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Branch Newsletter & Local Meetings



March Newsletter

With the first of our years site visit under our belt thanks to our friends at the Christchurch Electrical Association (CEA), we are steadily on our way to our next visit at Island Horticulture to observe the interactions between electronics and growing produce.

On the Waitangi day (6th February) the CEA hosted us courtesy of volunteers of the Ferrymead heritage park Trams and Substations society and the Post and telegraph society. The visit produced a sizable gathering of approximate 13 persons. The first half of the visit involved a tour of the electric tram substation and control room. During this stage we witnessed the livening of the mercury arc rectifier, learning about the history of the electrified Christchurch rail network and the learning of the origins of electrical switchgear which currently supplies the substation (some as far away as Waitaki and Auckland).

The Ferrymead tram DC electrical supply system, is served by two six anode glass bulb valves. Which is supplied by what is presumed to be two 3 phase to 6 phase transformers.


Six anode glass bulb mercury arc rectifier. Notice the HT bushing above the cabinet, typically these units operate between 500 -1500Vd.c.


A Map of Christchurch Tramway Operation Circa 1940s just prior to its closure in the 50s.

The Trams and Substations society has made great efforts to upgrade their operational and quality standards in respect to the new Health and Safety at Work Act, examples of this include, full fire-retardant CAL rated overalls, full face mask and electrical gloves, limited access areas, periodic maintenance and independent asset audits.

The post and telegraph exhibit contained a very comprehensive collection, complete with multiple functioning early electro-mechanical automatic operator systems. The automatic operator system was invented by an undertaker (Alan Stowger), who had no formal education in electronics or engineering, and as the tale goes come up with the concept through frustrations running his business, thanks to his competitors wife, who worked at the local telephone exchange.

The early local telephone system was powered by small rotary converters and batteries, distributed by un-insulated solid copper/alloy cable system. As vividly recalled by volunteers and retired technicians on the tour, this system had ongoing issues ensuring quality was maintained and kept technicians and engineers busy all hours of the day and night.


An example of an early electro-mechanical automatic operating exchange

Another interesting article on display was the rocket gun; used by installers to span draw cables across valleys and up cliffs, I would think such a tool would be hardly permissible with todays HSE legislation.


Rocket Gun

Below is an extract from the IPENZ website outlining the history and quality of the exhibit.

"Established in 1939, the Telecom Museum has grown into a unique assemblage of New Zealand telecommunications literature and artefacts dating back to the 1860s. It maintains collections relating to the development of telegraph, telephone and radio telecommunications in New Zealand and is housed at Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch. The Telegraph collections contain some hardware from the first commercial telegraph system (Christchurch-Lyttelton, 1862) and a good selection of all types of equipment to the present. No attempt is made to collect a system of each kind but rather sufficient items to show the chronological development and changes of technique which have occurred. The Telephone collections contain the first telephones made in New Zealand by William Furby in 1877, and also four examples of the first commercial telephones used in New Zealand the 1881 model "Bell-Blakes". A representative collection of telephones to the present is maintained together with many more obscure "specials". Collections of exchange equipment, the manual and the various forms of automatic, are also maintained. Radio equipment forms a large part of the collections. Spark wireless is well represented as are more recent local products by manufacturers such as Collier and Beale. The collection contains six RCA AR88-D receivers bearing the company serial numbers 1 to 6. What is reputedly the oldest valve-operated radio receiver in New Zealand, a De Forrest 1B, c. 1916, is also in this collection. The collections, containing some 2000 artifacts, are extensive and diverse. All local manufacturers are represented. Machine printing systems are well covered as are telephone dials and relays. The relay collection, designed to show the great diversity of types and styles, would rate among the best. The submarine cable collection, with its associated paraphernalia, is possibly a world best. This museum, when compared with others of its type, is considered to be the fourth best in the world; after Sweden, Germany and Holland. The Archive consists of a technical library, an extensive photograph collection and much historical documentation dating back to 1860. The technical library includes books probably unique to the Southern Hemisphere. The historical documents collection contains much very old handwritten material."

On February 20th our Annual AGM was held via video conference thanks to Spark which provided video facilities and offices at Auckland and Christchurch for our use, a healthy turn out from all branches ensured an efficient and valuable meeting. Over half a century of active membership including many a year leading us as President Ross Muir is taking his last post this year before handing over the reins. Ross has lead from the front, really dedicated his efforts into serving us all, and kept a fantastic job of keeping the institute relevant in our ever changing advancing society. Thanks Ross!

One ongoing objective which still requires addressing is our ability to recruit new members, and keep the institute living. I invite all members to think about how we can achieve this and submit through ideas, as will I, and hopefully by the time the next newsletter rolls round, we will have items to action. It was reported in the meeting that councils and other agencies have inquired about the process of registering their personal in the REA scheme, hopefully we will be able to use this as momentum to advertise our institute and gain some new members.



Island Horticulture

Date & Time:

Thursday 10th May 2018, 7pm


Island Horticulture Ltd,

38 Madeleys Road,

RD 2

KAIAPOI           7692




New Zealand Electronics Institute Christchurch Branch


2017 Annual General Meeting

The annual general meeting of the the Christchurch branch of the New Zealand Electronics Institute (Inc) was held on 16th November 2017.


Chairman's Report

2016 Minutes

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