Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Horse in Search of a Fire Engine

Last year, I evaluated a collection of antique cast iron toys for a friend who was ready to start selling. She had a lot of fire engines, ranging from some very beautiful 1800s era horse drawn engines all the way to chubby, cheery red 1950s trucks.

One of my favorite items in her collection was just a piece left over from a long-gone larger set, and I was able to rescue it and bring it home. This cast iron horse came from a very large fire engine: the horse itself is 7 inches long. The engine would have been an expensive one back in the 1870s-80s, and was probably pulled by two or three of these horses. This one, while its original paint is worn, is still quite beautiful; the complete toy must have been just absolutely gorgeous.

A really clever feature is visible if you look closely at the wheel below the horse's front legs: the axle is offset, not centered. When you roll the horse along a flat surface, this offset axle makes him move up and down, imitating the motion of a real galloping horse.

In this closeup of his head, you can see the lovely patina the original paint has acquired. All the details of the harness and face were handpainted. 

I wonder where this toy horse has been, and what he's seen, in his 140 years. I'm happy he was saved from the scrap heap, that fate of most broken things. He's now comfortably enjoying his well-earned retirement at Tracy's Home for Orphaned Toys.


  1. magnificent, a real beauty.

  2. What a lucky horse to have finally landed in your collection. He's definitely enjoying the nice, retired life now. Beautiful!

  3. Glad you're liking him; he is really beautiful, and even more so in real life.

  4. I think I like this better without the fire engine. What a beautiful horse.