What’s so different about Fire 32? – Part 2

Being a mechanical engineer who focused on the design of saw mills, my father was exposed to some of the most current technology of the day. As the logging industry was big business in the Northwest during the sixties, saw mills were always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their operations, and the use of hydraulic and air operated systems was fairly common place. Being the forward thinker that he was, my father saw how the use of air controls could improve the operation of fire apparatus, just as it did in the mills.

Since Happy Valley was a volunteer department, and the number of people responding on fire calls could be minimal at best, he wanted to make the vehicles easy to operate, in some cases performing a needed function with just the flip of a switch. By using air controls, a function that normally required a mechanical lever or control rod could be remotely control, and placed anywhere on the vehicle. All the valves on the pump, including discharges, front and rear suction lines, tank supply and fill along with the foam controls were controlled by air cylinders. In addition to the pump valves, both transmission PTO’s and the winch controls were air controlled as well.

Let me explain how this all works and how the system was laid out on the truck. This system can be described as an electric over air system, where a toggle switch is used to send a signal to an air valve, which in turn supplies air to a small air ram that moves the valve open or closed.

air-system-drawing

The above drawing is of the air system on the truck. This is an actual construction drawing. When I get it posted on the website, I will provide a link so you can see it full size.

construction-pumppanel

This picture is of the pump panel when it was being constructed. What you are looking at is a schematic of the plumbing on the truck, with the toggle switches in the location of the valve that it would control. The pump operator was able to look at the schematic, and based on what he needed to do, he could flip the appropriate toggle switch. To open a valve, the switch would be moved one way, then the other way to close the valve.

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2 Responses to “What’s so different about Fire 32? – Part 2”

  1. Barbara Hopkins Says:

    Hello,
    My grandfather was George Neep of Neep Equipment Company. He made/sold fire trucks and fire equiment in Oregon up until the 1970s. I’m wondering if you know of his company or could you connect me with anyone who might know. When he died in the 1970’s, he was carried to the cemetary in a fire truck.
    Barbara Hopkins

  2. mikefire32 Says:

    Barbara,
    Although I never met your grandfather, I am very familiar with him. He was instrumental in the start of Western States Fire Apparatus. The initial 100 or so pumpers had the Neep name until Gloyd Hall broke off on his own and began building under the Western States name.

    Western States was in business until 2003 when the company was shut down; the building still stands with the company name on the outside. I know the Hall family fairly well and could put you in contact with several of them.

    As for Neep fire engines, two of my friends own Neep pumpers, one a 1946 Ford from Forest Grove and the other a 1953 from Newberg.

    If you click on the link at the top of the page to pnwspaamfaa and find the section on northwest apparatus builders, you will see some of the history of Western States Fire Apparatus that mentions your grandfather’s name.

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