This is one of several history only, non commercial, pages relating to the history of the automatic totalizator, its invention in 1913, the inventor George Julius and the Australian company he founded in 1917 which became a monopoly ( later an oligopoly ) in this field. This page contains a document describing Caracas in the 1950s and the totalisator installed there.

Copyright © 1997 - 2014 Email - totehis@hotmail.com

Julius tote installation in Caracas

Caracas, installed in the 1950s, was amongst the latter-day Julius (electro mechanical) totalisators. Automatic Totalisators' research department was laying the foundations for the development of a computer-based totalisator in the early 1950s. This research led to the development of the world's first computer-based totalisator , which was built for the New York Racing Association. The advent of the computer-based totalisator eventually led to the cessation of Julius tote production.

Postscript - It is now June 2005 and I have just received mail from Caracas. I was informed that the Julius tote there is still in operation. After 48 years of operation I have been asked if I have any information on how to make adjustments to the system to bring it up-to-date! I have since read on the Internet that the Julius Tote was replaced in 2007. Half a century is a good lifespan for a computing machine!

Neville Mitchell, a long serving manager at Automatic Totalisators, told me that when he started with Automatic Totalisators, the Caracas installation was regarded as the "flagship" of the Julius totes.

Regressing a moment, in March 2002, I was talking to Neville. For years I was under the impression that the Longchamps installation with its 273 terminals, was the largest of the operational electro mechanical systems. Neville told me that Caracas which was installed 30 years after Longchamps was bigger! This piqued my interest in the Caracas installation. As you will read in this section Caracas was slightly short of Longchamps in number of ticket issuing machines, however the increased functionality of these machines meant there were effectively more.
(Postscript - I have recently read a post world war 2 booklet titled The Julius Premier Totemobile, which lists all installations by number of terminals. It shows White City Stadium London as having 320 terminals.)

In the same month I also communicated with Keith Dodwell, a long serving manager at Autotote. He wrote that Caracas had the latest large electro mechanical adder that provided the ability to display pool totals. He also indicated that the Rio de Janeiro installation in 1950 was more unique and that it had 4 shaft adders per runner and each TIM could sell three pools and four different values. He also indicated that he was in his 59th year working for Automatic Totalisators/Autotote! Keith was very hospitable to me when I visited Autotote in 1983 after attending a DEC course in Boston on VAX 11/750 processor internals.

Since the previous paragraph was written, Keith Dodwell has retired. He served 60 years with Automatic Totalisators/Autotote, starting at 14 and finishing at 74. This must be some kind of record! Most people do not work for this long, let alone for the same organisation! Congratulations Keith!

In December 2003 I received a copy of a document from Matthew Connell at the Powerhouse Museum titled "Julius Premier Totalisators" by Totalisators Limited England. It records the Jockey Club Brasiliero, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil as having a Julius tote installation with win place and double pools, 45 runners or combinations, 5 indicators and 250 ticket issuing machines.

The following article has content that does not relate to totalisators. I have decided to include all of it here to satisfy my sense of completeness. Additionally to provide content for the non technical reader and finally as it provides an interesting snapshot of 1950s Caracas.

Note - In the following article I have substituted the pound symbol with the word pounds.

The track ... an International Publication of Automatic Totalisators Limited Sydney Australia

Fabulous Caracas

Poised on the very crown of South America is the city of Caracas - a huge spectacular symbol of the soaring prosperity that oil has brought to Venezuela.

Although the city is 400 years old, Caracas can rightly claim to be one of the most modern and flourishing cities, not only in South America, but anywhere in the world.

Few cities in the world can boast of such an impressive highway as Caracas' "Autopista"; few cities can offer visitors a five-mile car ride over a 7,000-foot mountain to the sea; few cities have such modern and opulent hotels, apartment blocks, office buildings and avenues, and few cities will have such an elaborate and luxurious racecourse as the new Hipodromo Nacional.

Hipodromo Nacional prior to completion The grandstands at the new race track

Ten years or so ago Caracas was not the thriving city of a million progressive people that it is to-day. Now it is probably the fastest growing city in the world - faster even than the fabled city of Houston, Texas.

Travellers returning from South America all rave about Caracas. To them it is the city of South America, and Venezuela is the country they tell you to watch in the future. It is not oil alone that has made the difference, but the policy of "sowing the profits of oil" - in one of the world's largest and most epoch-making public works programmes. In 1956, for instance, this dynamic public works programme cost Venezuela something like A250 million pounds. But thanks to oil, Venezuela can afford it.

For the gigantic oilfields under Lake Maracaibo and elsewhere make Venezuela one of the great oil-producing areas of the world. And her enormous untapped reserves are considered vital for the defence of the free world in the event of war.

The results of this oil boom, and the public works programme that it has made possible, can be seen all over Caracas.

Its public thoroughfares are no longer rough and narrow roads, but wide and streamlined avenues. The "ranchitos" on the mountainsides are giving way to huge, vividly-coloured apartment blocks. A coffee plantation has been replaced by the great new University City.

But there are many other things in Caracas of which the Venezuelan people are proud. Three in particular - The Simon Bolivar Centre, the "Autopista" and the "Teleferico".

The Simon Bolivar Centre is regarded as the architectural achievement of South America. To New Yorkers, it is the "Rockefeller Centre" of Latin America. Its twin skyscrapers are each 30 storeys high and house many of the government offices. Beneath the skyscrapers are shops, a terminal for 500 busses, and parking space for 1,600 cars.

The great engineering achievement of Caracas is the "Autopista" - the super-highway that sweeps through the Andean foothills from the Caribbean port of La Guaira to Caracas, 11 miles inland and 3,000 feet up in the mountains.

The most remarkable thing about this highway is that it is eight miles shorter than the old road and has only 36 curves. The old road had no less than 365 bends. This has meant that driving time from Caracas to the sea has been cut from one hour to only 15 minutes. This six-lane highway, opened in 1953, took three years to build and cost about A25 million pounds.

But the "Autopista" does not provide the only route to the coast. There is an even more exciting means of transport - by aerial cable car, or "Teleferico", over the mountains. This five-mile aerial cable line is the longest in the western hemisphere. It swings up from the city to the top of Mt. Avila (7,000 feet) and then down the other side to the ocean.

The trip takes only 15 minutes, and is certainly one of the most thrilling aerial car rides in the world. Passengers can, if they want to, ride only as far as Mt. Avila and stop off there on the top at the Humboldt Hotel.

The Humboldt, with its circular design, gleaming glass and aluminium exterior, is one of Caracas' outstanding landmarks, standing as it does on the mountain overlooking the city.

The 14-storey Humboldt has its own branch aerial car line connecting with the main line over the mountain. On the branch line, passengers travel in small, round, six passenger cars nicknamed "Cinderella Pumpkins". From the hotel, the visitor gets a splendid panoramic view of the expanding, colourful city of Caracas stretched out beneath in the valley.

Already another equally spectacular landmark is being planned for Caracas - a huge, cone-shaped shopping centre. This massive building will look something like a gigantic beehive, and will house some 240 shops served by a spiral roadway winding round the outside in several complete circles to the top. This building, to be called the "Helicoid", will also contain offices, garages, television studios, an auditorium, hotel, dance-hall, restaurants and its own heliport. The "Helicoid" is expected to cost A11 million pounds to build.

Note: I think the background of this page is an artist's impression of the Helicoid

The new race track stables Hippodromo Nacional stables area.

The flare for architecture in the Helicoid can also be seen at the racetrack in the images above and below

But long before the "shopping centre of the future" becomes a reality, the residents of Caracas will enjoy the facilities of a new race track, the Hippodromo Nacional, certainly the most modern and one of the most luxurious in the world.

Credit for the design of this race track goes to Mr. Arthur Froelich, A.I.A., of Los Angelis, noted throughout the Americas as a leading race track architect, designer and consultant.

Hippodromo Nacional track works area Caracas racetrack works area

The architectural flare extends to the works area of the track! Does the Garage look like a good shape to base an opera house on? I worked in the Sydney Opera House on the installation of the electro-acoustic audio and the closed circuit television systems long after this track was built. The tower looks like it might be a judges or stewards tower.

One of the highlights of the Hippodromo Nacional is the totalisator equipment, which embodies "push-button control" and the most elaborate security measures of any totalisator installation anywhere in the world.

Artist's impression of the control room Artist's impression of the Caracas Control Room

Image of the control room Image of the Caracas Tote Control Room

The control room which is the pulse of the totalisator, provides for "push-button" instantaneous monitoring of information on the betting position on any horse, or the odds on any horse on any one of eleven indicator boards on the track. As far as is known, the new Caracas race track will have more indicating boards than any other race track in the world and will also have the largest in-field indicator. In this respect, at least one indicator is visible from any selling position on the track, so that the investor is never without the latest betting information.

One of the Caracas Indicators Image of a Caracas Indicator



Go back to the index    Go to the bottom of the page



Hippodromo Nacional tote house Caracas Tote House

The above image is one of the Caracas tote houses containing some of the machines mentioned below

The Caracas installation has 123 ticket issuing machines selling, as required and nominated, bets for either Ganador (win), Descarte (place) or Show (or for all three) on tickets of 5, 10, 20, and 50 bolivares.

The machine also sells Mutual (forecast) system tickets for 2, 5, 10, and 20 bolivares investments through 115 additional ticket-issuing machines. Part of the machine mentioned is shown below.

Caracas Julius Tote Hippodromo Nacional part of the Julius Tote Machine Room

The above image is part of the Julius Tote mainframe equipment at Caracas. Being one of the last Julius totes, consequently state of the art at the time, it differs from earlier Julius totes in two major ways. These differences are described below under the heading Blue Bonnets Montreal the last Julius Tote Installation.

An exclusive feature of all Automatic Totalisator Limited installations is the selling of win, place and show tickets from the one ticket-issuing window as against separate windows necessary with other types of equipment.

Thus the total of 238 ticket-issuing machines at the Caracas Hippodromo Nacional is the equivalent of 484 ticket issuers on race tracks equipped with other than the Julius Premier Automatic Totalisator - and this fact, together with the speed and efficiency of the Julius Premier explains why it is the standard equipment at leading racecourses the world over.

Image of an indicator controller A Caracas Indicator Controller

A Caracas Results Indicator Controller 1960 Image of a dividend indicator controller

Image of Control room console Caracas Tote Control Room Consoles

A specialty of the Julius Premier totalisator made by Automatic Totalisator Limited is the automatic ticket counter, as distinct from the bets counters. Located in the control room, ticket counters provide up-to-the-minute information on number of tickets sold and their values for each horse, as well as details on the comparative position of high and low value sales.

William Johnson's recollections of Caracas

William Johnson now 74 (in 2013), worked in Melbourne, Canada, USA, Venezuela and Malaysia, almost ten years overseas on totalisator installations and operations. Later as Service Manager of the Marketing Division he visited Sweden, Switzerland, and several times to the USA for instruction on the products introduced by this division.

I see Ladislav Jaros went on from Venezuela to the position in Europe. He was a very kind boss while in Venezuela for three years. He and his wife Elizabeth often included me in their journeys into different parts of Venezuela. I was a nineteen year old apprentice at the time.

The installation team in Caracas comprised, Ladislav Jaros, Tallis Bachmanis from the drawing office to complete drawings, Archie Javes and myself. A Mr. ver Hoof from Holland was with us for a while. I remember meeting Mr. ver Hoof in Sydney when my father took him fishing on the central coast. We had a mixed nationalities work force of sixteen men from Cuba, Spain, Italy, Venezuela etc. Australian visitors included our Managing Director, Alf Boa, Head of Sales Don Hardy and Joe Norris.

Following is a prior recollection of William's regarding the Caracas Automatic Totalisators installation.

I remember when the dictator Perez Himinez came in for a visit with his machine gun guards. We had to go past machine gun nests on our way to work during coup attempts.

When watching the Grand Prix race (Stirling Moss etc) a booby trap car blew up near the President. I had been to a work mate's daughter's christening. The bombed car is in the film.

As I have introduced William here, I have taken the liberty of presenting some more of his recollections. In the following segment he recalls premises of Automatic Totalisators Limited prior to the construction of the factory at Meadowbank.

Greetings from Bill Johnson, ATL apprentice from 1954.

I can remember being on the roof of ATL during the war with my father. He took me to the roof to see the view and the siren. It was known as Chalmers Street from my memory? An earlier factory was the blacksmiths shop etc. maybe in Newtown.

Going down the street towards the railway you could see a large advert for hand lotion on the side of the building. Oil of Ulan in a very distinctive bottle???

I worked on the tracks in Melbourne with the introduction of the first doubles issuers etc. in 1955? Keith Dodwell was in charge.

Then to Canada for a few months, then Wilmington and later to Venezuela for three years on ATL's largest job. Tallis Bachmanis and Archie Javes were also in Venezuela. Tallis there from the drawing office to complete drawings! Ladislav Jaros from Brazil was in charge.

Returning I was seconded to Malaysia for six years etc.

In October 2006 William sent me the following information on an Automatic Totalisators product called Visitel. I recall seeing these devices on racetracks long after they had been made redundant. It struck me that they must have appeared quite futuristic in their time. I recall retaining one to ensure it was not discarded so I could take it with me as a memento when I retired. Unfortunately when I retired it had disappeared. - Never mind, I have found a photograph -

An Image of a Visitel transmitter unit. Image of a Visitel Transmitter

The Visitel receiver looks similar and prints a copy of what is written at the transmitter. It is being used here to send what looks like win and place dividends on runners 3 2 and 20 for race 5.

On the New Inventors tonight, ABC Sydney etc, a short snippet was shown of the Both (as in moth) brothers. I remembered the names and recorded the session.

One of their inventions was the Visitel made by ATL used to transmit by cable the dividends to the payout houses. A pencil was placed in a hole in a lever and you moved the pencil as normal to write the calculated dividends. A button on the left hand side advanced the paper.

The show tonight said it was so secret during the war it could not be released and was never used, but I remember seeing it used on racetrack/s.

I also saw my father tonight in the segment with other ATL staff looking at a demonstration, I have to look closer on the tape I recorded to see exactly what it was. My father was an apprentice with ATL from early days.

Both may have also designed the Wheatstone bridge setup for controlling the blind indicators displaying the odds & dividends.

I worked in Australia, Canada, USA, Venezuela and Malaysia on totalisators etc from 1954 for 27 years or so.

Some more remnant impressions from the Caracas project from an earlier email. Alf Boa mentioned was the General Manager of ATL at the time.

Waiting 12 months with very little to do as the stands were not ready. Alf Boa said we had to be on site as per ATL contract. Dividend calculation bars arrived rusty and new ones were replaced. They were ground tubes and rusted easily without good protection and care. The Spaniard D. Paiser standing next to his lathe reworked the rockers as we could not set a reliable current setting on them. We sleeved them with Brass from memory. All the lamps for the infield board were clear and we hand frosted them in a chemical mix.

William has recollections of the Las Vegas installation in the Automatic Totlisators in America chapter of this website.

Blue Bonnets Montreal the Last Julius Tote installation

No this is not Carracas, however we are on the subject of latter-day Julius totalisators and I have just come across this image of the last of the Julius tote installations. As can be seen this system is the same architecture as the one at Caracas. It seems appropriate to display it here. Neville Mitchell has written a note which is attached to the photograph. It reads - Multi Channel Adder Frame and Controls: Made for trotting track in Ottawa, Blue Bonnets raceway, 1964 - very last main adder type system ever built. - Note access relay sets replaced "distributor" T.I.M. control. Also note on frame direct readout to lamp box of odds via slider driver off Horse Adder/GT Adder. I worked long hours 7 days a week on this project.

Neville's comment of the long hours reminds me of a term Charlie Barton, Ex Chief Engineer of the Brisbane Julius totes, used to use with reference to tote engineer's wives. He used to call them tote widows!

(Postscript - there was some confusion over the location of this installation. Neville's note indicates that it is in Ottawa. After receiving an email from Chris Robertson in March 2005 correcting this error, I spoke to Neville about it. He said he was exhausted after this project and recorded the location in error. I have included an extract from Chris' email - But any respecting Francophone Canadian will take umbrage at the suggestion that Blue Bonnets Raceway is, or ever was in Ottawa. It won't come as any great surprise to you to learn I've actually been to Blue Bonnets and I can assure you it is in Montreal Quebec.)

Image of the Last Julius tote installation The Blue Bonnets Julius Tote

There are two elements of these modern Julius totes like Caracas and Blue Bonnets, that differ with their predecessors. First are the white boxes on the left hand wall in the photo. These replace the scanners or distributors in the older systems. Second are the odds calculating devices. The box above each adder in the frame replaces the horizontal and vertical sliders and hypotenuse arms which were associated with each adder. Neville Mitchell has provided the following explanation in 2013.

The white boxes are Access relay units. These units replaced the rotary distributor systems. They were built in standard PMG relay boxes. with quick detaching connector mounting system The other boxes on the adder frame were the device used to drive the indicators, It was a sliding system, cable connected to the adder's "Odds" output. Its now 51 years since this machine was built in Meadowbank, I worked in late November through to December to get the equipment on a freighter leaving Sydney for Canada in January 1963.

As we have touched on Canada, here are some more Canadian installations. These are all electromechanical Julius Totes.

Club De'Course Lviolette Inc - Trois Rivieres  Flamboro Downs - Ontario  Provincial Raceway Inc. (Richelieu Park) - Montreal
Le Piste De Courses De Quebec, Inc. - Quebec  Sherbrooke Racing Club - Sherbrooke  Saquenay Race Track - Jonquiere


Fancy Line

Acknowledgements


Fancy Line

Comments and suggestions welcome to totehis@hotmail.com

Previous page Go to the index Top of the page Next page