Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Birth of a Legend: The Snorkel


The once common Snorkel long ago became the fire service “Xerox” of articulating platforms.  If it bent in the middle, that’s what it was called.  One normally thinks of design, particularly of something as complex as aerial fire apparatus, as a long process involving engineering calculations and the development of sophisticated plans.  Didn’t happen that way…

Back in 1958, Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn borrowed a tree trimming truck with a 50 ft. articulating boom and platform and attached a monitor nozzle to the basket.  A three inch hose line was strapped to the booms to feed it, and a new piece of firefighting apparatus was born.  Load and stability testing was done on the tree trimmer, and when found to work, the rig was painted red and placed in service.  Known in the “Windy City” as “Quinn’s Snorkel,” reputedly because the firefighter’s got so wet in the bucket and thought it resembled the diving device—I don’t see the resemblance myself—the name stuck.  

The original tree trimming truck was built by the Missouri based Pitman Manufacturing Company.  In 1959, a stockholder by the name of Art Moore acquired the Snorkel product line and established the Snorkel Fire Equipment Company.  
The first Snorkel was retired in 1968, and subsequently acquired by the Snorkel Company and restored at their St. Joseph, Missouri manufacturing facility.  While less common elsewhere, snorkel type apparatus remains in service in Chicago to this day. 
 
The author "flying" a circa 1970 American LaFrance "Aero-Chief" articulating platform in the early 1980s.
 
 
A great look back at the original.

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