History and historical photographs courtesy of Al Trojanowicz
In 1931 much was added to the New York scene, including John J. Harvey. She is in good company and shares a birthday with notable contemporaries like the Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge. To this day, she is the harbor's fastest big fireboat and remains the senior in longevity.
Hers is a long story, and here we will tell some of it, as well as that of the Fire Department family and City she is such an integral part of.
Two of the most famous transatlantic liners were Normandie and Queen Mary. Remember that Harvey was on station to welcome them both when they came here brand new, and is still here long after they have left. Yes, hers is a Proud History.
Powering the Boat / What Makes Her Go?
In 1931 diesel technology wasn't considered reliable enough so Harvey was built with five gasoline engines. Five were needed to provide the power required to drive the boat and operate the pumps.The gasoline engines were replaced with five 600 horsepower diesels in 1957.
These current engines are Fairbanks - Morse opposed piston Model 38F5¼ which consist of 8 cylinders with 16 pistons.
These five main engines provide the power for both propulsion and pumping. The complex engine room also contains a large array of auxiliary equipment including two independent diesel-generator sets and powerful air compressors. The engines are started using compressed air, and during the boat’s service life air pressure was constantly maintained to allow for a quick response to alarms.
Fireboats can be described as floating pumping stations with an unlimited supply of water. As one of the most powerful ever built, Harvey surely fits this description.
Four of her five diesel engines are connected to large centrifugal fire pumps.
These pumps are rated at 4000 gallons per minute but can easily exceed that. Each pump draw its water through large sea chests (gates) installed in the hull.
There is a complex system of valves that draw water to the pumps and then distribute throughout the firefighting system to the deck pipes and hose manifolds.
Rescued from the Scrapyard
As the number of large waterfront fires diminished and fewer large FDNY fireboats were needed Harvey was removed from regular Fire Department service in 1995 in favor of her newer brethren. She was then laid up at the FDNY Marine Repair Shops at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where she received minimal attention, and laid for four years basically neglected.
Declared surplus property by the City, she was placed up for auction and bought by her present owners on February 11, 1999 - 69 years to the day after Pilot Harvey was killed. Within six months, Harvey was placed in good operating condition, making her first voyage on August 4, 1999. She performed and pumped well, signaling the first of many new trips as a preserved historic vessel. Now eight-five years old her engines, electrical systems, and pumps are still functional and still making trips with adults and kids.