This page contains an image which is one of several belonging to the photo gallery pages which are part of several company and technology history pages relating to the invention of the world's first automatic totalizator in 1913, a system that facilitates galloping trotting and greyhound race betting. This system, along with many others like it, demonstrates that electro-mechanical computing on an industrial scale did exist.

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The World's Biggest Tote 1933 White City Stadium London

Electro-Mechanical Computing on an industrial scale

The Adders and Switchboard for win place and forecast pools, White City London 1933. This is part of one of the first Large Scale Real Time Multi User Systems. In contemporary parlance this can be regarded as a view inside the Electro Mechanical Computer Room.

The Plaque in the centre of the control panel below the clock reads: JULIUS TOTALISATOR - INSTALLED BY - TOTALISATORS LTD - 3 THAMES HOUSE - QUEEN ST PLACE E.C.4. Totalisators Limited was a UK based associate company of Automatic Totalisators Limited and was formed in London to manufacture, install and operate totalizators in the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa. John Relle, the son of Vernon the ex chief engineer of Totalisators Limited, informed me the office was in Park Street Mayfair, London and moved to the address given in an Automatic Totalisators Ltd document as Prudential House, Croydon, Surrey England in the late 1960s. More after the image...


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A 1937 Referee newspaper article, refers to the White City Julius Tote as The World's Biggest Tote. This can be read in the next image page of the Photo Gallery.

Information from John Relle

John Relle also wrote the following about his father's work at Totalisators Limited:

My Father was Chief Engineer and Dick Chiltern was Managing Director, before him it was a man called Whatley, I cannot remember his first name. Father spent some time in Australia I think in the 1950s

He installed totes in Longchamp Paris France, Cleveland Ohio USA, Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Ashanti Gold Coast ( now Ghana) Solvalla Stockholm Sweden, Cork Ireland. Also some in England.

He also designed and installed one of the indicator boards at the old Wembley Stadium. I know they did a lot of work for the GRA in the UK. I think the company was bought by Ladbrooks(sic) in the years before my father retired.

Memories of Vernon Relle from William Johnson

On reading the above information on Vernon Relle, in May 2015, William Johnson wrote his recollections of Vernon. William worked for Automatic Totalisators Ltd. as an Engineer and Manager and spent most of his time overseas. Interestingly, his father, also William Johnson, also worked for Automatic Totalisators Ltd. Williams's recollection:

In 1951 on the way to the United States to join our father for two years, Vernon placed my sister, my two brothers and myself in turn, on his shoulders to watch the changing of the guard in London. He, or he and his family, were in their house during the war when a V1 or V2 German rocket bomb dropped through the roof of his (3 story?) residence. Fortunately it did not explode. I cannot remember if he ever visited Australia. He was a typical English gentleman. Our parents entertained many engineers who visited ATL. My father loved taking them to our grandfather's house at Kilcare on the Central Coast. It was a wonderful bushy place to visit for overseas guests and most had to "suffer" a three mile hike up and down coastal hills to his favourite fishing spot on the rocks at "Kangaroo, just a hop and jump" near the "Maitland" shipwreck.

William added the following in a later communication:
Vernon was very kind to us during out ten days in London waiting for a ship to continue our family's trip for two years to the USA. Our father was already working and being in charge of the American installations. He was not prepared to be away from the family for two years so ATL moved us to Boulder City, Nevada, etc.

We were there mostly with a six month visit to Cleveland, Ohio for work at Randall Park and a few weeks work in Jackson, Michigan. Then back to Boulder City for about six months then home.

Our father flew down to Brazil for a while during our stay in the USA. I remember seeing Keith Dodwell, Alan Lakeman, Malcolm Le Barr?, George Clemmer, Edward Both and several other Australians but I cannot remember their names at this moment. (Webmaster's note: Edward Both invented Visitel, a product ATL manufactured, which could transmit someone's writing from a transmitter unit to a receiver, by mechanically following the pen movements. When I worked in Queensland on the introduction of the computer totes that replaced the Julius totes there were Visitel machines on each of the tracks I worked on.)

Reply from John Relle re William Johnson's recollection

The residence William remembers was 344 King's Road, Chelsea, SW3. We lived there until the mid 1950's. It was a maisonette, with a shop underneath with two floors above. I don't remember about the V1/2 but I have looked through the telephone directories for the period on Ancestry.co.uk and I see the my parents moved in 1942/3 so they may have been bombed out. I expect William Johnson Snr. met when Vernon was working in Cleveland.

When my father was abroad he used to send me post cards each week. I kept them all for a long time but they have got lost. One other thing Vernon's father, John Frederick Relle, was chief engineer to the Eastern Telegraph Co. Perhaps that's where his engineering gifts came from.

Information on the image above

In the foreground are two table mounted Forecast pool adders one for the runner combination 2-5 and the other 2-4. These tables continue in a long line to the left and right of the image. There are rows of adders behind the photographer. Five adding shafts are visible across the tops of the tables. These contain solenoids that receive impulses from the ticket issuing machines, which cause escapement mechanisms to activate allowing the rotation of the adding shafts. The angular displacement of the adding shafts represents the value of bets. The rotation resulting from each escapement activation on an adding shaft is summed by the epicyclic gear train. The long tubular shafts at the far end of each of the five adding shafts, are called storage screws. These are a mechanical type of memory used as buffers between the relatively high acceleration adding shafts and the inertia limited parts of the adder. The scanners shown in the last two images in the White City section of the Photo Gallery, and are mentioned below, multiplex eight Ticket Issuing Machines onto each of the solenoids in the adding shafts.

The Control Panel shown in this image is about three times the size of what is visible. There are pillars visible at the left and right hand ends of the image and the control panel extends behind these pillars to the left and right. To the right of the left pillar, on the control panel there are three columns of isolation switches, one for each of the eight machines attached to a scanner, visible near the top. These isolate ticket issuing machines from the scanner, used in the event of a ticket issuing machine fault. Below these switches are six banks of overlap relays which maintain the betting circuit voltage for the duration of the transaction cycle, after the scanner has selected a particular TIM (Ticket Issuing Machine). Below each double column of overlap relays, are columns of two scanners each. These scanners are circular devices, which are electromechanical TDMs (Time Division Multiplexers), which existed long before the digital signalling methods that made this concept of Time Division Multiplexing commonplace. They consist of an arm that sweeps past a ring of eight studs which each has a TIM attached to them. The arm applies a voltage to each stud as it passes them which can be considered as generating an enabling pulse. The equipment just described to the right of the left pillar can also be seen on the left of the right hand pillar except instead of 3 columns of this equipment there are only two visible. This equipment is repeated to the left of the left hand pillar and to the right of the right hand pillar to the ends of the control panel. All this equipment just described can be thought of as the front end system of the Julius Tote. A complete view of the Control Panel and the Front End system equipment can be seen in the image after the next of the Photo Gallery.

Julius Tote Installations in the UK.

John Relle mentions Wembley Stadium above. Wembley Stadium was originally called Empire Exhibition Stadium. Following are some UK installations extracted from an ATL document titled The Julius Premier TOTEMOBILE A Product of AUTOMATIC TOTALISATORS LIMITED. It can be seen from this document that the first Wembley (Empire) Stadium installation had 272 terminals. This is only one terminal short of the second largest Julius tote Installation, which was in Longchamps France, which had 273 terminals. The White City Stadium in London can be seen in the document below as having 320 terminals.

JULIUS "PREMIER" TOTALISATOR INSTALLATIONS completed prior to World War 2
Where InstalledTypeTotalNo. ofNo. of
runnersIndicatorsTerminals
or combs
WHITE CITY STADIUM London EnglandW. P. & F.423320
EMPIRE STADIUM Wembley EnglandW. P. & F.423272
HARRINGAY RACECOURSE EnglandW. P. & F.421220
BELLE VUE RACECOURSE EnglandW. P. & F.42185
BROUGH PARK EnglandW. P. & F.42174
EASTVILLE STADIUM EnglandW. P. & F.42174
HALL GREEN RACECOURSE EnglandW. P. & F.42164
WHITE CITY EnglandW. P. & F.42153
LEEDS RACECOURSE EnglandW. P. & F.42252
POWDERHALL ScotlandW. P. & F.42152
TYNESIDE SPORTS STADIUM EnglandW. P. & F.42144
MIDLAND GREYHOUND RACING CO. EnglandW. P. & F.42142
WILLENHALL RACECOURSE EnglandW. P. & F.42130
STENHOUSE STADIUM ScotlandW. & P.12127

JULIUS "PREMIER" TOTALISATOR INSTALLATIONS completed since WW2
TotalNo. ofNo. of
Where InstalledTyperunnersIndicatorsTerminals
or combs
EMPIRE STADIUM Wembley EnglandW. P.123102
WHITE CITY Old Trafford EnglandW. P. & F.42153

JULIUS "PREMIER" TOTALISATOR INSTALLATIONS now being manufactured
TotalNo. ofNo. of
Where InstalledTyperunnersIndicatorsTerminals
or combs
HARRINGAY RACECOURSE EnglandForecast.301198
GREYHOUND RACING ASSOCIATION LTD. EnglandW. P. & F.42blankCapacity of 828
Notes: W. Win, P. Place, S. Show, D. Doubles, F. Forecast.
Web-master's Note: according to this document there were no Show or Double pool totalisators in the UK

Bob provided the following information when approving my reproducing information on Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh, recorded in the first table above, which he had on the Internet. I concluded that Bob intended this to be used on this website. Now that I am retired and have the time to attend to these things, my email address for Bob is no longer valid. As I am unable to confirm that presenting this information on the Internet was Bob's intention I have not presented his surname or any other details. If you are reading this Bob and you are happy to have your details presented here, please let me know via the email contact at the bottom of this page. Bob mentions multiple tracks recorded above.

Bob W's recollections of Greyhound stadiums in the UK

I will write you a bit of history about greyhound racing in the British Isles. I worked at Middlesbrough dog track which had a tote, to be frank I took very little notice of it, the tote- I was a kennel boy, on race nights my job was to catch the hare when it stopped before the dogs got to it, the racing dogs wear wire muzzles, but they are made of wire with sharp points and welds and have gaps, when the hare passes the winning line the hare driver speeds up the hare so as to increase the distance from the dogs before it reached me, otherwise I would have 6 huge dogs diving at me to get the hare which of course they think is live, sometimes they snap at the hare [which is hidden behind my back] and the dogs own muzzle wire cuts the dogs gums and tongue.

Getting back to the tote Middlesbrough and Stockton had totes, Stockton dog track owners had a little fiddle going, after the dogs had crossed the finishing line they placed £20-00 worth of bets on the winner and the winning 1st -2nd - forecast, and each race they picked up the fiddle winnings from £20-00 worth of bets, each bet was 2/- [2 shillings] so £20-00 would be 200 tickets. I myself noticed the STOCKTON DOGS tote display window/board runnning up these phoney tickets but thought it was genuine late bets going through, The owners were prosecuted for fraud. At Middlesbrough dogs they had a tote with big display board, it must have been 30 feet high, the custom was to put your bets on [that's if you were in the know] when the first dog and gone into the first trap, you then had about one minute to place all your bets before the off. They put 6 dogs in the traps and during this short wait all the big money bets went on.

Most of the greyhound tracks have now gone, White City London was the most famous, I walked and thumbed lifts twice, 1958, 1959, 250 miles each way to see the Greyhound Derby, its laughable to think that I had to sleep in roadside hedges not having money for much else.

I live in Leeds, at one time we had local about 10 tracks, most of these have now gone, and only SHEFFIELD OWLERTON is left, Belle Vue Manchester gone, and Perry Barr in Birmingham. IN LONDON I think just Wimbledon is left, and last year Walthamstow was closed. All these tracks had a tote, which was the essential means for the track owners to earn some money other/ over the gate money. You probably know that Bookies had the right to stand by UK law providing they paid a nominal sum of [I think] it was 10x times the normal public admission price. They made a fortune because the really big bets went to bookies, I know they have a tote in France at the races, in France they do not have bookies, so the tote is the only gambling allowed [on tracks].

An interesting subject is the hares used at dog tracks, they have inside SUMNER HARES, and outside MCGEE HARES, the McGee hares by far the best. There's a good NGRC dog site on the web [www] also a good breeding and pedigree site, which may list all the remaining UK dog tracks. With regard to public attendances its nice going to the dogs between May to August, in the summer, but in the winter you can imagine how cold, rainy and miserable those places are, you then had in those days very heavy fogs so racing was often abandoned 'due to fog' which in practice, meant the dogs couldn't see the hare, and the hare driver couldn't see the hare or the dogs, and the public couldn't see the race or the TOTE BOARD??? chaos reigned, so everyone went home early. Did you know that if the last race was a photo-finish then about 50 to 100 winning tickets went uncollected because people had rushed for the bus [buses] home. Then many threw their tickets away thinking wrongly that the dog theyd bet on had lost, so on each race there was always a percentage of unclaimed winning tickets. The normal card was 8 races, usually 6 dogs per race, the dogs were bought in from Ireland, and the real sadness behind greyhound racing is that the dogs were destroyed quite regularly. Middlebrough dogs owned 160 track dogs, just dogs only, no bitches, they destroyed about 50 each year, and bought 50 to replace them. You had enormous social problems with working men losing their wages on the dogs and gambling especially dog racing gambling was an evil.

Chris Robertson's recollections of UK dog tracks

The following are extracts of an email sent to me in August 2015. Chris is the most informed punter I have ever met, on the subject of punting as well as totalisator companies, their products and history. I asked if he would write about the system at Wembley when I heard the old Julius tote machinery that operated there would be put on display in the London Science Museum. Chris is observing mechanical systems in operation at the end of this era when totalsiator companies are developing digital computer based systems, leaving clubs making the most of their investment in their old systems, looking old fashioned.

It was thirty-six years ago this month that I encountered the Julius tote in action at both White City and Wembley in London. I also saw it in use at Harold's Cross in Dublin. In all I attended three greyhound tracks in London, and four in Ireland. The only non ATL totalisator I saw at the greyhounds was at Wimbledon, where Bell Punch machines were in action. I was familiar with this machine as it was the ticket issuing machine of choice of Control Systems Totalisators in Victoria until 1978. In Ireland, apart from at Harold's Cross, I saw greyhound racing at Shelbourne Park in Dublin, as well as at Cork and Waterford. Those latter three courses were using J8 machines to sell Win, Place and Forecast betting - all pools available from any ticket issuing machine. This was the first time I saw a J8 machine being used for any pool other than Win and Place.

I wish I could say I had detailed notes on my experience of Wembley greyhounds, but all I am left with are impressions, and vague ones at that. It was August 1979, and I had arrived in London after nine weeks spent in the United States and Canada.

Of all the thoroughbred courses I visited in Britain and Ireland in 1979, the only mechanised selling equipment I saw was at Ascot (where Bell Punch machines were in operation). But even at Ascot most of the sales were pre-printed or hand written tickets. There were no tote indicators and no publication of pool sizes. The greyhound tracks were better in that the totalisator was mechanised, but I'm afraid I dismissed it as an archaic relic of an era that should have been scrapped several decades earlier.

What I do remember of Wembley was a feeling of deflation. This was the venue where only three months previously Arsenal and Manchester United had played out a classic 3-2 FA Cup Final before a packed house. I was looking forward to visiting the site of the Gunners' success, but what I saw was a tired old stadium needing major work to bring it up to the standard of a Melbourne Cricket Ground, for example. The fact that the attendance at the greyhounds could be measured in the hundreds made it easy to see how spartan the stadium's facilities were; something that was not in evidence from watching an FA Cup final on TV. The main totalisator was in the hall which would have been used for entertaining at major football and rugby league fixtures. There was one aspect of the visit that I do remember favourably, and that was the Tote Indicator Board. Like White City, an electronic tote board provided up-to-date information on the current state of betting, including all thirty forecast permutations (six dog fields are the norm at most British and Irish greyhound tracks). It seemed incongruous that this ancient system was providing patrons with so much more information than later systems in Australia did prior to the computer tote.

I did visit Wembley in February 1980 - this time for a football match - but since Ireland were defeated 2-0 by England, I don't have any positive recollections of that occasion either. Lest it seems I had a miserable time in England, I should say I enjoyed going to the gallops, despite the poor tote service. It was an interesting challenge predicting likely tote returns in a blind pool. The pre-printed tickets all had serial numbers on them in order to tally sales, and given that the tickets were issued from a centralised point in each tote house, some sort of trend could be ascertained by buying tickets on several fancied runners, and comparing the serial numbers of the relevant tickets. It was a bit hit and miss, but it was a way to enjoy an afternoon's racing without losing a great deal of money. It's just occurred to me that my talents might have been better suited to marketing tote betting in England, rather than actually engaging in the pastime. Webmasters Note: I have included this paragraph, as I am fascinated by Chris' description of purchasing additional "fancied runner" tickets, just to gain some insight into betting trends. It is an amazing deomonstration of the extent that punters will go, to compensate for deficiencies in the system, in this case a system that is essentially manual. After Chris read this comment he added the following:
To be absolutely candid it was more miss than hit. The proportion of tickets sold on each runner varied according to the value of the ticket. A greater proportion of fifty pence tickets were on longer priced horses than was the case for higher value tickets. I quickly learned that it was safer to bet on the roughies because in a blind pool there is a much greater chance they were being seriously under supported by the wagering public. Also, large bets laid at tote odds in the Tote's own high street betting shops tended to be transmitted to the tote for inclusion in the pool, whereas smaller bets were hardly worth a phone call to the central office.

I found an interesting paper on the subject of gambling in the U.K. titled Betting, Sport and the British, 1918-1939, written by Mike Huggins, University of Cumbria, St Martin's College, and published in the Journal of Social History, Winter 2007. One of the staggering statistics quoted in the paper was the attendance at greyhound meetings. By December 1926 White City was averaging 40,000 people per night.

In January 2016 Chris wrote again. He sent some images of tote tickets he collected whilst in the UK. What I find particularly interesting about Chris' tickets is that they illustrate that the Julius Totes listed in company documents are not some figment, but are actual systems. There actually were 17 of these Julius totes operating in Ireland alone, according to the list in the Tote Topics chapter of this website. An extract of Chris' email reads:
Tickets are from August 1979 Wembley and White City Greyhounds (London), and Harolds Cross Greyhounds (Dublin).

Image of Chris Robertson's UK Tote Tickets White City, Wembley, Harolds Cross tickets

When I asked for confirmation that the tickets were from the Julius totes operating at these tracks he wrote the following:
It hadn't occurred to me that the tickets could be other than from a Julius Totalisator, but then I'm hardly an authority. Logically they can't be anything else though. Wembley and White City would hardly junk one old system, only to replace it with another of the same vintage from a different source. They certainly weren't Bell Punch machines. I've scanned some ATL J8 tickets from Shelbourne Park (Dublin) and Cork greyhounds. You can see from the reverse of the J8 ticket next to the (probable) Julius ticket that they are sourced from the same supplier, and the traditional ribbon pattern is replicated on each ticket. But to be safe I should have said that they are almost certainly from a Julius Totalisator, rather than be definite.

In Doron Swade's New Scientist Article in October 1987 titled "A sure bet for understanding computers", he writes "The staff of the Science Museum also hopes to reassemble a slightly later machine dating from 1933, which came out of service at Wembley Stadium last year..." This indicates the Wembley Julius Tote ceased operation in 1986 and as it was in operation since 1933 it was definitely in operation when Chris visited. I have also read that the last greyhound meeting held at White City Stadium in London was on 22 September 1984 an it is highly improbable that the Julius Tote was superseded prior to that time.

The White City and Wembley tickets come from systems recorded in the above list of installations as WHITE CITY STADIUM London England and EMPIRE STADIUM Wembley England. A list of installations in Ireland appears in the Tote Topics chapter of this website under the heading "Some Listed Installations." One customer recorded there is "The Dublin Greyhound & Sports Association Ltd. - Dublin" and this organisation traded as Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium.

Shelbourne Park and Cork ticketsImage of Chris Robertson's UK Tote Tickets

As Chris has mentioned "scanning J8 tickets from Shelbourne Park (Dublin) and Cork greyhounds", I have included the images above. In the list of installations in the Tote Topics chapter, previously mentioned in the paragraph above this image, these customers recorded there are "Shelbourne Greyhound Stadium Limited - Dublin" and "Cork Greyhound Race Co. Ltd. - Cork".

Neville Mitchell made a comment regarding the security methods applied to these and later Julius Tote tickets:

I noticed the minimum security in background on these old tickets. Later ticket paper background printing had what was called Cheque Writer swirls and print line density and frequency. Also I noted there was no paper roll alphabetical letter on the tickets edge.

At the final stage in the life of Julius mechanical totes, ticket paper and its management reached its peak. High quality printing with all of the evolved forge proofing was further backed up by race day procedures, such as the race day codes for the race number were kept secret until 30 minutes before the first race, as was the ticket paper colour and alphabetical letter. Although forgeries did occur they were usually quickly detected and measures taken to find the perpetrators.

It was a task undertaken by the Design Office, to each year create new background printing and develop new code words, designs of value type, which were changed, as well as individual track, date and window number type pieces. This was in the pre computer era so developing the code words caused much hilarity sorting out the offensive four and five letter codes which was done manually. One of my Tracers a Gwen Shipton delighted in designing complex artworks and fonts to assist in making forgeries difficult.

Neville mentions the code words. The code words on these tickets are PENTS, &EMS, Mere, on the first three and DNFA, HILIO, and CUTYA on the second three. Neville sent the following image of some code barrels from the J8 Ticket Issuing Machines, the type that produced the above tickets. Neville also sent the following text.

Image of Chris Robertson's UK Tote TicketsJ8 TIM Code Barrels

These are code barrels that I rescued and gave to Bob Moran. Note the three index points marked A B C, this extended the race number to code word race day settings.

The code barrels were issued to the Tote mechanic on race day with the value ,date and track type pieces. The mechanic could then fix the type pieces to the type plate then install it in the issuer but not fit the code barrel.

The Tote house manager would open the race day instruction envelope twenty minutes before race one which contained the code barrels first setting ,locating the barrel in the A B or C index notch as directed. The instructions also included the details for the ticket paper to be used .

The mechanic would install the barrel and take a test ticket on the correct ticket paper which would then be checked by the house manager. The race day code and the ticket paper margin letter were kept secret until twenty minutes before betting opened.

The ticket paper was changed for each race, a Paper Boy or Girl was responsible for the distribution of each roll of ticket paper with the directed alpha letter and back ground colour, each used roll of ticket paper was collected and returned to a secure store.

For each race change the paper roll was changed and a test ticket taken then inspected by the house manager checking all of the details This was an ATL essential to an ideal totalisator operation. The CHECK ON THE CHECK philosophy was instilled in everyone who had a task to do each race and each race day.


Fancy Line


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