The Nizam of Hyderabad realised the importance of fire engines and invested in them almost a 100 years ago.

The recent fire in Kolkata made us aware of the catastrophe that flames bring about and the crucial role of fire fighters in saving lives in such emergencies. The seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Ali Jah VII, realised the importance of modern technology in fighting fire. In his endeavour to improve various facilities in Hyderabad, when the first fire engine was made in 1914, the Nizam invested in it. The Morris fire engine was built by John Morris and Sons Ltd of Salford, Manchester, in 1914. One of the earliest fire engines built by the company, was sold to the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway.

Intact

Of the numerous fire engines produced by this company only two are still in existence. What the Nizam owned is now the prized possession of the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. The other one is preserved by the Enfield and District Veteran Vehicle Trust, London.

The Nizam's fire engine is still intact with all the original parts and in working condition, the one at London, however, had to have the tyres replaced in 1929.

“For many years after its purchase, the Morris fire engine had been in active service in the Lallaguda Carriage and Wagon Workshops at Secundrabad. It was used to put out fires in railway equipmentand also used by the Municipal Fire Station to subdue fires in various parts of the city,” says Ms Anuradha Reddy, convenor of INTACH, Hyderabad Chapter.

“The two fire service vehicles owned by the Nizam became a part of the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway and later the Nizam's State Railway, because only the railways had the infrastructure to maintain these vehicles,” adds Ms.Reddy. In 1960, the fire engine was retired from active service and in 1975 it was chosen as a prized exhibit of the National Rail Museum. The vehicle is a regular feature at most vintage car rallies in New Delhi.

For the people

And there was more in the kitty of the king of Hyderabad when it came to fire safety. In 1942 when the first fire tender vehicle with a ladder was made, the Nizam was one of the first ones to purchase it.

This fire tender vehicle was built in 1942, by the Merry Weather & Sons Company, London. This fire tender vehicle, was basically built to rescue people trapped in high rise buildings. This manually driven vehicle has a 50 foot high ladder, with two large detachable wheels.

After the Nizam's State Railway merged with the Indian Railways, this vehicle was taken over by the Andhra Pradesh State government. As it was still in good condition the vehicle was used to help firemen in the twin cities.

This vehicle, which bears the registration number, APT 847 was functional with the Fire and Emergency Service Department of the AP Government till 1988, when it had to be retired from active service. In 2009, it was donated to the Salarjung Museum and presently it is displayed right in front of the museum.

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