Mon 10 Jul 2017

Electrical blasts from the past

Generations ago they were highly expensive, high precision pieces of equipment which could do a range of jobs from measuring moisture in timber to electric currents.

Today they are historic relics, the electrical equivalent of a typewriter – capable of doing a superb job that nobody needs to do any more.

Electrical tutor Mike Banks dusted off about a dozen of the old instruments last week so WITT could donate them to the Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum, which is on the corner of SH3 and Kent Rd 8km south of New Plymouth.

Some of the units have seen better days, others look new.

“You can tell this was used in New Zealand,” Mike says of a Steam and Gas Engine Indicator. “Here is the instruction book, it’s never been opened.’’

He says some of the equipment was in use as recently as 10 years ago, but other pieces date back to the early 1900s.

They were donated to WITT, but there is nowhere to properly display all the pieces, and so the decision was made to let them go the museum.

They will join a large collection which includes farm equipment, methods of transport, aircraft, printing and communications equipment, a Post Office display and a marine section.

Mike is familiar with many of the pieces but has to hazard a guess at how some were used.

Calibration instruments came to WITT from the Taranaki Power Station, which was closed in 2007 by Contact Energy after asbestos was found there.

Two units among those being donated were in use at the station in the 1980s.

Mike recalls being involved in work at the station, including putting in new systems – one a flight simulator.

“Now all the work these instruments could do is achieved digitally. They have been gathering dust at WITT, so it was time to give them away so more people could see them,’ he said.

Alan Jenkins and John Stewart called in to WITT last week to collect the items.

They report getting all sorts of offers of old tools and equipment. Some are turned away, but in the case of the equipment at WITT, it was something that would add to the electrical collection at the museum.

It cost $7 to visit the museum and $16 for a family. You’ll learn more about it here:

 Picture: Mike Banks checks out some of the old equipment.