The wooden supports that were holding Robbinsville Fire Department’s antique fire bell have been replaced with steel. The previous wood supports were made from pressure treated wood and lasted about 10 years before they became warped and became a safety concern.
The bell is made from the outer steel drive wheel-tire from a steam locomotive that was no longer used. The train’s tire was cut and hung so that when a fire was detected a member of the fire department would take a sledge hammer and hit the bell and alert members within the sound of the bell in the community. The bell on top also from a train was also rung for fire calls prior to telephones, sirens and electronic alerting devices.
The bell was acquired from one of the two original fire companies in Robbinsville Township that closed prior to 1963 when the current department was formed. One of the two fire companies was located in Robbinsville near where the Camden-Amboy Railroad crosses Main Street. The rail line that traveled though Robbinsville was not only the first in New Jersey but also the first rail line in the United States. Legend stated that the bell was from the first locomotive that traveled the tracks, the John Bull that is now located in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC. It turns out that this was not the case, the bell/locomotive drive wheel located at the fire station is 75 inches in diameter and the John Bull’s drive wheels were 54 inches in diameter. The wheel most likely was from a train that ran on the Camden-Amboy Rail Road since it appears similar to ones in photographs that were manufactured at the Camden Amboy Rail Road Company’s shops in Bordentown, NJ.