Last Winton 201 Motor Captured In High-Def Audio Prior To Retirement
QSI Solutions prides itself on being the most proactive manufacturer in the industry when it comes to finding and capturing new first-generation state-of-the-art prototype recordings for your decoders. Our last trip is a perfect example, and we invite you to join us for a brief travelogue:
Acting on a tip from an “insider” we found ourselves in late October at Marine Fire Company #9 in Staten Island, New York City. Company #9 is home to “The Fire Fighter,” a magnificent fire boat built in 1938, which has amazingly been operating ever since. It contains not one, but two of the vintage Winton 201 prime movers which were found in many of the earliest GM diesels. It is important to mention that these units are the LAST two surviving and operating Wintons in the world. Unfortunately FDNY has decided to mothball this boat in favor of the newer more modernized Fire Fighter 2 – meaning we had to act fast!
We arrived mid-morning and made our first tour of the craft. It became quickly evident that we’d have to do things a little differently. The motor and the exhaust are a much greater distance from each other than they are on a locomotive, which affected the recording process we’ve pretty much perfected by now. Unfortunately, all we got to do was look; moments after heading down to the engine room, they received a fire call and had to “invite” us off, pronto! We did get to hear them start the motors and float away from the dock. Their sounds were incredible; these motors are so well maintained that they purr beautifully. The entire boat is incredible, and the engines are so clean you could eat off of them. We’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow…
We arrived two hours early. Coffee by the harbor in New York City is a beautiful and endlessly fascinating way to start the day. The engineers we were to be working with arrived, and we again set out to record this last example of American engineering ingenuity. This time there were no emergencies, and we spent the next several hours capturing possibly the finest sounding prime movers we’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
This was a very special trip for us, mainly because it was the first time that we’d recorded something that wasn’t a locomotive! But it was also very bittersweet. We realized that we’d just witnessed and preserved a living breathing piece of history. And we were saddened that after that day, no one would ever again have the opportunity to experience such a wonderful piece of antique machinery; The Fire Fighter was retired less than two weeks later. And no one will feel its loss more acutely than the firemen at Marine 9 who so lovingly cared for this extraordinary vessel for so many years. For while their new craft boasts many technological “improvements” it doesn’t quite measure up in their eyes, in ways only a marine fire fighter could appreciate. As Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl said: “Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” From our conversations with them, we think the fire fighters of Marine Fire Company 9 would agree.
Special thanks to Marine Fire Company 9 in Staten Island, NY for their hospitality, to Rick Abramson of the Housatonic Railroad, and to Bill Novak for helping make this trip possible – and for enabling us to immortalize this amazing antique.