This 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 company founded to develop, manufacture and export these systems. This page contains an image of the Main Tote House at Harold Park Paceway and continues the memoirs of David Hamilton an Automatic Totalisators Branch Manager.

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Harold Park Main Tote House 1958

The handwritten annotation on the back of the photo reads ATL Harold Park NSW 1958. The typing on the back of the photo reads A view of the Pay Out and Selling Buildings in the Leger enclosure showing also the Qinella Odds Indicator and Results Board.

Below the image is part two of a three part document which is an extraction from the memoirs of David Hamilton. David was the New South Wales Operations Manager for Automatic Totalisators. David is the most modest man I have ever met. He had a nickname at Automatic Totalisators Commander Hamilton. It was not until after I retired that I discovered he used to be a Commander in the Royal Navy. In the text below, which are extracts from his memoirs, some information presented in part one is required if you are reading this without having read part one. Firstly, his wife is Erella and David has also referred to her as Matron E, or just E. David mentions Fred Armstrong who was the Australasian operations manager. Also many readers will interpret FAA as Federal Aviation Administration however in this context it means Fleet Air Arm. I find David's tote recollections very familiar as they mirror mine! David Mentions Del Elliott, Sid Williams and Asa Rand who I remember well from my time with ATL.


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The photographer's stamp reads Cameracraft Pty Ltd. Crayne Place. Phone BU 1594


I remember this building well and have performed some repairs to the PDP-11 systems inside the computer room in this building during that era. When I first joined Automatic Totalisators, I was sent to Harold Park as part of my induction to start learning about tote operations, something I knew nothing about. I met David in this building and Narelle, who had accompanied me as it was not during working hours, and I thoroughly enjoyed the night operation with David. I suspect David would have spent a lot of time in this building.

David Hamilton's Tote Memoirs Part 2

After attending races with Wal and learning the paperwork wash up required for ourselves, the race club and the NSW Government, Department of Sport and Recreation [DSR] I was sent to Brisbane, Queensland to relieve the Manager Kevin Gee, who was going on holiday. He showed me the ropes for a few days, during which time I did not get to bed any night before 1am. It was a different sort of relief to see him go!! One could be chatting in a bar after work with a teacher, an MP, a head of the civil service, a bookmaker and a bus driver. Being a smallish city and because it is Australian, management and lower rank personnel know and associate with each other. One night I won a plate of meat [did not know what to do with it]; pubs/clubs often had raffles.

So I looked after horse meetings at Eagle Farm, Doomben, and Ipswich, trots at Albion Park and dogs at Ipswich GRC and Brisbane GRC at Woolloongabba [the Gabba]. Areas that were separated at most tracks were, the Members, the Paddock - main public area, the Leger - cheaper entry price and less amenities and last of all the Flat - I only came across one of those and that was at Randwick. You had to walk across the race track to visit the totehouse. I only remember one panic - after an Ipswich meeting, back in the office, we could not balance the meeting, short of $200 in coin. I jumped into the car and drove back to the track, west of Brisbane. Of course the place was deserted but I was able to get into the grounds. Straight to the Totehouse and there, propping up a door [it had been a hot day] was the bag of coins.

There was a controversial MP, and Minister in the Qld Government, a thoroughly crooked piece of work, who used to attend race meetings, and one night after the meeting, at Albion Park, I wandered across the grass to the Committee Room to have a drink and nearly tripped over the drunken body of the man - I left him there.

Webmaster's Note: I recall two other stories regarding this controversial Racing Minister. The first comes from Neville Mitchell following:

He was The "Minister" for everything crooked in QLD. I had a meeting with him when we designed the tote and admission systems for the new track at Caloundra. He turned up at the meeting place Silks restaurant in the Grandstand of Albion Park Trotting Track. He was supported under each arm by two "assistants", he sat at the head of the meeting table. While the meeting progressed, he was continually talking on his phone, taking no notice of what was being discussed by the attendees. He did not care what we said as he had already let contracts to his mates or family members.

The second comes from an ex Queensland Branch Manager, Roger Penwarden and related by Neville Mitchell:

He arrived at the races, was short of cash, so he requested an advance from the tote. He presented a cheque for $1,000. Later I received a dishonoured cheque notice. At the next race meeting I approached him with a request to pay up.
He asked what was wrong with cheque as there was ample money in the account to cover the cheque. I explained that the cheque was invalid as he had not written One Thousand Dollars on the cheque's detail line. He exploded. "What the F****** HELL did I mean PEANUTS"!

Back to David's memoirs:

I got permission from the Stewards at Doomben to stand behind the starting gate and watch the horses being loaded. Very interesting and possibly the most comprehensive vocabulary of swear words in Australia!!!

The Woolloongabba dogs were unusual in that the track was round the outside of the Brisbane Cricket Ground arena, also known as the "Gabba". Test match in the afternoon and dog racing that evening? Hardly! Dog racing is a better spectacle in Australia than in the UK. 8 starters instead of 6 and the hare whizzes round on the inside of the track rather than the outside, which blocked vision of the dogs to some degree.

The Secretary of the Queensland Trotting Association was Peter Burge, a former Test cricketer. Another Test player I sometimes had a drink with at Harold Park Trots was Garry Sobers, officially Sir Garfield. Also spent an afternoon at a bar in Sydney with Keith Miller, by this time he had a fairly expensive complexion. Also in the RAAF during the war, he is known to scoff at those talking about the pressure in Test Matches, "rubbish , pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse." Recently, Bill Hart, ex FAA observer living in Adelaide, "found" Reg Ellis, bomber pilot in the UK during the war and played for Australia after the war with all the great names.

I stayed at a motel in the suburb of Woolloongabba and the local publican kept a large carpet snake [python] in his cellar to keep down the rats. One could have a peak at the sleeping beauty and see the lumps down the body where rats were being digested. Some farmers put down a saucer of milk if they find a python around the farmyard - they keep the rats down. The motel was well sited and if the ATL car was not required I took the ferry across the river and walked through the lovely Botanic Gardens to the office. After five weeks I returned to Sydney with some good memories of Brisbane.

I was still seconded to the NSW office and attended more race meetings and some off course conferences and learnt the tricks of the trade. Towards the end of the year I went to Adelaide to relieve the South Australian manager, Jim Sharpe, who was going back to the UK for long service leave. I was accommodated in a motel in Glenelg, by the sea. Again, if the car was not wanted I would take the cross country tram into the heart of Adelaide and walk to the office. The only other place I know of this happening are the very streamlined trams at Blackpool, Lancashire which go cross country to Fleetwood.

I serviced races at Victoria Park, Morphettville, Murray Bridge, Balaclava and the Onkaparinga Easter meeting and trots at Gawler, dogs at Globe Derby Park. Adelaide is the smallest state capital of the lot and very friendly. Then, there were no League or RSL clubs, as in the other States and so the hotels threw top class counter lunches. Most of the senior management in town had worked on the tote as youngsters, as their first job, so were especially friendly. While I was there I was able to get some Corning Ware and Stuart crystal at wholesale prices. I also picked up some nice antiques in Unley Street, which I still have in our house. Another personality in the area was Big Pretzel, the RAN told me she was very acrobatic on the dining table after dinner; unfortunately never caught up with her.

As I was in Adelaide over Xmas the Company kindly flew Erella down, she had some leave from Blacktown Hospital, during which time we explored the delights of the Barossa valley and the Murray River area.

It was difficult to get staff for Wednesday afternoon racing for out of town Murray Bridge, so I was told go to a retirement village and pick up four elderly gentlemen who were the key people in the tote-dividend calculators, banker and supervisor. Quite a surprise and I wondered if any would be on walking frames! Anyway they were a spritely bunch and knew everything and everyone at Murray Bridge so I left them to it in the rather decrepit and draughty totehouse. Driving them back to the village it was suggested that we stop on the way at a watering hole in a certain village. When we entered there was a large jug of cold beer already on a table; the landlord being used to this visit after every race meeting. I also remember one gallop meeting at Balaclava where it was so hot the Club officials cancelled the meeting before the first race. The wind was blowing from the "hot dead" heart of Australia to the north. On the way back we stopped for refreshment, and, on the front veranda at sunset, the temperature was still 42 degrees. The opposite, at night at the trots at Gawler, icy cold southerly- nothing between South Australia and Antarctica.

Adelaide is called the City of Churches and has a lovely cricket ground, the best one to watch a Test match. Another meeting of note was the Onkaparinga Easter picnic steeple chase, on a special racecourse in the hills. People camped there for the weekend and came in their thousands. Everyone partied - and that was the problem. The first race 'over the sticks' - off they went and the race caller was doing his usual job. [Oz race callers are the best in the world - with the exception of this one] The race finished, placings announced and then someone raised the alarm. Half the horses were still in the starting gate, and no one had noticed in the excitement. So, NO RACE was declared. Having heard the supposed results, punters of course discarded their "losing" tickets. With a 'no race' all tickets were due for a refund, and some very smart young lads were rushing around picking up all the discarded tickets. They must have cashed in enough tickets to save their parents donating pocket money for the year. And so the meeting progressed until, near the end. I don't think there was a sober person on the course, from Chairman down except for me - would you believe it - and some senior tote staff who I bribed to stay in the tote house all day by promising them dinner afterwards. The police had every patrol car in the State it seemed, stationed on all the exit roads, to harvest all the drivers over the limit. So, a good fun time was had by all. I can sum up with feeling, that [1] only in Australia and [2] once a year is enough.

After gallop meetings we often had supper at one of the pubs, eating with 2 or 3 of the tote staff was very pleasant and we had a lot of laughs. There were sometimes odd balls around to liven up the meal. I remember one woman who remarked to me that she lived on the Track, [the Birdsville] the arsehole of the world and Etadunna was 50 miles up it!! A well-built woman, she grabbed her chest and stated that she had the fastest tits in the West. I think her lunch had been liquid but it kept us amused. Again -only in Australia.

There were a couple of more incidents I recall. The SA TAB ran a one-off jackpot. The one winner was declared and he duly collected his winnings. A day later a punter, who had been away, walked into the TAB office and handed in another winning ticket !! Consternation and red faces. The first winner quite rightly refused to hand any money back and the TAB was legally obliged to pay on the second. There was a lot of squirming going on behind the scenes and I don't know what happened.

Artists impression of a Totemobile Artists impression of a mobile tote in operation

We had a totemobile for selling interstate tickets at the gallop meetings, a converted bus with selling machines down one side and a mechanical odds indicator above - the punters could bet on the local races at the tote-houses and also, say, Sydney. One day selling had started and I had a look at the mobile --oh my! The win odds were showing on the bottom line and the place ones above. Quick dash to sort things out!

Webmaster's Note:

I too have experienced this, in my case on a large permanent Win/Place indicator panel, where the win odds are shown on the place indicator and vice versa with a similar reaction of rushing to rectify the problem. This is a simple problem to rectify as the ribbon cables between the board controller and the Win and Place indicator panels are crossed over requiring the removal of two plugs and reconnecting in their correct sockets.

Coming back from Gawler one night I saw a fire in the distance and finally pulled up near a car blazing merrily. Fire crews arrive and put it out, to the applause of spectators. After they had left the white hot engine block started the fire going again. Back came the Firies [Oz. slang] and put it out. Driving away for the second time we all had a bet on whether the fire would start yet again and sure enough up come the flames. The Firies finally realised the cause of the problem and we all went home. One good eating I remember was a fish - the Orange Roughy.

After three enjoyable months I returned to Sydney, having learnt about another State.


button with horsesGo back to the index   button with horsesGo to the bottom of the page

In due course I was offered the job of Manager in Victoria, the biggest tote operation and I turned it down. To cover my back I sent my reasons first to the Director who was father-in-law to John Cary. This, I surmised, would ensure the true story would not get distorted along the way. The reason, of course, was Matron E, she would not get a similar job in Melbourne if we moved. Incidentally, E was trained in Melbourne and when she crossed the border to become the Matron of Cootamundra Hospital she forfeited all her Victorian superannuation. Victoria was a State that I still don't know well. Spent a few days at the RAC Club when ATL sent me down to sort out some problem and a weekend there when the company had a Managers Meeting and we stood in the middle of the empty football stadium - awesome [that's a current expression]. I remember a GM, pulling at the coloured handkerchief I often wore in my jacket pocket and saying 'poufter' - another Pom hater I presume.

So, after some shuffling I was given the same job in NSW. One condition, which was a bit mean, was that for the first six months I would only be paid the Relieving Managers rate. I did not argue but made sure I claimed every single dollar of expenses. Some years later I was asked if I would like to go to WA as manager and later asked to apply for the Tote Managerial position with the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club - turned down both for the same reason.

A Day at the Races: About a week before a Saturday gallop meeting at the Rosehill Racecourse, one of two owned by the Sydney Turf Club, the other being Canterbury, my Roster Clerk , Del Elliott would check the tote house roster that she had organised previously, replace drop outs and bring the numbers up to the correct amount, ticket sellers, payout clerks, bankers and supervisors. Val, of the Norfolk Island clan, organised the roster for our permanent engineers. Alan Lakeman, Ken Martin, Asa Rand, Reg Ferret, Lee Ryder, Sid Williams, and others, a good team and not afraid of hard work and odd hours. One day I came back to the office and found Asa's resignation on my desk. Apparently some of them had been working at Bulli and something happened to upset him. Unfortunately I had to accept it - if you start bargaining with someone who does that, you have lost your authority forever. He was a nice bloke and I hated doing it. He got a job which sometimes entailed passing my house and we always had a good chat when he stopped.

The office staff - secretary, Mrs Bosley, clerks Merv Melton, a man who looked twenty years older than he was and used to run to Fred Armstrong with tales. Alan Doulry who I found out, after he died, was a groper, Peter Pierce, and Tom Walsh who nearly drowned at a private house party. A good lesson on how not to behave if you have had a couple too many. He dived into the pool and just lay motionless face down on the surface - someone saw him, dived in and got him to the pool side.

One person I must mention is Del Elliot, my Roster Clerk. Hard worker, knew all the casual staff, never gossiped, liked by everyone and thrived on the complexities of putting the right person, allowing for their personal availability and character, in the right position. We had several hundred women on the roster and if I asked about a person because I thought there was something wrong, she would only tell me if I promised to keep it to myself. It was a new world for me and I was horrified at the number of women who had violent husbands - cause - grog 99% of the time. Women were far better to employ, honest, reliable, conscientious, hard working, never late. In those days everything like the house was in the man's name so if the woman wanted to leave she would be out on the street with nothing.

There were also some "cards" and one came to me and asked if she could be given some more work. She said she was very short of money and if she didn't get rostered more often she would have to "hawk her fork". She got more meetings! One busy day in a tote house we ran out of stools for the sellers so found some old short ones and stuck one on top of another. This time the "card" said, what's going to happen if I fall off and fracture my fanny?

TIMs J8 bottom left, J10 top left Image of a J10, J10A, J8 and J6

Webmaster's note: The above image shows the J8 and J10 TIMs (ticket issuing machines) which David mentions next. They belong to Kevin Johnston's collection, decades after they were last used.

Some days before the meeting our contractor, Ted Evans, collected enough of our J8s and J10 ticket machines from other Club venues and place them in the totehouses, as instructed. As many of the machines as possible remained at one track. He had a full time job moving them around, obvious when you see that our normal quota would be, Monday night - dogs, Tuesday - trots. Wednesday - gallops, Thursday night - dogs, Friday night - trots, Saturday - gallops day, and dogs night. In addition there was always a major gallop meeting on Public Holiday Mondays; interestingly I never had a day off in lieu. These meetings would all be at different venues, farthest north, Newcastle and farthest south Dapto dogs, farthest west Bathurst., There were only two in charge of tote operations, myself and my assistant Peter, it was a fairly hectic job. Being used to watchkeeping in the navy and flying all hours of the day and night it never bothered me.

Before the meeting our engineers ran the system and checked it out. Sometimes there were major problems - Warwick Farm, was almost in the countryside in those days and consequently there were less meetings than at Randwick. So, the rats could run out of food scraps and take to chewing our major cables. Mad panic to get it fixed before the meeting, Val and his boys never let me down. One of the amusements at WF were the screams that used to come from the ladies loo's. Between meetings frogs used to take up residence in the lavatory pans. Another time there were possum footprints across the ceiling in the dining area. Warwick was also home to a motor racing track which I often attended, I remember seeing Peter Brock racing a Mini Minor - he became a leading figure in the sport and saw Stirling Moss there as guest of honour. Talking of Minis, My first vehicle was a Mini van - very useful. One day it was stolen out of the ATL car park in front of the building, later the police rang and I went to the Bankstown constabulary car park to collect it. No damage just a flat battery.
Webmaster's note: I too have experienced the damage caused by rats chewing cables, as David wrote above. Usually they would gnaw through a communications cable cutting off part of the TIM network. The most impressive set of symptoms were caused by a rat severing half the conductors in a ribbon cable carrying the data bus signals in a large infield indicator. The gnawing resulted in a semicircle section missing in the cable.

Once at Canterbury I found the builders at work on race day. A digger was poised over an area and I yelled at the driver to stop' he yelled back that he was on piece work and lowered the bucket across our cables.
Webmasters Note: I have also experienced this many times when earth works have damaged cables at racetracks and used to grimace when I saw this activity close to a race meeting.

I organised my working hours by getting to the office at about 0700 -0730 when no one else was around and I could clear the in-tray without interruption. - About 0900 Fred would ring and ask how the recent meeting went. There would then be news of the football scores etc. for at least half an hour. The telephone was the greatest timewaster in business then, today the mobile phones. Funnily, an FAA observer who was in one of my squadrons recently reminded me that I always used to arrive at the squadron early morning.

More great time wasters were meetings in the Board Room. It seemed to be common practice to wait for the person or persons, who arrive late, before starting the meeting, thereby penalising those who made the point of being on time. Whenever I held one it started on the dot and anyone late would have to catch up. They got the message.

Our woman cleaner used to walk to work and she knocked off flowers from front gardens on her way in so I always had fresh flowers in my office. If I did not have any office meetings and the like, I would go home about 1500, relax for a while and then go to, say, Harold Park, arriving at 1800 ready for the trot meeting. I would leave the track around 2300 and go home. One night on leaving the car park in the centre of the track I got a flat tyre. Stopped and found I could not free the studs. Luckily there was one last car behind me and together we managed to undo them. Ever since then I have watched the garage hand closely and made him finish by tightening the studs by hand.

The Clubs we serviced were, from the north of Sydney - Newcastle Jockey Club -races at Broadmeadow and trots, there were dog races in Maitland. Broadmeadow reminds me of a cancellation before the first race, again because of torrential rain. Driving back to Sydney on the motorway cars were still belting past at breakneck speed. I drove at around 50kph and even then one could not see more than 100 metres. I was frightened of slowing down further in case I got hit from behind.

I used to go up the day before the race, stay at a hotel and 0630 next morning drive up to Swan Bay, off the main road and a dead end, which was an oyster farm area. The ATL woman 2 i/c who had lived in Newcastle all her life and knew everyone, would have rung through my order previously. When I arrived they would pack 12 oysters, straight out of the water, and chilled, into a cake box. I would leave with 5 boxes in an Esky with ice, attend the meeting and drive home afterwards. Next day, which would be a Sunday, lunch on the patio, 5 dozen oysters, thin brown bread and butter and an ice cold beer. What more could one want?

The ATL man at Newcastle was Wal Boa, a solicitor and brother of the boss of ATL, the late Alf Boa, and we got on well, after I suggested that he consult me before making big decisions - found he had let the TAB have some windows in the tote, not for long!

Back to the other venues. Australian Jockey Club [AJC] races at Randwick and Warwick Farm, Sydney Turf Club [STC] at Rosehill and Canterbury, trots at Harold Park, New South Wales Trotting Club [NSWTC], also Menangle Park, Bankstown TC, Fairfield TC, Parramatta TC, [which closed fairly soon, and became a speedway] dogs at Harold Park - New South Wales Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association [GBOTA] and Wentworth Park, National Coursing Association [NCA], who I found to be the roughest of them all. Further south races Kembla Grange - Illawarra Turf Club. This list does not name the Clubs I won for ATL during my tenure.

I noted that all display boards at the race tracks such as odds and results indicators were painted black with white figures/letters, not attractive - always look drab and not the clearest for seeing. I talked most Clubs into what I thought was the best combination, green background with yellow figures/letters. Brighter and longer lasting. I think H Park was the first.

Val Adams, my chief engineer, came to me one day and said there were a lot of unused lamp boxes in store and suggested he could get them working. I went up to Newcastle and had a meeting with the Club Secretary and Committee members who agreed to build an odds indicator board. Val installed the light boxes, wiring and switch system. Everyone was happy and we made a nice profit out of items that had been forgotten. During the installation the Sec. asked me if they were second hand as some had a bit of rust, and I was able to say they were unused and there could have been a leak in the store room. I forget if we did any more installations.

In the third paragraph above starting "Back to the other venues" David provides a list of raceclubs that his department serviced. Following is an example of tickets from four of the clubs david refers to, provided by Chris Robertson, the most totalisator industry knowledgeable high value punter I know.

Chris Robertson's Tote Tickets Image of tote tickets from Randwick, Rosehill, Cantebury and Menangle

Chris purchased these tickets in 1973 and 1974, so these tickets were all produced by David's totalisator systems at Rosehill, Randwick, Menangle and Canterbury, as he was the NSW Operations Manager at the time. Chris wrote the following about these tickets:
Sydney J8 & J10 (TIMs). The iconic ATL tickets of the era. The Menangle ticket was purchased from a tote mobile. Menangle was then the number two NSW Trotting Club track. With the closure of Harold Park, the rebuilt Tabcorp Park Menangle is Australia's premier harness racing track.

You can see some of Chris' Harold Park tickets in the next page of this webiste accessible by selecting the next page button in the Nav Bar at the bottom of this page.

Neville Mitchell recalls the Qinella indicator

Neville Mitchell, a long serving ATL Engineer and Manager recalls the project to redesign the Quinella indicator on top of the entrance to the tote building in the photo at the top of this page:

The photo of the Paddock Tote shows the Quinella lamp box indicator. This indicator was later relocated on top of the rebuilt Paddock Tote building and converted to display Win/Place odds, just prior to the PDP8 installation. I subcontracted the re-work of the lamp panels to show money back odds, adding a decimal point. A mechanical design engineer devised a bus-bar system to power the lamp panels. The bus-bars were placed across the top of the lamp panels, with power leads dropping down to each display unit [2 1/2 digits with red flashing decimal point]. On powering up we found that the voltage drop in each lead as it got longer showed a very distinct lessening of lamp brightness. This was a disaster for the monochrome CCTV system as maximum brightness was needed for the Twilight meetings when the setting sun was full onto the indicator face. Peter Rolls the project manager was not impressed.

A very quick redesign and manufacture of the bus-bar arrangement was organised and the offending engineer made to come and reconnect each display unit with power leads of exactly the same length. The indicator redesign from the original Qinella odds only, was to now display 10 starter W & P odds with Quinella, Grand Totals, Minutes to Race, and "TAB included" display lamps. I was very much involved with this indicator's design, we had to arrange the displays to fit onto the CCTV screens in 3 x 4 format.

Webmaster's addendum

Neville Mentions the PDP-8 installation above. When this system was installed here by Automatic Totalisators, Harold Park became the first racecourse in the Southern Hemisphere to have an electronic totalisator system. There is information on this system in the page after next in this website accessible by following the next page buttons in the nav bar at the bottom of the page.

This is an example of how much I agree with everything David is writing. He mentioned an instance of earthworks causing a problem with the tote and I have a lot of experience with that. A major strength of David's memoirs is that it presents the human side of the tote whereas a lot of it, by nature tends to be technical. For those who are enjoying the respite from the technical viewpoint I suggest you skip my comments and navigate to the 3rd part of David's memoir at the bottom of the page, just noting that a lot can be written supporting David's recollections. For those left in two minds regarding wading through the following bulk of text, my addition only borders on technical.

I mentioned grimacing when seeing earthworks shortly before a race meeting. The racetracks were a very hostile environment in general for electronic installations. I used to raise the alarm regarding the risks to successful operations that were being taken. Earthworks at racetracks have broken tote cabling on multiple occasions. If the break is discovered on the morning of a meeting it could mean a long interruption to tote service in the affected area and possibly repairs would have to wait until the grounds were free of the crowd. A more obscure problem could arise when pulling in new cables into old ducts. The ducts which often were already crowded, had new cables pulled through them. The new cables could apply tension to the old ones which being very old lost their elasticity and became prone to breaking. Unfortunately they may not break when the new cables are first installed, but submit to the tension some time later making it more difficult to convince anyone that the eventual failure was caused by the installation of new cables as the effect does not chronologically, exactly match the cause. The worst case scenario is that the cable breaks during a meeting. I have seen this on multiple occasions, cables that have been performing well for more than two decades break shortly after new cables are reefed into their crowded duct.

Another earthworks or building works side effect that caused me to grimace was vibration. In the early days of Winchester Disk drive technology, when a 50 MB disk drive took two people to lift, we discovered that vibration was a major factor in causing head crashes. The heads fly a few microns above the surface of the disk platters in the boundary layer and vibration can cause the head to contact the platter surface which could cause a variety of problems ranging from data loss to a head crash which would render the disk drive in need of major repair. I have been in racetrack computer rooms feeling floor vibrations through my feet.

Dust and dirt are other enemies of electronics. In modern data centres you are not allowed to take a sheet of paper in the computer/communications centre to refuse entry to the dust that might come with it. On a racetrack I have seen a hole bored through the ceiling of the computer room dumping rubble onto the floor of the computer room! Unfortunately there was a bin full of ticket readers, all cleaned up and perfectly aligned for a big carnival meeting and the bin caught a major part of the rubble, not to mention the dust floating around the room being ingested into the computers by cooling fans. Another enemy to electronics is water and racetracks are a good place to provide no shortage of this. Race-clubs often clean the outside of their tote houses by water-blasting or hosing. The heritage listed tote houses were notorious for letting the water in through cracks around the windows. I have seen a carnival ready tote house with some 15 ticket issuing machines all wet from a water cleaning of the outside of the building. So much for the man provided watering, then there was the water provided by the elements. Often tote houses leaked during rain and sometimes the water would get into the TIMs or worse still, the computer room. On multiple occasions several attempts were made to eliminate leaking in two tote houses on separate race tracks and despite considerable time and effort being made by experts in the field, they continued to leak.

The worst ticket issuing machine I ever repaired was one that happened to be underneath a plumber working to repair a leak. The work resulted in the TIM being doused in sewerage. The first job in repairing the TIM was to clean it all out. Peweee! The odour was never completely eliminated from this machine. After it was repaired and returned to service, I could always tell without looking up the records when this machine was returned for repair of subsequent faults.

Having mentioned cleaning out prior to repair, I have seen an LCD reader inside a ticket issuing machine so crammed full of ants that you could not pack it more tightly with ants if you tried. It was a total amazement how the ants had managed to cram so many into such a small space. David mentions rats above. I have seen many cables that look like they have been gnawed through by rats. I have also seen several rats on racecourses. The biggest headache a rat gave us was in an infield indicator. The indicator was exhibiting some very obscure symptoms. Cabling is often an early suspect in fault analysis however a cursory check found no problems. In this case we ended up resorting to the slower and more meticulous analytical approach after having exhausted the educated guess and eliminate the possibility approach which can produce a solution a lot more quickly by taking repeated, likely to be the cause, stabs at the problem. The analytical approach identified a bus that had a problem. We eventually found a ribbon cable, carrying the bus signals to be the cause. For those not familiar with ribbon cable it is a flat cable with the conductors lying side by side. From memory it had about 25 conductors. About half the conductors were severed. There was a gaping missing section out of the cable in the shape of a semicircle. The rat probably positioned itself perpendicular to the cable and craned its head between 90 degrees left to 90 degrees right as it gnawed at the cable creating the semicircle! The duct in which this cable was hidden had been checked for broken cables, however as there are multiple ribbon cables lying on top of each other and as the ducts spanned the length of the indicator, it escaped initial detection. Another contributory factor in not initially finding it is that one is cautious of imparting too much movement to the old cables as it could cause new faults particularly in the associated connectors.

We also had a possum and its baby take up residence on top of a bank of VDAs (Video Distribution Amplifiers), inside the space between the inner and outer walls, with access doors on the inner wall. This space contained the connections between the computer room and the track. The possum was probably attracted by the warmth the VDAs provided, especially sitting on top of them! Our major concerns about this was the possibility of the movement dislodging a VDA from its socket and the possibility of urine trickling into the electronics. The mother possum was incredibly placid for an animal that must have been far from tame. Although it was cornered when you opened the door to plug in connectors for a meeting which had been removed to avoid lightning damage, you would be face to face with this animal and it would look at you as if to say Gdday, nice to see you, how is your day going! Prior to the baby, we had it removed once. The possum catcher said that he was legally bound to release the animal within a certain radius of its capture. He said that although he would take it the furthest distance allowable, he expected it to return if there was the slightest crack in the building to provide it access. He was right. It did not take long for it to return! It was not in residence all year around and I think it came here for the winters.

Part 3 can be found in the next page of the website. Select the next page button in the Nav Bar below. 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.


Fancy Line


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