What on earth?

Joshualangman

Active Member
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the venue where I took the attached photos. This lighting system appears to have been installed when the building was built in the 60s, and hasn't been touched since (not even to replace lamps — almost all of them are out). The board, which says Century Lighting, is clearly meant to be a two-scene preset, but they've got it set up so the channels controlled by the top and bottom rows are different — so, in fact, it doesn't function as a preset board at all. The board seems to have a bundle of analog control cables coming out of it that go into the beautiful patch bay and the massive dimmer rack, which contains dimmers labeled as 2k, 4k, and 8k. This whole system seems massively overcomplicated for this tiny stage in a Yonkers library with about 8 lights. (Not shown: the wonderful pink and sea-foam green curtains and decor, and the "fallout shelter" sign posted backstage …)

What I'm most curious about is that cage of bricks. It's a metal cage about 8 ft long and 4 ft high, and the lid can be lifted up in segments. It contains rows of bricks? cinder blocks? that are clamped together in series with wires running through them. I thought initially this might be some kind of heating coil or ghost load thing for resistance dimmers, but I've been told that's unlikely. Any thoughts?

And any other information on this system would be greatly appreciated. A wonderful thing to run into on a touring show when someone says, "Hey go turn on some lights."

Josh

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epimetheus

Well-Known Member
The "bricks in the cage" looks like a ni-cd battery bank to me. You said there was a fallout shelter sign backstage? Maybe the battery bank is part of an emergency power system. Based on what little I can see in the pictures, I would estimate that bank to be 100-200Ah at either 125 or 250VDC.

Edit: I just noticed some of the other pictures have notation regarding "transfer" with options of "dim" and "direct". Maybe the house system is capable of being switched from dimmed to DC (direct current) as backup and emergency lighting. Very intriguing...
 
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Nelson

Active Member
Can't say what the cage is, though based on the connections; sure looks like a battery bank. All I know is if that system has puppies, I want one!
 

MultiTool

Member
sweet! maybe the cage is for keeping small animals to eat in the fallout shelter...
Just sayin'

I love old systems like that though, I bet all the components weigh a ton.
 

Nelson

Active Member
Can you get a better photo of the box above the cage that has the two meters? I'd bet that's part of the battery charging circuit.
 

Joshualangman

Active Member
Two of the photos are close-ups of that box, one of them with the cover open. Unfortunately I won't be able to get back to that venue any time soon, and all I had at the time was a terrible phone camera, thus the awful picture quality.

It may be worth noting that the control cables from the console bypassed the "battery" entirely, but it did seem to be connected to that box with the meters.

Thanks for all the ideas so far!

Josh
 
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FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Those are batteries. They are wired in series to yield 120 Volts DC, which an incandescent lamp can run on. Some portion of the house lights are wired through transfer switches to the battery bank. A power outage would cause the lights to be transfered from dimmers to the batteries to allow an audience to safely exit. They may also power some emergency lighting in other parts of the building. The device with two meters is the charger.
 

gafftapegreenia

CBMod
CB Mods

Aman121

Active Member
Gotta love those old systems! A bunch of lamps, some goo gone for the console, maybe a quick once over by an electrician to clean things up, and it's probably good for another 50 years.

The back up battery thing is interesting, I wonder if it still holds a charge and is useable. If the whole auditorium was designed to be a fallout shelter location it could have been designed to run emergency lights for an extended period of time.
 

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