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Other Vintage Household Electrical or Electromechanical Items For discussions about other vintage (over 25 years old) electrical and electromechanical household items. See the sticky thread for details.

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Old 16th Aug 2019, 10:48 pm   #1
blakeyboy
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Default Weird 'thing'...

Well, this is a headscratcher....it has a shaft that can be turned, and if a coil is energised somehow, it releases a cam that completes a rotation.....it's numbered on the front 1 to 11, right to left....!

There is a row of 11 neon repeater lamps on the front.

It appears to have a 110v DC input, so maybe from a ship?

Blake.

PM me for more detailed pics if you are intrigued.....
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 11:45 pm   #2
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Do those contacts switch that tapped resistance into circuit? Looks vaguely like something you might find on an old lift, very interesting
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 10:51 am   #3
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Pretty heavy duty contactors, I think Kevin could be right. Lovely bit of equipment.

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Old 17th Aug 2019, 11:04 am   #4
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

If you slide the chrome 1-20 scale across, it moves the wiper on the long wire wound rheostat behind the front panel. The contacts closing after a cam/gear has rotated seems to send to/ come from the adjustable tapping pints on the sarong wire wound at the rear.
It's very old- the woodwork is lovely, has the strange amber glass front, and inside the rear wooden panel was a sheet of white asbestos!!!

On the left is a round female multipoint labelled 1-11- different dc outs to something? Or from something?

It's the numbering right to left and the handle for rotating the shaft being on the left also
that's gets me....
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 12:05 pm   #5
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

The 110 volt DC supply might suggest a power station application, that supply being widely used for controls and instruments in power stations.

Perhaps some form of remote control for a large dynamo, by selecting one of many possible field currents.
Or perhaps a large fan drive with a variable speed to ensure optimum combustion of coal under varying load.

Unusual though, since most such remote controls used either a pair of push buttons, one for "up" and one for "down" or a three position rotary switch biased towards the center position for "hold steady" and turn anti clockwise for "reduce" and clockwise for "increase"
The engineer would hold the rotary switch against spring pressure, or hold down the push button whilst observing instruments, until the desired result was achieved.
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 1:19 pm   #6
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

where's Lucien when you need him, this is his sort of thing!

Is the bit that turns meant to be operated by hand, or might it be linked to some sort of other machinery, for example, can you tell?

I've seen plenty of weird and wonderful devices for automating processes that today would be done by a small plc or electronic controller. For example synchronising print on printing presses, regulating generators or motors, animating advertising signs, controlling temperature, pressure, speed, flow or volume, that sort of thing.

The general style of it suggests 1930's, I love this sort of thing and would love to see it doing its job, whatever it is!
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 1:36 pm   #7
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Any clues in where you found it?

Are those modern choc block terminals added inside on the left in the rear view? If so, it's something someone wanted to keep going in fairly recent times.

The style of the neon bulbs may be good for dating. The rest looks like it could be much earlier than the 1930s.

It proves that Spinal Tap weren't the first people to go up to eleven.

David
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 5:49 pm   #8
m0cemdave
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Hi Blakey,

I've no idea what it is, but it does look very nice.

Try sending a PM to Lucien Nunes alerting him to this thread. As McMurdo pointed out, it probably falls within his field of expertise.

p.s. Will you be at the MK radio rally (Sunday 25th)?
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Old 17th Aug 2019, 7:55 pm   #9
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

110V DC certainly ought to narrow down the variables for consideration. Such Voltages were not just power stations but most substations, be they for transmission and distribution or even industrial substations.
We then must consider the use of DC which always referred to circuit breaker trip and close supplies which were maintained via the appropriate battery. The fact that such systems would function only under alarm/fault conditions meant they would rarely operate. This in turn would always leave doubt in the minds of those who wondered if they would operate when called upon and as such there is a circuit called “trip circuit supervision”.
The latter entailed the ability to insert a relay coil for alarm purposes in the trip circuit in a way that would not permit enough current to flow to trip the appropriate breaker or otherwise. One could also undertake this manually via a switch using an indication light on the same basis; ergo could this be such a device for a bank of 11 breakers.
11 lamps would suggest a switchboard incorporating 2 incoming circuits, 1 bus section circuit and 4 feeder circuits either side of the section.

I could of course be completely wrong!
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Old 19th Aug 2019, 12:59 pm   #10
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Could it be something to do with a neon shop/advertising display sign that lights up various bits of the display in a sequence?
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Old 19th Aug 2019, 1:51 pm   #11
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

What a lovely 'thing' - whatever it's for! It would be great to polish the case up and have it mounted in an obvious place on the wall of your house, then if a visitor asked about it you could sternly say something like "Whatever you do, don't touch that!!!!"

As to what it's for - are the cams adjustable separately on the spindle (so they activate the switches at different points in the shaft's rotation?).

If so, I wonder if it could be some sort of manual traffic-light controller? I remember something vaguely similar at the entrance/exit to the weighbridge/loading-yard at an old station. 110V was quite common in rail applications until recently (still is, I believe, on London Underground).
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Old 19th Aug 2019, 8:09 pm   #12
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

I'd go with Kevin, lift controller. It would have needed a mechanical linkage to know where the car was.
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Old 20th Aug 2019, 7:17 pm   #13
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Same, I'd guess the solenoids are activated when a call button or floor select button are pressed, and the cam trips it when it gets there. I wonder if the variable resistor part controlled analogue car position indicators.
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Old 24th Aug 2019, 12:15 pm   #14
blakeyboy
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Quote:
Originally Posted by m0cemdave View Post
Hi Blakey,

I've no idea what it is, but it does look very nice.

Try sending a PM to Lucien Nunes alerting him to this thread. As McMurdo pointed out, it probably falls within his field of expertise.

p.s. Will you be at the MK radio rally (Sunday 25th)?
I will be, Dave- are you there with a stall?
if so, shall I bring the 'thing' with me?

Blake
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Old 25th Aug 2019, 4:06 pm   #15
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

That's a nice example! I am sure you will have it up and running in no time, as it does look pretty complete. Hopefully it will prove suitable for your application, in which case you might enjoy making a demo video once it's installed and connected up.

TIA

Lucien

.....


OK, I feel like I am letting the side down but I don't recognise it at all. I'm not convinced it's lift-related; I've seen and studied a lot of lift controllers and it doesn't fit the normal mode of construction, which is typically much heavier and slate-panel oriented or, later, industrial metal cabinet style. If it is a floor selector it should have constructional details that will clearly identify it. For example, there will be fine adjustment of the tripping point of each contact and likely two sets of contacts per floor that operate sequentially for levelling and stopping, with separate adjustment for the two directions of approach. There would probably be a collect direction contact chain that is always broken at one contact, unless the shaft is at a floor position in which case it will be broken at two adjacent contacts.

A thorough inspection of the mechanical and electrical details would reveal much about how it is supposed to behave and what external devices it is supposed to interface with, and hence establish some context. 110V DC is interesting because it tends to rule out conventional telephony, but most other fields are still open. We must allow for the possibility that it uses 110V DC because that was the supply available, rather than because devices of that type were conventionally 110V.

I'll take a look at the high-res pics...
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Old 25th Aug 2019, 10:55 pm   #16
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

If it is not lift related I wonder if it could be a control box for a Fair Ground Organ. To control symbols, drums etc. What voltage were the generators on a steam engine ?


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Old 26th Aug 2019, 12:31 am   #17
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

Usually 110-120Vdc.


I don't think the organs used electrical controls, they were driven either by an electric motor or directly by the steam engine in a Galloper set. The rest of the control system was pneumatic.
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Old 26th Aug 2019, 8:52 am   #18
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

This is true of most automatic music players; even if the motive power is electric, the action is pneumatic, which offers a combination of speed, lightness and compactness. So much so that the Hammond B-A roll-playing electronic organ, although completely electronic as an organ, still employed a pneumatic roll-player action. One notable exception was the Mills Violano Virtuoso, an entirely electric roll-playing violin and piano that operated at 110V DC throughout, a feature mentioned prominently in their advertising.

Cinema organs, on the other hand, contain a complex mix of electrics and pneumatics, with the electrics operating on voltages in the 10-24V range. Some types of cinema organ electropneumatic relay are contained within glazed wooden cases, although rather different to this one as they are sealed and charged with wind. The windows enable the action to be inspected in operation, which is not possible with the cover removed due to the need for wind pressure.
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Old 26th Aug 2019, 9:16 am   #19
Herald1360
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

I'd query the speed bit for pneumatic action vs electric - particularly on a large (cathedral size!) organ. This may just be a remote console issue, though.


An interesting diversion, but we still don't have a clue about what the original box controlled.....
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Old 26th Aug 2019, 11:07 am   #20
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: Weird 'thing'...

I think the rotating external shaft on this device is key to understanding it, I've messaged the OP for the high-res pics. Also, as far as date, is that PVC wiring original? If so, the wooden case denotes 'instrument status' rather than age.

Re. electric vs. pneumatic control; yes, it's the tubular pneumatic transmission that is slow, not the action itself which can be remarkably fast. Hence the widespread use of electropneumatics - electrical transmission to an armature-valve magnet, followed by pneumatic force amplification.
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