by Dr. Bill Black


Now that the machine is tucked away in my workshop I can examine it more closely. Having never worked on one of these before, I spent some time looking it over to see how it is constructed and how it works. Not trusting my memory, I will use my digital camera to take photos of the various parts, how they work and where they are mounted in the machine. I also made drawings of various parts regarding how it is tubed for reference during the reassembly of the machine.

I purchased this machine from a friend who had it for quite a few years. He was a circus buff and a skilled builder of miniature circus models. His interest in the circus brought him into contact with many circus shows at which he entertained the circus patrons with calliope music. The calliope was mounted on a truck which was themed with a circus flavor. Collectors are always interested in where the machine has been and how the owner acquired it. This particular example was with a traveling show in the Midwest. At a particular play date, the show had a poor attendance for some reason. The local feed store had supplied feed for the animals. So, in settlement for the feed bill, the store owner accepted the calliope as payment for the feed. My friend later bought the machine from another fellow who had acquired it.

When my friend acquired it, it could be played either by hand or from the music roll. Eventually, the roll player stopped working and the calliope was played by hand for performances.

For the purpose of discussion in these articles, I will refer to the keyboard side of the machine as the front and the roll player side as the back. In PHOTO A we see the pipework as viewed from the back. These brass pipes have a threaded toe which is screwed into a threaded socket which is soldered into the top of the machine. The pipes are arranged in such a manner as to present a pleasing appearance on the machine. Careful notes were made to insure they will be mounted back in the correct position. The pipework is in very good shape with no dents etc, but they do need polished. The previous owner was always careful to unscrew the pipes and place them into a special cabinet in the truck so they would not be damaged during travel to shows. He did tell me that at one point, several pipes were replaced with new pipes some years ago before he acquired it. More on this later.

In PHOTO B, we have removed the pipework and carefully stored them for a trip to the music store which has a brass polishing facility.

PHOTO C shows the left side of the machine. Handles are mounted for grips to move it around. Also included is a pressure gauge to monitor the pressure on the pressure tank. Everything is designed to use all the internal space in the cabinet and the roll frame is so close to the side of the machine, they needed to use two holes in the side of the cabinet for the axle on the music roll spools to be moved thru the side of thecabinet a bit to remove the music roll spools.

PHOTO D shows the right side of the cabinet.....just two handles here. Note the name plate is missing. This plate fell victim to name plate collectors at some point. The other plate survived and has some interesting info to see.

As the truck was stored outside, when winter arrives, all sorts of critters begin to look for winter quarters. This search is very persistent and a calliope apparently looks like a very nice place to call home, if you happen to be the correct size. In PHOTO E, we have removed the lower portion of the back of the calliope. Here we find the calling cards of former residents, an assortment of nut shells, leaves, twigs and debris. I have scrapped this stuff out of the space between the back and the pressure tank. You can see this material lying on the floor.

Next month we will continue to take it apart.........

Dr. Bill Black is one of the nation's most knowledgeble Wurlitzer band organ experts. He has made recordings of many band organs and other mechanical music machines which are available for purchase in our CarouselStores.com website.