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De-Installing an En-Gauging Exhibition

Greetings to the avid readers of our weekly blog, I hope you are all faring well during this lockdown period (if you’re based in NSW, that is). As promised in last week’s post, retrievable via this link:, I am here today to talk to you about the process enlisted to deinstall a set of three gauge-ous gauges during lockdown. As they have now been retired to storage, I will end this blog by showcasing the set in all their glory (think: an online exhibition of sorts).

A closeup of the Pitot Water Gauge, c. 1920s

So, where to start? First, each item must be carefully removed from display (with gloves!) and transported to a secure area. As the gauges had been on display for a long period, they received thorough cleaning to remove any built-up dust. Once clean, each item was examined closely to see if any damage had occurred whilst on display and photographed to capture the present state of each object. These notes were then written into a final condition report to be included in the object’s catalogue record.

However, many of the Museum’s older displays contain objects which have never been formally catalogued, i.e. we do not hold current records describing the item and its history. This was the case for each of the glorious gauges, so a little bit of research was needed to construct individual catalogue records. In turn, the pitot, vacuum, and water gauge each received a brand spanking new record, complete with images, uploaded directly into the Museum’s Collection Management System.

Now, for the long-awaited, en-gauging ‘online exhibition’ portion of this blog. Introducing…

The Pitot Water Gauge (pictured below)

Although I am not supposed to have favourites, this gauge stole the show (for me, anyway). Presented in a beautiful wooden box with a handle, the pitot water gauge was manufactured by A. Schrader’s Son, Inc of Brooklyn, New York, c. 1920s. This unit would have been used to measure the pressure of water exiting the nozzle at the end of a hose. The final reading then may have been compared with the pressure at the pump itself to determine friction losses in a hose and to calculate the volume of water being delivered.

The Vacuum Gauge (pictured right)

The next member of the gauge family to be catalogued was the vacuum gauge. The face of the unit reads, “Vacuum Gauge – Inches of Mercury – New South Wales Fire Brigade, Sydney – No. 224”. A maker’s stamp on the bronze fitting demonstrates that this gauge was manufactured by T. Green and Co. Makers Sydney, a competitive supplier of fire equipment within the NSW market. This calibrated vacuum gauge was used to test the priming operation of pumps on fire engines (known as appliances throughout the service). It was attached to the suction inlet (or the end of the suction hoses if fitted), and the air extractor system activated. The gauge would show the level of efficiency of the extractor, and indicate if any leaks were present in the pump or hoses. It would also verify the accuracy of the corresponding vacuum gauge fitted on the vehicle.

The Water and Pressure Gauge (pictured below)

Now for the lucky last gauge, which unfortunately we have very little information about. The dial on this dual needle gauge is probably the most exquisite, revealing the mechanical components underneath. Intricate black and red lettering cover the face of the gauge, revealing that it is a “Feet of Water and Pressure Gauge”. Its manufacturer may later be revealed through the writing “M.F.B.B. – No. 2369”, which, as an educated guess, relates to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board. Similarly, the illegible handwriting on the back of the item may be the key to uncovering further information on its history.

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot into the deinstallation process and the wonderful world of gauges. If you have any information concerning the pieces mentioned above, please do reach out to us – we would love to hear from you! We are also keen to gauge your experience concerning our blog topics (see what I did there?). Please let us know if you enjoy these object-focused blogs or if you would like to see specific topics discussed in future postings. But, until then, I will sign off and wish you adieu.

-Story by Museum of Fire Curator, Laura Anderson with assistance by Curatorial Team Member Ella Murtagh


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