For 17 years, beginning in 1902, the "Roosevelt" Steamer extinguished fires all over Salt Lake City. Then, in 1919, the usefulness of the Steamer itself was extinguished.
But Saturday, for the first time in 77 years, water rushed through the hoses of the antique engine and put out a fire outside of the Union Pacific Station.The fire was part of an exhibition to go with the dedication of the restored engine. The restoration, sponsored by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and performed by the Bountiful Fire Department under the supervision of firefighter Brent Palmer, cost $125,000, not including the thousands of hours of labor volunteered by the firefighters.
"When we asked about restoration, they told us it would take seven years and Brent Palmer got it done in 2 1/2 (years)," said Louise Green, president of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
Funding for the project came from state and county centennial grants and contributions from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
For more than 50 years, the Roosevelt Steamer sat idle, while time took its toll. First, it was subjected to the elements and vandalism as it sat in Liberty Park. In 1958, the Tooele Army Depot Fire Department refurbished the engine but again placed it outside, and the engine continued to rust.
In 1972, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers salvaged the engine headed for the scrapheap and placed it in the basement of their museum, where it was on display for another 20 years.
To remove the engine from the museum, it had to be disassembled, boxed up and transported to the Bountiful station. According to firefighter Ron Hatch, the engine was in 22,000 pieces when they finally had it laid out to be re-assembled.
"Brent spent many, many hours reading about it and studying it," Hatch said. "Twenty-four hours a day he spent working on it."
The result is a sparkling, chrome-covered engine with immaculate, gold-leaf detail on the red wheels and running boards. The engine performed flawlessly Saturday, after only two trial firings, neither of which used hoses.
"It was great. I was, to tell you the truth, real nervous about it . . . because I just didn't feel that comfortable with only two firings, but she was ready to go," Palmer said. He attributes the outcome to, "just a lot of hours, a lot of good help, and a lot of good volunteers."
The restoration will also be marked by a "muster" competition with a team from California who brought their 1877 Clapp and Jones Steam Engine. The competition begins at 9 a.m. today in front of the Union Pacific Building at 400 W. South Temple.
After the competition, the engine will be taken across the state before returning to the museum.
"It will be on the road, border to border, for the next two years," said Edith Menna, director of the museum. Meanwhile, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers will build an addition to the museum to house the engine and other firefighting relics. The DUP hope to use the tour to raise money to open more than 60 museums across the state.