On a steamer there is no large side panel to decorate, as there is on a hand tub. The vehicle has only a framework of metal.
This was the Victorian era. Architecture, furnishings, and clothing were all highly decorated. Steam engines had gold stripes and scrolls on every available surface.
As I apply the decoration, these massive machines begin to appear lighter and more refined. The finished piece is a sophisticated balance of power and style. They may look too busy to modern eyes, but they were the height of good taste at the time.
Restoring the gold leaf decoration
on antique steam fire engines...
Building a steamer required a lot of equipment and different talents. A hand tub could be built and repaired by a much smaller crew. The construction of steamers led to fewer manufacturers with larger factories. Each factory would have a painting crew that was usually hired full time. As time passed these painters developed distinctive styles of decoration for each brand. Each individual engine would have unique details of color and designs, but the overall look of a LaFrance was different from an Amoskeg or Nott.