Engine 3, circa 1917

This image of Engine 3 illustrates a transition from horse drawn fire engines to motorization. This American LaFrance steam engine was originally made to be pulled by a horse team, but was retrofitted with a Christie motorized tractor. By 1920 all Portland fire apparatus was motorized. Circa 1917.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, Engine 3, A2001-083, circa 1917.

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, Engine 3, A2001-083, circa 1917.


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

18 thoughts on “Engine 3, circa 1917

  1. I absolutely love this picture. WOW. So much detail. Can anyone tell what the items are in the windows? They look like flower rings of some sort? Maybe this was for an open house or something? As a mechanical guy, that fire engine is just fantastic. Well done VP.

  2. Station #3 looks like it is now the sw washington/405 overpass.

    if you click on the efiles link, there is another photo from a few years earlier which shows the horse-drawn version.

    and a photo of some firemen throwin’ some ‘that’s right, we bad’ attitude. and a reallly big gong.

  3. jim, the efiles container shows that #3 has moved a few times; this photo is given as 510 washington, which equals 1440 sw washington.

  4. Thanks for the additional information wl and Brian, but I don’t think the location for today’s photo is correct. An efile photo from 1913 shows a differently designed station at 1440 SW Washington (or 510 Washington St.).


    While the window structures here in today’s photo are somewhat similar to the 14th Avenue elevation of the Taft Hotel, I don’t think it’s the same building. It also doesn’t match the Washington Street elevation of the Carlton Hotel that used to be across the street.


  5. Correction: 1440 wouldn’t have been either the Taft or the Carlton because they were on the wrong side of the street and everybody knows “the NW is odd.” 1140 is an even number.

    The location of today’s photo is still unknown because that is still clearly not Station 3 as evidenced by the efile Tiff that I previously linked to.

  6. Station 3 was located roughly where virginia woof is (1540 or so sw burnside) … but jim might be correct about this photo’s location. 510 washington is right where it intersected with burnside, and we have a photo of the facade; it is in between other buildings, so it can’t be a side view. however, there are trolley tracks going up in the photo, so i am guessing this is across from the station. the reflection has a street sign marked burnside, and shows a street going upwards towards the hills – i’d bet he is parked along burnside by the nw corner of 16th. this block had many shops.

    and the floral arrangements look like they might be for an elks lodge… antlers!

  7. From the the view point of a churl.

    Granted this is a neat looking apparatus, however. One wonders at the kind of bureaucratic dithering that produced and purchased this hybrid. Internal combustion has replaced the horse and all the attendant infrastructure.The tack,the barn, the feed etc and of coarse the hay burners. So far so good. But why keep the museum piece boiler and the steam engine to operate the pump. False economy. It is obvious now of coarse but it must have been just as obvious to everyone involved at the time. The same internal combustion engine propelling the apparatus could be used to good effect to power the pump with a tremendous saving of weight and complication. Duh. No need to keep the boiler hot for immediate use .And then of coarse all of the economical on board storage and transport fof hoses, ladders and tools and fireman It appears impressive, but. Obsolete at conception. Sorry.

    Kudos to the marketing genius who sold it though, His descendants, still using his formula, no doubt, are even now flogging half baked crap to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security for example and still making a nice profit.

    None the less.It is a great photo with a amazing amount of detail expertly exposed.Thank you for posting.

    Just say’n

  8. Friend of mine worked at engine 3 for years. 17th and Johnson in the 80’s if I remember right. He told me about Smokey Stover.

  9. On October 9th, 1917 Portland had a “fire prevention parade’ on the anniversary of the great “Chicago fire”.

  10. To further add to the conversation.
    January 24, 1913 – Oregonian
    Tractor May Be Purchased
    Recommendation that the city purchase one Christie tractor for the fire department was made by the Executive Board yesterday afternoon. It will cost $5000. Tractors are comparatively new, but are said to be giving good service in New York, where the
    department is using 28 of this make. They can be attached to any piece of apparatus
    either engine, tower or truck, and are said to be very satisfactory.

    January 1, 1914 – Oregonian
    …Engine One, steamer, has been equipped with a two wheeled Christie tractor , which is the first of its kind on the Coast.

    March 16, 1915 – Oregonian
    A.G. Long Bid Lowest – Recommendation is to be made to the City Council by Mayor
    Albee that a gasoline tractor which is to replace horses on the hook and ladder truck at engine company No. 3 be purchased for A.G. Long who submitted the lowest bid for the tractor. Two bids were received one by A. G. Long, for the American LaFrance Company, and the other by the Nott-Joslyn Company for the Christie Tractor company. There was $15 difference in favor of the American LaFrance machine.

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