Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | April 22, 2013

AN ANTIQUE GAMEWELL FIRE BOX FOR THE GARAGE

I’m always keeping my eyes open for old things that add to the “ambiance” of the garage.  While looking for an air meter, I accidentally came upon a restored Gamewell fire box on Craigs List.  I didn’t know much about the old fire boxes, but this one looked good and I thought it would be a good fit in the garage.  After calling the owner in Charlotte, NC, we settled on a price.

While talking to the seller, he told an interesting story about his wife ‘s uncle and the uncle’s collection of restored pedal cars.  He convinced us that it would be worth our while to visit the collection when we picked up the alarm.  He was right.  The tour of Uncle Dallas’ memorabilia and pedal cars was well worth the time.  Details and photos of the tour will follow soon in a future posting.

The Gamewell Company is the oldest fire alarm company in the world.  The first Gamewell system was installed in Boston in 1851, and was used to report a fire in 1852.  Since its founding, Gamewell has been a leader in the fire safety industry.  My fire box is circa 1924.

My intent was to add a bell and light and make the alarm operate as originally designed.  It was soon obvious that making the fire box operational was going to be more complex than my limited electrical background would allow.  So a call to Ken, a fellow Corvette buddy, resulted in a combination of a transformer, relay, resistors, and transistors that allowed the box, light and bell to loudly and brightly announce itself as location 452.  Ken had done an excellent job.  A wiring schematic follows.

Circuit Diagram

Circuit Diagram

I decided to mount the unit on one of the lift posts.  I made a backing board and shelf, painted them black, and attached the fire box, bell, and caged red light.  The transformer and “black box” control unit were attached out of sight to the back of the mounting board.

To operate the alarm, one opens the small white cover door and pulls down on the actuating switch.  The fire box then goes through four-452 cycles alerting the fire station that there is a fire at that location.  Inside the box is a knob to rewind the mechanical mechanism and a telegraph key with an attached small bell.  The key is for the arriving firefighters to inform the station of on-site status and any additional needs.

Internal Mechanism

Internal Mechanism

Thanks to Ken, the Gamewell Fire Box operates as intended and has become a highlight of the garage.  I never get tired of watching and listening to it announce a “fire” at location 452.

Completed Installation

Completed Installation


Responses

  1. I heard about the fire box from Ken and Rick a couple of weeks ago while playing pool. Very cool. Can’t wait to see and hear it.

  2. Hello,
    I restore all kinds of antiques and I am now in the process of doing an old Gamewell fire box, and I would love to make it flash and ring. Would the person that made yours be willing to sell me a complete unit or a complete parts list and step by step instructions?

    • Nick, My friend is not interested in selling a completed control unit, but he would be willing to help you build one. He can be reached at kfdeken@sbcglobal.net. He’s a great guy and very knowledgeable about control systems. I hope this helps you.
      Phil

  3. Phil,
    I am also trying to restore a 1924 gamewell fire box minus the bell, would your friend still be intrested in helping another person out with this project.


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