This is one of several pages relating to the history of the automatic totalisator, its invention in 1913, the inventor George Julius and the Australian company he founded in 1917, which became a monopoly, later part of an oligopoly in this field. This page is a continuation of the description of the factory at Meadowbank and the people who worked there. If you wish to start from the beginning then go to the index

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Automatic Totalsators Limited Factory Part 2

Memories of the Factory part 2

The following is the second part of a transcription of an audio tape by Neville Mitchell and photographs he has supplied. Neville has held several management positions with the company Automatic Totalisators Limited. When I first joined the company, I think he was the manager of the drawing office.

Section of the ATL Staff Cafeteria Image of the canteen

Here we have the picture of the canteen. In the corner there was the properly equipped kitchen that could provide 1000 meals a day. When you worked overtime you were provided with a three course meal. If you worked a night shift you were given breakfast as well. This was bacon and eggs and toast and tomato, the whole bit. You really felt like you were looked after in those days. The chairs were a bit of a problem. As they wore they became known as nut crushers because of that canvas, slim type seat, used to stretch and as you sat in it you sunk down between those steel tubes and often you would get down there and if you were a bit overweight you would get stuck.

One thing about this, when you went there you were sort of assigned a seat. If you went upstairs for morning tea and sat down with a group of guys, they would look at you as if to say "that seat belonged to someone else", you could not go and sit anywhere you liked. The hierarchy even extended to where you sat and ate lunch. The executive's lunch room was behind the kitchen and they ate separately to the production and office staff.

An animation of a J8 Ticket Issuing Machine Animation of J8 Ticket Issuing Machine / terminal
The wonderful J8 machine. I have no idea of how many they manufactured, but it was certainly in the tens of thousands. They were distributed world wide. This particular one is a multi value machine. You can see it had a value key that you could swap between 10 and 50 pounds.

Image of part of the assembly section Part of the Assembly Section

This is a view of the J8 assembly line, part of the assembly section. It shows the factory prior to an extension that was made. There was one more sawtooth that was added when Automatic Totalisators bought out Page Engineering and started to manufacture the yellow and black number plates for the NSW Department of Transport. This enterprise eventually shifted into its own factory across the street.

Toolmakers Hand Fitting Section Image of toolmakers bench section

Here is the toolies hand fitting section, where the various dies jigs and fixtures were assembled and checked out. Notice that the work benches are solid cast iron they weighed close to half a ton each.

A section of the precision grinding department Precision Grinding Department

Part of the machine room for the toolies. All precision machinery surface grinders and centreless grinding jig boring and overhead mills.

Tool Maintenance Department Image of Tool maintenance department

The production floor shop, these are some of the machines used in tool maintenance. As you can see the amount of machines was enormous.

Image of a section of the Metrology Laboratory A section of the Metrology Laboratory

This is the metrology department. This room was air conditioned and the laboratory was certificated to National Laboratory standards and they did a lot of checking and testing work here. I particularly remember the stage when we were subcontracting the manufacture of parts for the Victa Air Tourer aircraft and every part was taken through here and tested for accuracy and was X-rayed and hardness checked, all that sort of thing which went into certifying a part suitable for an aircraft.

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The Heat Treatment Department Image of the Heat Treatment Department

The heat treatment area. It was run by a bloke named Bob, he was a Communist. Of course the whole factory was unionised, very very strictly unionised. He was one of those soap box blokes so whenever there was a union meeting this bloke would be up the front and wanted to get on his soap box. The area where this heat treatment room is was in the annex under the men's locker room. If you look at the sewerage pipes up there you can see the additional pipe they put in there which drained that rare washing basin I talked about before. The heat treatment room was eventually moved to the new toolroom across the street. The image shows a group of Liquid Heat Furnaces. Of particular interest is the Isothermal Furnace.

Author's note: I recall this room very well. It was next door to the Installation Department. When I started with the company I was assigned to the Installation Department under Ron Hood who was the manager. I spent a lot of time at a desk on the other side of the wall in the photo, studying PDP 11 architecture and hardware, as well as ATL products. I joined the company with the intention of moving to Queensland with the new computer tote systems. It is funny how sometimes a casual remark can end up enormously prophetic. Ron told me, as a fledgling in the company, that I was in a fortunate position as I would have a job that I could mould into whatever I wished. I paid little attention to this comment at the time primarily because I could not see how something like that could happen. I have recently retired and in retrospect Ron was absolutely right.

Image of the small tools rack The small tool storage racks
The tooling racks. Every tool had a number and if you had that tool out you had to give a brass tag with your payroll number on it and you were totally responsible for that tool whilst it was off the rack. At the end of the day or week the store-man would come along and demand the tool back and you were given your brass tag back and if you didn't or you had broken it, you were docked for the damage that you had done or the loss of the tool.

A three shaft adder Image of a 3 shaft adder

A nice view of an adder. Everything on it is manufactured by Automatic Totalisators except the rotary counter and the mercury switch located at the bottom right. This is a three shaft adder, a work of art. It had the capacity of up to 240 ticket issuing machines.

The Meadowbank Factory Image of The Meadowbank Factory

The land to which Neville refers below, is the land that the factory is standing on. It includes the land on the near side of Nancarrow Avenue on which the photographer is standing. This land across the road from the factory, is where ATL built a separate tool-room which became necessary due to growth of the business.

Earlier in the tape I was talking about Julius acquiring the land at Meadowbank. The story behind why he wanted to build, in those days, way out in the boondocks comes from the war time and post war era, from the factory that was located in Crown Street in the city. The problem with the factory there was the proximity of all the hotels. There was a hotel or pub on every corner. They had great trouble keeping the people at work especially working three shifts as they did all through the war years. So when he looked for a site for the new factory, one of the prime considerations was that it had to be at least a mile from the nearest hotel. He achieved that with a vengeance, because the closest hotel was way down at West Ryde and it certainly wasn't a place that you could get to, have a drink and get back to work in your half hour lunch break. However over the years of course we have spent many pleasant hours there after work especially after Friday night with the likes of George Klemmer and Peter Rolls etcetera. The problem with alcohol at the Crown Street Factory had many hilarious tales of how the people who worked there brought the illegal liquor into the place so that they could imbibe sometime during the night. There was many stories of people being found asleep and that sort of thing and getting suspended, you could not sack them in those days so they would be suspended without pay. So when he decided on the new factory it had to be well away from anything like that.

This is an interesting point for me. When I joined Automatic Totalisators in 1977, I was surprised to find that we would often attend the Wallumetta Club for lunch on Fridays. This was a Businessman's Club on Victoria Road that was not far away. In all previous jobs, work and partaking in alcoholic beverages was kept quite separate. In this instance, it was accepted. With the passage of time I began to realise that this was bigger than I had first imagined. I started to recognise more of the people at the club and I came to realise that the patrons at the club on Friday afternoons was a who's who of Automatic Totalisators. Occasionally the stay at the club extended beyond lunch hours and little work was done at the factory for the rest of the afternoon. Several of the management staff thought that this was actually a productive exercise as more communication took place at the Club than at the factory. I tend to concur, as the major topic of conversation was always Automatic Totalisators and people from different departments would often be engaged in conversation.

Precision Milling Department Image of the precision milling department

I have included one more photograph from Neville's collection which he has not commented on. This photograph has significance for me. In my latter shooldays, I spent a holiday break working at William Adams, another engineering company, for work experience, as arranged by my father. I learnt a lot about the workings of a machine shop and most of my time was spent operating a milling machine which has fired my interest in the ATL Precision Milling Department as shown in this photograph.

Factory memories from Rod Richards

Rod was an engineer with Automatic Totalisators. He performed the Julius totalisator installation at the Ipswich Amateur Turf Club in Queensland and has written about that in the Shaft Adder in the image chapter. Following are his recollections relating to the ATL factory at Meadowbank.

I started at ATL in early January 1949 as a 17 year old second year apprentice as I had to transfer from a small Press Metal shop that had to close its doors and I was left without a job. This however was a blessing in disguise as not long after I started my first year, the company moved to a larger shop at Matraville from Clovelly and at about the same time my family moved from Annandale to Ermington near West Ryde. This left me with a massive amount of travel each day to get to work and to go to Tech at Ultimo a couple of nights a week; my 30 shillings a week wage went mostly on fares; I soon became disenchanted with the whole affair

I could not believe my luck when I was accepted at ATL, to continue my apprenticeship, this massive modern almost new factory, certainly beat the hell out of the old Fibro shed that I had just left, also ATL was just a bike ride from home and a new Tech College had just started at Meadowbank, fate and my fairy godfather was certainly looking after me.

On my first day at ATL I was introduced to man in charge of the Adders, Fred James an old Tote man whose first words were “Rod, I do not care how long it takes, but it must be done right” I still remember those words as I still tend not to take short cuts. Although ‘take your time’ was not quite right as Totes was at the time super busy with a number of jobs in the pipe line and overtime being worked. I recall that towards the end of the year 1949, the Randall Park job in the USA was top priority as it had to be completed before a certain date to meet the racing carnival or severe penalties would apply, I think we even worked Boxing Day and air freight was involved.

I worked mainly with the Adders and not to ramble on for too long a couple of things stick in my mind; One is the Number Counter mounted on the Adder, this was commonly known as “The Veeder” as the Counter was made by Veeder – Root and the name Veeder just seemed to stick.

The Escapement Shaft was also an assembly that required some careful assembly as the brass bevel gears had to be de burred so that they ran smoothly when assembled, this was done with the aid of a fine knife file. The Escapement Wheels were also assembled to the Cross Head with four BA Csk Hd screws with a similar product to Loctite. Once the assembly was completed the unit was then ‘Run In’ mounted in a fixture in an enclosed tank and run with a light oil as a lubricant. Each Escapement Wheel was locked off in turn to ensure that all the bevel gears were being run in. The end result was that the whole assembly was like a piece of silk to turn. Alf Burnell was the man that took a personal interest in each Escapement Shaft that left his care.

Those were the days!!

Fancy Line


Fancy Line

Comments and suggestions welcome to

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