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 (later 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 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.
|Early Tote History by Ken Crook|
The following are extracts from a tote newsletter 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.
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 predates 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. Whats’ 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, whats’ 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.
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.
|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.
Finally, on the subject of the national appeal of the Melbourne Cup, an external link to a contemporary informative Melbourne Cup site. MELBOURNE CUP The Race That Stops a Nation
Comments and suggestions welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org
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