Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In April of 1963, a devastating massive fire strained the NYC fire service to the absolute breaking point while destroying millions of $ of property, so they decided that WASN'T going to happen again, and developed the Mack Super Pumper system

The truck, tender, and satellite units were all housed in a specially built station that was located to give them the best response time to downtown and points outside of the city. Here we see the pumper rig and tender leaving the station. The Satellite trucks would normally get on scene first to lay out their positions and prepare to get hooked to the pump.

Notice that the water cannons are off fire dept boats

Mack was awarded the contract to build the truck in 1964.
The tractor employed to drag the pumping unit around was a cab over that used a 255hp Mack END864 engine.

The top speed of the whole rig was 42mph but since it was intended for responding to calls in the city, high mph was not as much a concern as maneuverability, and the ability to zip around at lower speeds happily.

In 1967 the Super Pumper responded to a fire at a postal annex in NYC and managed to supply water to the massive gun on the tender truck, its three satellite units, two tower ladder trucks, and a portable manifold with multiple hand lines all by itself.

The hoses on the truck were pressure tested to 1,000psi of pressure but typically operated anywhere in the 350-800psi range depending on the situation. This is way higher what modern trucks use by our understanding. The hoses were a derivative of hoses developed by the Navy in WWII for high pressure applications and while incredibly heavy when compared to modern hoses, they were cutting edge at the time.

The keystone of the whole operation was the massive central pumping unit that could draw water from eight hydrants at once, drop lines into bodies of water, supply a mind-boggling number of lines with water simultaneously, and flow over 10,000 gallons per minute at low pressures if the situation called for it. When the pressure was ramped up to to 350psi, it could move 8,800 GPM. This was enough to supply the other satellite trucks as well as feed a massive water cannon on the tender truck that could heave water over 600ft.

The grunt for the Super Pumper system came from a Napier-Deltic diesel engine. This was an engine designed by the British during WWII as a lightweight, high speed means to propel their ships and locomotives.

Making 2,400 horsepower and even more prodigious torque numbers, the engine was “light” enough to be mounted in a trailer behind a tractor and carted around.

The engine’s design is interesting in the fact that it had three crankshafts and was an opposed piston style engine meaning that the pistons travel at each other.

 With turbochargers and a two stroke design, it was as mighty a compact piston powered engine the world had ever known to that point. It was thirsty, 137 gallons of diesel fuel per hour and the noise was so deafening that firemen near the truck had to wear hearing protection.

By the time of its retirement in April 1982, FDNY's super pumper had responded to more than 2,200 calls, and it even took over the task of a failed pumping station in the city's municipal water supply at one time.

There is even a book: "The Super Pumper System"  by John A. Calderone - The entire history of the Super Pumper is covered: from its basic concept, awarding of the contract to Mack Trucks in 1963; construction, selection of firehouses and personnel, official acceptance and placement in service in 1965, gradual decline in the 1970’s, and eventual elimination from active service in 1982.

it's now in a museum in Bay City Michigan


  1. wonder what they replaced it with?

  2. What? There's an Antuque Toy and Firetruck Museum? Putting that one on the list! Thanks for this piece.