July-August 1999

Band Organ Workhorse; NYC RR Tower Work

One thing that organ builders and repairmen encounter is an organ which develops some kind of a problem after it is repaired or rebuilt. Most of the time we can give a few simple instructions over the phone to clear up the difficulty with no need to make a service call.

In this segment I will relate one exception to the rule which stands out in my memory. We had just finished an extensive repair job on a Wurlitzer l46 organ and received a call from the unit manager complaining of many sticking notes. The remark was also made that the organ had just left my shop and they did not expect to have problems so soon.

After arriving at the location I discovered the organ had been very wet and the water had ruined the pallet valves which meant the organ would have to be completely torn down and repaired again. The manager of the unit simply could not understand how water could have been in the organ. The company returned the organ to my shop and we were authorized to replace the pallet valves and repair the chest again at their expense.

A few short weeks later we had the same call and found water in the organ again. Once more the organ was returned to us and the third set of pallet valves were installed. This happened one more time but one of the higher supervisors was there at the location and found the problem.

As this traveling show would begin to unload the very first thing off the truck would be the organ. It had been a very rainy season and after the organ was unloaded it was then used for a ‘work platform to assemble the carousel. After a good dressing down the unit manager always had a cover on the organ and it was never used again as a work platform.

This was the only organ I have ever seen being used as a work platform in a hard rain. The only good part of this story is the profit I made in setting a world record of replacing the most pallet valves in an organ in a three month period.


Back at the old New York Central Railroad, I received a call to go on a two day field trip with the same supervisor I was working with when we found the wasps in the flood light tower. This time we were instructed to remove old wiring which was no longer needed due to buildings being removed.

I had also heard through the grapevine that he might have me up another flood light tower. The tower turned out to be the first job when we arrived and this time I had no trouble changing the bulbs. This tower was not as tall but was different in construction in that it had a small square hole at the top of the ladder which you had to go through to stand on the top level. After arriving back at ground level he looked at me and said, "now son, I am going to show you a different way to climb this tower." He proceeded to climb up as far as the hole and from there hung from his arms out to the edge and over the side rails. He then came down the same way and told me he just might be too fat to fit the hole in the platform. He did look like an ape at the zoo swinging out and over and taking the very risky way to the top. I know he could get through the hole but just wanted me to know he could still climb better than I could even at his age.

From there we started the wire removal job and very shortly became black as the ace of spades. We were covered with grime and grease and it was just considered part of the job and was performed with no complaints until lunch time. I was instructed to wash the grime off my hands and face and we would go for a small bite to eat.

We both cleaned up fairly well but our clothes were still black and covered with grime when we went into a very fine hotel restaurant which was equipped with white table cloths and everything first class to cater to the business people of that town. He then instructed the waitress how to bring his meal, when to bring the salad, when to bring his coffee and when to bring the refill.

As for me, I would have felt better if I could have had my meal while hiding under the table out of sight. When we left he gave the waitress a very large tip and told her she had followed the instructions correctly.

I found out later that he spent much of his off time at the opera and shows in New York City and he was a very well educated man. A little grease and grime did not change him from the gentleman he was when he was off the job.

And so it was at the old round house.


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