuclear facility and was designated for cleanup.
Lambert says the artifacts are packed up at several facilities as the search for a new building or property to house them continues.
“We are looking at least half a dozen properties, some with buildings, some without,” he said. “There are a number of irons in the fire.”
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He says the steamer will be loaned to other museums in the meantime but will be on display at Trade Tech for Canada Day.
“Now all we need is a place to put it,” he said. “The steamer is big for Port Hope because the museum wants to stay in Port Hope. We are looking outside Port Hope because we are forced to because there are limited opportunities and properties here. But we really want it to be here.”