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A 1904 W.S. Nott, horse drawn, steam operated, fire engine was involved with gold mining in Freedom around 1930. But that is jumping to the middle of the story.
“This steamer was purchased by [the city of] Spokane in 1904,” said Guy Haynes of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue in Oregon. Haynes spent his life working as a fireman and now is focused on preserving fire fighting history.
“It was put to work immediately fighting fires and saving lives,” he said. “It could pump a lot of water.”
According to Haynes, most of the new steamers in 1904 did not have a long life on the front line of fire service. The country was transitioning from teams of horses to horse power under the hood.
“The first motorized fire engines began showing up around 1910,” he said.
According to Haynes, the old 558 had some serious power when it came to fighting fires. Engine 558 remained in service in the City of Spokane until 1920, making fire runs right alongside its more modern counterparts for a number of years because it could pump so much water.
That’s when the story of the little fire engine that could begins to get a bit hazy, according to Haynes.
“In 1930 it was reported to be on sight of a gold mining operation at Freedom, being used to pump water for placer basins,” he said. “It was identified by the Number 558 production number which is displayed in plain sight as a part of the machinery casting.”
The trouble is, no written history or pictures of the engine in use at the mining operation in Star Valley have been discovered.
“This Nott steamer was capable of pumping 900 gallons per minute, close to some of today’s fire engines,” said Haynes.
From Star Valley, the engine made its way to Lewiston, Idaho, Haynes said. The machine was discovered in a wrecking yard by a family interested in collecting horse drawn equipment.
“A family who owned a collection of horse drawn carts, wagons and equipment from the 1800’s noted seeing the 558 Nott in 1936 in a wrecking yard in Lewiston, Idaho,” Haynes said. “After seeing it several times over the years they purchased the Nott in 1952 from that yard.”
The family begin working to restore the piece. They cleaned the old 558 for display in their own collection. That collection eventually ended up in the Yakima Valley Museum in Washington.
“It was displayed in an indoor setting at the museum,” said Haynes. “In 1972 the museum sold off the Nott along with other displays.”
“Over the next few years the old 558 was meticulously restored to an incredible degree and was recertified to pump water,” said Haynes. “It now is the new old Number 558.”
Last year the Curtis Family donated the piece to the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. The donation was given in honor of Myron’s son, Milo, who served as a fire fighter for the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue until his retirement.
According to Haynes, the steam engine is now on display in a museum and the search is on to find the missing pieces of the old engine’s life story.
“The Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue is excited to have this fire engine for public display,” he said. “We are interested in displaying the detailed true story of this piece of equipment.”
Haynes is eagerly seeking any information from the Star Valley area regarding Engine 558.
“The Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue is very excited to correctly document this fire engines history and especially the Freedom part of that history,” he said. “If you have any knowledge or pictures of the 558 in action in Freedom please contact the Star Valley Independent.”
Editor’s Note: Any information received regarding Engine 558 will be passed along to the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and/or Guy Haynes for inclusion in the history of the fire engine at the museum.