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Collection highlights


Andrew Torning’s Speaking Trumpet

This speaking trumpet belonged to Andrew Torning, the Superintendent of the Australian Volunteer Fire Company No. 1. This ornate ceremonial trumpet was presented to Andrew Torning Esquire on 18 May 1959 upon his leaving Australia for California, in acknowledgment for his service to the Australian Volunteer Company. Measuring 39cm high, it is made of solid sterling silver and is decorated profusely with Australian flora and fauna motifs including kangaroos and emus in a native bush setting. While the trumpet remained in the Torning family until the 1960’s, its later whereabouts were unknown. That was until 2015 when after much research the Museum of Fire located Torning’s trumpet in a South Australian auction house.

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1891 Shand Mason Steamer

Nicknamed “Big Ben” the 1891 Shand Mason Steamer is a fine example of 19th century, horse-drawn, steam-powered technology, innovation and workmanship. Although it has much in common with other steamers, and is representative of its type, it stands alone with regards to its power and capacity. Big Ben is held in high esteem by Fire Engine enthusiasts and this is evidenced by the care and maintenance carried out by volunteers at the Museum of Fire. The steamer has a continuity of association with an important event of national significance – Federation. It has participated in both the Federation Parade of 1901, as well as the Centenary of Federation Parade in 2001. From the date of its purchase and importation from London, the Shand Mason Steamer has been the property of Fire and Rescue NSW.


Headquarters’ Switchboard

Headquarters Fire Station in Castlereagh Street Sydney was the city’s central fire communications center up until the early 1970s. As well as connecting to the various street telephone fire alarms, public buildings, automatic fire alarm systems and metropolitan Fire Stations, all calls received through the public network were handled here. The switchboard was the centerpiece of Headquarters’ Watchroom. The switchboard was designed and built by Edward Smith, a firefighter turned electrician and carpenter in 1909. It was largely hand carved out of rosewood, cedar and Tasmanian blackwood. As well as the various incoming phone and alarm connections, the board also had facilities for public address announcements, ringing alarm bells in various parts of the Station, activating light panels in the Station to indicate what vehicles were required at a fire call and lights indicating the status of other Fire Stations in the metropolitan area. Although extensively modified and upgraded electrically over the years this switchboard remained in regular use until 1971 when a new Control Centre was constructed to handle fire calls.

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1929 Ahrens Fox PS2

In 1929 an Ahrens Fox PS2 was purchased to replace the Shand Mason Steamer. This fire appliance was considered to be at the height of workmanship, technical excellence and ingenuity with features such as secondary cooling system, a pump which could be operated as two separate units, four wheel brakes, and pneumatic tyres. Indeed, the Fox was regarded as such as special appliance that it could only respond to a fire if specifically requested by a Senior Officer. This appliance is the only one of its type to be imported into Australia, as is considered to be an outstanding specimen in terms of its capacity and size, and because of the esteem in which it is held by firefighting enthusiasts. This vehicle has always been regarded as the glamour vehicle of the NSW Fire Brigades. This is evidenced by its participation in parades and processions as well its appearance in various articles and publications. Come and see for yourself this special vehicle with its distinctive chrome dome.


Station Officer Brian Duncan’s Helmet

This yellow polycarbonate helmet was being worn by Station Officer Brian Duncan when on 2 March 1985 the Brigade responded to a fire at Maxwell Chemicals in Doonside. Maxwell Chemicals was a four hectare solvent, oil recycler and distillery reclaiming works, and the chemicals assisted the fire to rapidly gain in magnitude. At the fire’s height the whole complex was involved, and containers of chemicals began exploding. One of these explosions rocked the complex and the concussion hurled several firefighters backwards. Station Officer Brian Duncan who was working in the area was injured and taken to hospital, with his helmet receiving significant damage in the blast. Eventually the intensity of the fire decreased, and crews were able to move in and control the situation. While Station Officer Duncan was bruised from the explosion, he made a full recovery and continued to serve as part of the NSW Fire Brigades for another 10 years, when he retired.


1939 Leyland Crane

In June 2010 the Museum was gifted with a unique heritage vehicle that was in need of some heavy conservation work, a 1939 Leyland Crane. Designed and built by the English company Herbert and Morris the crane was shipped to Australia in parts and used by the Brigades from 1939 - 1974. Only three cranes of this kind are known to have been built, and our crane is the only one that remains intact. The Museum then embarked on a mammoth six year restoration project to bring the crane back to its original glory. During this process the crane was disassembled, cleaned, painted, re-upholstered and extensive mechanical work was undertaken so that it could again operate under its own power. This was a real team project, and for our efforts we were awarded a Highly Commended in the category of Conservation Interiors (Objects) at the 2017 National Trust Heritage awards.

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