Memories of the The Electric Mot

Memories of the

The Electric Motor Industry

In Australia

 

Following a chance meeting with a young Electric Motor Design Engineer at a party my Grand Daughter was attending in June 2013 it became obvious to me that little was known about the electric motor industry in Australia as it operated in the 1970 - 1980 era.

In fact it would be fair to say after investigation on the internet that very little information has been written at all.

This was a period when Australian manufacturing was at its peak and when the mining industry was about to take off.

Sadly most of the manufacturer's and customers have disappeared off the scene.

 

The following are my recollections of this period.

 

After being educated at St. Joseph's Technical College in South Melbourne I began in 1957, a 5 year apprenticeship as an Electrical Fitter and Armature Winder at Dodd & McKinnon in North Melbourne.

Simply put Armature Winding is basically rewinding faulty or burnt out Electric Motors.

Dodd & McKinnon had a reputation of turning out top tradesmen and in fact I won industry awards for being the leading apprentice in Victoria for the final 2 years of my apprenticeship. Most of the Armature Winding apprentices at Dodd & McKinnon were fortunate to win these awards.

This grounding was to lead me into the sales & marketing of electric motors.

 

My entry into sales in 1962, was by being accepted as an Internal Sales Engineer with Warburton Franki Ltd, who were one of the leading electrical wholesalers in Melbourne at that time having been founded in 1902 and were the Australian distributors of Brook Electric Motors which were manufactured at Huddersfield in UK.

Brook had a very diverse range of electric motors, including squirrel cage and slip ring motors as well as a range of large and small single phase motors.

 

The Sales Manager at WF was Frank Marcedo a very capable and knowledgeable manager who was well versed in the industry and was an exceptional mentor.

I was involved in preparing tenders and providing technical advice on our range of motors which were supplied to such companies as Thompsons (Castlemaine) Ltd, Harland Engineering, Kelly and Lewis, D. Richardson &Sons and many other large original equipment manufacturers as well as end-users.

In the late 1960's Brook Electric Motors in the UK were to become part of the Crompton Parkinson Group.

 

About twelve months after I joined Warburton Franki Ltd,  Frank Marcedo resigned and not long after I was approached to join Maddrell Bros, a NSW Company who at that stage were the Australian Distributors for Newman Electric Motors which were manufactured in Bristol, UK.

Lou and Norm Maddrell were very clever operators and together with their Victorian Sales Manager, Ern Minster they positioned their product in the market as a low cost product but at the same time captured the Rice Growers market which happened to be going through a huge expansion at the time. Maddrell Bros were very clever people and I learnt a lot.

 

At that time the market leaders in Australia for Electric Motors were AEI Industries as probably the overall leader due to their range of  products followed by Crompton Parkinson who were distributed by Noyes Bros, then followed ASEA, Brook, Newman and Pope.

There were smaller companies manufacturing mainly Fractional Horsepower Motors- GMF, Betts, Westate, Brinsmead, Webster, Busch and CMG Motors.

 
POPE ELECTRIC MOTORS.

 

After about 12 months at Maddrell Bros I applied for a position with Simpson Pope Ltd as an Internal Sales Engineer, which was to be an excellent career choice.

This company was the result of an amalgamation in May 1963 between two of South Australia's largest domestic appliance manufacturers, A.M.Simpson and Pope Products.

The merger was probably brought about by the Federal Government credit squeeze a couple of years earlier which had hurt Pope Products severely.

Pope Products had the bigger product range which as well as Domestic Products, had a strong Commercial Range which included Electric Motors, Air Conditioning, Irrigation equipment, Lawn Mowers and Garden Hardware however Simpson became the dominant partner.

As a result of this, investment in the Pope Commercial Product Range suffered for a period of time.

 

Pope were the only Australian owned manufacturer of the major electric motor producers at that time having no overseas parents to call on for design and technical expertise.

 

The history of the Pope Electric Motor Division is interesting as from the earliest days they marketed the product on its  quality.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 5th July 1954 in a supplement for the Engineering and Industrial Exhibition ran an advertisement for Pope Motors.

The article stated that the company decided to develop a range of motors which until that time had only been available from overseas manufacturers. A team of internationally trained research scientists and technicians in collaboration with the most highly skilled Australian Engineers in all fields joined forces to produce a motor incorporating the finest features for the widest range of applications.

It went on to say the motor was to be produced in Australia from Australian materials by Australian craftsmen and to suit specifically the wide range of Australian climatic and industrial conditions.

Many of the motors features were then listed.

 

As a result of the merger in 1963 their range of Three Phase motors had not kept up with the British Standard Specifications on frame size dimensions that were universally adopted by the overseas owned companies, and which were subsequently specified by our potential customers .

They manufactured a range of fractional horsepower motors which were excellent General Purpose motors but costly to produce and therefore not competitive.

Their marketing had languished and they were falling behind in the market place.

 

In Victoria they had appointed a new Sales Manager, Graham Jackson and shortly after in 1964, I joined the company.

Not long after I was promoted to the position of External Sales Engineer.

 

Shortly after, Walter Stamm was appointed General Manager of the Pope Electric Motor Division. He had an Electrical and Mechanical Engineering background and had been with the company since just prior to the merger.

His transfer to the division immediately set in train of events that made the Pope Electric Motor Division, the largest Electric Motor Manufacturer in Australia with one of the most modern plants in the world.

He restructured the division, production facilities were significantly enhanced, engineering and development was given greater emphasis with Bruce Armstrong and Dick Eagles and Sales and Marketing under Warren Headly were also given greater responsibility.

 

 

Graham Jackson was promoted to Victorian Commercial Sales Manager in 1966 and I was promoted to Victorian & Tasmanian Sales Manager.

Warren Headly was the National Sales Manager in Adelaide.

At about the same time he appointed new Sales Managers in Max Flohr (QLD), Jim Sams (NSW), Ralph Smyth (SA) and Stan Walton was in WA.

 

The product range was extended over a relatively short period of time so we had a complete range of motors to 500HP complying with Australian, British and International Standards.

 

As well new products were released including a range of Sound Tested Motors.

These motors were developed in purpose built sound laboratories in Adelaide

In Victoria the majority of leading Consulting Engineers wrote specifications to include Pope Sound Tested Motors in multi story buildings which resulted in substantial sales.

 

 

Pope Electric Motors were not low cost motors due to being manufactured in Australian and with costly inherent design features so marketing was concentrated on selling the Features and Benefits which were numerous and included -:

Australian owned company.

Efficiencies & Power Factors higher than average resulting in lower running costs.

Bearing sizes larger than average.

Grease Relief Valves available on all TEFC motors.

Designed & Manufactured in Australia for the harsh Australian Conditions.

 

 

In the late 1960's Utah in partnership with Mitsubishi was beginning to open up the Bowen Basin in Queensland to supply Japanese steel mills with coal. They commenced the construction of huge open cut mines in Northern Queensland.

One of the first major mining projects for which we were successful was the second stage of the Utah Construction project at the Blackwater Coal Mine near Mackay in Queensland.

 

Our ability to handle this project from a technical and supply aspect led us to win numerous other major projects in the region such as Goonyella and Peak Downs in the early 70's, and the Saraji and Norich mines were to follow.

The Utah Coal mines were subsequently purchased in 1984 by BHP.

 

Other major mining projects followed in rapid succession and we became the supplier of choice to the major players in the mining industry. Being an Australian Company we could react rapidly to the changes required by the mining industry including innovative bearing seals to give increased protection bearing life in all aspects of mining including magnetic ores.

 

Whilst we were successful in the mining industry we were at the same time concentrating on having our motors accepted into the Original Equipment Manufacturing market. This was achieved by marketing direct to the large end-user.

This resulted in the end-user specifying that our motors had to be incorporated in products being manufactured for the end-user.

 

This was very successful over time as we were able to prove running costs and downtime costs would be substantially reduced by using Pope Electric Motors.

Industry giants such as Ford Motor Company, Monsanto Chemicals etc specified that our motors were to be utilised in any equipment being manufactured for their companies.

 

In Victoria I was very fortunate to have some brilliant Sales Engineers in Ron Matthews, Ken Fairbanks and Bill Bryant.

These guys were dedicated to the product.

We negotiated what would in today's terms would be multi million dollar orders with many, many companies undergoing major expansion at that time.

 

Australian Paper Manufacturers for example were one of those companies.

New paper machines at Fairfield and Maryvale in Victoria plus Botany in NSW resulted in orders in the Millions of Dollars in today's terms. These orders were won despite higher prices but were won on the features and benefits of the product.

The successes we were having in Victoria were being mirrored in all other states throughout Australia.

 

In Tasmania we appointed a distributor, George Harvey Electric, to handle our sales and from very humble beginnings we rapidly became the market leader and supplier of choice to the mining industry in that state.

 

It is interesting to note that many of the  marketing techniques, such as energy saving Electric utilised by Pope are being used by manufacturers around the world.

 

 

FRACTIONAL HORSEPOWER ELECTRIC MOTORS.

 

Whilst we were having a great deal of success with our POPE Three Phase industrial range of motors we were also designing a new range of Fractional Horsepower electrical motors.

Simpson Pope at that time were one of the largest manufacturers of washing machines and later rotary clothes driers in Australia. Their existing range of Pup Fractional Electric Motors whilst an excellent motor were very expensive to produce

 

A complete re design took place with the emphasis on mass production utilising the latest in automatic machinery, including winding machines etc with the result they had one of the most modern plants in the world.

Whilst the major emphasis was in designing and manufacturing a purpose built electric motor for the company's range of domestic appliances we also embarked on a plan to market the motor to other companies throughout Australia.

 

At that time the largest producers of Fractional Horsepower Motors were Betts, GMF, Crompton Parkinson, Pope and smaller manufacturers in CMG, Brinsmead and Westate.

 

 

In 1977 I accepted the position of National Sales Manager for the Pope Fractional Horsepower range of electric motors.

This resulted in a move from Victoria to the Company's head office in Adelaide, South Australia.

 

The range of motors included Permanent Split Capacitor, Split Phase, Capacitor Start, and Cap Start- Cap Run.

 

The range was limited by the fact that we did not have a true 2Pole (3000rpm) lamination which limited our sales into the air compressor and the above ground  swimming pool markets both of which were huge markets at the time.

 

Some of our largest customers included -:

Email Air for their range of Weatherwall Split System air conditioning units and other commercial refrigeration products.

Email Container Refrigeration for intermodal shipping containers.

Vulcan industries for Ducted Central Heating Systems.

 

Orders for electric motors from these companies would result in multi million Dollars  sales in today's terms..  

After 2 years in South Australia my family wished to return to Victoria so at Christmas in 1978 I resigned and we returned to Victoria thus ending almost 15 fabulous years at Simpson Pope.

Sadly some two years later the company decided to cease taking orders for Fractional Horsepower motors from external customers creating many problems for their customers.

This was caused in part by the continued rapid expansion of the Domestic Dryer Division. 

In 1979 Walter Stamm left the company to join John Shearer Limited, a South Australian manufacturer of agricultural equipment, as Managing Director. 

Not long thereafter the company ceased manufacture of the larger industrial electric motors.  

Betts Electric Motors.

A short time after returning to Melbourne I was approached by Betts Electric Motors  to take up the position of Victorian Sales Manager.  

Betts were the largest manufacturer of Fractional Horsepower Electric Motors in Australia having the choice of 2 Pole and 4 Pole laminations and also a very large range of Shaded Pole electric motors. 

Betts were part of the James N Kirby Pty. Ltd. group of companies.

Kirby were a private company which came from humble beginnings as a Motor Cycle repair shop to become one of the largest engineering companies in Australia with factories in Milperra and Revesby in NSW. 

Kirby's were a brilliant company, the largest manufacture of refrigeration equipment  in Australia, manufacturers of automotive products as well as many different domestic cooking appliances over time..

In the early 1950's Kirby's decided to manufacture Hermetic Compressors in Australia for the range of Crossley Refrigerators that were manufacturing under license in Australia.
Neither of the countries two major electric motor manufacturers, Crompton Parkinson and GMF, were prepared to produce the stators and rotors for the compressors and expressed doubt over the volume of refrigerators expected to be sold, so Kirby's designed and built their own coil winding machines and produced their own electric motors.

That led to the establishment of Betts Electric Motors who in later years absorbed both the GMF and Crompton Parkinson Fractional Horsepower manufacturing operations into the Betts operation making them the largest manufacturer of FHP electric motors in Australia.  

At the time I joined them they had a very poor electric motor presence in Victoria with Pope and Crompton Parkinson being the major players.

Betts nevertheless had a great way of doing business with a heavy emphasis on quality and nothing was too complex to manufacture. 

Within a couple of years of joining we made a very large influx on the market and quickly became market leaders in Victoria

Most of the Pope customers in Victoria began to split their business between Pope and Betts and then when Pope ceased supplying Fractional Horsepower Motors to external customers most of these customers changed their business to Betts. 

Larger customers in those days included -

Vulcan Industries who were very large manufacturers of Dishwashers and Central Heaters.

Clark Rubber who were huge manufacturers of above ground swimming pools.

Onga Pumps one of Australia's largest manufacturers of small water pumps.

Ingersoll Rand, large manufacturers of small air compressors.

Brivas Aust manufacturers of evaporative coolers.

Email Air, very large manufacturers of Split System Air Conditioners and Commercial Heating Systems..

Email Container Refrigeration for overseas shipping containers..

Malleys manufacturers of domestic cloths driers. 

Many thousands of motors were supplied each month to these customers with many different mechanical configurations. 

In the early 1980's Betts Electric Motors purchased GMF Electric Motors, of Arncliffe, NSW who were also an Australian manufacturer and not long after acquired the Australian fractional horsepower division of Crompton Parkinson. 

About 1980 I was promoted to State Manager of the James N Kirby group and handed over the Victorian Sales Manager's role of the Electric Motor Division to Lloyd Riddout.

 Lloyd was an excellent operator and well known in the industry. He joined us from Crompton Parkinson prior to the acquisition of that company. 

In the early 1990's James N Kirby sold the Betts Electric Motor Division to Fasco of the USA. Fasco was originally known as F A Smith Mfg. A well known USA manufacturer. 

I retired from James N Kirby in December 1999 after 20 years with the company.

They were a great company to work for.

Not long after the company was sold to Lennox International USA.

The name of the operating divisions were then subsequently changed to Heatcraft (Aust).

 Some interesting comments on the Industry from Stuart Fox.

Just read your article re motors – very interesting thanks – I was involved in the appliance and refrigeration industry – starting as an apprentice with Advance Electric at Kings Cross, Sydney in 1964. 

I read recently that CMG were sold to a French Co. 

To complete the picture there were also several manufacturers of series motors – J. Wernard of Moorebank I think – they specialised in sewing machine motors (and foot controls) when they were fitted as external accessories to mainly / only?  imported sewing machines – I noticed the motors also in Woodson Milkshake mixers – Wernard also made commutators – custom I think + a small table fan with a shaded pole motor I would expect  was self manufactured – the fan was also available with a unique / simple non- gear oscillating system > pinion extension of the shaft rolling over a rubber crescent – worked fine. 

Hoover also made series motors for their vac cleaners and the spin dryer of their twin tub washing machines as well as induction motors with gear boxes and both ends for their oblique loading ‘Keymatic’.  Hoover also supplied induction motors for others – mainly square cased machines and I think these came from the UK. Motors for the later large top loading Hoover washers incorporated quite unique external centrifugal switchgear fitted with a pair of conventional micros-witches.  

Malleys also marketed a waste disposal unit which I was told was made in Australia – it had a long bearing at one end only  and I don’t know if they made their own motor. 

Dishmaster / Wastemaster also marked dishwashers, waste disposal units, tumble and non-tumble dryers (huge fan) – some made in NZ and later in Australia – from memory - various motors from continental Europe, UK and Australia. I worked for this company. Dishlex was another maker of Dishwashers in Australia – Botany NSW I think – may have been taken over by Dishlex ? ‘Hilton 9’ a short lived clone of early Dishmasters and Dishlex – Hilton 9 could be custom fitted into a kitchen bench even as a corner unit as a top loader – (all 3 then used a unique ‘propeller’ to scoop the water from a pool at the bottom against the dishes – worked fine – early Dishmasters had a single knob manual control for fill / wash / drain / rinse / drain – water dropped out – no pump on original models – also made under license by Kenwood in UK.)

 Kirby also made Bendix front loader washers under license (in Camperdown Sydney) - motors ?   Other makers included Turner, (Melbourne) Kelvinator, Astor (tumble dryers), Easy, Lightburn – with paddle - (SA) (a more conventional model of the Lightburn twin tub – with agitator - was sold as a Kelvinator T.T.)  Westinghouse, Wilkins Service (AU and UK machines), Westinghouse (Orange NSW factory closing soon if not already ceased). Most makers had optional single or later two speed motors, Simpson and Malleys (Whirlpool) both had 3 speed motors – from memory starting momentarily on high.

     There were also several other manufacturers of hermetic refrigeration compressors in Australia, Astor, Kelvinator – ‘ think they were mostly  AU made  (and as you mentioned) Kirby (Tecumseh US License), Summit, STC ( Semi sealed with cast iron body!), Westinghouse – some may also have made their own motors or ?

Black and Decker Power tools + Sher Power tools in Victoria;  KBC + Lightburn Power Tools in SA and I think Wolf of UK made some power tools in NSW. There were also some vehicle starter motors (+ fan 12v and windscreen wiper motors?) Electrolux and Wernard also made Vac cleaners in Australia with their own motors I understand.

 I also recall seeing some Busch motors – cant recall where made.

A firm called Coldstream also made Semi-sealed hermatic refrigeration compressors (in SA I think ?) – quite unique since the stator was outside the compressor – separated from the rotor by a non-magnetic (steel ?) ‘can’ – avoided contaminating the refrigeration system following burn out – not many seen / sold – probably high initial cost and clients not being very involved or knowledgeable in selection / benefits etc.

 Whilst the business I first worked for repaired / rewound motors including hermetic’s, I was not very involved in that – ‘ mainly repaired  other machinery and appliances which I later continued in my own small business  + selling and also became involved in The Inventors Association of Australia which I joined in 1964 – later leading it. 

There have been some advances in motors over the years and unusual designs always interested me including external rotor designs, a rotor with an external and internal stator, Fisher and Paykel and other appliances which are increasingly using very flat  stepper type motors with external rotors, printed circuit windings and relatively - recently linear refrigeration compressors – solenoid type - no  crank – firstly Engel of Germany and later made in Japan – latest designs started with Fisher and Paykel from NZ and now I understand made under agreement by the claimed worlds largest refrigeration compressor factory in Brazil >“Embrako” - wholly or partly owned by Whirlpool of US. I think some Asian manufacturers may also be utilising this design (licensed ?). Danfos make 12 volt hermetics with external electronics and a US manufacturer is also making a micro hermetic about the size of a large fist 12 and 24 volt.       

When I started so called  ‘hot wire’ relays started the compressors, later changing to magnetic starters and now mostly so called solid state relays where a PTC disc becomes ‘almost’ open circuit in less than a second thereby curtailing current to the start winding.  

Please note I am not 100% certain re the source of all motors used in Australian equipment /  appliances I mentioned but I do recall an (engineering?) expo where Hoover demonstrated a machine winding armatures. Sher probably made their own motors since I am not aware of any  overseas affiliations till they were taken + over by Skill of US. Probably all mnfrs. That made motors here used BHP / Lysaght / Sankey lams ? A few weeks ago I purchased an original Sher drill in original box - C. 1951 ? – very small and similar to a Desauter (spelling ?) drill from UK.

 A while ago on the internet I saw articles re Sher, and CMG – I think the guy who started the latter received an Australian Honour – think ditto for Sher ?   Also saw something about sale / auction of gear from Coldstream and Pope.

 I am interested in other aspects of Australian Electrical industry / machinery /electrical and appliances.

 As mentioned in reference to  Inventors Association, I am also very interested in inventions – esp. Australian – years ago I helped a motor repairer in Mascot / Alexandria who designed a unique single phase variable speed induction motor – ‘ don’t know what happened to that project – another guy in SA designed a motor with a winding  which provided additional current for other purposes – hmm, interesting  his name was Etteridge – brother of one of Pauline Hanson’s political triumvirate  - info on the internet re that motor too.

 

 

 TO BE CONTINUED

If you can add or correct any of this information.

Please email Ray Lane

rjlane@netspace.net.au

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