In Memoriam: Henry Farrell
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Posted: March 15, 2010
Farrell, who joined the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron Department as an
intermediate technician on July 18, 1960, and was named a technical
supervisor I in 1980, died at age 87 on August 7, 2009. He retired from BNL
on June 30, 1984.
Henry Farrell is survived by his daughter, Susan Young of the Environmental
Protection Division at BNL, Douglas Farrell, a physician in Philadelphia;
and Lawrence Farrell, a retired teacher of the Brentwood School District.
Harry Farrell was recognized for other important contributions to the Long
Island community, especially through his long service to the Ronkonkoma Fire
Department. He joined the department on January 21, 1957, and also served as
Corresponding Secretary, 1960-61; Lieutenant, 1961-63; Captain, 1964-65, and
One particularly interesting project was undertaken by Farrell and
volunteers in the Washington Engine Company No. 2, which was first organized
in 1836 as a part of the Riverhead Fire Department. The challenge in the
late 1970s was the complete restoration of the oldest of the department’s
fire engines to be ready for display at the Riverhead Fair of October 1980.
Articles and letters written in 1980 and 1984 tell the story:
Vintage Engine Fired Up for Fair
After nearly half-a-century of inactivity, the oldest of Riverhead fire
engines returned to public service at the fair this weekend (October 1980),
thanks to a restoration project completed by the 31 volunteers who serve in
Washington Engine Company No. 2.
The venerable steam engine gleamed as brightly as its modern counterparts
Sunday as its steam-powered pistons quietly pumped water from a large
The engine was built by the American Fire Engine Company of Cincinnati,
Ohio, and was commissioned in Riverhead on July 14, 1 1908. It served with
Washington Engine Company No. 2 until its retirement in 1935.
After many years on loan to the Suffolk County Historical Society for
display, the engine was returned for restoration in 1974. Work began on
August 16, 1979, according to restoration committee chairman Frank “Butch”
“All of the members of the company were involved in the project in one way
or another,” he said. The men put in a total of 647 man-hours during the 78
work sessions between the start of the project and September 16, the first
day the engine pumped water again.
Henry T. Farrell, a Ronkonkoma fireman who serves as supervisor of
mechanical equipment at Brookhaven National Laboratory, provided the
technical expertise needed to complete the restoration. Farrell was a senior
chief boilerman in the U.S. Navy prior to his retirement from the Navy.
Farrell had to fabricate some new parts for the ancient engine, but nearly
all of the original machinery remained intact, according to Fire
Commissioner Leone Corwin. “I believe this is the oldest operating fire
engine on all of Long Island,” said Corwin.
The engine burns bituminous coal in its firebox. The heat turns the water in
its boiler into steam, which in turn pushes the pistons which operate the
pump. Steam pressure of 90 to 100 pounds is required to pump water for
The engine was originally drawn by a horse team. Water to fight a fire had
to be obtained at the scene, because the engine has no supply tank for that
purpose. At fires away from hydrant or the river, that meant filling a
trough with buckets of well water, said Densieski.
“It’s like achieving an impossible dream. I can’t believe the steam engine
is running again, said retired fireman Forrest Yeager at a recent meeting.
Extracts from a letter from the Secretary of the Washington Engine
Company No. 2 to the Board of Fire Commissioners, Riverhead Fire Department,
November 13, 1980:
At the October Riverhead Town Fair, “The Ole Steamer” made its public debut.
This was accomplished through many hours of labor by the Washington Engine
Co., other Department members, Mr. Harry Farrell, and you, the Board. The
Washington Engine Co. now asks the Board of Commissioners to re-assign the
Steamer to our company. We have four qualified pumper operators and the
company would like to bear the responsibility to maintain and have company
control of this piece of equipment.
The Steamer committee, with Mr. Farrell’s advice, have been burning wood
instead of coal in the steamer and hereby request a small supply of wood if
there is any available at the proposed site of Fire Station No. 2 property.
Eliot C. Barth, Sec.
Washington Engine Co. #2.
Note: The steamer was in fact reassigned to the Washington Engine Co. No. 2
by the Fire Commissioners at their meeting on November 18, 1980.
Another letter, dated June 26, 1984, was addressed to the Ronkonkoma
Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners from Riverhead Fire District.
This Board is appreciative that you authorized Mr. Harry Farrell to operate
a steam pumper for the Riverhead Fire Department on a Mutual Aid response
from the Ronkonkoma Fire Department whenever needed.
We wish to thank your Chief of Department for his excellent cooperation.
Fireman Harry Farrell conducted himself in such a manner that he was a
credit to the Ronkonkoma Fire Department.
John F. Guy, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Riverhead Fire
Last Modified: March 15, 2010