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The Merryweather Greenwich Steam Fire Engine
On 1 June 1892 fire broke out and burned down over half the town, destroying 123 houses and doing damage to the tune of $80-100,000, though there was no recorded loss of life. Fires were an only too frequent occurrence at the time, wood and atap houses, primitive cooking arrangements and a lack of adequate water supply proved to be an incendiary combination on a regular basis and the only defence was local people with hand-driven pumps and buckets of water. However the 'Great Fire of Ipoh' as it became known had a silver lining as it encouraged the formation of a town fire brigade, made official in 1893 by the District Magistrate.
Also, in 1893 the town's latest purchase, a Merryweather 'Greenwich' Steam Fire Engine was ordered from its manufacturers in London and delivered to Ipoh - the first such appliance to reach the shores of Peninsula Malaya.
Merryweather were a legend even then, founded in 1690 and producers of hand-worked fire pumps from that date, they got into steam appliances at the earliest opportunity and shipped their products world-wide.
The Ipoh Fire engine was horse-drawn and manned by Sikhs pf the First Battalion Perak Sikhs, under the supervision of the Police. It was capable of pumping 400 to 600 gallons per minute and when galloping to the scene of a fire it was said to be the fastest thing on wheels in the whole of the country.
Unfortunately, so far we have not been able to track down an image of Ipoh's own engine, but with the help of generous contributors we have provided three images above that provide an idea of what it would have looked like. On the left is a poster advertising the Greenwich c1895, centre a picture of another, but similar Merryweather machine, c1900, courtesy of the Romsey Steam Preservation Society and finally an actual Greenwich c1895 that was on display in the Glasgow Transport Museum.