Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Question (probably dumb) about early 20th century pipe organ presets

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Question (probably dumb) about early 20th century pipe organ presets

    My apologies if this is a silly question but I haven't been able to find any info on this. My 'day job' being logic systems I'm curious how the presets work on early electro-pneumatic organs. I'm guessing there is a truck load of magnetic latching relays hiding somewhere that function as non-volatile memory allowing the user to configure which stops become active when a particular preset button is pushed. To setup a preset does one set all the desired tabs, then push a button that latches the data into the relays. Or, am I completely off base 8). I haven't been able to find any clues in various pictures available on the web. Thanks!
    Tom in Tulsa

    Fooling with: 1969 E100, 1955 M3, 1963 M100, Leslie 720

    #2
    Not a silly question at all! In fact it opens a window into how clever early organ builders were. The capture type combination you described lets you set up a combination, hold the setter piston and then push the piston to which you want to assign that combination. I believe that Skinner invented such a system that used bistable relays as the memory element. On large organs, such a combination action could fill a room remote from the console. The Organ Handbook by Hans Klotz shows such a circuit on pages 81 and 82. The combination magnet is of the dual coil design, very similar to the a stop tab magnet on a coupler rail except that it has dual contacts instead of a single contact.
    John

    Comment


      #3
      Thank you! That is just what I had imagined to be the method but I could not find any pics 8)
      Tom in Tulsa

      Fooling with: 1969 E100, 1955 M3, 1963 M100, Leslie 720

      Comment


        #4
        Setterboards were another method used to "program" pistons. Usually found in drawers on each side of the console. The one pictured is by Allen (but others used the system). If the swell has 4 divisional pistons, for example, there are four rows of switches. There is one switch for every stop in the division x 4 pistons. Stop names are on the white labels next to the switches. The pictured setterboard serves two divisions. No set piston, but I believe there was a general cancel. This was a very mechanical, yet reliable system.

        Comment


          #5
          Some combination actions used a mechanical means to store combinations--often called a "tripper" or "Austin" type of action. It is difficult to describe, but simple in operation. An internet search on "tripper combination action" or "austin combination action" will likely delivery a better explanation, with pictures, than I can give.

          Setterboards were common as well, and typically used on theatre organs for the memory--the action to move the stop was either small bellows (typically about 3/4 inch wide by 2 inches long, perhaps), one bellow for on and one for off., or electric stop actions were used, the same as today.

          In Europe you'll often see consoles with miniature stop selectors underneath the regular stop--these mini-stops formed the memory--one such device for each stop and each piston.

          Mid 20th century organs sometimes used latching relays, but those don't seem to have been common or popular--and they didn't last long in the market, as they would have been expensive to build. You would need one latching relay per stop per piston.

          Comment


            #6
            Very enlightening, thanks! I will dig and try to find out more now that I know what to look for.
            Tom in Tulsa

            Fooling with: 1969 E100, 1955 M3, 1963 M100, Leslie 720

            Comment


              #7
              Wurlitzer used setter boards, located on the back side of the console. The setter pin could be moved to an "on" position, an "off" position, and a "neutral" position, where a stop was ignored when the piston was pushed. On the stop rails, there was an "on" pneumatic and an "off" pneumatic to make the stop move into the desired position. There was a contact at the back side of the stop tab that keyed the stop action to come on or go off. The "on" and "off" pneumatics that moved the stop tab were tubed to a "blow box" in the bottom of the console. This blow box contained an "on" valve, and an "off" valve to pass organ blower pressurized air to the stop tab pneumatics. The blow box valves were hooked up to the "on" and "off" pins on the setter board. When you pushed a piston, it caused a big relay switch to feed electrical current to every "on" and "off" circuit on the setter board. The electrical current then found it's way into the various "on" and "off" setter pins and this caused the blow box to open "on" and "off" valves, admitting pressurized air to the stop tab pneumatics.

              The system was air tight and very efficient in operation. When you pushed a piston, you heard a "thud" and at the same time, all the preset stops moved quickly and powerfully. In the big Wurlitzers (usually over 20 ranks) the setter boards were located in another space, because there were too many of them to find room inside the back of the console. In such cases, you could find yourself walking quite a distance away from the console, just to set up your combinations. I personally had that experience when I played the Wurlitzer at the Brooklyn Paramount (Long Island University), back in the 1970s. A couple of organ students that were there, found this kind of pre-setting to be so inconvenient, but I was quite used to setting up pistons this way at the Alabama Theatre, in Birmingham, where I played that Wurlitzer organ often, as a teenager. So for me, it was nothing to complain about.

              While this sounds so primitive, compared to our modern solid state combination actions, they worked wonderfully, without getting into a bind like you occasionally had happen in a tripper system. Even in the best tripper systems, built by Austin, you could occasionally push a piston and the machine would "mis-fire" and no stops would move. I never played one of Ernest Skinner's remote capture systems, but like everything else he invented, I'm sure his combination action was flawless, and elegant in use.

              Comment

              Working...
              X