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A few stories and history of my early years as a Mechanic, on the old ATL Melbourne Tote (Australia Circa 1976+)
By Don McKenzie My Early Tote Years - 1976-1988 | Industry Links | Acknowledgements | Julius History | A Few Stories | People Profiles | The Staff transfer from ATL to the TAB 1988 | TABLOID ATL Staff Photos 1989-1990 | Recent Photos | Email Correspondence | Win Place & Sting |
Stories Part One:
The Interstate Tote | Jimmy, Ray, and The Mobile Tote | Arthur, and the DQ Tote | Arthur and the String | Win-Place Semi-trailer Vans (1965-1976) | Doubles-Quinella Mobile Van (1955-1974) | Cranbourne Races and New Years Day | Tote Installation Crew | Frank and his Jars | Graeme and the Colour Code | Frank, Macca, and the Beer | Macca and the Union | Peter's Saturday Night | Well, this is the Sandown Race Track isn't it? |
Stories Part Two:
Trots-Harness Racing in Victoria | We have the Power | Welcome back Kotter | Is the Empire State Building, and a Darwin Cafe a match? | Echuca and the Race change | Arnna and the code barrel |
The Interstate Tote (A.K.A. Allan's Giggle Palace) my initial training ground.
PHOTO NAA: A1200, L44006
Title : Totalisator at a Sydney race course
Date : 1963
The tote pictured is a counter tote, however it looks a very different model to the ones used in Victoria for Adelaide Interstate, and the country tracks. The basic functions appear to be much the same as the units I operated for many years.
A few short months into my new career, I was appointed as the technician in charge of the Interstate tote. I don't know if this was because of my new found mechanical and electrical engineering skills, or because Allan was once again found asleep, when he should have hit the stop betting button, as the current race jumped.
This interstate tote house consisted of two betting systems running J8 TIMs, one for Sydney, and another for Adelaide. These betting systems were manufactured in such as way, that they could be transported from racecourse to racecourse using a small truck with a van body. It also meant that this equipment had to be shifted at least once, and possibly twice a week. Naturally this very heavy gear was installed up a flight of stairs, above the main betting terminals that were located on the ground floor. This control equipment, now up the stairs, was right behind the win - place odds indicators.
I was starting to suspect that the reason for my new appointment was that I was young, fit, and could drive a truck, when I really should have been learning to do something much more useful for myself, like learning how to fall asleep at the appropriate time.
Sydney tote was an "A" type electro mechanical system, sets of cogs and gears, which was actually an electrically operated counting device. It took a lot of effort to transport, and install this system at each track. Each set of three individual counters, was basically a two-man lift.
The Adelaide tote was much smaller and lighter. What we called a counter tote. Small electrical counters were set in two boxes, one for win, and one for place. One person could lift each set of counters, in fact you could carry both at once. It needed two people to carry the relay control cubicle that went with the counters. This tote ran a lot slower than the Sydney "A" type tote.
Each tote system had a set of counters that had to be set back to zero after completion, and dividend calculation of each race. The Grand Total (GT) counters had to match the counters of all terminals and each placed bet, for each race, to verify the addition as being correct.
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
The Counter Tote pictured left, looks much more like the one that I operated, than the one pictured above. In fact, it may be the same model. This was used for Adelaide Interstate betting, and smaller country circuits. Bear in mind that this was almost a toy compared to the "A" Type that we used for Sydney betting.
The Interstate Tote is down - Version 1.
Joe Waddington was generally my downstairs technician when I ran the interstate tote control equipment. He was possibly around 75 at the time. One day he came flying up the stairs, "All your machines are down Don!" Being in my first month or two of this new position, my first instinct was to panic, then run around like a headless chook, until I was able to determine that bets were still being placed on the very noisy equipment. Time to section isolate. Is it all machines, or just one track Joe?
To cut to the chase, each J8 has 24 win wires, and 24 place wires. These are used to send the bets to the counting equipment. It also has a test wire, so that a self-test can also be done. As it turned out, a single test wire had fallen off a single TIM, so this one terminal couldn't issue a test ticket. A test ticket had to be produced by every terminal and collected by the house supervisor, to be checked for correct barrel code, race number, and coded paper before betting would commence. A simple solder job fixed the terminal, and helped teach Don the correct questions to ask, next time the tote was off the air.
The Interstate Tote is down - Version 2.
Alf Schloeffel bore the responsibility of switching off the powerhouse after each race meeting. Part of putting the tote to bed. J8's needed 120VDC, and J10's used 50VDC. As is the nature of interstate betting, the race times were very different and in the case of Adelaide, later than Melbourne. If Alf decided that it was time to switch off the powerhouse because Melbourne had finished betting for the day, then the interstate tote lost power as well. After about the third time I had this trick pulled on me, I knew whom to ring, and what to tell them to get power back up fairly quickly.
In the early days, the powerhouse was powered by motor generators, but had converted over to three phase AC to DC transformers-rectifiers by the time I arrived. Much simpler to flick a transformer switch, than crank a motor over. I remember placing a note above the power switches at Caulfield "Is Interstate betting finished?". I think it helped.
Pictured Left is a very similar Veeder Root electro-mechanical counter as used in our counter totes. There are many obsolete units that are similar, but I can't find the same one. Here is a PDF file for the data specifications of another similar unit. The units we had would plug into a surrounding case with plug in terminals (not soldered) for quick and easy maintenance.
The Interstate Tote is almost down.
Whenever an interstate track was washed out due to bad weather, we would make arrangements to maximize our selling potential in the Interstate tote house. Example, if Adelaide was canceled, we would convert all the Adelaide TIMs to Sydney for the day. This meant changing the slides and paper code in all of the Adelaide terminals. The dividend and odds calculators would then have to mesh in and sort out the figures to suit.
One Saturday, Alf Schloeffel came and told me that Sydney had been washed out, so I changed all my machines over to run a full house on Adelaide. A hour later, I got the news that it hadn't been washed out, so we had to change everything back again. I think I fell for this trap twice before I realised that I had to get the official slip from the club, before I changed anything. Alf never meant any harm, and was only trying to assist me, but I was a beginner, and losing hair at a fast rate of knots.
Tote Installations Crew.
New Tote installations was always an ongoing and constant task. As the racecourses and totes evolved with new tote houses, grand stands, as well as the temporary tote houses, kiosks, marques, and booths needed for the spring racing carnival, we had a core crew that spent most of their non-race days, on installations.
This crew was made up of basically all the ex PMG men, plus a few others whenever needed. Michael Higgins, Fred Escourt (British PMG Trained), Graeme Twycross (Ex-Electrician), myself, and at times Peter Nelson, and Ken Crook. Peter Nelson was always the man to see when it came to all the phone cabling. He had a pretty good grasp of every track, and the layout of all the communication systems.
Prior to my arrival, Harry Lane, and Peter Collier appeared to be the top guns for new installations. I recall the stories of them matching each other in competitions for speed wiring, however they had moved onto operate the PDP 11/40 van systems as full time Van Engineers. Along with Stan Jones and Michael Higgins, this made up the full team of four van engineers during the mid seventies.
Frank and his Jars of Nails & Screws.
One of the first installations that I was involved in was the North Hill Indicator at Moonee Valley. We were ready to fix some timber batons to the frame of the Indicator room, in order to carry the many internal cable runs, and Frank Dowdle our Chief Engineer, said he would fetch some nails and screws in for us the next day. In came old jam jars full of screws and nails that looked like that had been removed from several country dunnies from an ancient pioneering settlement. Yes sir, we had to straighten these magnificent specimens out to be able to make use of them.
Moving right along to complete the other end of the scale, just before I retired from TABcorp, we had to fill out forms, and go through a procedure to get any spare parts from a store keeper at Bowen Crescent, which was our great thumping big TABcorp office building south of the city. Many times vehicles and personal were redirected to gather up a few cents worth of spare parts. This included a single resistor that may be worth much less than 10 cents for a 100. I usually ended up getting small components out of my bits and pieces bin from home, rather than go through this ridiculous costly, and time consuming procedure. Just another one of the many reasons I couldn't get out of the system quick enough.
Graeme Twycross and the Colour Code.
All PMG technicians knew the PMG colour code for cables manufactured during this era. Possibly it is still the same today. Based on the five colours: Blue, Orange Green, Brown, Slate. If you had a 50 pair cable, you knew which wire went to pin 1, and which wire went to pin 100 on any block, frame, or junction of any description. If I terminated one end of a cable, and any of the installation crew terminated the other end, when we tested or buzzed it, we would expect all 100 wires to be in the correct places. Simple straight forward stuff. First time I tried this with Graeme on the other end, I found he had his own colour code, and when I challenged him, he simply laughed. This is when I found out why Graeme was a bit of a lone wolf when it came to installations. No one wanted to terminate the other end of Graeme's cables. Mind you, he cut off my termination, and re-terminated it in possibly half the time I could do it in. Just as well there was enough spare length on the cable to do this. It really seemed like a senseless waste of resources that could have been easily corrected early in Graeme's career. I was basically the apprentice at this stage, so it wasn't my problem to worry about, only to observe.
Frank, Macca, and the Beer.
Ian McEwen was the racecourse manager at Moonee Valley, and was always the leading innovator when it came to new ideas on racecourses. I remember doing two very special installations for him in the Interstate tote house. Both rush jobs. He initially wanted the Quinella-Doubles totes (J10s) running in the Interstate, and later the J18 MPV-TDQ terminals. I forget during which of these installations this incident took place, but I do recall Ian bringing down a dozen bottles of beer, to show his appreciation when the job was finished at some ungodly hour, on the night before the race meeting. Frank almost hit the roof, and said that his men don't drink beer, and to take them back. Of course Ian got the present to us at a later date, but I just wonder what Frank managed to achieve for himself that evening. I was told Frank was quite a drinker in his early days, but had sworn off it. Oh Dear!
Macca and the Union.
We were working on the J10 installation for Ian McEwen at the Moonee Valley interstate tote house, and we had some sort of a union strike right in the middle of it. The racecourse was in a lock down condition, and the only people that could physically gain access to it, were the Moonee Valley Ground staff that opened the gates each morning, and it wasn't going to be opened during the strike.
Well, not quite. As tote staff, we often had to bring a semi-trailer in at midnight, and truck loads of terminals and equipment, so we also had full access to every racecourse at any hour. Strike, day one, Ian saw us walking into the Interstate tote carrying our tools, and started to rush towards us waiving his arms in the air. Then he stopped, waited a few seconds, made motions like the three wise monkeys, and walked the other way. If the gates were locked, then no one knew what took place on the track, and Ian kept his distance from us until the job was completed. We were invisible.
We went through various stages of unionism on the job. First we had to be a part of it, then as most of us went on a "Staff" incentive, (a salary compared to a wage), we had to resign from the Union. As the years rolled by, we found that we had to be part of the union again to be allowed into the new grandstands that were being built. Being the most permanent member of the installation team, Graeme took on a role as our sole Union member, and joined again to be allowed to work on site, in advance of the rest of the team, when any new building was under construction. When the site construction was finished, and the building crews vanished, we could all help with the installation without union interference.
Jimmy, Ray, and The Mobile Tote.
Jim Kennedy and Ray Johnston covered many country tracks in the mobile tote, which was a complete eight window J8 portable tote mounted in a semi trailer. It had to be driven to each track, then set up. They would sometimes drive hundreds of miles, to get to a country track. In many cases, just the drive in a semi-trailer was a hard day in itself, before setting up and running the tote.
This tote had the ability to run a small amount of external terminals via additional cabling, that was plugged into the rear of the van.
(Chris Robertson 27-12-2009)
I recall an eight window mobile tote being used for Brisbane during the Winter Carnival at the city tracks until Tote-All was introduced. Similarly an eight window mobile was used at Yarra Glen for the locals, and at Cranbourne, Mornington and Cranbourne when there were more meetings being bet on than could be accomodated by the mainhouse buildings. I have a feeling the vehicle/s were parked at Flemington when not in use, but maybe that was also before your time. These are recollections, not encyclopedic references, so I stand to be corrected. I do remember twelve window mobile totes operating in NSW, especially at Randwick.
A personal note on Jim Kennedy and Ray Johnston. They form the fondest memories of my early years as a racegoer. Back when there were only one or two meetings a day midweek, there was plenty of time to just 'yack'. I could listen to these two talk for hours and never be bored. They both had a wealth of knowledge, and were generous in disseminating it. I would have learnt even more if I hadn't been laughing so much. They belong to the golden days.
I do indeed recall Jim parking the mobile tote van in the members car park at Flemington, when not in use, and for ongoing maintenance. If he threw the external timber steps out the back, you knew he was in residence, or not very far away.
I think I only ever worked in the mobile tote twice when someone was on holidays, and I recall crawling in amongst the adders once, when he had a wire fall off that needed soldering back on. The left hand side of the van had a full set of win-place odds indicators above the sellers. I know these had passed their used by date, as Jim and Ray were continually prodding them from the inside of the van, above the sellers. We were going to produce a super effort to repair these back to their former glory at one stage, but again, as this system was nearing end of life, it was never done.
Bear in mind that the old Interstate and country totes I was running at the time, had no automated odds display either, as all of this was done by manual calculations, (real people) so this was simply an extension of this principle, manually calculating the odds when the electro-mechanical system had failed, and displaying those results on the odds indicators.
The sellers were sitting on a round cushion, that was fixed to the floor of the semi-trailer. Their legs went down into a cut away section that was over the chassis, or rails of the sub frame. To service a terminal, you first had to completely remove the seller, then get down on the floor and lift up the J8 into an upright position. If major surgery was needed, it was easier to replace the terminal, and work on the faulty unit in a standard tote house bench. The floor the mechanic walked along, was the seat as far as the seller was concerned.
The picture above, shows a seat with a spindle base, possibly 14" long. There was no spindle base on the Victorian mobile tote. This seat cushion was fixed straight to the floor.
Arthur, and the Doubles-Quinella Tote
All control equipment was painted grey, and had carry handles fitted either end.
ATL Rule number One:
"If it is painted grey, and has carry handles fitted either end, it is obviously portable, and suitable to be carried by man. Weight has no bearing on rule one."
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
The picture above is taken inside a mobile Doubles-Quinella van. Arthur's gear was carried between courses.
Arthur Gardiner ran the Doubles-Quinella tote around the country tracks, which was all transported in a large truck with a van body. After a year or so of running the city interstate totes, I graduated onto this country circuit with Arthur. The picture above shows a set of cubicles and a punch tape recorder for one pool. As we generally ran Doubles and Quinella, it meant that we needed to carry from the van into the tote house, four cubicles and two recorders, as well as the punch tape reader, which was of a similar size and weight to the recorders. The cubicles were so heavy, before we could lift them, we had to remove the relays sets from a set of "U" jacks, and place into protective wooden boxes during transport. Unlike the above picture, each pair of cubicles were stacked two high, beside each recorder.
It needed two men to carry the following: Four cubicles, two punch tape recorders, one reader, two timber boxes of relays, and all the J10s needed for the specific track, and all down the back ramp or tailgate of the van. J10s were more than a one man lift. Even in my younger days, I went red in the face lifting a J10 by myself. The J8s and J10s we carried in the van were fitted into racks fixed to the walls of the van, and each had a locking mechanism to keep them in place during transport. We carried all of this gear into the main control room tote house as a two man team, and often had to distribute and install J10s up stairs into grandstand totes. The cubicles were stacked on top of each other, relay boxes opened, and relay sets fitted into the cubicles. J10's were slipped into tote benches, and all cabling plugged into all equipment. We then had to do a complete test of everything.
The punch tape recorders had a test procedure called a "Routine", which we could run from a single test switch. Like any punch tape, it recorded a series of coded transactions, which had to be decoded and read by the readers at a latter stage. We placed a system of test bets on the TIMs and tested the results of the recorders using the reader.
We carried spares for everything.
ATL Rule number Two:
Rotate all of your spares. There is no such thing as a permanent spare. It must be rotated through the system, so it is tested as working on a very regular basis. Rule two, I strongly aggreed with.
All terminals had to be inked and loaded with the correct type for the day, as well as the correct letter paper, and any outstanding maintenance repairs that needed to be done, were usually attempted prior to race one. Total setup time? Two to three hours, depending on the track requirement for terminals. If you had a 12:00 first race, and you didn't hit the track until 09:00, you were rushing, as you would have to open for sales at 11:30.
The rear of the van had two power supply transformers. A 50 Volt for the J10 gear one side, and a 120 Volt for the Win-Place gear on the other side. The truck was grossly overweight with these transformers hanging out over the rear of the back axle, and with all the heavy Julius tote gear, I half expected the front end to lift off at some stage, when we had a maximum load stowed on board. The 120 Volt transformer was for the many occasions, when the mobile tote didn't join us on certain country tracks. For this, we would need to carry a counter tote to do any Win-Place betting when called upon to do so. Some tracks we even carried the large "A" type tote adders, and control gear. It really ended up being a bit of a mixture, as a lot depended on the way the racing roster fell out, and how the existing equipment was committed.
Each week, Arthur and Frank Dowdle would sit down during a quiet time at a city course with the racing roster, the staff roster, and a list of the available equipment, and spend hours sifting through it all to come up with a workable solution. Usually this involved input from many people.
To summarize, we covered the following pools: Doubles, Quinella, and Win-Place, both counter tote (slow), and "A" type (fast) tote when needed, plus a mixture of J8 and J10 TIMs. Many times we ended up with Jim and Ray's Mobile Tote at the same course, and other times, we were the only tote present. If we ran all pools, we usually stepped the technical staff up to three, maybe four if it was a large track. Third man was generally Ray Johnston, however Fred Estcourt, or Ken Crook would also fill in from time to time. There were times when we had to borrow an extra truck and tote gear from the city courses, and I would head off to one track, and Arthur to another on the same day. This was limited to maybe only two or three times a year.
Arthur, the string, and the Doubles Cubicle at Ballarat.
Arthur had a good logical mechanical mind, but he never understood Electronics. If any of his gear broke down, he could section isolate easily, and usually get things working with a known set of working spares. The non working units would generally be returned to base for repair and testing, unless he had someone like Fred, Ken, or myself on board. We would hopefully sort things out before the need to make them a priority repair item back at a city course, where we had the full technical resources of the van engineers, who all had experience with this gear, as well as the "Old Boys" for any older equipment.
Towards the end of the life of the D-Q gear, we were in a position where we could steal some equipment from the city courses, and set it up permanently on selected country courses. Ballarat night trots was the candidate to get the DQ gear. This saved us a lot of lifting and transporting. We used this to our advantage for about two years.
The cubicles connected to the recorders with two 60 pin Ericson male to male cables, which meant there was two female 60 pin connectors on the back of the cubicles. Possibly the second meeting we had with this new permanent setup, the doubles punch tape stopped punching away, right in the middle of a selling period. We then started a procedure I call section isolate. You start of by checking the obvious external cables that could be kicked out of place, and possibly the last thing you would do, is replace the punch tape recorder, as this already has transactions recorded.
As luck had it, we were about to replace the cables with spares, when the punch kicked into life as we jiggled a cable connection at the rear of a cubicle. Looks like we had a lose wire on the female connection. The internal cubicle loom has a broken wire that has fallen of the female connector. Arthur managed to get it working all the time by holding pressure upwards on the Ericson cable. He asked me to hold it there while he chased a length of string. He came back and tied the string onto the cable just behind the connector, and hoisted it up to a roof rafter. Problem solved for now.
I checked the schematic and came up with a good idea of what signals would completely stop the punch tape recorder in it's tracks, and suggested that we drop the back off the cubicle during stop betting, and solder it back on. No, Arthur wanted to leave it till after the meeting. With a later than normal finish due to a protest on a previous race, we decided to leave this repair until next time we came to Ballarat. Naturally it was forgotten about until we opened betting and I spotted the string connecting our Doubles cubicle to the roof rafter. Arthur again put the repair off until next time we came to Ballarat.
Next time I was ready, and started to remove the back panel of the Doubles cubicle as soon as we had every thing set up. Arthur insisted I don't touch it, even though I had planned in advance, this simple single wire repair. I gave up. If it stops, I know where to look. Arthur is the boss. Forget about it.
Two years later, when we removed our DQ tote from Ballarat trots for the last time, I had to break the string that connected between the roof rafter and our Julius Tote.
The two mobile Win-Place electro-mechanical Tote Semi-trailer Vans (1965-1976)
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
There were two mobile electro-mechanical tote vans, I knew very little about, and only saw in operation a couple of times in early 1976 at Caulfield. These were designed by Terry McCauley an ATL engineer, and introduced at Sandown races when it opened in 1965, then decommissioned in 1976, because of the introduction of the PDP 11/40 computer Vans in mid 1974.
Not long after the introduction of these vans, Terry joined the ranks of the Victorian TAB.
These vans operated the Win-Place J8 pools only, and were moved around the four main city race tracks. These completely replaced the old Julius Tote machine rooms at Flemington, Moonee Valley, and Caulfield.
Mounted in two semi-trailers, virtually the same vehicle configuration as the later generations of PDP 11/40 and PDP 11/34 semi-trailer vans that followed. In fact the two originals went up to Brisbane to become the PDP 11/34 vans that operated there.
Terry designed and built these mobile totalisators using the current technology that was used in P.M.G. telephone exchanges in Australia. This consisted of 600 and 3000 type relays, and uni-selectors, plus a lot of purpose built gear such as mechanical shaft adders, to bring about the final result of being a functioning mobile totalisator.
In 1976, one was permanently parked behind the 11/40 van at Caulfield, and both vans operated during race days. Alf Schloeffel was running the technical side of this van on his own, and with a little help from one of the 11/40 van engineers, (usually Peter Collier, or Harry Lane) the counters were checked as being reset after each race. The second Win-Place van sat behind the 11/40 van in the cage at Sandown, but I never saw it in operation.
I have only one silly story about these vans, and I told Terry McCauley about it when I met him in December 2009.
The vans had what we called "bus bars", which were overhead 50VDC power rails running around the complex. Telephone exchanges had much the same thing. One day Peter Collier decided to hang his coat up on a metal coat hanger, and forgot about the perils of the very large lumps of copper carrying the 50 Volts above his head. Brought the system down, but the powers that be, didn't learn the truth for many years after this event.
It turns out that this story took place 43 years ago, and as it was passed onto me, it had changed dramatically with my telling of the story. Peter then told me his version on the 25-Feb-2010, which I added below, then a week later, sent me this message:
"Harry and I looked at the story I sent and decided it was him who grabbed the dustcoat, the memory does play some tricks with some of the detail, so I have re written it to reflect that."
The new story is below 3-March-2010. I was going to clean the whole story up into one single story as it was simple to do, but felt that it would be better to show how the story changes when mixed in with great chunks of years, even for the parties directly involved.
Peter Collier 25-Feb-2010 The story behind the old win place van problem:
I grabbed my dustcoat off a wire coat hanger that was hanging on a hook that was screwed into the wall of the van. As I walked away putting on my dustcoat we got an adder alarm, Harry went and reset the alarm. No sooner had he cleared that one we got another, we probably had about 12 adder alarms which we cleared, and then sat back and relaxed. When the race started we printed off the totals and discovered that we could not balance either Win or Place so we decided on accepting the horse totals and ignored the grand totals. Dividends were calculated and pay started.
We could not figure out why we couldn’t balance but figured it had to be something to do with all the adder alarms, race 2 balanced perfectly so we started to investigate and discovered that as I grabbed my dustcoat it flicked across a terminal block and placed a ground on the adder reset wire therefore partially resetting the adders.
After the last race we conducted an experiment that proved that this was exactly what had occurred. Needless to say wire coat hangers were banned and replaced with plastic coated ones. We also had overpayments and underpayments on race 1.
Peter Collier 3-March-2010 The story behind the old win place van problem:
This episode occurred at Moonee Valley races circa 1967 in the “new” electromechanical Win Place van.
Harry had just grabbed his dustcoat off a wire coat hanger that was hanging on a hook screwed into the wall of the van. As he walked away putting on his dustcoat a warning bell sounded indicating that we had an adder alarm, I went to the adder and reset the alarm. No sooner had I cleared that one when there was another, we probably had about 12 adder alarms which we cleared, and then sat back and relaxed.
When the race started we printed off the totals and discovered that we could not balance either
Win or Place so we decided on accepting the horse totals and ignored the grand totals. Dividends were calculated and pay started.
We could not figure out why we couldn’t balance but figured it had to be something to do with all the adder alarms. Race 2 balanced perfectly so we stated to investigate what could have caused race 1 not to balance. We reasoned that something had happened when Harry had grabbed his dustcoat. We looked at the wiring diagrams for the van and thought that there was a possibility that the coat hanger had flicked across a terminal block and placed a ground on the adder reset wire and maybe partially reset the adders.
After the last race we conducted an experiment that proved that this was exactly what had occurred. Needless to say wire coat hangers were banned and replaced with plastic coated ones. We also had overpayments and underpayments on race 1. We also had to write an explanation for ATL management and the Government Auditors.
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
Picture courtesy of Peter Collier.
The Doubles-Quinella Mobile Van.
There is also a little gap in the history of ATL Melbourne tote I am still missing. From approx. 1955 to mid-1974, we used a Mobile Doubles Quinella tote van, until it was replaced by the PDP 11-40 vans.
There is a picture inside this van above in the Arthur, and the Doubles-Quinella Tote story. Needs someone to fill in the gaps.
Cranbourne Races and New Years Day.
Often there were country races on New Years Day, as well as a meeting always being held at Flemington. Eventually engineering management had enough confidence in me, and allowed me to run my very first PDP 11/40 meeting on my own, and this took place at Cranbourne Races, on New Years Day. This system was a semi-trailer, set up with dual PDP 11/40s that chatted to each other via a shared memory, and was capable of running J8s, J10s, and J18s. I had a commitment New Years Eve, at my sister-in-laws, and as this was a lot closer to Cranbourne than home, we booked into a local motel for what ended up being a few short hours. Enough to get a very quick sleep, change, shower, shave, clean your teeth, then get going. My wife drove our car home, and Jim Kennedy picked me up in the semi-trailer 11/40 computer system. Ken Crook was the third member of the team that day, and we met him at the track.
We all had our eyes hanging out of our heads, as we were involved in a previous night setup as described in the Flemington Machine Room, and New Years Eve story, so it was a day that we didn't need any problems. Race one comes and goes, no apparent problems. I enter the first three place getters on the race console, hit compute dividends, both printers fire up, and spit out all pool dividends, and relevant information. Looking good Donny baby. Fire off a race increment to all the terminals. In the tote house, you hear the mechanical "click-clack" of the race change solenoids in the TIMs, as they rotate the race code barrels around one position to race 2. A piece of cake.
I look up at the video screen win place odds, to verify the dividends computed. $-32,767.77e for the first win dividend. That doesn't look like a dividend. I grab Cliff Ellen, a very experienced manual dividend calculator, and the Paddock supervisor for the day. Cliff also has a very good idea of horses, and the sort of money they should be paying. "What do you think that should have paid Cliffy?" "About $1.50 young Donny, it's the favourite". Insert many rude words here! No one has ever seen anything like this before. We had other place dividends giving silly figures as well.
Harry Lane, and Peter Collier are at Flemington, running a similar system, the New Years Day meeting. I ring Harry, "Never seen it before". We also have ATL Tote Manager Robin Bone on board that day, so Cliff, Robin, and Don start going through the print outs looking for any hint that will lead us to find the source of the problem. I clear the screen, and hold up dividends. Eventually we declare all the other pools, but hold back the Win and Place dividends. Real problem is if you don't give the punters back their money fairly quickly, they won't be investing big money on future races.
What I do next, and it is something I have had to do many times over the years, is get Cliff to tell me what dividend we should be paying. We consult with the Government Inspector, and declare a full set of manual dividends for Win-Place race 1. With our eyes fully hanging out to floor level now, and our brains fried, we realise that race 2 has been run and won, so we cross our fingers, and watch the silly divs come up on the screen once again. Same procedure upset the customers yet again.
Eventually, we figure out that the problem occurs when a horse has no money bet on it. If there is a zero total for money invested on any individual runner, on the win or place pool, then the computer program wobbles down a silly branch, until it eventually falls out with rubbish. Never been tested with zero totals. Why? It is one of the first times we have taken the 11/40 system to a country track, and compared to Flemington, the crowd is very small. It is the first time zero totals have ever appeared on a runner. Why wasn't it found and tested before? I have done my share of programming, and I know the only way to really test a program such as this, is to race it. Even then, it took years for this bug to appear. Just like a modern Microsoft system, isn't it?
Our solution. Cliff did a print out 5 minutes before race jump, and made a single 50-cent company investment bet on any runner that had a zero total. Problems overcome. It was never ever fixed, as this was a system that was nearing it's end of its life. Cliff or someone always had to make that small company investment for the life of the system.
Peter's Saturday Night
By Peter Collier 27-Jan-2010
I remember a Saturday night supporting the Harness Race meeting at Moonee Valley and receiving a phone call from the technician at Cranbourne Dogs saying he was set OK but needed the selling terminals "polled" as he had a problem with his VDU (RacedayControl Terminal).
I started polling the selling terminals for him and checked that they were OK on the line monitor. A few minutes later the tech rang back to say he could not get his VDU to work, after going though the "Turn Off ", "Turn On " ritual, it appeared that the terminal had powered up OK but all that was on the screen was the cursor.
I requested that he do a "Control Z" on the VDU keyboard to bring up the menu, I could see the data light flash on the appropriate port of the Statistical Muliplexor so I believed that all was OK but there was still no menu on the terminal. We tried this multiple times with still no appearance of the menu, I suggested there may be a lot of characters queued up in the buffer and when he typed "Contol Z" a random character from the buffer was being sent instead, and it was being treated as an error character so I requested that he try "Control X" on the keyboard which would clear this buffer. This operation of "Control X" then "Control Z" still did not solve the problem there was still no menu.
After quite long time I said to the tech "You are holding down the 'Control key' and then pressing the 'Z key' aren't you". There was a long pause and then the response "It's working OK now, thanks".
You may be able to guess who this was
Well, this is the Sandown Race Track isn't it?
By Peter Collier 4-Feb-2010
This episode occurred during a large installation project at Sandown Park racecourse.We had a team of four working to 10:00pm each evening installing the wiring for additional selling terminals.
For our evening meal break we would have a counter tea at the Sandown Park Hotel. To make it easier we had a key to a pedestrian gate on Corrigan Road from which it was a short walk across the road to the Hotel, this saved us driving all the way around to the hotel. To get there we would drive anti-clockwise around the car race track to the other side of the racetrack, park the car, open the gate and walk to the pub.
This evening we had had our meal and walked back to the car and got in for our short trip back to the control room. The driver put on his seatbelt and off we went. We entered the "esses" too fast and our racing driver lost it and we slid off the track and ended up in the waterway that was about 10 meters off the track facing the way we had come from. After checking that we were all ok we got out of the car and were ankle deep in mud. The car was bogged and one tyre was flat and then we realised that we were in view of the racecourse managers house.
A couple of us walked back to the control room and got another car, a couple of long tow ropes and some spades from the groundsmen's store.
We drove back to the site of the accident and working in the dark so we would not be seen we managed to dig the car out of the mud and tow it out of the waterway back up to the race track where we had to replace the flat tyre with the spare. After getting back to the control room we decided that maybe it would be a good idea to call it a night and put in a real effort the next day.
Next morning three of us were hard at it about 8:00am but our racing driver didn't turn up until about 11:30am as he thought it better to wash and polish his EH Holden car.
You may be able to guess who the driver was