This technology history page contains a photograph, which is one of several belonging to the photo gallery pages, which are part of several pages relating to the invention of the world's first automatic totalizator in 1913 and Automatic Totalisators Limited, the Australian company founded in 1917 to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

Copyright © 2011 Email -

White City Electro Mechanical "Computer" Room

The first image below shows The Main Control Panel and Front End System for the Win Place and Forecast Julius Tote in White City London. It belongs to what a 1937 Referee newspaper article refers to as The World's Biggest Tote, which can be read by clicking on the image below and and then scrolling up in the Photo Gallery index and selecting the previous thumbnail to that of the image below. It remains the largest Julius Totalisator that I am aware of, supporting 320 terminals. When looking at photographs like this I often contemplate how reality sometimes seems wilder than fiction. At first sight one could be forgiven for thinking that this image shows some Hollywood set, not a real working computation machine that has a very long history. Additionally these systems often operated for far longer than computing systems of today, up to half a century with the Longchamps Julius Tote in Paris operating for 45 years and the one in Caracas Venezuela operating for half a century. In 2005 I received an Email from an Engineer in Caracas asking for my advice. He informed me that his company had been appointed by the Venezuelan Racing Authority to research and provide advice on how to bring the totalisator at the Hipodromo Nacional where the Julius Tote was still operating, up to modern day standards!

More after the image ...

Click here to go Back
Click on the image to go back to the Photo Gallery

If you arrived from navigating the website, use the navigation bar at the bottom of this page.

There is a note on the rear of the photograph shown in the image above which reads White City London - Provision has been made for the addition of further panels of Distributors and Relays as required up to the maximum capacity of the Adding equipment. Another image in the Photo Gallery, which shows a close up section of the front end equipment panels shown in the image above, has some writing on the back of the photograph. It reads: White City London - but typical of any tote Distributor and Relay Board in English Julius Totes. I have provided this quote as it is interesting to see the name used at the time Distributor and Relay Board, which refers to all of the panels seen in the image above, except for the central section which looks different to the rest. I have referred to the Distributor and Relay Board section with a more contemporary computer era term Front End System. In my time with the company, there was confusion as to what the Time Division Multiplexers in these panels were called. Here it mentions Distributors, however they were also referred to as Scanners. I suspect distributors is the older name as scanners sounds like it belongs to the computer era. The central section in the panels above used to be called The Main Switch Board and I refer to this with the more contemporary name Main Control Panel.

The scanners are the two rows of circular devices which can be seen at the bottom of the Front End System panels to the left and right of the Main Control Panel. The Scanners in contemporary terms are Time Division Multiplexers or TDMs, that existed long before the electronic digital signalling methods that made TDMs commonplace. In fact, all the contemporary engineers I have introduced the Julius Tote to, are initially in disbelief regarding the thought that TDMs could be implemented electro-mechanically and pre-dated the electronic ones. For a functional description of the Scanners, Overlap Relays, Ticket Issuing Machines, Isolation Switches and the Cut-out Relays look at the close-up image, which follows this one in the Photo Gallery. To read this, click on the image above to go back to the Photo Gallery index and select the following thumbnail to that of the image above. Just quickly, above the two rows of scanners are banks of overlap relays organised in a 8 row 6 column matrix and above them banks of Isolation Switches using the same matrix and above them at the top, two rows of Cut Out Relays.

The items on the floor in front of the Main Control Panel in the image above, seem to be parts for the fuses and fuse holders in that control panel. It looks like work is in progress on the Main Control Panel when this photograph was taken and no one cleared the parts away for the photograph to be taken. Perhaps the order of the parts on the ground is significant, or the technical staff working on it were not available to consult when the photograph was taken. Another possibility is that they were deliberately left there to indicate work was still in progress. Either this photograph was taken when some upgrade was still in progress or maintenance work was being performed.

On the subject of upgrades being done, I have noticed that the Main Control Panel in the middle of the equipment panels in the image above, is slightly different to another photograph of this system in an image that precedes the one at the top of this page in the Photo Gallery of this website. I have included a reduced version of this second image below:

The White City Control PanelImage of the White City Control Panel

One obvious difference follows: In the image above, in the four large square white status lights up the top of the Main Control Panel on the right hand side of the clock, under the light in the ceiling and over the word FORECAST, the status lights read RESET, DRUM INDICATOR READY, MAIN MACHINE READY and OPEN SALES. In a higher resolution version of the image at the top of this page however, it can be seen that these four status lights read RESET, MAIN MACHINE READY, DRUM INDICATOR READY and OPEN SALES with the second and third lights swapped around. So far as the second group of status lights consisting of five status lights in the image above, over the words WIN & PLACE and to the left of the first group is concerned, the order is the same in both photographs.

Having mentioned the word FORECAST appearing under the first group of status lights on the right hand side of the Main Control Panel in the image above, I deduce that all the Front End System equipment, consisting of everything in the panels to the right of the Main Control Panel belongs to the Forecast Pool machinery. This Forecast pool Front End System is best seen in the image at the top of this page, where it includes all the equipment from the cage wire door at the right hand edge of the image, which provides access behind all the panels for maintenance staff, to the start of the Main Control Panel, which can easily be identified by the large amount of white porcelain parts. Similarly, with the left hand bank of status lights, which sit on top of the words WIN & PLACE, I deduce that these lights and all the machinery of the front end system in the panels on the left hand side of the Control Panel, belong to the Win and Place pools. This too can be seen in the image at the top of the page extending from the far end of the Main Control Panel with all the white porcelain parts to the far end of the panels. Furthermore, the Main Control Panel is also symmetrical around an imaginary vertical line drawn from the clock straight down to the floor, except for the indicator board immediately below the clock with the words RACE NUMBER on top of it, which is presently indicating RACE 8. This can all be seen in the image above. I deduce that everything to the right of this imaginary line in the Main Control Panel belongs to the Forecast Pool processing equipment and everything to the left in the control panel belongs to the Win and Place pool processing equipment.

Another obvious difference in the two images above, is that the fuses and switches in the Main Control Panel, although in similar positions in the two photographs, are quite different. The mass of what is probably white porcelain insulation in the fuses in the image at the top of this page, is not evident in the image above titled The White City Control Panel. The Control Panel and front end system shown in the image at the top of this page appears to be more modern than the one shown in the image below it.

Regarding these and other differences between these two photos, I have considered that they might not be due to being taken at different times during different eras of permutation of this Julius Tote at White City, but due to the photos being of two Julius Totes at different locations in the UK. I am reasonably confident that the identification plaques visible in both photographs both read JULIUS TOTALISATOR - INSTALLED BY - TOTALISATORS LTD - 3 THAMES HOUSE - QUEEN ST PLACE E.C.4. The words in the plaque in the image at the top of this page are not discernible however judging by the location and length of the smudges that are these words in a blown up high resolution version of that image, they are the same words. Another reason to think these two photos are in the same room is the right hand pillar along the right hand edge of the image above can be seen along the left hand edge of the image at the top of this page as they are the same pillar only from a different perspective. Additionally the pillars in both images have the same colour scheme, white on top and black below adding credence to the thought that they are the same pillar. In both images, the pillar has the same position in relation to the control panel. Another indication that these photos show the same location is the two ceiling lamps shown in the image above are of the same type and in the same location allowing for perspective, as the two lamps closest to the control panel in the image at the top of this page. Finally, the light from the long row of windows, which are visible in other photos of this room and exist behind the photographer in the image above, can be seen shining right across the width of the frame in both photos.

Regarding installations and upgrades at White City London, I have found the following references, which I have extracted from a company document titled A Sound Investment FOR THE RACE CLUB under the table heading THE PREMIER TOTALISATOR:

No. of InstallationYearWhere InstalledNo. of StartersClass of Betting providedType of IndicatorsNo. of TIMs
 41 1931Greyhound Racing Association, White City London 6Win and PlaceNumbered Drum and Dials 96
 52 1935Greyhound Racing Association, White City London 36Doubles and ForecastNumbered Drums 96

Another reference from another company document titled The Julius Premier Totemobile under the heading of a table JULIUS "PREMIER" TOTALISATOR INSTALLATIONS completed prior to World War 2 under a subheading Where Installed appears WHITE CITY STADIUM London England and under the subheading No. of Terminals, for the same entry: 320

As the company document titled The Julius Premier Totemobile indicates that prior to World War 2 the White City Julius Tote had 320 terminals, making it the largest Julius Tote, we can conclude that this upgrade of the White City Julius Tote to a much larger system occurred prior to September 1939. Additionally, the previously mentioned 1937 Referee newspaper article refers to the White City London Julius Tote as The World's Biggest Tote so we can more accurately conclude that this upgrade was performed in, or prior to 1937. As the upgrade installation, which is the second in the table above, was in 1935 we can conclude that the final upgrade that took the White City Julius Tote to being the biggest in the world, took place between 1935 and 1937. Additionally, the upgrade to the White City tote in 1935 with 96 terminals as documented above, was additional to the 96 terminals from the original installation in 1931 making a total of 192 terminals. This left the final upgrade bringing it to 320 terminals between 1935 and 1937, to provide the additional 128 terminals. The company document titled A Sound Investment FOR THE RACE CLUB lists installations up to 1937, the latest installation being number 74 in 1937 at the Manila Jockey Club, Philippine Islands where this list ends. Since there are only three installations that appear for 1937 it seems this list was created at the beginning of 1937. As the White City London system does not appear in this list after the 1935 upgrade, the final upgrade must have taken place later in 1937.

Whilst scouring lists of installations for information on the White City Julius Tote, I was amazed as usual by these lists. I am in possession of several of these lists and they each have a propensity to lead to new discoveries regarding the far flung corners of the world where these systems were installed. The lists, although having a common theme, each are somewhat unique, as they tend to be snapshots at differing points in time and possibly had differing points of focus. By the time of the computer era global companies were plentiful, however during the Julius Tote era, this company already dominated the totalisator business on a global scale. I suspect that Automatic Totalisators Limited would have been amongst the first Australian Global Companies. Considering the size, weight and expense of their product, I always was impressed by the vast reach Automatic Totalisators Limited had, despite the limited global communications and transportation of its early years. I always thought of it as a masterpiece in logistics. As an example of new discoveries regarding these lists, after having retired and moved to Toowoomba, I strongly believed that Totalisator History would not be able to catch up with me here. In April of 2018 Narelle and I attended the Weetwood Handicap at Clifford Park Racecourse in Toowoomba for a bit of nostalgia. During my scouring through these installation lists to find information on the White City system months later, I discovered that Clifford Park had a Julius Tote. At the Weetwood race meeting, unbeknown to me at the time I trod on ground once again where a Julius Tote had once existed. Furthermore, a few months ago Narelle and I were in Townsville. Again I was not aware that there had been a Julius Tote there. Again, one of the installation lists proved me wrong! I now know Julius Tote installations were performed for the Toowoomba Turf Club, Queensland Australia and the Townsville Turf Club, Queensland Australia. Seeing these installation lists again, I was reminded that Ireland alone had seventeen Julius Totes, mainly at Greyhound racing clubs. I was aware that Germany had computer tote installations performed by Automatic Totalisators Limited's American Subsidiary company ATUSA, which was later renamed Autotote, however I discovered there was a Julius Tote in West Germany at the Altonaer Renn Club - Hamburg. I will visit that next time I visit Germany. I already had a good time at the Mariendorf Trabrennbahn (Mariendorf Trots) in Berlin in 2016, where I discovered the Autotote system was still in operation.

The following description applies to Julius Totes in general and as the White City System is long gone, before my deeper interest in this history developed, I cannot provide a specific description of it. The RESET, DRUM INDICATOR READY, MAIN MACHINE READY and OPEN SALES status lights mentioned above, were usually operated from control switches located in the computer room as well as on a remotely located Race-day Control Console or RDC. This RDC provided for remotely entering race related parameters, remote control and what is pertinent here, a means of communication between the staff in the computer room, or machine room as it used to be called, and the tote control operations staff in the Main Tote House, where the RDC was usually located. Status lights also existed on the remote RDC. When the operations staff who calculated the actual dividends had extracted all the dividends information from the tote, the Tote Manager set the reset switch on the RDC, which illuminated the Reset indicator for the related pool and the computer room staff observing the status lights started resetting the machine for the next race. This required resetting the Indicators as well as the Adders, which are part of what in this case is referred to as the Main Machine. When the chief engineer in the computer room was satisfied that the machine had been properly reset and was ready for the next race, he turned his associated control switches on and the DRUM INDICATOR READY and MAIN MACHINE READY status lights illuminated. On seeing these illuminated on the RDC, the person allocated the responsibility to set the field size, scratchings, gearbox settings, etcetera on the RDC for each race, who sometimes was the Tote Manager or the Race Club Secretary, after checking all status lamps were indicating the correct settings, would then open the betting by turning on the ON switches for the pools the machine is ready to go on-line with, illuminating the OPEN SALES light for the associated pool. The pools in this case are FORECAST and WIN & PLACE grouped together, as can be seen in the image above underneath the status lights as previously identified. The computer room staff would then know that the betting was on, or in contemporary terms the system was on-line, for the pool that had its OPEN SALES light illuminated. Unlike today where computer totes are continuously on line during operation, back then selling was controlled by stopping and starting the machine. Finally, it can be seen from the image above, that the WIN & PLACE pool has an odds calculating machine as there is an additional status light ODDS MACHINE READY, making a bank of five status lights.

Having mentioned the Dividend Calculators, yes the dividends were calculated manually using a custom made circular slide rule manufactured by Automatic Totalisators Limited. Totalisators did not have all the functionality they have today in a hurry, automated totalisators were developed for over a century and continue to develop. You might find it surprising that even the early digital computer based totalisators were Sell-Only systems. I joined Automatic Totalisators Limited in the latter 1970s and worked on the development of the Brisbane Project, which was the company's first Sell-Pay system.

As an example of what was required in resetting the machine, following is an extract from a company document titled The Premier automatic totalisator operation 1930, which describes the resetting of the adders: The counters are so arranged that they can be quickly reset to "zero" after the close of the betting on one race, so as to be ready for the start of the betting on the next race, and the whole of the counters on a totalisator installed to record the betting on forty horses can be re-set to zero by two men within five minutes, and quicker if more men are available.

In the image above titled The White City Control Panel, on the two tables in full view, there are two Forecast Pool Adders. Out of sight of the images above there is a large room full of similar adders. These accumulate the transactions for the Win Place and Forecast pools on every runner and in the case of the Forecast Pool every runner combination. In the case of the left hand adder in the image above, it totals the sales on the Forecast combination for runners 2 and 5 and the right hand adder totals runner combination 2 and 4, as indicated by the lamps on top of the posts attached to these adders with the numbers on them. These lamps are illuminated when the associated adder is in operation.

As this system had more TIMs (Ticket Issuing Machines) than any other Julius Tote that I know of, namely 320, I think it is worth speculating, about which TIM model was utilised. Speculation is necessary as I do not know which years the particular models were manufactured. As the second largest Julius Tote installation with 273 TIMs, which was at Longchamps in France, commenced operation in 1928, only three years prior to the first installation at White City in London, it is probable that this installation included J5 TIMs like the ones in the Longchamps system. The following upgrade installation was in 1935 with another later upgrade installation being completed by 1937, so it is possible that J5 TIMs were still used and if not they would probably have been J6 machines.

It is obvious that the White City Stadium Building is in a cold climate as there are two bar heaters visible in the image at the top of this page. The first is attached to the pillar along the left hand edge of the image and the other is at the far end of the equipment panels underneath the window.

It is interesting to note that White City London was not the only White City in the UK that had a Julius Tote. Others were White City Manchester England and White City Cardiff Wales and then there was one in Australia, White City Hobart Tasmania.

Fancy Line

Comments and suggestions welcome to totehis@hotmail.comemail animation

If you arrived here from the Photo Gallery and you wish to return there, select the Top of the page button in the Nav Bar below then click on the first image.

The "Next page" button below presents the first of five pages showing images with associated information on the world's first automatic totalisator, which also is the first Julius tote. This system started operation at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand in 1913.
The "Previous page" button below presents the second of three pages on the World's Biggest Tote at White City Stadium London.

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