TANGLEY CALLIOPE RESTORATION PROJECT
by Bill Black
Having finished the 105 band organ, we will next undertake the restoration of a Tangley Calliope.
In 1914, Norman Baker founded the Tangley Calliope Company of Muscatine, Iowa. The company produced a machine sold under the name Tangley Air Calliope and was later called a Calliaphone.
Earlier versions of a calliope existed on river boats which were operated by steam. The pipework could be loudly voiced to operate on the steam pressure used to propel the boat. The music produced was very loud and could be heard for quite a distance. This music was often used to announce the approach of the steamboat.
The Tangley machines were designed to operate on compressed air pressure thus eliminating the need of a source of steam. The Tangleys operated with a range of five eighths of an inch pressure to one and a quarter inches of pressure. The lower pressure models were termed Theater Calliopes which were voiced a bit softer and intended for indoor use.
The higher pressure versions were plenty loud. The idea here was to use the music to attract attention to a particular area. Thus they were very useful for advertising purposes. Today, the sound of the calliope is most often associated with the traditional music of the circus.
The machines were comprised of a set of 43 whistles, a roll frame which played a type A music roll, a vacuum system to read the music roll, an external blower to provide pressure and vacuum, a windchest to channel air to the pipework, associated parts to operate the various functions and a keyboard to allow the machine to be played by hand. Also included was a rotary pressure blower which required a 1 horsepower motor.
The cabinet (PHOTO A - one of the front panels has been removed) was equipped with the set of handles so that the machine could be moved for transport. The unit is rather heavy, about 330 pounds, and would require several people to handle it. The most popular model was the CA-43 model which was equipped with the roll mechanism for automatic play and was loudly voiced. A version which could only be played by hand, the CH-43 model, was also available at a lower cost. The ST-43 model was the theater version and is more rare today than the CA-43 machine. Tangley also produced a 58 pipe version of the calliope, the ST-58 model.
PHOTO B shows a close-up of the keyboard. The original key coverings have been replaced with formica, some of which have loosened and fallen off.
PHOTO C shows the roll frame side of the machine with the cover removed to show the roll frame and the parts to operate it. The calliope uses a vacuum motor for the motive power for the roll frame. The motor is similar to those found in a player piano. As the roll frame is a pretty hefty unit, you would think a vacuum motor might have trouble power-wise to turn it but it works very well. The pressure blower is also a heavy piece of equipment. The machine pictured can still be played by hand but the roll playing mechanism no longer functions. We will completely restore the machine.
Next month we will begin to disassemble the machine.
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.