Author Topic: Can you identify this Bike?  (Read 276 times)

Offline WIRELESS

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Can you identify this Bike?
« on: March 16, 2020, 06:51:06 PM »
Hi, I am the Librarian and a Curator at the Antique Wireless Association in Bloomfield, New York USA.

We have come across an early glass image of a vintage British (?) motorcycle that I have been unable to identify.

It is unique in that it appears to be a non-military bike that has been utilized as an early mobile wireless station.

The transmitter looks to be a Marconi 10" spark coil & gap and would probably date from before 1917.

Can anyone identify the bike's manufacturer and approximate build date? Does the license plate indicate a location or date?

Has anyone ever seen an earlier image of a wireless installation on a motorcycle?

My first bike was a 125 Benelli in 1966, so we do love motorcycles! :) :)

Thank you in advance for any help you could provide.

73, Jim N2GHD

Offline mini-me

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2020, 07:43:16 PM »
AL registration issued in Nottinghamshire  Dec 1903-1921.

I can't quite make out the name on the tank, possibly 'The Campion' 90% sure its  'The' something or other,someone will be along soon enough with more.

Bike is single geared, no gearbox, I would put a guess at pre 1914.

looks like JAP cast onthe engine, common enough engine.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2020, 07:46:08 PM by mini-me »

Offline R

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2020, 10:17:34 PM »
The Campion looks like a good suggestion, seems there was such a bike, and which has a good fit of a lot of the features shown.
The date of the bike is likely to be pre 1912, since its got the tall saddle position before a lower saddle position became popular after about 1911 or so.
But the footboards as fitted (mounted quite high up) didn't come into common use for a year or 3 after then, so its likely to be just about the beginning of WW1  (?).

Something similar to this 1910 The Campion - although this still has peddles, whereas the radio bike doesn't - so it maybe a 1911 model then ?
https://cybermotorcycle.com/gallery/campion/images/Campion-1910-Model-22-HBu.jpg

Nottingham Depot, about the same era. That 1909 date seems a little early if it mentions BSA motorcycles, they didn't produce motorcycles until 1912ish, prior to that it was bicycles.
https://cybermotorcycle.com/gallery/campion/images/Campion-1909-ShopFront.jpg

Interesting subject. I wonder if this was some sort of experiment for the military for communications, which may suggest an actual WW1 date ??
'Roads' back then would have been tough on radio equipment !!
Perhaps privately done, since its not a military model of motorcycle, and may have been what was to hand. (?)

Offline R

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2020, 10:34:43 PM »
P.S. Someone who really knows their old bikes may also be able to comment on that feature on the back wheel, on this side (as seen on the pic).
It looks like either a geared hub or some sort of brake arrangement - either of which would be quite unusual in this era of motorcycle,
its not anything typically seen, and could help to pin it down to some particular year/model.

I also wondered about what sort of power arrangement this radio equipment would have had.
There looks to be a power lead coming out of the toolbox closest to the camera. ?
A battery or 3 inside perhaps ?

Maybe a few words on what sort of radio equipment this actually is wouldn't go astray either.
Obviously the radio mast is evident, but what else does it consist of ??
A morse key in this era ?

Offline cardan

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2020, 06:54:46 AM »
Yes the bike is a Campion, fitted with a 500cc single-cylinder JAP engine and a ROC two-speed gear in the rear hub. From the parts visible in the photo (like the Brown and Barlow carburettor) the bike looks to be a 1912 model. The illustration comes from The Motor Cycle, 30 November 1911.

The Roc gear in the rear hub was a good thing, and ideal for a machine lugging a radio set around. It had a crank handle for starting on the stand, in "neutral", then the bike would be lowered to the ground with the engine running. Low gear was via an epicyclic gear train, which came into play when a "brake" was applied to the drum of the epicyclic gear. This acted like a clutch so the bike would take off smoothly. No need for pedals.

Roc supplied custom-built rear frames incorporating the two-speed gear to a range of manufacturers for their new machines, or it could be purchased as an update for a single-speed machine.

Cheers

Leon

Offline Rex

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2020, 09:22:29 AM »
I reckon this must be the best site ever for identifying obscure old motorbikes from faded photo's. :)

Offline WIRELESS

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2020, 02:09:13 PM »
Thank you all very much for your input--

Mini-me, thanks for your license tag info, does the number indicate that this would have been the 1826th motorcycle registered in the Nottingham district?
What year did the govenment begin issuing license tags for motorcycles?

R - Great info & research in order to find an original illustration depicting the correct bike! As to the power requirements for the transmitter, I think that the cables that disappear to the left of the bike indicate where the power source (most likely storage batteries) was located... was it another bike so that the power plant was mobile? I guess we will never know. I presume this was the apparatus of a an early radio amateur operator (Ham radio) and since this was so early in the development of the art, he "rolled his own" (Homebrew) the power source, antenna and receiver of the installation. The Marconi spark coil & gap would have weighed about 100 lbs, so this bike must have been a bear to handle on the rough roads of the day! This spark coil is mounted on the rear fender and the mounting bracket was built by the radio operator. A Morse Telegraph Spark key may have been mounted out of sight on the handlebars, and the crystal receiver is also not shown in the image. I don't recognize any military apparatus or badges, which indicates this was just a private citizen pushing the envelope on mobile wireless... think 1912 Cell Phone...

Cardan--- Thank you so much for confirming that it is indeed a Campion and providing exact details on the engine & running gear. It is an interesting explanation of the Roc gear assembly.

And Rex --- you are absolutely correct, I never thought I would acquire this much info & details on such an obscure bike in such a short amount of time.
This website is full of knowledgeable people who are not afraid to share their knowledge they have gained thru the years!


If anyone discovers an earlier application of a wireless set on a motorcycle, please contact me with the details, as this is a very important subject in our field. I will be sharing this website entry with the Curator of Science and Technology at the Science Museum in London, who is a personal friend.


I am running an image in our quarterly Journal and this information will help me to correctly identify the model & vintage of the Campion. This photo represents the cutting edge technology of mobile radio before WWI !!!


***** A few years ago I discovered another glass side that depicted an American motorcycle with a wireless outfit built into the sidecar & I was able to post a question on the Indian forum and they helped me out just like you fellows did!  I will post details and a couple of photos in a few minutes, hoping that some of you might enjoy seeing what a complete DeForest Wireless station (He invented the triode vacuum tube) looked like on an American Indian in 1917.

Thank you again for all your help!
73 Jim

Offline WIRELESS

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2020, 02:19:53 PM »
Here is the description of the Indian Military wireless station I told you about above.

This looks like it could be a Big Twin about 1915 time frame. The US Army used these through out the war time. Unfortunately the State side dealers took it in the shorts and only the government got the bikes. Many dealers went under or changed to other motorcycles because they couldn't get any for civilian sales. This was a 60.88 cubic inch motor generating about 15 to 18 horsepower. Atop the gas tank is the metal tool box and it had an option to mount two switches to control the lights and horn. The throttle is the left hand grip and the spark advance is the right hand grip. The kick starter is on the right side and in this picture it is folded down so that you can kick start the motor. The side car frame looks like the one used by Indian and the configuration of the car was left up to the Army. The price for the sidecar at the time was $70.00! Some Indian side cars sported machine guns during WWI. This is information from the book "The Iron Redskin."


If you look closely at the unit on the far left in the sidecar, you will see that the radio outfit is one of the first wireless telephone transmitters, invented and developed by Lee DeForest, the inventor of the triode vacuum tube- you can see the earliest example of the first radio tube (Valve) on the market, mounted on the detector box on the sidecar. He placed the first voice transmitters on the market.

Offline mini-me

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Re: Can you identify this Bike?
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2020, 04:32:59 PM »
Quote
Mini-me, thanks for your license tag info, does the number indicate that this would have been the 1826th motorcycle registered in the Nottingham district?
What year did the govenment begin issuing license tags for motorcycles?

more likely the 1826th vehicle, but don't rely on that.

we don't have "license tags" just the registration number which stays with the vehicle for life, them in about 1921 road tax paper discs were required to be shown on all vehicles.