LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE MUSEUM COLLECTION
1899 American Metropolitan Steam Engine
The 1899 American Metropolitan is similar to our 1903 Steam Pumper except that it is one size bigger and four years older. It was also built at a different plant, the old Ahrens Fire Engine Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. The 1903 Metropolitan was built at the Seneca Falls plant in New York. The Ahrens Fire Engine Company merged into the American Fire Engine Company.
This apparatus served the Los Angeles Fire Department from 1899 to 1921. This fire engine made the last Los Angeles City horse drawn run in June of 1921!
From 1899 to 1907 it served as Engine Company 3 for the City Fire Department. It then went to Engine Company 5, and in 1919 it ended up as Engine 24. This steam engine produced between 900-1000 gallons of water per minute, and would have been pulled by three horses.
The fire engine was put in reserve in June 1921, and was sold in 1924 to MGM Studios. This was also used in the movies, like our 1903 American Metropolitan. Hello Dolly and Old Chicago were a few of the movie pictures that this was used in.
This was sold along with all the horse drawn and other vehicles that MGM owned, fire engines, gatling guns, milk wagons, vegetable wagons, stage coaches, cannons, etc. to Melody Ranch. Phil Rutherford and his father, through the Melody Ranch, turned around and rented the same equipment back to the studios.
It ended up in the hands of Phil Rutherford when Melody Ranch dissolved. The Los Angeles County Fire Museum Association became aware of this engine in 2000 and went to visit Phil at his barn in Brawley, California. In the barn there was not only this steam engine, but another Los Angeles Fire Department steam engine and a horse drawn hose wagon. The engine was covered in a heavy layer of dirt, dust, and cobwebs. But even so, it was an amazing site to see them sitting there in such amazing condition, so complete, and so original.
The other steam engine and the hose wagon were not in nearly as good of shape, but a deal was struck and all three pieces were purchased, and all are now on display at the Museum. This steam engine was missing its seat, so we had to have one fabricated, and we had to reproduce the original steam nozzles, called play pipes. We also had to find a bell to replace the one missing, and a steam whistle.
Otherwise, we found the original tools sitting in the toolbox, hanging on the frame near the boiler was the original style torch that was used to light the boiler when you were ready to go to work. There was still coal in the coal box and still coal in the firebox in the bottom of the boiler in this engine.
This is really an amazing piece. We plan on doing a frame off restoration on this when possible to return it back to its original and operational condition.
From the Ohio Memory Collection:
Ahrens Fire Engine Company was established in Cincinnati in 1868 by Chris Ahrens, a German immigrant who had worked at A. B. & E. Latta’s Buckeye Works, a Cincinnati factory that built one of the first steam-powered fire engines, the Uncle Joe Ross, in 1852. Ahrens bought out the company in 1868 and changed the name to C. Ahrens and Company. In 1891 the firm merged with three New York companies, Silsby, Button, and Clapp & Jones, to form the American Fire Engine Company. The merger did not last, and Ahrens left in 1905 to form the Ahrens Fire Engine Company. After becoming Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company in 1910 the company continued to produce innovative fire engines in Cincinnati until 1949.