One of the challenges for volunteer fire departments is how to alert their members to a fire. In July 1909, the Town of Manassas authorized Mr. J. I. Randall, the first town Fire Chief, to purchase three locomotive tires to be suspended in frames in different parts of town to be used as fire alarms. Each alarm was to be furnished with a hammer or other device to strike the tire.
One alarm was located on Center Street by the Town Hall, another was placed on Grant Avenue at the present location of the Piedmont Building, and the third was erected at the intersection of Center Street and West Street. The alarm at the Town Hall on Center Street used a heavy iron suspended on a rope to be swing like a bell clapper. A small section of the tire had to be cut out in order to produce the loud ringing sound that alerted the volunteers.
The railroad tires were eventually replaced by a steam whistle at the power generating plant on Church Street, which was itself later replaced by air raid sirens positioned around town. Today, radio voice pagers that are activated by the Manassas Police Dispatchers alert volunteers. All of these altering systems, except for the steam whistle, are on display at the Fire Department Museum at Fire Station #1 on Centreville Road.
This locomotive tire is not one of the original alarms.
Driving wheel tires from steam locomotive No. 89 donated 1998 by the Strasburg Rail Road Co., Strasburg, PA.