Continuing my recollections ( stop me if I'm boring you )
The Ace building in Ferry Road was a fairly dilapidated old warehouse unit that had cracked brickwork but was nicely white painted with of course a large JPM sign. A huge concrete ceiling some 20 foot high in the main assembly area and no insulation to the walls in those days ensured that in the winter it was freezing.
Offices and development were on the first floor accessible by a concrete stair case or for the prototype machines, a hoist and a steel floor with chains, no cage, HSE what's that?.
The stores and the cabinet shop were across a large potholed access road that went no where except to the weed covered red brick wall that was the boundary of the Gas Board wall and the huge gasometers that supplied some parts of Cardiff and dwarfed the factory.
Stacked on shelves behind the 6 assembly workers were the parts to be fitted to the cabinets and in front of them scraps of domestic carpeting were a protection from the cold floor in front of the assembly runners. Empty machines were brought in on sack trucks and set on plywood bases to be pushed down the floor level roller line.
Graham, Tommy, Howard, Gareth B, Gareth G, Gary (common name in Wales yew see, init,) used pneumatic drills, screw drivers and nut runners to install the components necessary for the build and they all raced with their guns screaming to see who could finish their machine first.
From the end of the line machines were again sack trucked into the test compound which was delineated by a low stud wall topped with a green plastic coated chicken wire, this to make sure that no one could get in unless they were trained as the earthing was protected, the machine having to be earth tested separately.
My first job was to build (reel units) flashers which I found both daunting and interesting if a little repetitive but soon, chasing my own build count made me want to better the build environment. Given a colleague to work with we finished our efforts quite early in the week so rather than pass them on to the Flasher Test area, I offered to learn and was introduced to the Schematics and so we combined the build and test which just made common sense to me.
Finding work to do was easy as we were getting more and more successful by the week and demarcation lines were thin. One of the tasks we could help with was producing the Schematics from the master copies.
To make the large scale AO circuit diagrams or schematics that made up the only diagnostic guide sent with the machine we had a master that was made by Howard Parker drawn full scale on a transparent plastic like material. This was then placed on a special sheet of ‘blue print’ or photo sensitive paper and both were put into the rollers of a diazotype printing machine.
This machine used neat ammonia as part of the 'developing' medium and the paper being photo sensitive bleached with the blinding light produced, but only where the master was blank. When blueprint paper is exposed to uv light through the machine a positive image is "burned" onto the blueprint paper from the original.
After this occurs, the paper is then exposed to ammonia gas which fixes the lines or the print which turn blue. The problem was that the Ammonia had to be fresh and transferring it form a bottle to the machine ended in the room filling with ammonia fumes, the process itself producing even more fumes. Again HSE?
I seemed to understand the schematics quite readily so I was keen to learn how to test the rest of the machine and started hanging around the test area where the relay covered control units with their various rotary control timers were being tested or perhaps exercised is a more fitting description. This was done on huge test rigs covered in lamps and switches which were in reality simply a machine without the cabinet.
Helping with this, and testing the reel units introduced me of course to the concept of fault finding using the schematics which stood me in good stead as time went by.
Regards, Frank Bird
.......... To be continued ..........