wind: 7mph SSE
H 46 • L 40
20-22 E Main Street
P.O. Box 29
Richland, PA 17087
Open 24 Hrs!
Richland began its existence in the early 1800’s. The town itself began to flourish in the mid 1800’s with the completion of the Lebanon Valley branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Originally called Landisville the towns name was changed to Richland Station and finally to just Richland. Richland became a Borough in 1906, and it did not take long for its citizens to form a fire department. Prior to this firefighting was accomplished by means of a bucket brigade or if you were attached to the town’s water system a small garden type hose. Needless to say any serious fire would result in a total loss. The fire department was formed in early 1907 with 51 charter members. The name chosen for the company is somewhat unique; there are many companies that are named after the municipality they are in or names such as Citizens, Union, Perseverance, Keystone, Chemical, and Hook and Ladder. There are though few that are named Neptune. Other than being the Roman God of the Sea (water) there is no mention of any other name being considered in the company records. The first President of the company was U. S. G. Steinmetz and the first fire chief was J. S. Steinmetz. In May of 1907 the company took action to purchase its first apparatus, a Marten-Diggs 2 wheel hand drawn chemical engine for $850. The engine has two 30 gal. tanks that are pressurized by a mixture of baking soda and oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid). This reaction would give off CO2 gas and pressurize the water tanks. The water would then be forced out of the tanks into a hose to fight the fire. In February 1908 the company moved into its new engine house located at 19 North Park Street. A bell was bought for use as an alarm of fire with certain rings being used to give the location of the fire. An example being that a fire on West Main Street the bell would be rung in a — — pattern. The fire station was also used during this time as a meeting place for the town council and also housed a jail cell with 2 bunks. The company responded to its first serious fire on September 7th 1908 at the home of Dr. Levi Zimmerman. The company was able to extinguish the fire without great loss and the good Doctor rewarded the men for their efforts with a box of cigars. The company settled down over the next 10 or so years. They participated in many parades and festivals (to raise funds) and acquired another apparatus in 1913. At this time the town’s water system was being upgraded to large water pipes with modern fire hydrants. There is no mention in the company records as to when, how much, or if it was bought new or used; but it was mentioned that the hose cart had been equipped with 400 feet of 2.5 inch hose. That cart is a 1900 model Wirt Knox 2 wheel hand drawn hose cart. The cart could be used to run hose from a hydrant to supply the 1907 engine with water. Prior to that the engine needed to be refilled with the bucket brigade. Both of these apparatus have been restored and are on display at the Neptune’s current station.
The roaring twenties where just that for the Neptune, however it started a year early in 1919. On May 5th 1919 a disastrous fire occurred at the A. C. Haak Hosiery Mill located on South Race Street. Incidentally this same location would end up being the site of another large fire, that of the Kern Medical & Dental Supply Co. The Haak fire was a total loss, along with the building were 200 knitting machines and a supply of 60,000 hosiery. The result of this fire was the realization that the town needed a more modern fire apparatus. Work was begun to raise funds and look into various types of fire engines. The result was the purchase of a 1921 triple combination Seagraves pumper for $11,750. The engine was chain driven with solid rubber tires. Eventually regular tires were installed on it. Oddly enough this is the only piece we have ever owned that the fate is not known. Unfortunately there was another disastrous fire prior to the engine arriving. On March 7th 1921 sparks from a passing train started a fire that completely destroyed the Charles Kalbach Grainhouse. The other big event was the building of a new large state of the art fire station. The cornerstone was laid with much ceremony on Sept 4th 1922; within the cornerstone is a time capsule with material from 1922. The building while containing an engine bay and space for the fire company also provided room for borough council, the town library, and a movie theater aptly named the Neptune Theater. On the 2nd floor of the building was a kitchen and banquet type area that also doubled as the gym for the local school. Looking at the wood floor today you can still see the faint lines of the basketball court. Although changed and modified over the years the company still uses this station and it is one of the oldest working fire stations in Lebanon County. The building was opened in April of 1923 with a dedication of the building and housing of the new engine on June 9th. This coincided with the formation of the new Lebanon County Fireman’s Association that held its 1st convention and parade that day in Richland. Also in 1922 was the formation of the Neptune Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary. The auxiliary is still going today and over the years has provided exceptional support to the fire company. The rest of the twenties did not just fade away; on December 4th 1929 the John L. Zug grain warehouse caught fire and was destroyed.
The company once more settled down to a period where they just worked to bring in funds, especially thru the Great Depression. During this time the movie theater operated along with festivals and the usual type of fundraisers. One thing the Neptune had that was different was the Swanee Minstrel Shows. These ran from 1927 to 1934 and involved the men dressing up as colored people and doing comical skits. At the time they were very popular and a good source of income. Today such an endeavor would most certainly be considered politically incorrect, but those were different times back then. When the Minstrel Shows ended in 1934 the company started a new fundraiser, horse races, and carnivals. The carnivals were much bigger than festivals the company was doing and they evolved into the carnivals that many of us remember in the not so distant past. The company ran carnivals into the 1990’s and had some big names such as Dottie West, Porter Wagner, Tex Ritter, Patsy Kline, Hank Williams Jr., Trisha Yearwood, Confederate Railroad, and Garth Brooks.
At the end of WW2 it was decided to purchase a new engine. A type 75 Mack arrived in 1947 for $9,187.00. This engine was well known for it’s pumping ability, easily supplying more than its rated capacity. At the age of 15 years it went to the then 1st Lebanon county pumping contest and won. In later years it was used as a 5-inch supply engine until it’s retirement in 1998. Currently it is owned by John Smith and John Layser of Myerstown and is in its original state. In 1952 at the request of the Richland Boro Police the Neptune Fire Company Fire police Unit was formed. The unit has provided valuable service to the community over the years be it at fires, disasters, or special events.
The next to come along was a 1959 squad truck. It was built on a Dodge chassis by Brightbill Body Works in Lebanon. This unit was truly ahead of its time as it was actually a combination piece. It was a personnel carrier, equipment carrier, tanker, and brush unit. The squad had a 750 gal water tank vertically mounted directly to the frame rails. The tank was problematic over the years as it made the truck top heavy and from cracks that developed from welds at the frame rails. In later years the tank was removed and an air cascade system was installed making it one of the original “Air Trucks” in the area. After it’s departure from the Neptune it was converted to a dump truck and is still in the Womelsdorf area. The 1970’s saw a lot of change for the company with the conversion of the theater to a banquet hall and the addition of a new modern engine bay and a new engine to put in it. In 1974 we took delivery of a CF-600 series Mack pumper. Although not new in the CF series it incorporated many new changes to the line at that time and this engine became the poster child for Mack for many years. It featured a 1000-gal gpm pump and a 1000-gal tank. This engine served the company for 30 years before we finally retired it from service. Being it was Mack’s poster child and even had a Corgi Model made of it, we tried hard to give it away to a museum. However no one wanted it and we ended up selling it to a collector in York County. This collector later put it for sale and it was bought by Neptune member Justin Yeiser who did a lot of restoration. He then sold it to josh Knoll another Neptune member who has since sold it to another collector from York. And then once again it came home, the Mack was up for sale and two members of the company Taylor Smith and Ryan May bought it.
This brings us up to our present day apparatus. In 1993 we purchased a new squad truck, it has a Volvo chassis and a body built by Saulsbury. It is able to carry 7 firefighters and a large variety of equipment. We can do some rescue and truck duties along with the typical squad duties and RIT. It has a large 38 kw generator and an on board air compressor with a large 6000lb air cascade system, making it one of the largest air trucks in our region. Due to its versatility it responds all over Lebanon County along with Northern Lancaster County and Western Berks County, it is also an auxiliary unit for the Lebanon County Hazmat team. In 1998 we took delivery of an HME/New Lexington pumper. It has a 1750 gpm pump and a 1250 gal tank. It was designed with rural firefighting as it’s primary function but also has the ability to do other type of firefighting jobs making it extremely versatile as a pumper. The engine is also part of the Lebanon County Foam Task Force along with the Utility and the Foam Trailer. With the retirement of the 1974 Mack and going from two engines to one we quickly discovered we had a space problem, we just couldn’t get 3 apparatus worth of stuff into 2 apparatus. The solution was the purchase of a 2005 Ford 550 4X4 with a Reading Truck Body placed on it. We of course modified it to our needs and the unit currently serves as our QRS (which we started in 2002), brush unit, and people/equipment hauler. It has proven to be a wonderful vehicle to use with the tree down or public service type calls thus taking the load off of the other 2 large apparatus. Most recently we bought an ex military trailer from federal surplus and have turned it into the foam trailer. The old foam trailer has been changed to carry all the portable pumps.
20-22 E Main Street
P.O. Box 29
Richland, PA 17087
Open 24 Hrs!