This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
The duty-room, when men are barracked on the premises, is furnished with ordinary tables and chairs, with ample cupboard storage-room for stationery, books, etc. Convenient space should be provided for the fixing of a clock, as time forms an important item for the filling in of reports. The greater portion of the wall space is occupied by the various telephone speaking apparatus, call bells, boards regulating the electric lights on the various floors, and speaking tubes connected with the firemen's rooms. The space required depends on local requirements, but plenty of room must be allowed for the addition of telephone apparatus from various private firms who may desire to be in direct communication with the station. At the Exeter Fire Station, which was visited for the purpose of this work through the courtesy of the chief Officer, Mr. Wm. Pett, practically the entire wall of an ordinary sized room is covered with telephone apparatus. This will serve to show that these form a fairly big item in the space which has to be provided. In the case where all messages are received at the police station, these arrangements will naturally be dispensed with, but it is fairly safe to say that direct communication with the fire station is much to be desired, and is practically universally adopted. Cases have been chronicled where loss of life has probably occurred through the delay occasioned by using the police station as an intermediary, or else when a messenger has made the fatal error of going to the fire station direct - a proceeding of which the average human being would be guilty - only to find that he had to report to the police station first of all.
The principle of the opening of the station and stable doors is illustrated in Fig. 161, which represents one as made by Messrs. Merryweather & Sons. The door is worked by a system of ropes and sheaths, the ropes joining together in a pull which hangs down conveniently close to the driver's seat. When ready he pulls the cords, which raise a lever acting on the bolt, which in its turn releases the doors; these are then swung open by means of the powerful spring fixed to the frame and the first panel of the door. The door folds back one panel against the other, guided by means of overhead and floor tracks, and so remains till closed again by hand, when the bolt is refixed and the ropes again pulled into position. The stable doors are worked on the same principle, with the exception that they open in two and are not made folding. When the station doors are to be made solid and not folding a slight variation is made, in that the cord would release a bolt fixed at the top of the overlapping door, and the doors would then swing back by means of a balance weight carried over a sheath to the wall, or by means of a specially twisted steel rod which is adjusted to give the necessary spring action; or, better than either of these, the same kind of spring as is shown in Fig. 161 can easily be used. Some sort of door-opening arrangement is desirable, but where the door is opened in the ordinary way a floor catch is essential, so that the door will remain in position and not sway to and fro, as is sometimes the case, so causing much inconvenience which can be easily avoided.
As to the horses' stable itself, we are now undergoing a period of transition during which the horse-drawn engine is gradually but surely giving way to the motor-driven steamer; and we find that such modern stations as Harringay and Wapping have dispensed entirely with horses. This gives economy of space in the station, as the length of an engine with the pole ready fixed exceeds that required by a motor engine; and again, there is the economy of horse-stabling, of the upkeep of the horse itself, besides the fact that a motor engine attains a much higher speed of travel, and is generally acknowledged to be more reliable, as horses have often got completely out of hand and caused inconvenient delay if not serious accidents. However this may be, it is a matter of doubt whether the necessarily increased initial cost will make it worth the while of a small station, with a limited number of calls, to substitute the horse by the motor, while stations which already possess the horsedrawn engine will certainly continue to use it till such time as it should become worn out and past its work.
In a well-planned station for horse-drawn engines, such as that at Aldershot (Plate VI.), the head of the stalls will be made to face the engine, so that when the doors open automatically by rope control as above described, or by electric current, the horse, occupying the stall, is specially trained to go forward, releasing himself from the chain made for the purpose, such as that known as the Eggar chain, and leaving behind the covering rug, which is attached to each side of the stall and fastened by a slip buckle across the horse's chest.
There are several different arrangements of electrical automatic appliances for the opening of stable doors. Fig. 162 represents a system invented by Superintendent Bentley. All depends on electromagnets which release the bolts, and the doors, thus freed, open with the aid of special springs attached.
The electric conducting wires are placed as at A, and current releases the bolt at C by means of magnet B, and the doors revolve on spring at bottom of door as at E. The station outer doors fly open at the same time and in the same manner. To prevent the rebound of the doors a patent spring latch is fitted as at F. A push-button D operates the working of the harness, which is suspended by means of a counter - weighted chain running over a pulley. The harness is kept suspended by means of a small chain and pin, controlled by a lever which releases the pin on the current being applied. The weight of balance being slightly less than harness, the latter descends to the required level, and is placed on the horse's head and removed from the hanging chain, which is kept from running back by means of a special spring which keeps the counter-weight in position.