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alan_fincher

Large old Radios in working boat cabins.

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Not that many pictures are published of genuine inside of working boat cabins from working boat days, (I guess they were too private for many photographers to have been allowed in).

 

However it is obvious that by the 40s, 50s & 60s a very large wooden cased radio was often an essential piece of on board equipment, (remarkable really given how much of the tiny cabin they could take up).

 

Those pictures I have seen show what look typical big mains radios of the era, maybe 18" or even 2 feet across, (I guess "Athlone" and "Hilversum" featured on the dial!). I believe some of the books by the wartime volunteers also make reference, including transporting batteries to the butty.

 

However true mains radios needed 240 volts to run, and we are talking days before many semi-conductors, or the availability of 12 volt to 240 volt inverters. You could get the big old "rotary converters" of course, that could achieve the same, but less efficiently, by a kind of motor/generator combination.

 

Early portable radios, on the other hand, that used valves, had the miniature type valves, with low voltage heaters, so that they could run off a pair of big expensive batteries, (often 90v for the HT, and, I think, 1.5v for the LT), but what I see in these pictures of radios in cabins is not those, which usually came in a small Leatherette type suitcase set-up, with an aerial hidde in the folding lid.

 

So what did one of these narrow boat radios comprise, in those pre-transistor days. What was inside them, and how were they powered ?

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Not that many pictures are published of genuine inside of working boat cabins from working boat days, (I guess they were too private for many photographers to have been allowed in).

 

However it is obvious that by the 40s, 50s & 60s a very large wooden cased radio was often an essential piece of on board equipment, (remarkable really given how much of the tiny cabin they could take up).

 

Those pictures I have seen show what look typical big mains radios of the era, maybe 18" or even 2 feet across, (I guess "Athlone" and "Hilversum" featured on the dial!). I believe some of the books by the wartime volunteers also make reference, including transporting batteries to the butty.

 

However true mains radios needed 240 volts to run, and we are talking days before many semi-conductors, or the availability of 12 volt to 240 volt inverters. You could get the big old "rotary converters" of course, that could achieve the same, but less efficiently, by a kind of motor/generator combination.

 

Early portable radios, on the other hand, that used valves, had the miniature type valves, with low voltage heaters, so that they could run off a pair of big expensive batteries, (often 90v for the HT, and, I think, 1.5v for the LT), but what I see in these pictures of radios in cabins is not those, which usually came in a small Leatherette type suitcase set-up, with an aerial hidde in the folding lid.

 

So what did one of these narrow boat radios comprise, in those pre-transistor days. What was inside them, and how were they powered ?

 

Those old radios were powered by there own batteries - then called accumulators. The earliest versions were in glass cases but hard rubber and even a mix of hard rubber and cardboard was used in later days. At Welford, where I grew up, there was an enamel sign outside one of the shops that said something like "Wireless accumulators charged here" - I was friendly with the boy who lived at the shop and once asked his father what this meant - he told me that before the war, the shop had been a radio shop and that he used to supply and repair radios. People who didn't have mains electricity ran their radios from batteries and brought them to him for regular re-charging. It must have been a nice little earner.

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the Amberley Chalk Pits museum nr Arundel in West Sussex has a fine collection of these jems i'm sure they could tell you all about them and how they worked.

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Those old radios were powered by there own batteries - then called accumulators.

Yes, you are right of course - I did actually have a number of the single cell, glass encased "Exide" accumulators that could have been put to that use, (throw outs from my school's science labs).

 

Certainly I agree many valve heaters were so powered.

 

However I think I need to "Google" a bit, because as even the low powered valves needed around 90 volts, you would have needed 45 two volt cells in series to derive the high tension side that way.

 

That just sounds unlikely to me, and even 45 of the most miniature accumulators would have occupied too much narrow boat cabin.

 

I kind of recall that many sets used accumulators for the heaters, but mains (rectified, obviously), for the HT. Obviously there was no mains in narrow boats.

 

Time for some more research!

 

EDITED: To correct some very dodgy arithmetic, that assumed 1.5 volt rather than 2 volt cells!

Edited by alan_fincher

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Those old radios were powered by there own batteries - then called accumulators. The earliest versions were in glass cases but hard rubber and even a mix of hard rubber and cardboard was used in later days. At Welford, where I grew up, there was an enamel sign outside one of the shops that said something like "Wireless accumulators charged here" - I was friendly with the boy who lived at the shop and once asked his father what this meant - he told me that before the war, the shop had been a radio shop and that he used to supply and repair radios. People who didn't have mains electricity ran their radios from batteries and brought them to him for regular re-charging. It must have been a nice little earner.

 

Those would have supplied tha LT (for the heaters, the biggest drain), but what about the HT? I know there were special dry batteries, stacks of flat cells (1.5V each) to make up 90V or whatever for the HT, for the portable sets such as Alan described, but what about bigger sets? Did they have 90V accumulators, ie about 45 lead-acid cells together?

I have some vague recollection of special low-voltage valves, but maybe they were for special applications?

 

Tim

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People who didn't have mains electricity ran their radios from batteries and brought them to him for regular re-charging. It must have been a nice little earner.

 

I remember them. I must be older than I look. My gran powered her radio by using an accumulator. But then she also made her own butter by shaking an old tin with the top tied on by hand. And yes if you're asking, the dunny was down the bottom of the garden. Next door had a two seater.

 

Tony.

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I remember them. I must be older than I look. My gran powered her radio by using an accumulator. But then she also made her own butter by shaking an old tin with the top tied on by hand. And yes if you're asking, the dunny was down the bottom of the garden. Next door had a two seater.

 

Tony.

 

Ah I remember it well. One of my jobs as a boy was to swap each week the old accumulator for a charged one at the corner shop for my gran. This was in the early 50s before we had 240v ac electricity. It was all dc. I seem to recall a change-over day when we had to take all our electrical appliances out into the road to a van where they were adapted for the new voltage. I remember that my gran’s old wireless couldn’t be converted and it was scrapped.

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Those old radios were powered by there own batteries - then called accumulators. The earliest versions were in glass cases but hard rubber and even a mix of hard rubber and cardboard was used in later days. At Welford, where I grew up, there was an enamel sign outside one of the shops that said something like "Wireless accumulators charged here" - I was friendly with the boy who lived at the shop and once asked his father what this meant - he told me that before the war, the shop had been a radio shop and that he used to supply and repair radios. People who didn't have mains electricity ran their radios from batteries and brought them to him for regular re-charging. It must have been a nice little earner.

 

I think most villages had a shop which offered charging for radio accumulators. Ours certainly did. The leatherette covered radios were said to be 'portable' rather like the early luggable computers, but I think they were rather later than the accumualor driven ones used on boats. It would be interesting to discover where the boaters had their accumulators charged though. The batteries that the Wartime Trainess hated lifting across to the butty were purely for lighting, when the modern diesels allowed battery charging. Only a few Bolinders were fitted with belts and dynamos, hence FMC staying with paraffin lamps. Radio accumulators could not easily be charged by the engine owing to the higher voltages involved. The house I was born in didn't have electricity but thr first radio I can remember was mains powered so I guess it was a post war electrifcation scheme there. Stationary engined generator sets were used to recharge Accumulators in places where the mains wasn't available.

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Hi,

 

Perhaps the accumulators were charged by good old fashioned dynamos running of the engine.

 

Leo

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I think a point has been missed here.

 

I accept you can run valve heaters off lead acid cells ("accuumulators"), many of us had grannies who had such things, and that there was a cottage industry to get them charged.

 

However I don't think it is correct that anyone was likely to run an entire valve radio on such cells. The other side of the equation, (leaving out "grid bias batteries, for anybody who remembers them!), was the so called HT ("high tension") side.

 

Few valves worked with under 90 volts HT, many needed 120 volts or so, I think, and those in later mains valve radio used around 200 volts.

 

Unless you have some kind of "step-up converter" - an inverter these days, but previously possible with electrmechanical devices like "rotary converters" or even "vibrators", (I kid you not - valve var radios used these!), then you can't get HT from lead acid batteries unless you string together between about 45 and 100. I'm sure this wasn't done.

 

Early radios, plus the later portables, had big dry cells, but they don't smack to me of what went in large veneered case radios with seriously big valves. It would even then have been an expensive option, and boatmen were not well-to-do.

 

I bet Allan Jones would know the real answer!

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My Dad made me a crystal radio so that I could just about get Radio Luxembourg - listened to The Top 20 and then "Open the Box" with Michael Miles through headphones. No batteries - it was pure magic.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_radio (The link thingy isn't working :lol: )

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I presume its possable that the batterys/accumulators could have been stored in the hold? With a wire to the radio set in the cabin?

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I think many of them did use dry batteries in series for the HT supply: 120v or so would possible and adequate for low audio power output.

 

There did exist something called a "vibrator pack", (stop sniggering at the back!) which was a crude electromechanical chopper for converting DC to AC which could then be fed to a step-up transformer. I associate that more with early valve-based car radios where they were used to drive HT from the 12V supply.

 

MP.

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I think a point has been missed here.

 

I accept you can run valve heaters off lead acid cells ("accuumulators"), many of us had grannies who had such things, and that there was a cottage industry to get them charged.

 

However I don't think it is correct that anyone was likely to run an entire valve radio on such cells. The other side of the equation, (leaving out "grid bias batteries, for anybody who remembers them!), was the so called HT ("high tension") side.

 

Few valves worked with under 90 volts HT, many needed 120 volts or so, I think, and those in later mains valve radio used around 200 volts.

 

Unless you have some kind of "step-up converter" - an inverter these days, but previously possible with electrmechanical devices like "rotary converters" or even "vibrators", (I kid you not - valve var radios used these!), then you can't get HT from lead acid batteries unless you string together between about 45 and 100. I'm sure this wasn't done.

 

Early radios, plus the later portables, had big dry cells, but they don't smack to me of what went in large veneered case radios with seriously big valves. It would even then have been an expensive option, and boatmen were not well-to-do.

 

I bet Allan Jones would know the real answer!

 

HT battery:-

 

image0-3-2.jpg

 

Grid bias battery:-

 

image1-1.jpg

(not all sets needed them)

 

From 'The book of Practical Radio', 1934

 

Doesn't answer your question, though.

 

Tim

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I presume its possable that the batterys/accumulators could have been stored in the hold? With a wire to the radio set in the cabin?

 

The batteries or accumulators were not that big - although the 'B' batteries provided a much higher voltage the actual current required was very small so they could be the same size as the low voltage 'A' batteries.

 

The current consumption of a 90v 'B' battery in a typical 1940s radio was quoted as 15 mA (0.0015 amps) and for the 1.5v 'A' battery it is quoted as 0.3 amps.

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This is my Roberts Valve radio that used a 90V and a 3V battery.

 

I use a string of PP3s to make up the 90V and two D cells for the 3V:

 

DSCF1940.jpg

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There is an excellent explanation here:

 

The 1930's Battery Radio

 

The photograph below (link to the above site) shows the comparitive size of the HT battery which is clearly very small.

 

Batteries-1.jpg

 

 

erm..., very small comparative to what?

 

The 9/- battery is the HT jobbie, the smaller one is for grid bias (9V?) the same as in my pic. The picture doesn't actually tell us what size either of them was, though you can get an idea by referring back to my pic if you assume the two bias batts are the same.

 

Tim

Edited by Timleech

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There is an excellent explanation here:

 

The 1930's Battery Radio

Yes, I found that article.

 

It is slightly flawed, as it talks about "the six volt lead acid battery", but clearly depicts a single cell two volt one. (If the valves had 6 volt heaters, you would need three of those in series).

 

Whilst I'm well aware of the old HT battery backs that gave out 90 or maybe 120 volts, I still don't think the narrow boat based sets I've seen pictures of were of the type to use them, but I could be wrong.

 

I'll try and locate a photo in a book.

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erm..., very small comparative to what?

 

The 9/- battery is the HT jobbie, the smaller one is for grid bias (9V?) the same as in my pic. The picture doesn't actually tell us what size either of them was.

 

Tim

 

Sorry - I appreciate that dosen't make a lot of sense I meant to draw attention to the fact that the website indicates that the largest item was the low voltage accumulator and that needed charging weekly. So by extension these batteries were relatively small - probably still making no sense . . .

Edited by NB Alnwick

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The 9/- battery is the HT jobbie, the smaller one is for grid bias (9V?) the same as in my pic. The picture doesn't actually tell us what size either of them was, though you can get an idea by referring back to my pic if you assume the two bias batts are the same.

Neither are that large, the HT ones I've seen perhaps no more that 6 or 8 inches in their largest dimension. (You'll find displays at the Science Museum, Bletcley Park & the like, I'm sure).

 

However if those are 1930s batteries, then 9 shillings represented quite a lot of money in the 1930s, even if they had a long life.

 

I know the smaller ones my parents were buying in the 1960s for a portable 90 volt valve set were pretty pricey to.

 

I'm happy to be told this is what working boatmen used, if that can be established, but it still feels wrong.

 

I don't know, for example, why they didn't seem to have the small portable sets, with presumably lower power demands. Old photos, (few about ?), and descriptions always seem to indicate a big domestic type mains radio, like many of us grew up with.

 

Presumably from the 1960s transistor radios would have quickly become a far more practical alternative ?

 

It's still puzzling me!

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The 1930s were a period of rapid progress and the big old radios that saw the decade in were soon regarded as unfashionable - expensive they may have been when new but I bet the boaters got them secondhand for next to nothing.

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Does anyone know more than use about the use of radios aboard working boats from the 1920's onwards?

What was listened to,

how were batteries charged,

what type of radios,

where were they stored/kept,

also electric systems aboard boat, that made incandesent lighting possible and radios a normal part of life before WW11?

 

Here's the original query

 

Working boat people must have used domestic radio (weather

forecasts and news?) from about 1935 up to the end of commercial carrying

circa 1955. It is likely that, post war, they would have used ex- land

battery sets such as the Cossor Melody Maker with a separate horn or

moving reed speaker (power=2 volt wet and 120 volt dry HT batteries). The

hull would have been the aerial earth and I guess a long wire aerial

deployed when moored up. Not sure where the radio would have been stored

under way (typically rectangular wooden box 2 ft x 1ft x 18ins) but guess

it would be installed on the side table after the evening meal ? Earlier

sets would no doubt have been smaller crystal types driving Hi -Z

earphones as on land and requiring no power supply.

 

REPLY

 

As for the radio question you probably know more than I as far as equipment.

My feeling is that they served more as a form of musical entertainment than news off the bank. I also wonder if like today they could charge up accumulators themselves as electric light in the cabin would have also been desirable for close-work tasks like sewing and ropework. The space a radio would take up in such a compact space would have given willingly for the entertainment value of the machine. Separate speaker systems with a valve receiver plus battery or the later more compact combined sets could be quickly set up for use in the cabin once the remains of the meal was cleared away. The idea that they would have used the earlier crystal sets is not so likely as these required some technical knowledge and they were not communal listening experience as earphones were required. Many boatmen could play a instrument for shared pleasure and radios would have given the chance to learn the latest pop tunes that could be aired at the next meet-up in the waterside pub wherever.

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