This is one of several pages relating to the history of the automatic totalizator, a system that facilitates galloping trotting and greyhound racing betting, its invention in 1913, the inventor George Julius and the Australian company he founded in 1917 which became a monopoly and later part of an oligopoly in this field. This page provides information on the Melbourne Cup. If you wish to start from the beginning then go to the index
|To Melbourne for the Cup - Tote Topics 1968|
This is an article, which appeared in the 1968 Tote Topics number 22. Tote Topics was the company magazine for Automatic Totalisators Ltd later known as ATL.
What visions of excitement and hopes of new found affluence are conjured up by that phrase "To Melbourne for the Cup!!!" - the premier and glamour race of the Australian turf.
The Melbourne Cup ranks both in money and interest with the few, very few, other great turf classics of the world. All Australian sportsmen who can beg, borrow or steal the money and the time will converge on Melbourne on the traditional first Tuesday in November, Tuesday 5th November, 1968, when the 108th Melbourne Cup will be run at Flemington Racecourse.
At approximately 2.40 p.m. some 26 horses, the safety limit for the race, will leave the barrier to cover two miles in approximately 3 mins.20 secs. to compete for the trophy given for one of the most famous races in the world. This year's race carries prize money of $60,000 and a gold cup valued at $2,000. The winner's owner will receive $41,300 and the cup, the second $11,800, the third $5,900 and the fourth $1,000.
As premier race of the Australian Turf Calendar, it compares with the Derby Stakes in England, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France, and the Kentucky Derby in America. It is far junior to the Derby Stakes in age as that race has been run annually for 190 years but, remarkably, is older than the Kentucky Derby, which will not hold its 100th running until 1974.
Flemington racecourse covers 320 acres and is situated 4 miles from the centre of the city of Melbourne. The track is cone shaped with shoots provided for special barriers. The cup start is in the straight 6 furlong shoot and gives a straight run of almost 5 furlongs before the first turn. The course at this time of the year is one of the most beautiful sights the eye can behold as the spring flowers are at their best. The abundance of roses, poppies, pansies, ranunculas and stocks and famous lawns are a special attraction to visitors. The spectators will add to this colourful scene, especially in the members' stand, with its fashion-conscious women and its men dressed in the traditional morning suit, complete with top hat.
The race, described in Encyclopedia Britannica as "the greatest all age handicap in the world", has been won by many famous horses, including the most famous of Australian horses, Carbine and Phar Lap. Spearfelt, a great grandson of Carbine, was the winner in 1926, when the biggest crowd ever to watch the running of the race, over 120,000, converged on Flemington. The name of Carbine crops up continually in the records of the event, including the background of one of the longest priced winners ever, Rimfire at 100 to 1 in 1948. Rimfire was a great-great-grandson of the famous horse.
Despite its history, the Cup had to wait 70 years before anyone was able to have a totalisator wager on a starter. Totalisator betting was illegal in Victoria until 1931, and it was in that year that A.T.L. provided betting on the event for the first time. The original installation provided for 96 selling windows betting Win&Place pools, and 84 paying windows. On Cup Day, 1931, the turnover was 52,106 pounds and 5 shillings. By 1937 turnover had climbed to 125,717 pounds and 10 shillings, the first occasion on which the 100,000 pound turnover point was passed. The 200,000 pound target was reached in 1944, when 210,018 pounds and 15 shillings was invested.
Doubles totalisator betting was introduced to Melbourne Courses in October, 1955, at Moonee Valley, and that year was the first in which this medium of betting was available on Cup Day. True Doubles betting was provided on "this and the next basis", supplemented by Quinella betting on the last race. 60 ticket issuers handled this betting medium. The "this and the next" pattern is now broken to allow for Quinella betting on the Cup itself.
Record turnovers on Cup Day have been 281,382 pounds 10 shillings on Win&Place pools in 1960 and 99,420 pounds 5 shillings on Doubles/Quinella pools in 1964. Turnover on Cup Day this year is expected to be approximately $500,000 on Win&Place pools and $190,000 on Doubles/Quinella pools, when some 85,000 people are expected to watch the race at Flemington. To achieve these figures the installation has been increased to 166 Win&Place issuers and 75 Doubles/Quinella issuers. These are installed in 14 houses, including the lawn stand, where the one house has 89 windows on the one face. In addition to the issuing machines, 10 mobile sellers will provide a service for reserved seat patrons so that these patrons will not have to leave their seats. There are now three $50 Win&Place selling windows to meet the needs of the larger investors. 150 payers will settle with the successful punters during the day. 11 of the selling windows will be available for betting on the Cup from about 9.45 a.m. continuously through the day until the Cup, providing a service to those patrons wishing to place their Cup bets early and not then have to jostle with other patrons in the hour's betting prior to the running of the Cup.
Cup Day is rapidly approaching and the tempo of racing is building up in anticipation. Overseas and interstate visitors are already arriving and will enjoy the lead up meetings at Caulfield and Moonee Valley before the Flemington week. Interstate and New Zealand horses are adding to the excitement of racing in anticipation of the major event, and when the 26 horses face the barrier they will be the best in the land. Stringent balloting conditions ensure that only the best will be left in the field out of the 400-odd horses which were originally handicapped in June for the race.
All over Melbourne there are signs of increasing excitement, especially in the commercial and tourist business communities which provide so much additional interest for visitors at this time of the year. For the ladies, Cup Week is the climax of the "Fashions on the Field" contests. Prizes for the various sections this year include a Volkswagen 1500 Deluxe and trips by Qantas for two (plus spending money) to Noumea, Hong Kong, Fiji, San Francisco and Honolulu. This year one of the judges is Miss World, the lovely Madeleine Hartog-Bel.
Melbourne Cup Carnival is one of the main social events of the year, and racing is conducted over four days during Cup Week, with a feature race each day. The social scene continues in the member's car park after each day's racing, where it is customary to sip champagne to round off the proceedings.
|The Julius Tote in Melbourne|
The first year that an Automatic Totalisators Julius tote system operated at Flemington on the Melbourne Cup was 1931. This lagged behind many other installations as Totalisator betting was illegal in Victoria prior to 1931. A document circa 1937 shows this system having 123 terminals.
Sir George Julius inspecting the new installation at Flemington 1931
This photograph, apart from showing Sir George in the foreground of the group of people, is a good view of the odds calculating mechanisms showing the horizontal and vertical sliders for each runner, their tubular transport mechanisms, the horizontal slider driving chains connecting to their respective shaft adders and the vertical slider driving chains connecting to the pool net total shaft running into the photograph across the top of the framework. Finally the hypotenuse arms that join the vertical sliders to the horizontal sliders can be seen crisscrossing each other down the length of the frame. The angle at the top of the right angled triangle formed by the vertical transport, the horizontal transport and the hypotenuse arm represents the odds for their associated adder and consequently the runner the particular adder is totalling the investments for. Mathematically the trigonometric ratio cotangent of this angle is the odds. This angle is sensed for each runner and this drives the ribbon drive motors that can be seen on the beam running down the frame above the heads of the inspectors. Sir George seems to be looking at one of these motors. These motors move the ribbons for their respective runners in the barometer odds indicators for public display of odds.
A close up of an adder from the system in the image above
Image Source: Museum Victoria
The above image shows the same type of adder as those shown in the image above it. There were multiple Julius totes in Victoria and this adder may have been from Flemington. The nearest adder in the first image has its top visible just beneath Sir George's chin. There is one of these adders per runner in the race for the Win pool and this is duplicated for the Place pool. Additionally there was a Grand Total Shaft Adder for each pool totalling the transactions on all the Horse Adders associated with the pool. For every hypotenuse bar visible in the first photograph there is one of these adders and they can be seen looking into the image from the one under Sir George's chin. To make identifying the more distant adders easier, if you look at the image of the adder you can see two shiny aluminium cones on the left hand side of the left vertical mounting column of the adder. Looking at the first image you can easily see these cones on the first three adders and see one of the cones for more adders in the distance until they disappear from view. Having mentioned these cones they contain the clutches that separate the constant motion of the drive shafts from the erratic motion of the adding shafts which is a function of the bets being sold. The springs protruding from the aluminium caps provide energy to turn their respective adding shafts and are wound up by the main drive shaft and when fully wound the clutch disengages the main drive shaft from the winding mechanism. There are 3 adding shafts on this adder. They are the horizontal shafts with escapement wheels and epicyclic gears on them two on the left hand side and one on the right hand side at the horizontal extremities of the adder. Below the adding shafts are banks of solenoids which release the escapement wheels which allows them to rotate the distance to the next tooth, when pulses are received from the ticket issuing machines. Moving from the outside of each adding shaft inwards, the rotation at any escapement wheel is equivalent to the rotation resulting from the activation of its associated escapement wheel and every escapement wheel before it. On the inside end of each adding shaft is an aluminium drum with graduations on it and the rotation at this point is the sum of all the rotation of escapement wheels on the adder shaft. The rotation of these three drums is added and displayed on the counter at the top of the adder. The value of each bet recorded is determined by the number of teeth on the escapement wheel recording the bet. The fewer the teeth the higher the value. As I have not seen this installation I do not know if the visible line of adders in the first photograph represent the Win pool or the Place pool. Assuming that we are looking at the Win pool adders, the Place pool adders will be in a similar line on the right hand side of this frame which is not visible in this photo. The hypotenuse arms with a positive gradient will all belong to the Win adders and the ones with a negative gradient will belong to the Place adders.
The building in which George is inspecting the tote
Image Source: National Archives of Australia
This image shows the building in which George Julius is inspecting the new installation in the first image on this page. This photograph was taken in 1945, 14 years after the inspection took place. During a visit to Melbourne in 2014, Narelle and I had a very enjoyable lunch at Flemington with a couple of old work colleagues, Graeme Twycross and Peter Crozier. Afterwards, they provided a nostalgic tour of the track and I stood in this building, inside the room in which Sir George is standing in the first image. There is a link to the Victorian Racing Club in the links page of this website which shows what this building looks like in 2014. Later, whilst in Melbourne, Narelle and I had a very interesting meeting with Tanya Williams, the Victorian Racing Club's Art and Heritage Curator along with two members of the Australian Racing Museum. We had a wonderful time, discussing totalisator history whilst enjoying an exquisite afternoon tea in the congenial Victorian Racing Club's boardroom, which has a magnificent view down the 450 metre Flemington straight.
There are two Julius Tote barometer indicators shown on the side of this building extending from above the selling windows, upwards to the eave of the roof. The near one displays the Win pool odds and the right one shows the Place pool odds. In the near apex section of the roof there is a circular indicator showing the Win pool grand total and in the second apex section is the Place pool grand total indicator. This tote house is probably purpose built for the Julius Tote.
Following is an extract of a transcript of a talk by Neville Mitchell.
Late in 1964 I was appointed project manager for a new electromechanical tote system to be installed at the 4 racetracks in Melbourne along with the construction of a brand new tote system that would be installed at the newly being constructed race track at Sandown Park. The equipment was based on a thing called the mini adder and it was mobile. There were two 40 foot pantechnicon trucks which were fitted out as 24 starter win place only tote equipment and had a lot of innovative features with automatic hard printout for results and dividends and end of day summations. It also had an analogue type computer system that could determine the odds, bookmaker odds, for win and place which were used to display to the public via new two and one half digit lamp-box indicators and some of the old blind and shutter indicators were also adapted at places like Caulfield and Flemington.
Peter Collier who was the last Chief Engineer of ATL in Victoria made the following comment about this photo: It is actually a photo taken inside the van looking towards the rear. We had 2 of these vans servicing the Melboune metro tracks until they were replaced by the 11/40 computer vans in 1973. If I remember properly these vans were gutted and were reused for the Brisbane Sell/Pay system. Bill Dick was the chief Engineer at the time of this tote in the above photo, which opened at Sandown Park on the 19th June 1965.
If Peter recalls correctly, these vans came to Brisbane and housed the PDP11/34 systems that I worked on for almost a decade. There is a chapter in this website titled ATL The Brisbane Project, which covers the PDP11/34 totes in Brisbane. This is accessible from the index page which can be accessed from the navigation bar at the bottom of this page.
The computer vans Peter refers to are described in The Computer Tote segment near the bottom of this page.
Neville added this following comment about the above photo via email: A view of the Place pool MMRC (Melbourne Metropolitan Racing Clubs) adders taken in the mobile van installed in 1964/65. Note the many Canon connectors that were used to connect the van to the track.
Neville is pictured above in Melbourne December 1965 after 11 months of work on the four Melbourne city’s race tracks.
In October 2015, on returning from a holiday in Melbourne, I broadcast an email to the ex ATL fraternity. I wrote about a curious event where I coincidentally attended two meetings that occurred on consecutive days and happened to be across the road from each other. The first meeting was an ex ATL reunion at Cualfield Racetrack and the second was a meeting with curators of the Monash Museum of Computing History which turned out to be across the road from Cualfield Racecourse. I took a photograph of Caulfield Racecourse where I had been the day before, from the top of the car-park in the Monash University Campus, that houses the museum and attached it to the broadcast email. This photo triggered a memory that Neville has written about. As it relates to his time in Melbourne as mentioned above I have presented Neville's recollection here:
The picture of Caulfield reminded me & Nancy of the night of the opening of Sandown Park Race track the 19 of June 1965. I and many more of the Melbourne staff had been working round the clock from the Wednesday prior to the Saturday Sandown opening, without much sleep and trying to get the Win / Place tote “sort of working”. By the time the race meeting was over I was completely exhausted. Nancy had come to the races, she spent the afternoon in the WP mobile tote blowing out arcs across the access rely sets “trip” contacts. Eventually we headed for home which was in St Kilda. I drove towards home with Nancy keeping me awake with chatter. On approaching Caulfield race track I had to make a right hand turn into Balaclava road however I was now having a micro sleep at the wheel Nancy screamed, I awoke gained control of the car only inches from that BRICK Wall in your photo. We arrived home about ten o'clock, then the staff began to arrive at our house complete with drinks and food obtained from the Members kitchens. We all sat around our large lounge room, men reclined or propped up by convenient walls. You see it was my birthday and they were determined to celebrate it with me. I was so tired. The party went on without me. Our small dog Dusty a 6 month old Australian terrier had the greatest fun "Boot Rooting" the men sitting lying around much to everyone's delight.
Another Caulfield BRICK WALL story: There was a clever robbery from the bankers area of the Tote House that backed onto the Brick Wall on Balaclava road, The bullion company had delivered the cash advance to the tote house locking it in its usual drawer, awaiting the House banker to count it and distribute the cash to the Tellers and Payers. When the draw was opened the cash was gone. Apparently during the week prior to the race meeting a hole had been made in the brick wall directly behind the Bank’s cash drawer, then a steel advertising sign was fixed over the hole. On race day, at the appropriate time, the thieves removed the sign, reached in and grabbed the cash, retuning the sign and walking away. Obviously an inside job. I don't know what the outcome was.
|Early Tote History by Ken Crook|
The following are extracts from a tote newsletter article by Ken Crook. I have replaced the pounds symbol with the word pounds and the shillings symbol with the word shillings.
The following has been compiled by our resident Totalisator historian Ken Crook, with the help of his charming wife, Anne. We thank them both for their fine efforts and urge you to read on - it's first class.
The "Julius" Totalisator (named after its inventor, Sir George Julius) was initially installed and operated on the major Melbourne racetracks by his Company, Automatic Totalisators Limited (ATL). It was first opened at Moonee Valley on Wednesday 19th August, 1931 and then Williamstown Tuesday 25th August, 1931; Caulfield Saturday 5th September, 1931; Flemington Saturday 3rd October, 1931; Ascot Trotting Tuesday 18th October, 1932; Epsom and Mentone December 1936; Mornington and Pakenham 1939; Sandown Saturday 19th June, 1965.
Some interesting details of the first Moonee Valley day is that 47,479 tickets were issued on the machine representing a turnover of 11,869 Pounds 15 Shillings.
The result of the first race was all in favour of the Totalisator. The winner, Royelson, returned a dividend of 13 Pounds 14 Shillings for a win.
The Sun 20/8/1931
There is no doubt about the Tote having caught on, in spite of one or two minor hitches. Women in particular rushed the new betting device, for at long last it was made legal for the Victorian female of the species to have an open flutter, instead of having to punt through agents as heretofore.
The Bulletin 26/8/1931
Windows For Women
At Moonee Valley, a number of windows have been set aside for the exclusive use of Lady Members of the Club. The arrangement has been made to save Lady Members going to windows more heavily patronised. Racegoers on the Flat also seemed to be unaware of the fact that they can purchase tickets on the Flat itself. It is not necessary for them to make a journey to the Hill. Patrons in the Birdcage also can purchase tickets and secure returns in that Enclosure.
All windows are numbered, and some patrons have believed that to purchase a ticket with a particular number, they must go to the window bearing that number. Actually, any ticket or any number of tickets, both for a Win and a Place, can be purchased at any selling window.
Also interesting is that the great Phar Lap ran at the first Totalisator meeting at Williamstown and the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield, giving the machine a very busy introduction.
These were the dark days of the depression, and this, together with the introduction of the Tote providing for the very first time, the opportunity for women to bet on a racecourse legally. Before this, ladies betting with a Bookmaker could only do so through an agent.
The Age 13/6/1931
Skilled Staff for Totes
Apart from the experts - electricians, accountants and others - the inauguration of the Totalisator on the Flemington, Caulfield, Moonee Valley and Williamstown courses will provide periodical employment for a maximum staff of about 220 men and women, down to a nucleus staff of about 70.
Since the beginning of this month the staff manager (Mr E.W. Noble) of Automatic Totalisators Ltd., the contractors of the machine, has been interviewing applicants for positions, and although the final selections from the hundreds of those he has seen have not been made, he cannot interview any more.
"It is very necessary we should have an expert staff of ticket sellers and payers" Mr Noble said today, "and although we did not advertise for applications, the men and women who came to seek positions impressed me immensely. The fact that people of that class should be glad to secure occasional regular employment emphasises the degree of unemployment prevailing".
"The staff will be divided about equally. Women will be employed at the selling windows and men at those for the paying of dividends. Although it will not be necessary for the women to have particular skill - as no change will be given, change windows being provided - we are giving preference to those who have had cashier's experience".
"After each race there will be a slight delay while the dividends are being checked, but the men handling the cash will be paying out about four minutes after the judge's numbers are up, if they are as quick as those on our Sydney staff".
Mr Noble said the maximum staff would work only at big meetings, such as the Melbourne and Caulfield Cup meetings, and the minimum at Williamstown, but all would have to go through preliminary instruction when the equipment was installed.
The Argus 11/7/1931
Our Punters Pampered
Most Excitable, Too - Totalisator Experts view
The Australian is the most pampered punter in the world, and the most excitable, according to Mr L. Raymond, the General Manager of Automatic Totalisators Ltd., which is erecting Totalisators in Victoria.
Mr Raymond has visited racecourses in many parts of the world. "Frenchmen at Longchamps are calmer than Australians at Randwick, although there is no comparison in the size of the betting" he said today. "I have seen a million units on a single race in France".
"Even the Argentinian is quiet, compared with the Australian, who 'rides' his horse all the way down the straight", Mr Raymond said. "The little Japanese punter is an iceberg by comparison. No other punter is given the encouragement that the Australian receives. The half-crown investor on the Flat at Morphetville (South Australia) is treated better than the member of a crack English Club, and the Committee Rooms there are better than the Royal enclosure at Ascot. The Argentinian has to wait until the Totalisator accounts are balanced before his horse is allowed to start".
"The New Yorker is not allowed to bet at all. But then he isn't allowed to drink, either - and results in each case are much the same".
The Herald 21/7/1931
Totalisator at Moonee Valley
Victoria is the last State in Australia to adopt the Totalisator, and the introduction of the machine at Moonee Valley today marks the commencement of a new era in racing history. The meeting will be conducted by the Yarra Glen and Lilydale Hunt Club, and as fields in each of the eight races are large, the Totalisator will have a thorough testing. The unit of investment is 5 Shillings, but for those who desire to invest in larger amounts there will be 10 Shillings 1 Pound and 5 Pound windows. A commission room is available in the main Totalisator building, where commission accounts may be operated.
Any investor may, on depositing not less than 10 Pounds, open a commission account through which investments of not less than 1 Pound on any horse in any race may be made. When betting with bookmakers, investors were required to state the name of the horse they intended to back, but in the case of the Totalisator, they must ask for the number as it appears in the racebook. Mention of the name of the horse it is intended to back will only tend to confusion to the Totalisator Clerks.
The Argus 19/8/1931
Blew Up The Pile
When a heavy gust of wind blew through the open windows of the main Totalisator building at Williamstown yesterday, 250 pounds in notes was scattered in all directions.
So strong was the gale at times that the issuing windows had to be lowered, allowing only a small aperture through which to transact business.
On a large bundle of notes, placed between two issuing windows, a quantity of silver was stacked, but what was described as a "Fishtail wind" scattered the pile. They were recovered intact.
|Memories of the Julius Totes|
Neville Mitchell, a long serving Automatic Totalisators Engineer and Manager and the best company historian I know, wrote the following observations about the Melbourne Tote Engineers and the end of the era in Melbourne using the Julius tote. The Julius systems were replaced with mobile PDP11 based computer totalisator systems circa 1971. This means the above system operated the Melbourne cup tote along with all the other meetings at Flemington for around 40 years.
The mystique of the machines was something I experienced, particularly in Melbourne, not so much in Sydney. The men who operated the four major tracks there had been with these machines since 1936 and on the decommissioning day, I saw emotions that were quite unbelievable. They were seeing the last day of operations with this sort of gear. The strictness with which the engineers ran these systems was somewhat akin to a military operation, they really had a lot of power. They had a lot of routines set down and to be an apprentice in those days was a lot of sweeping the floors and making the tea for a long long time before you actually got your hands on any piece of equipment. And I believe in the early days in Melbourne, if an apprentice was seen with his hands out of his pockets in the machine room, he would get a swift slap around the ears. They were extremely proud of these machines and some of them spent all of their, what you would call, idle time in routine maintenance and polishing of brass and things like that, that made these machines absolute showrooms.
The VRC track has over the years had many changes. the current edifice is very American in concept and design. I had some not to be forgotten experiences at Flemington:
Three sets of barometer indicator Selsyn motor circuits which were wrongly wired, we had to work all night to rework them. This involved 3 x 24 Win and Place X 5 connections for the indicators a total of 720 re-terminations.
The nine cables to the flat area which were severed by an auger digging holes to move the running rail on a Friday evening the worst time for it to happen prior to a Saturday meeting.
The field mice eating the insulation binding on the relay coils on the infield odds indicator, on Friday night again of course!
The Morris J van I was driving across the track crossing went into a 360 degree spin because the spare engine always kept in the van was taken out and no one had told me.
One Melbourne Cup morning before sunrise we celebrated near the winning post having just found a cure for the relay hang ups in the results indicator needed for the Cup meeting that day.
AH they were the days! This is the end of Neville's observations
The above image is Flemington Racecourse on Melbourne Cup day in 1931, the first Melbourne Cup meeting with the Julius tote in operation. It was taken by Photographers Sutcliffe Pty Ltd. I knew that it was probable that it was taken in 1931 as Automatic Totalisators took photos or commissioned photos to be taken during installations and 1931 was the first year the Julius Tote operated in Victoria. I eventually proved this was taken in 1931 from the banner flying over the nearest flagpole on top of the upper stand in the photograph. It advertises the show Bright Side Up. I found a souvenir program at the Powerhouse Museum that indicates this play was shown in Melbourne in 1931. The Powerhouse collection item details are: 85/2315 Souvenir program, "Bright Side Up", Palace Theatre, South Melbourne, Australia, 1931. I have written about the banners in the next paragraph.
One aspect I find particularly interesting about this photo is the advertising banners. Look closely at the top of the nearest flagpole in the photo and you will find an arc of writing in the sky that is oblique to the flagpole. On magnifying the photograph, I can identify the words as Bright Side Up written above the words Palace Theatre. Another three banners are visible to the left and above the most distant flagpole visible. The one on the left of the three has several words I cannot determine however the central largest word seems to be ANNON. The middle one of the three has some word which could be sponsor, followed by of this event with The Sun underneath. Another banner can be seen above the 4th flagpole from the left. There could be yet another banner to the left and above the group of three, however this could be a smudge on the photograph. These banners seem to be suspended in the sky. They do not appear to being towed by aircraft. Possibly they are suspended from kites or balloons not in view of the photograph. One thing is blatantly obvious, this is a big event day!
Tanya Williams, the VRC Arts and Heritage Curator wrote the following regarding the previous paragraph: I have spent some time today reading through a couple of sections of the website and was interested to see what you had written about the 1931 Sutcliffe image of Flemington and the advertising banners. The far left banner says AKRON Elizabeth Street, which would refer to AKRON Tyre Company. The image itself looks to be taken from the roof of the Members Stand (1924) looking down across the "carriage steps" toward the Lawn Stand - (known as Bagot's Cowshed) and Hill stand behind- see attached image. This also makes sense to me as the image looking down on the betting ring tote and the one looking down across the front lawn and track look to be taken from the roof also, just on different sides of the building.
Neville added this following comment about the above photo via email: I would say this is Flemington looking from the railway entrance, wonderful crowds in those long ago days!
Some time has elapsed, it is now July 2014 and Neville has written some more recollections and as they refer to Melbourne and Neville has mentioned the MMRC above, I have included them here. Alf Boa who Neville mentions, was a general manager of ATL long before my time there. Neville's recollections:
I got to know Alf Boa quite well during the time that I was initially working on the design and manufacture and then on-site project manager for the Mobile Tote System named "Melbourne Metropolitan Race Clubs" (MMRC) At Meadowbank. Alf would come into the office where I was working with Peter Rolls and Terry McCauley, and discuss progress on the development of the Tote and the liaison with ATUSA (a contraction of ATL USA, Automatic Totalisators Limited's American subsidiary) for the analogue odds computer. Later in Melbourne Alf would come to the races, smoothing over the disastrous opening of the system at Sandown in June 1965.
One afternoon at Flemington Don Hardie was abusing me over the failure of the results indicator, horse six had won but the indicator showed an eight. Early on race day we discovered that field mice had entered the results indicator control unit and eaten the insulation off several 3000 type relays severing the coil windings. We were able to change the coils and get the indicator operating again, however the mice had urinated on the relay contact packs, eventually shorting out some lamp circuits thus the wrong readout. Don Hardie would not accept my explanation of the fault, loudly shouting at me. Alf Boa appeared and overheard the ruckus. He quickly approached Don Hardie shutting him up, taking my side he explained the same thing had happened in USA. Alf gave Don a real dressing down about the management of the race meeting in front of most of my installation staff.
Back in Meadowbank Don befriended me and over his remaining years at ATL was a great help to me and my family. Don & wife Monica would come to our then new house to visit with Nancy and the children.
Don Hardie left ATL under a cloud, he never accepted that the era of the Julius electromechanical totalisator was over and electronics would take its place. When Don left the company he never returned or attended any of the Social club arranged reunions.
I was deeply saddened by Alf's passing. His positive attitude and jovial nature endeared him to me. He always had a "Goal" New tote for Aqueduct, Caracas, another at Bogota!
A little more time has elapsed, it is now August 2014 and I am on holiday in Melbourne. I wrote to Neville, regarding my visit to Flemington with Graeme Twycross and Peter Crozier. I mentioned seeing the old Julius Tote machine room a few days ago and his reply follows. In this reply, Neville refers to an argument he had with Don Hardy described in the fourth paragraph above and in the third paragraph below, describes a staircase where this took place. I walked up and down this staircase during my recent visit. Additionally, in the fourth paragraph below, Neville refers to a comment I made in my email to him, regarding the PWT terminals I saw at the track, being an AWA revamp of the ATL J25 terminal, still going strong. Neville's reply:
Ah! Flemington Machine room. If those walls could talk they could tell you some fascinating stories. Many were the full 24 hour days I spent there, among the pigeons & possums living in the barometer indicator.
I was there the day the Julius Tote machine operated for the last time. I accompanied the older tote mechanics checking the adders were reset they were very emotional. Some of these men came to Melbourne in 1936 for a six weeks installation and were still there 36 years later. It was a sad day when someone ordered the machine be dismantled and sent away for scrap.I do not know why this action was taken as the area was not destined to be reused for any other purpose.
It was on the staircase leading down to the paddock-A selling line that I had the recently related argument with Don Hardie, and Alf Boa’s intervention.
J25’s still in use, that's not a surprise, J 8s were still in use in Thailand until recently. It took the RHKJC years to stop using the J22 SP terminal, Stewart Smith (RHKJC engineer) said the J22 was a reliable “performer” much better than the (company name removed) terminal that eventually replaced it. I think the Melbourne J25s were sourced from ATUSA and renamed J25(S). It was a large blue unit with the electronics mounted in a cabinet under the keyboard, printer and coupon reader.
I also mentioned in the above email to Neville how delighted I was to have stumbled across CSIRAC in the Melbourne Museum. I thought it a great achievement that Australia had the only complete first generation computer on the planet and that it was on public display. I pointed out that CSIRAC had a loose connection to totalisator history. Although George Julius passed away the year before his organisation started work on developing CSIR Mark1, which became CSIRAC, he was the first Chairman of the CSIR, which became the CSIRO and furthermore the first meetings of this organisation that produced CSIRAC took place in a back office of George’s engineering consulting company Julius Poole and Gibson in Sydney. Although I knew it was amongst the first electronic computers I was amazed to read that CSIRAC was the fourth stored program computer in the world. I have read multiple documents relating CSIRAC as the fourth and one claiming it was the fifth. Neville's reply to this follows:
When I worked for Stromberg Carlson in the 1950s to 1962, I was a cadet studying at Sydney tech. One of my work mates and I attended classes together we became good friends.
Kevin Roselyn was very clever, topped the class, he was a dedicated Christian. Kevin had a small car I think it was a Standard 8. It had a noisy differential. He designed and built an electronic device that cancelled out the diff’s noise.
Kevin was head hunted by a university facility where he worked on CSIRAC, for quite a few years. He did not tell me much about what he actually did, he did relate at one time that a punch card reader had been developed.
I eventually lost contact with Kevin when he took up missionary work.
I have included the following text from Don McKenzie. He writes about the machine room in the photograph above, after the system shown in it had been superseded and removed. I find it curious reading about the experiences of people in other departments. Don worked in Victoria and I worked in Queensland. The impressions are so recognisable, I could have written what Don has produced about very similar events. The comments about new years eve are very familiar. I found that generally technical staff working on these systems were used to working every Saturday and public holiday with large amounts of overtime as demanded by the problems the systems presented. A lot of problems were generated by the requirement of moving the equipment from track to track. Normally technical staff were reconciled to these facts and provided there was a roster they could plan their life around this. Discontent usually only appeared when last minute significant faults meant additional time was required at work performing repairs and this coincided with important family events like Good Friday, Christmas day, New Years Eve, birthdays and other family occasions. This discontent often took the form of sarcastic comments appearing in our voluminous engineering fault logs along the lines of yet another wonderful Christmas day spent at work. The lost time at work I most lament is one night when my maternal grandfather passed away. I had arranged to visit him after work as he was not well. I was delayed at work which continued into the night as I frantically attempted to get a PDP11 transaction processor, which had developed a fault, repaired as quickly as possible so I could depart. This transaction processor was required to operate a tote meeting the following day. After the cause of the fault was identified and rectified, I was just preparing to depart when I received the call that it was too late.
I have written the following sentence elsewhere on this site and I repeat it here as it describes these circumstances so succinctly. Charlie Barton the last Chief Engineer of the Julius Totes in Queensland had a name for wives of tote engineers. He called them Tote Widows.
To the right of where Sir George is standing, was the tote indicator win-place odds board. This basically covered the complete wall, and indicated the Win-Place betting fluctuations to the public. Paddock "A" selling house tote was immediately below this room, and the steepest old wooden staircase you would ever care to imagine, joined the two areas together. Many a young lass had slipped on the stairs. We usually warned anyone not familiar with them to grab the handrail solidly. The tote control area was upstairs, and with the main tote downstairs, so there was plenty of traffic on this staircase. Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) would have a field day at any racecourse I took them to 35 years ago.
Flemington Machine Room, and New Years Eve Flemington always had a New Years Day meeting, which without fail, always followed a race meeting at a city course. This meant shifting the complete tote, the control gear, the TIMs, the indicators, and the technical staff, and it all had to happen straight after the meeting on the 31st of December. The tote technical circus would pack up, jump into cars, trucks, semi-trailers, and we would dash across to Flemington to set everything up, test it, and get the type ready to load the machines for new years day. Between racecourses, we would have a bite to eat on the run. Someone usually stopped off, and picked up fish and chips or similar, for tea for the whole troupe, while we went ahead to set everything up. This procedure wasn't just one day a year, it happened on many occasions, but New Years Eve was very special.
You know New Years Eve. It's the time to be spent with friends and family, ringing in the New Year. New Yorkers may be watching the big ball drop in Times Square, Sydney Siders may venture out to see the massive fireworks display on the Harbour Bridge, and watch from around the beautiful harbour. Others may simply be sitting at home watching it all on TV, having a drink with the misses, and setting off a few fireworks with the kids.
Not the tote boys. Many, many times I remember being up to my elbows in printers ink, in that room (pictured above) that Sir George was inspecting in 1931, and pouring a glass of champagne, right on the stroke of midnight. The main idea was to finish the job at ten or eleven at night, so we could drive to our homes, or where the family party was being held, and ring in the New Year. But it didn't always happen that way. You may get to where you want to be by one, or two in the morning. Then after you do all that, guess what? You try and get a bit of sleep, because you have to be back at Flemington early to do it all again.
I have also included the following memories of Graham Twycross who joined ATL circa 1975. As with the previous entry the nature of these recollections are all very familiar to me. As I have not worked on the Julius, electro mechanical totes, I did not experience the issues mentioned in these entries regarding inking. Graham mentions what appeared to be a widely held belief within the company that to make an item portable you just add handles to it regardless of the weight and dimensions. This also demonstrates an observation made in other parts of this website and above, that this pre-dates serious concern about Occupational Health and Safety. I well remember double headers mentioned by Graeme. My experience with double headers was a little different as with the computer systems in Queensland the equipment did not move from the day to the night time venue.You would operate a day meeting, followed by a night meeting, then if there were any serious system problem that may interrupt a meeting the following day, if there was one scheduled, you could start repair work. I am not sure if the equipment moved between tracks in Brisbane when the Julius tote was in operation which was prior to my time.
As a young tradesman I was more than comfortable doing installation work, I was looking for more, electronics was the way forward so I began looking for options on where I could start to learn the craft while working and making a dollar. I stumbled over an advertisement for Electricians for installation work at the Melbourne racetracks for the totalisator. I applied and an interview was arranged at ATL’s Melbourne office in Collins St. Peter Kenyon was the Victorian Manager and Frank Dowdle was the Technical Manager. During the interview it was stressed that I would have to work Saturdays, Public Holidays and nights as well as do all the maintenance and installation work during the week but you get Sundays off.
Call me stupid I accepted the challenge.
Within a very short time I was on the track meeting all of my fellow (old) workers in grey coats. What's with the grey coats I asked a younger member; oh they are the grey coat brigade, that is so they won’t get any ink on their clothes. INK, what's ink?
I quickly learnt what this was all about, a brief introduction into the technology of printing tickets, where the ink is kept (normally in the main tote), rubber gloves, ink pot and brush and there you go, we have to re-ink all of these machines ribbons on the track before Friday.
Well I reckon there was 300 J8’s, J10’s and J18’s we had to ink. The team would tackle each tote as a group where "friendly banter" and debate between all members would continue forever to relieve the boredom of the task. Some of the younger members would rebel against this "friendly banter" and begin a duster war to antagonise the old guys.
One or two of the older fraternity had their own favourite tote houses where they would be rostered on the race day, they would spend as much time as possible in "their tote" pampering their machines so on race day they would have an easy day allowing them to go out for lunch and socialise with the race crowd or chat up the staff.
All totes had blackboards to write up the paper code, race barrel code and scratchings for each race so all staff; sellers, payers, bankers, tote house manager and Mechanic knew what should appear on the ticket. Paper code and race barrel codes were part of the security to prevent ticket forgeries.
The other ongoing joke amongst the new starters was everything was portable, everything had to move from racetrack to racetrack, therefore nearly everything had handles on it, it did not matter how much it weighed. I can still vividly remember doing double header race meetings between Flemington or Moonee Valley or Caulfield and the showgrounds or worst still from Sandown to the Showgrounds, where we had to pack up all sorts of gear after the races, throw it into the back of an old Austin truck that looked a lot like a horse float with a flip down ramp at the back and drive to the other track and set it up before the first race, trying to throw down some food and drink at the same time. A Saturday double header delivered something like 21.5 hours after starting work at 8:30am and working through to 12:30-1am Sunday morning, mind you, you were stuffed on Sunday.
Following is an anecdote about the 1974 floods in Brisbane written by Merv Cathcart and the impact it had on the Julius totes of that era. No, it is not related to Melbourne, however I have included it here as it comes under the category of recollections about the Julius totes and fits in with the other memories of this era of tote. I started work with Automatic Totalisators in Sydney and started work visits to Brisbane in 1978, a precursor to moving to Brisbane with the computer totes that replaced the Julius totes there. During these early visits, I recall many conversations with the existing Julius tote technical staff including Merv, regarding the 1974 floods. I was shown the marks on tote house walls representing the high water mark of these floods finding it hard to believe that the water could have been up there. I was told of drenched staff wading through deep water, navigating around in "tinnies" and the use of surf boards to retrieve equipment. I recall also being told that at Albion Park there were gates in the gutter system that closed to stop river water feeding back through the drains and flooding the low lying roads when there were king tides. I was not working for ATL at the time of the 1974 floods however I remember them well. I flew some friends of mine from Sydney to Keppel Island shortly after the floods. We stopped at Rockhampton on the way to have a look at the area. We rented a car in Rocky which abviously had water inside it as a result of the flood. The wet carpet provided a less than pleasant experience for the olfactory organs of the occupants.
A J8 Ticket Issuing Machine
The above animation of the ticket issuing machine is the type that Merv refers to in the following anecdote. Being electromechanical they were solidly built with significant metalwork making them heavy when dry never mind full of water.
On completion of testing on Friday for Saturday races and trots, the rain was coming down, so we raised all the ticket issuing machines(tim's)above the top of the benches as we had experienced floods that had reached just under the bench tops before in the main and sub house at Albion Park.We thought the tim's would be ok at that height so we left in Charlie Barton's vehicle to Eagle Farm Racetrack. We stopped just outside a service station up the road from Albion Park . Water was gushing down towards Albion Park Trotting Track. All of a sudden the metal drain cover we were parked beside decided to fly up in the air with the pressure of the water and nearly hit the side of the car.We got out of there very fast.
By Tuesday the next week after the rain had stopped and the water started to recede, it was all hands on deck at Albion Park to see what damage had been done. First of all the main door was not able to be opened as the cartons of ticket paper had floated behind the door. Getting in by the back door it was found that the water had gone well over the tops of the benches and the machines. To get the ticket issuing machines out to a waiting carrier to be transported to Eagle Farm, surfboards and planks were used.
At Eagle Farm a makeshift drying room was established where the wet machines were stripped and left to dry out.
Now back to Melbourne. On the subject of the 1974 floods, this event also happened in Melbourne. Following is a description of the flood by Chris Robertson, the most knowledgeable punter regarding the tote I have ever known.
The 1974 flood closed Flemington for several months. It haunted racing authorities until in 2006 a flood wall was constructed on the Maribyrnong River side of the course to ensure this doesn't happen again. The construction was not without controversy because Flemington is on a natural flood plain, and if the water can't go there, it might cause flooding in lower parts of Ascot Vale. I can't remember the specifics of the heavy rain depression that caused the flood, but usually the heaviest rainfalls in Victoria are associated with former tropical depressions, so there could well be a link with the events you describe. The flood occurred overnight before a planned midweek race meeting. It was during May term holidays, and I was looking forward to going to Melbourne for the races, but that obviously didn't happen. This all happened two and a half years before the wettest ever Melbourne Cup, won by Van Der Hum in 1976.
|Melbourne Tote History Preservation by Peter Crozier|
Peter Crozier, the Engineering Manager of the Victorian On-Course Totalisator Systems, a long term advocate for this website, sent an email in July 2014, after seeing the upgrade of this website's photo gallery from 21 images to 69 images. Following are some extracts from that email and the first comment relates to the new photo gallery. I can attest to the frustration resulting from events as described in his ironic story as I have had first hand experience of this.
This is sensational.
As you may know, I have always had a passion for the “tote history” despite not being involved with the electromechanical era. I started in 1987, so missed all the good stuff! I have always had this thought that I would like to put in a display cabinet at Flemington of all the old TIMs and other tote equipment for punters to see. I have been collecting old tote machines for every tote company in Victoria (before the TAB took them over) including some old ATL equipment.
An ironic story …
I had all this equipment stored at our warehouse at Vermont. I had spoken with my Manager a few weeks ago about the idea and that I was looking for some funding from the TAB and he got some positive response for the business. I happened to be out in the warehouse and mentioned that I had got the ball rolling and was going to create a display cabinet at Flemington , with the old tote equipment stored on the pallet, and the warehouse manager said what old equipment !!!! At this point I felt sick. I said let’s have a look and I will show you. Alas it was not to be, it was accidentally thrown out.
|A good yarn from David Ferrier|
Several years ago, David Ferrier told me a story in Brisbane, about one of the iconic Automatic Totalisators Managers in Victoria. It is an event that demonstrates the wide variety of activities a Tote Manager can be sucked into prompting a common observation of you could write a book about it. David presented it so well and brought it so much to life that, at a reunion held in Melbourne in August 2014, the attendees had him repeat it. The reunion was attended by the iconic manager just mentioned, Harry Lane, as well as Peter Nelson, who I went to Kota Kinabalu with on an Automatic Totalisators installation in 1984 and the current tote on course Engineering Manager, Peter Crozier and David of course.
David places the story at Mornington Racecourse and describes being hindered packing away display equipment after the meeting due to his vehicle being blocked. He then introduces two of the three main players.
The deuteragonist, is a well-built Yugoslav Security Guard whose head is firmly attached to his shoulders giving the impression he has no neck. It is a generally held belief that he used to be a wrestler called The Masked Avenger. The tritagonist is a fiery Irishman working with the catering staff.
David then describes the circumstances: The security guard is ready to leave the building and the caterer has used his vehicle to block the security guard’s vehicle to keep him from leaving, as a form of retribution for all the times the caterer’s vehicle had been blocked by the security van, which could not be moved till the cash pickup operation was complete. This effectively blocked all other traffic making David’s job very difficult and he was passing the security guard’s threat messages on to the caterer as he was packing up, in the hope of getting the blocking vehicle moved.
David sets the scene: They eventually all arrive at a staircase landing at the same time and the security guard immediately starts yelling at the caterer to move his vehicle so he can complete his night’s work, with David as the reluctant observer.
Now for some action: The caterer shouts a reply with you W** P**** appended and the reply to this is Don’t you call me a W** or I will kill you, prompting another response with you bloody W** appended.
And then the tension: The security guard now red faced with rage, pulls out his gun. At this point, David and his assistant push themselves back against the wall and hide around a corner. David periodically peers around the corner to give an update on proceedings to other workers. The caterer starts running away, up a staircase four steps at a time, whilst being tracked by the gun accompanied by repeated screams of “I’ll Kill You, I’ll Kill You”.
Enter the protagonist: On one of the tentative peeks around the corner, David sees Harry Lane, the Tote Manager, flash through the ring to confront the gun wielding security guard, sprinting all the way from the tote house some 70 m away, hurdling the bookmakers rail in a single bound.
The climax: Harry shouts Put the Bloody Gun away or I will take it away from you, you idiot. Harry approaches the gunman, pushes the peak of his cap around to the back of his head to get it out of the way and takes yet another step forward to engage in a close and personal faceoff with the gunman commanding in a slow, deliberate and forceful fashion PUT - THE - GUN - AWAY. The security guard, recognising the authority of the Tote Manager and his determination, holstered his weapon!
Everyone who witnessed this event agrees that it was very courageous. Harry had diffused a situation in which someone could have been seriously hurt or worse. Peter Nelson who attended our reunion also witnessed this event and wrote that there was a lot of hot air that day on the matter and that this rendition gives a fair picture of the incident. He also wrote Harry is a guy with guts I must say. I have included some of Peter’s information in the relating of this event to provide more detail.
Harry shrugs it off saying there was no danger and it was the only thing to be done. Additionally he wrote the following after reading this rendition of the event. The incident is still a little vague but your version is similar to David’s telling it again at our luncheon, he certainly can tell a story as well as stretch it out. I will iterate that I don’t consider the whole incident as a big deal. As I have said to you at the lunch, I knew him reasonably well because he had been on the job for a fair while and I reckon I knew how to handle him because when all is said and done he did respect authority.
|ATL systems serve Australia's richest race|
Having looked at memories of the Julius totes in Melbourne here is a page from a company booklet titled ATL International name in betting systems. There is no date on this document however a photograph on this page is annotated Silver Knight returns to scale after winning the 1971 Melbourne Cup. Additionally it can be deduced from the last 2 sentences below, that it was written in 1972.
The turf at Fleminton Racecourse in Victoria has been cut by the hooves of many great racehorses, from Phar Lap and Peter Pan to record holder Rain Lover.
The Victoria Racing club's Melbourne Cup is the one race each year that Australia stops to listen to or watch.
Some $30 million changes hands in betting on this racing classic on Cup day ... $1 million on the Flemington Racecourse alone in its Totalisator handle for this great two-miler.
ATL has a thoroughbred at Flemington, not only for the Cup and for the Derby but for all the other great races on this famous Australian course.
ATL's thoroughbred has been bred to stay ... like for 41 years.
ATL's Electro-mechanical Totalisator System was installed there in 1931.
|The Computer Tote|
Neville Mitchell has since written the following: I think the J/18s were introduced into MMRC in 1975. The new PDP11/34 system tote vans were delivered in the era of chief engineer Eric Adcock, Bill York, and Allan Rose were project on site engineers. Peter Collier & Harry Lane were operation engineers, Frank Dowdle was the totalisator manager. I was Sydney back up, I did a few quick trips with spare parts and rebuilt Logic boards, from memory there was some persistent problems with the Bet Value system for the J/18s. There was a set of bet value cards that were part of the scanner, a set of cards was required for each Racetrack.
The Melbourne J18,s were 50 volt AC powered from transformers in each tote house. The 50 volts came about because the J18 would not pass the authorities approval for 240 volt mains operation. On-course there were power problems that Allan Rose diagnosed as Power factor needing correction with appropriate capacitors.
Melbourne, Australia's financial capital and home of its richest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to have its racecourses, tracks and paceways served by a mobile computer totalisator system.
A.T.L. has designed a comprehensive Mobile Computer Unit which handles the complete on-course betting operations of the seven turf, trotting and greyhound venues which serve the Melbourne metropolitan area.
Eventually the modern and versatile Mobile Computer Tote system will also serve surrounding provincial racing clubs. Like A.T.L's PDP11 fixed totalisator installations, described herein on other pages, the Mobile Computer Tote Unit will be capable of meeting future growth requirements of the network of racing clubs it will serve.
The revolutionary new mobile and interchangeable electronic totalisator system for Melbourne comprises 2 Mobile Computer Units, each van being identical and containing 2 computers.
As well as providing increased benefits for existing Pools the new Computer Tote enables the introduction of automated Trio betting to Australian racetracks.
Trio is the selection of the first three horses in one race.
Each mobile unit is capable of providing betting accommodation for Win, Place, Quinella, Doubles and Trio for up to 24 starters.
Melbourne's new Computer Tote system involves the use of up to 192 J8 ticket issuing machines -- 128 J10's and 64 new J18/3 ticket issuing machines for Trio betting and multi value betting on standard Pools.
A smaller version of the Mobile Computer Tote Unit has been successfully introduced to Hawke Bay circuit in New Zealand.
Following is an extract from an article titled "Cranbourne" under the sub heading "ATL Plays Its Part" in Tote Topics magazine Autumn 1978
Cranbourne, Pakenham and Mornington meetings form part of the ATL Victorian Computer Circuit.
This circuit is serviced by two mobile computer vans each containing duplex computers, high speed printers and indicator control equipment (lamp box and CCTV) to provide Win, Place, Doubles, Quinella, Forecast and Trifecta or Trio betting through J.18, J.10 and J8 TIMs. The equipment operates at all Melbourne Metropolitan Gallop, Trotting and Greyhound tracks in addition to the Peninsular Clubs.
ATL through its Victorian Branch office in Melbourne provides a complete totalisator operation for the Clubs. In addition to the provision of totalisator equipment and technical support, the Company also provides the "Mutuel" operation which includes the engagement and training of raceday staff, supply of racecourse change and consumable items and the organisation, preparation, management and settlement of totalisator activities for meetings on behalf of the Clubs. ATL's Operations Division provides similar services for Clubs in all Australian States and New Zealand.
Chris is the most informed punter I have had the pleasure to know and has more knowledge of ATL's product line and its deployment around the planet than most who worked for the company. He has perceptions of tote operations that gives the impression that he spent many years as a tote manager rather than a punter. Following are his observations of the initial computer tote era in Melbourne:
Now to the Melbourne Mobile Computer Tote. This was a big deal back then. The impending introduction of the new system made the nightly TV news services. The promise of faster ticket issuing, more accurate odds displays, and the introduction of Tiercé betting were big selling points. For once the use of the term 'exotic betting' wasn't an overstatement!
As noted elsewhere, there were two computer vans. Both were needed on Saturdays so as to service that day's gallops meeting, and the night trotting meeting at the Showgrounds or Moonee Valley. The new system was planned for introduction in time for the 1974 Melbourne Cup Carnival. On line archives of the Melbourne Age newspaper confirm that its first day of operation was at Caulfield on Saturday 7 September 1974: eight weeks before the opening day of Flemington's Melbourne Cup Carnival. The observations below are from a non-technical layman's perspective. The tote as experienced by a punter, albeit one with an obsession for detail.
For the first time since the introduction of the totalisator to Victoria in 1931, all existing metropolitan venues (seven in all) were to be served by the same totalisator system. Prior to 1975, Greyhound Totalisators ran the tote at Olympic Park and Sandown Park dogs, using bell punch machines similar to the ones used by Control Systems Totalisators (CST). More on CST later. Greyhound Totalisators continued to run the tote at the dogs, but hired ATL staff and equipment from 1975 onwards. From a punter's perspective the existence of a separate company running the system at the greyhounds only impacted when they wanted to collect tickets from other days. Tickets sold at the greyhound tracks couldn't be cashed at the other venues, and vice versa.
Trios were offered at the four thoroughbred tracks, whereas the trots and dogs went for trifecta betting. In instances where the field size was too small for trio betting to be practical, trifectas were offered at the gallops. In these rare cases special rolls of ticket paper were used with the word 'TRIFECTA' down the side. Otherwise trifecta and trio tickets did not mention the bet type - it not being necessary given the presence of three numbers on the ticket.
Windows were colour coded as follows:
For the first time in Melbourne accurate Win and Place odds were displayed, not only on the large tote boards, but on television monitors at each tote house. The monitors displayed only eight runners at a time, with the screen updating every thirty seconds, or more quickly in the event of large volume pool size increases. The greyhound tracks also introduced quinella monitors.
For interstate meetings J18 MPV machines exclusively were used - trifectas were not offered on interstate races till the J25 TIM was introduced. Only Sydney and Adelaide (separate windows for each meeting) were offered. During the Brisbane Winter Carnival an ancient mobile tote was used; or a counter tote, if space could be found in an existing tote house. Selected events only, corresponding to the Victorian TAB's off course coverage.
The Mobile Computer tote was extended to provincial tracks served by ATL progressively over the following years: the first being Mornington on Thursday 16 September 1976. Cranbourne, the next track to join the computer circuit on their Cup day on 6 October 1976, broke ranks with the other race clubs and offered trifecta betting instead of trios.
On 1 April 1978 the metropolitan racing clubs fell into line with the trots and dogs, offering trifecta betting instead of trios. Other provincial tracks eventually followed as the Victorian TAB was in the process of programming their off course system to offer trifecta betting. The introduction of trifectas at the metro gallops meant some J18 machines were converted to Box Trifecta. Separate windows were provided for Box Trifecta only operation, with each ticket costing $6, representing the cost of $1 invested on each of the six possible finishing orders of the three horses selected.
The display of tote odds for interstate meetings on television monitors made the barometer odds indicators redundant. The VATC, which conducted racing at Caulfield, took the opportunity to relocate the interstate tote and betting ring (minus the barometer) to an under used area of the course. This eased a major bottleneck between the main local ring and the Paddock A and B tote houses. The facilities for punters betting on interstate races were now much more spacious. Other courses made less dramatic changes, such as roofing the area in front of the interstate tote windows, since it was no longer necessary to see the old manual indicators above the building.
The other major change was that machines selling tickets on interstate events were incorporated into facilities previously selling only on the local meeting. For the first time, punters could bet on the interstate meetings at machines located away from the interstate tote house. The computer tote introduced a level of flexibility into the management and design of racecourse facilities, possibly well above what the designers of the computer tote had envisaged.
As noted above, there were two computer vans. As one was required for the metro races, and the other for the trots at night, there was no van available for provincial clubs on Saturdays or public holidays. This put the ATL serviced clubs at a distinct disadvantage compared to those serviced by Control Systems Totalisators. On 7 September 1978, Ballarat was the first CST serviced racing club to have a computer tote operating on course. CST were also able to offer their system to clubs conducting Saturday TAB meetings. CST's advantage over ATL didn't stop there. Using machines identical to the ones eventually installed by The British Horserace Totalisator Board on Britain's tracks, the number of horses that could be boxed was not limited to three. Nor was there any need to segregate bet types via window colour coding. A six horse box trifecta could be purchased at the same window as win and place, or other bet types. Multiple doubles and quinellas were also on the menu. There were no fixed denominations either. A punter at Warrnambool races had a better tote service than one at Flemington. This situation was to exist for another two years.
Tote-All: 'The Magic Machine', (this was actually printed on the rolls of ticket paper), using J25 TIMs, began operations at Sandown Park greyhounds in November 1980. On Saturday 20 December 1980, Moonee Valley became the first metropolitan thoroughbred course serviced by Tote-All. That night, the Showgrounds Trots was the last meeting in the metropolitan area served by the J18s. Without anyone being told at the time, this was also the last trotting meeting conducted at the Showgrounds. The cost of converting the tote houses for the new system was thought not justified for a venue whose future was already in doubt. Two eras ended on the one night.
The mobile computer van and J18s continued to serve ATL provincial client tracks. Pakenham, Mornington, Cranbourne and Yarra Glen eventually became part of the Tote-All system. ATL gradually ceased operations outside of the Tote-All area (a radius of about seventy kilometres to Melbourne's Eastern side). I believe the last ever J18 used in Victoria was at the Colac Cup meeting on 9 February 1983. Those tracks that were previously served by ATL, but were outside the Tote-All sphere, were taken over by CST, North-East Totalisators, or the Gippsland Regional Totalisator.
Additional note: Until the introduction of the Tote-All system, the TAB conducted a manual agency on course for TAB doubles and quadrellas. Only Moonee Valley and the Showgrounds had automated (RIMFIRE) TAB ticket issuing equipment. But that's another story for another day. Another note for non Victorians: the quadrella (or quaddie) was a bet requiring the selection of the four winners of the designated quadrella legs. Because of limitations imposed by the RIMFIRE off course system, only nine numbers were available each leg, necessitating the bracketing of horses where there were ten or more in the field.
All dates quoted above are from my own notes, plus the V.R.C Racing Calendar, or Australian Race Results (which superseded the VRC Calendar during the 1978-79 season).
|A Victorian Tote Anecdote from Chris Robertson|
Not long after Chris provided his memories of the Computer Tote in the above section he sent this interesting anecdote in November 2014 regarding a trot meeting at Corio Oval.
I have an interesting anecdote from a Control Systems Totalisators trotting meeting at Corio Oval, Geelong circa 1970. Had this incident been widely reported it would have proven to be a valuable endorsement of ATL's True Doubles punch tape system for recording bets. On this particular night, after calculating the 'will-pays' for each runner in the second leg of the race-to-race double, the counters were all reset to commence selling on the next race. Unfortunately the 'All Clear' had not been given, and in fact a successful protest saw the second horse promoted to first. An announcement was made over the public address asking all patrons holding doubles tickets with the first leg winner to make themselves known to the tote manager at the rear of the tote house. Not wanting to miss any of the fun, I made my way to the rear of the tote house, but before I could get there I was stopped by a punter I vaguely recognised from previous meetings. This punter was stopping as many people as he could, explaining to them that the fewer of them that owned up to being 'live' in the double, the better the declared dividend would be. I don't know how much the tote lost out of this incident, but it was one of those formative incidents on the racecourse that was to help shape the direction of my punting future. How innocent I was as a teenager!
Incidentally, Corio Oval was Geelong Football Club's home ground when the Victorian Football League (VFL) competition was formed in 1897, right up to the Second World War when the club took up residence at Kardinia Park (Corio Oval was used for the war effort). The trots and dogs moved in to fill the vacuum some years later.
I wrote to Chris indicating that I had worked for AWA on two occasions and considered the company to be the most iconic, historic and pioneering of Australia's large technology companies. It had a broad spectrum of electronics ventures from audio radio and television to manufacturing massive Navy transmitters and individual electronics components including transistors, valves, resistors, capacitors, inductors. It had an avionics division and invented aviation navigation aids DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) and Interscan a multi path precision approach system. I was based in the North Ryde factory and I recall the Ashfield, Rydalmere and Leichhardt factories. I wrote to Chris that I was contemplating writing a chapter on AWA if I could get copyright approval to use information I have. The following is an extract from Chris' reply which relates to the above anecdote. When Laurie Halliwell joined AWA in 1977 I was working for Channel Ten. I had been sent to Channel Ten by AWA to work on the upgrade of the station from monochrome to colour specifically installing the Marconi Colour Television Cameras. When I first arrived at Channel Ten I quickly realised the Channel Ten engineering was managed by ex AWA staff. My good friend Steve Stenos and I from the installation team were talked into staying at Channel Ten. Interestingly AWA management almost viewed this as a transfer rather than a change of employer and were more than happy with the arrangement as the managers at Ten indicated would be the case.
Laurie Halliwell from Control Systems (who was actually the tote manager on the night of the above anecdote from Geelong trots) joined AWA at the beginning of 1977. He was a brilliant manager, and he didn't mind indulging my curiosity around the tote house. I caught up with him at Randwick outside the mobile computer control centre on ANZAC Day 1977. He disappeared from view a little while later. I hope the story had a happy ending, but racecourse scuttlebutt paints a less rosy image of my first tote 'hero'. If he is still out there, I hope he is leading a happy and contented life.
Ken Lee replacing Laurie Hallowell as on course manager of Control Systems Totalisators took place in early 1977, after the latter joined AWA preparatory to their taking over the Sydney metropolitan racecourse totalisator operations. When the Victorian TAB started acquiring the operating rights of the existing totalisator companies around 1986, Control Systems was the first to be replaced by the TAB on course. Ken Lee retired as both owner and operator of Control Systems, with most other staff continuing to work, albeit with new machines and a new employer. Anne McDermott was the most senior (in rank) of Control Systems staff to join the TAB, and eventually worked alongside ATL's Harry Lane and Valda Jakobsen (as well as other former ATL staff) as race day managers when ATL's operations in Victoria were acquired by the TAB. While it was sad to lose the rich history the various totalisator companies provided, to have the best of Control Systems and ATL running the TAB's on course operations ensured a smooth transfer, as well as providing uniformity of operations at all Victorian tracks. From my perspective as a punter, the TAB takeover meant needing to have only one totalisator account, instead of four (ATL, Control Systems, Gippsland Regional Tote and Noreast Totalisators). Nostalgia for a bygone era was tempered by the practical advantages provided by having one operator having a tote monopoly. Still, even today I have mixed feelings about a government monopoly set up to channel betting to the racecourse, effectively taking over racecourse betting itself.
I remember Harry Lane as an iconic Automatic Totalisators manager in Victoria. I did not meet him during the ATL era but his name was one of a legendary group of managers. He is the subject of the "A Good Yarn from David Ferrier" section above. I was delighted to eventually meet him during my visit to Melbourne in 2014. I also know Valda Jakobsen. I met her during the Tabcorp era when she was part of the on-course management team. At one stage Valda was the editor of a company magazine called Ontrack. I used to write totalisator history articles which I submitted to Valda for inclusion in the magazine. It is interesting to note that both Valda and her husband Michael worked for Automatic Totalisators Limited. We had a wonderful lunch with Valda and Michael during our recent trip to Melbourne.
Incidentally, sorting out memorabilia yesterday, I came across a two page letter from the manager of operations at the TAB, responding to my criticisms of the terminals that replaced Control Systems machines (back in 1986). I had forgotten how peeved I was that an off course agency was presuming that their practices would be adequate for course operations. Boy, was I precious! Some of my criticisms were valid, but it would have been prudent of me to have held fire until the dust settled. I was fiercely loyal to CST, mainly because they were the operator at the provincial tracks I attended at the start of my punting career. Ken Lee was also a generous contributor to country racing, sponsoring a Control Systems Handicap at just about every course his company operated at. As a very much junior operator, compared to ATL, CST had to cut corners to compete for contracts. That sometimes meant machines failed or irregularities occurred, but I wouldn't have missed those days for anything.
Harry Lane, on reading this article remembered Laurie Hallowell as well and wrote the following:
I recall Lawrie Hallowell went from an ATL casual employee to Control Systems as their On Course manager. Prior to being an ATL casual employee he was in the Victorian Police Force. I don’t recall how long he spent with Control Systems but he left for Sydney some years later with his new girlfriend to take up employment there. He was rather debonair and made friends easily and came across as very confident.
|Melbourne Overs Punters by Chris Robertson|
Following is an extract from an email I recieved from Chris Robertson in December 2014. It is an interesting glimpse at the high value punters. I recall the high value punters in Brisbane and we regarded them as valuable customers and attempted to attract their patronage, as they as a small minority of the racetrack betting public generally contributed more than the remaining majority put together. I have not included the newspaper article and photo that Chris refers to as the photo is low resolution and the text does not add greatly to Chris' interesting description.
I don't know whether you know the term 'overs punters', but that's the demographic within I fit, or did till the whole exercise became futile as the on course tote punter's edge eroded with the advent of greater flows of information via radio, Sky Channel, and individual TAB outlets. That little 'laboratory' (see cutting bellow) behind the odds fluctuation board at Caulfield was where my fellow colleagues and I bet, until we were found better accommodation inside the old Maple Room tote (which can be glimpsed at the left of the picture). A similar laboratory was put in place at Sandown. They were stifling in Summer, and unbelievably, some tote operators smoked inside until there was almost a riot from pro punters (who looking for an edge in life, clearly saw little value in smoking).
This newspaper cutting was sent to me by one of my fellow overs punters a few weeks ago. It is from circa 1990. I can pinpoint the year because Tim who is interviewed for this piece died of pancreatic cancer in 1991, after having joined the Melbourne ranks of overs punters in November 1989. Tim was the brother of David Walsh, founder of MONA in Hobart, and part of possibly the world's most successful totalisator betting syndicates. If you google David Walsh or MONA you will find out more if you are unfamiliar with this piece of Australia's betting history. David Walsh was interviewed by Leigh Sayles on the ABC's 7.30 about three months ago following the release of his book "A Bone of Fact" that dealt with betting, his brother's death and MONA, amongst other things. This cutting is from the Age.
A few months after the article below, Paul Heinrichs, a then journalist for The Sunday Age, who knew me from my political activist days (another long digression from which I will spare you) approached me to flesh out a greater in depth look at how professional tote punters obtained their edge over the ordinary mug TAB punter. That article was published the day after the Caulfield Cup. I was surprised at how little flack I received from my fellow 'pros' over giving up so many of our secrets, but I figured they guessed that the article was always going to be written, and my involvement meant we would be portrayed accurately and fairly. At least I like to think that's what they all thought at the time. I was embarrassed about my fifteen minutes of fame (it extended to Melbourne Cup Day when the ABC's 'The World Today' got hold of me to talk about how we professionals would approach the day), but in the end it barely mattered. 1990 was about the zenith for betting the overs. The following years saw more and more retirements (mine in April 1995), some with most of their winnings intact, whilst others with little to show for the halcyon years started driving cabs to make ends meet. There is no longer a facility for professional tote punters on any Victorian racecourse, and there hasn't been for at least ten years.
I took up betting again on a small scale two years ago at the encouragement of a former colleague. I am enjoying betting on American, Japanese and European events. It has proved more interesting than doing sudoku, and is useful at keeping the mind sharp. Unfortunately the nature of Corporate Bookmaking is unlike the old days betting with the Tote. The bookies dislike 'smarties': I've already had one ban me, and three others are restricting my bets. It's small beer compared to the late 1980's, but I mostly enjoy it.
Anyway, that's my background, sanitised though it is. I know what you did at the racecourse from your site. It's reasonable you know something of what I used to do.
|A comment from Mark Twain|
Mark Twain made the following comment after seeing the Melbourne Cup in 1895. Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.
I find it ironic that for a nation that stops for a horse race and one where most of its inhabitants know what the TAB is, that so little is known about this uniquely Australian, rich history of the automatic totalisator, which took place in the half a century prior to the advent of the TABs. From a technical standpoint, these Julius totes have greater significance than just being descendants of the world's first automatic totalisator, as the world's first large scale multi user real time systems.
Comments and suggestions welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org
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