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Tower Firefighters Fire Engine Steamer Re-Build Update

Posted by: Administrator Account on 2/16/2011

This is a progress report Fire Engine Steamer James Tippet, Ahrens Build
#668; built in 1891 and delivered to City of Tower Minnesota in 1892.
Tippet was named after an early Tower mayor who also served as fire chief.
Tower Ahrens Fox Steamer 
Sister engines were delivered to St Paul, Duluth and Superior during
same time frame - Chris Ahrens must have had a very active salesman up
here on the northern frontier. Our steam pumper was one of the very last
steamers to be completed by Ahrens Manufacturing Co. before it merged
with others to become the American Fire Engine Co.

After many years of periodic outdoor display by the City of Tower,
Tippet has been turned over to the Tower-Soudan Historical Society which
is beginning the process of documenting this artifact and restoration.
We are lucky the city fathers never succumbed to various scrap metal drives!

Highest priority at this time is securing a suitable place to work on
and display James Tippet. We are hoping to purchase the old Fire
Station/City Hall which once housed Tippet to again serve this purpose.
This 1894 brick building is on the National Registry of Historical Places.

Boiler shell seems sound with no cracks or rust through areas. We intend
to connect city water to boiler by garden hose to check for leaks
during summer. Boiler was replaced in 1922 and some features and
controls were relocated or removed altogether.

Some controls and most of the bright work on James Tippet grew legs and
walked off years ago when this steamer was stored outside. We are now
comparing current photos with old to determine what is actually missing.
Some items missing or destroyed include: pressure relief valve, whistle,
sight glasses, gauges, etc. The whole

Left hand side discharge manifold and 2 1/2" valve has disappeared. This
appears to be gunmetal.

Naturally, hoses, strainer, spanners, oil and grease cans, lamps and
other small tools have disappeared. We intend to run ads in local
newspaper in hopes of folks returning these items - yeah, probably
hopeless but you never know how people will respond.

Wheels are in excellent condition. Fifth wheel was damaged during an
attempt to move Tippet and will likely be replaced altogether.

Wood floor boards, tool box and seat all need to be replaced.

The good thing is that Tippet has been painted [and painted and painted]
over the years so most of the ferrous metal is in good shape. The bad
thing is that Tippet has been painted so many times that paint removal
will proceed slowly. We might just be lucky enough to find some of the
original pin-striping and decorations under the many layers of black,
silver and red paint.

Correct name spelling for this wonderful artifact is "James Tippet" vs
other versions found elsewhere in print. I can send photos of name
embossed on smoke stack confirming this if anyone is interested.

We will be taking pics of the steamer as we work on it and will post or
email to interested parties.

Best Regards,
Dave Durrant
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