This 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 by George Julius, to develop manufacture and export these systems.

The building that used to be the Automatic Totalisators Factory

I took this photograph of 184 Chalmers Street Surry Hills, during a visit to Sydney in September 2014. This building used to be the Automatic Totlisators Factory. The furniture, lighting, Soft Furnishings and Living accessories shop that now occupies the ground floor is Spence & Lyda. I met Ricky Lau in this shop, who was aware that this building was historically significant as it used to be the Automatic Totalisators factory. Ricky was very interested in this history and the products that were manufactured here. He mentioned he had a particular interest in history and had undertaken curatorial studies. He later wrote that he used to conduct educational tours at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Additionally, he used to live in Shepherds Bush in London which is near White City Stadium where a large Julius tote used to operate, parts of which were manufactured in this building in which he is now employed. Automatic Totalisators at the time had a subsidiary company in London called Totalisators Limited which presumably would have done some of the work. From here the factory moved to its final location in Nancarrow Avenue in Meadowbank.

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The 1936 rate book records this Automatic Totalisators factory address as 182/194 Chalmers Street. From this rate book document, the number of the assessment book is 21027, the name of the Owner or Landlord is Automated Totlisators Limited, it is categorised as factory and offices, it is constructed of concrete, it has one floor and three rooms and has a gross annual value in pounds of 1,759. Well that leaves a screaming question! How did this one floor building, become three, for the additional three stories to be added to it, as documented in the next paragraph?

The Trove Digitised Newspapers website records a Sydney Morning Herald newspaper page 3 of 44 dated 16 June 1936. On this page there is an article titled THREE NEW STORIES Automatic Totalisators Limited. This article describes the addition of three new stories to the existing three story Automatic Totalisators factory at 182 to 194 Chalmers Street, the factory in this image when it only had three stories. There is what I call an artist's impression, what the paper calls an accompanying perspective, of the new six storied building, titled ENLARGED PREMISES OF AUTOMAITC TOTALISATORS LTD. The article indicates that a second elevator will be installed to provide the additional traffice for the additional floors. Each floor will add an additional 10,000 square feet of floor space.

I have included the following image to provide some historic contrast. The photograph shown in the image below was taken outside the above building when it was the Automatic Totalisators Limited factory in 1938. It is taken up Belvoir Street which runs between the two buildings, at the far left hand distant corner of the building 76 years before the image above was taken. The entrance gate in the image below has been replaced by a roller door in the image above. The car below is parked near the tall tree near the middle of the photo.

Some Automatic Totalisators Limited Staff 1938Image of ATL staff with Kieth Dodwell

William Johnson worked for Automatic Totalisators as an engineer and manager in Melbourne, Canada, USA, Venezuela and Malaysia spending almost ten years overseas on totalisator installations and operations. His father, also William Johnson, also worked for Automatic Totalisators. Following is William Johnson Junior's recollection of visiting this building as a boy during World War 2, when it was the Automatic Totalisators factory.

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. 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.
When I showed the above image to William Johnson Junior, he was delighted when he noticed his father was in the image. He also recognised other staff members in this image. He told me the man in the first standing row, wearing a white dust coat, with his left hand in his pocket and hair parted on the right hand side and wearing a tie, is his father, William Johnson senior. He said his father was probably a Leading Hand when this photograph was taken and became a Shop Foreman during the war years.

Narelle and I experience a lot of coincidences and a lot of these relate to totalisator history. In September 2014 Narelle and I, during a visit to Sydney on our way back home from Melbourne, went to have a look at this building for the first time and take some photographs, after having discovered that it was still standing. We had our car with us and entered Chalmers Street at the southern end of it and drove north. It was raining, there was plenty of traffic, reading street numbers was out of the question and there were only sporadic free parking spaces. We reached what I considered to be the vicinity of the ex factory building according to what we had learnt and decided to take the next available parking spot. I was concerned that this haphazard method of locating the factory may have resulted in a considerable walk to the factory building. When we alighted and stood on the pavement, we noticed I had parked next to the factory and quickly realised the car was parked right next to the main entrance! I took some photographs and noted that the building looked exactly as it did on the Internet. When the rain eased, I crossed Chalmers street to take some photographs of the whole building. The image at the top of this page is from one of those photographs. After staring at the building from all sorts of angles I noticed that some of the letters from the words AUTOMATIC TOTALISATORS LTD could just be discerned near the top of the building, on the side facing Chalmers Street, although the name had been painted over. It was difficult to see and you needed very specific light conditions but when it was in view, although you could not make out every letter it was clear all the letters legible belonged to the name Automatic Totalisators Ltd and appeared in the correct order and respective position. This name can be seen in the following image in the Photo Gallery of this website, which shows this building when it was the ATL factory. The name is above the third floor windows on the right hand side of the building.

Having introduced coincidence, I think another astounding coincidence was meeting Ricky Lau in the Spence & Lyda shop in this building. History is a subject with a cult following and most people do not have the slightest interest in the history of the building they work in. I could not believe it when I realised Ricky not only was very interested in the history of the building he worked in but already knew it used to be the Automatic Totalisators Limited factory and knew of Sir George Julius and the significance of totalisator history. I will go as far as to write that I believe he was as passionate about this history as I am. I would not have imagined meeting someone like that in this building in my wildest dreams. Ricky Lau, joined Bob Pelemel ex engineering manager of Automatic Totalisators Limited, his wife Ursula, Narelle and I in December, when we were in Sydney for the ATL reunion dinner, in a visit to the Powerhouse Museum, to look over the Automatic Totalisators Limited archive there, hosted by Matthew Connell Principal curator at the museum. A good time was had by all.

To read a lot more about the Automatic Totalisators Limited factory that existed in this building, click on the image at the top of the page and select the image icon of the following image in the Photograph Gallery directory. This ex factory building has increased in significance since the Automatic Totalisators Limited factory at Meadowbank was demolished in 2016, as it is the only ex factory building of this company left standing.

To read more about the Automatic Totalisators Limited staff image above and see the full sized image, click on the image at the top of the page then scroll up and select the image icon of the previous image in the Photograph Gallery directory.