Author Topic: Utility motorcycles  (Read 448 times)

Offline 33d6

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Utility motorcycles
« on: July 08, 2021, 05:41:48 AM »
Hi Leon,
You asked about Utility motorcycles.
As in the old joke patter, "I haff good news und I haff bad news".
The good news is I have all the Utility engine number records sitting in front of me. The bad news is they are on 16mm microfilm and I don't have a reader. Even when I do get a reader I've been warned that most if not all are handwritten- in pencil- and were well faded before microfilming anyway. Apparently in the years before computerisation took hold the Motor Registration Branch as it was then had the bright idea of microfilming a lot of the early records. Nothing wrong with microfilming, it is still a sensible way of recording and archiving stuff but unless you take care the quality drops a bit. Poor quality originals become rather poorer microfilms.
I gather modern microfilm scanners can improve things but as I know absolutely nothing about reading old microfilms in 2021 I'm on a very steep learning curve starting from absolute zero. All advice carefully listened to.

Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2021, 06:34:37 AM »
Oh dear!  But what excitement... (sad, isn't it).

My most recent experiences with microfilm were in the State Library of South Australia, and at Flinders Uni in SA, but the film and readers were 35mm on rolls, or occasionally flat sheets (around 4" square?) with a different reader. I wonder if such things still exist, time moving on and all that.

Maybe ten years ago I also looked at microfilm at the SLV in Melbourne, so they have/had a public microfilm reading room. But 16mm might prove a bit weird!

Cheers

Leon

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2021, 02:25:55 PM »
Iím told 16mm microfilm readers were rather top end in their day. The 16mm film rolls come in a cassette so are fairly well protected from careless handling and storage. The next week or so sees me tackling the local libraries and universities looking for a reader/scanner/printer.
The net shows combined 35/16mm machines so it should be entertaining.

Offline DELONSTAINWALL

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2021, 02:41:11 AM »
The state library of Vic has got readers for all formats. I used their service several times looking for old electronic circuits. I would also check with local library's near you. I also used Doncaster library they can help you 33d6.

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2021, 02:00:33 PM »
Just an update on the Utility Leon.
Lockdown has brought things down to a very slow shuffle. Essentially Iíve barely moved forward. My local council libraries donít have 16mm microfilm readers and it appears that few institutions did.  Nevertheless Iím making enquiries where I can but itís a bit of a plod.
My major hope is the old Motor Registration Branch itself. Does it still have a reader buried away somewhere? Like all public service departments itís seen itís share of name changes and restructures over the years but I still have a serious contact there. Heís moaning and groaning because many of the staff are working from home which makes fishing expeditions looking for ancient machinery a hard slog but if you canít torment your mates who can you torment?
Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2021, 12:22:41 AM »
Thanks for the update - please don't lose any sleep over it! It's only a book about stupid old motorcycles!

I have an idea; in fact a couple of ideas.

I wonder if these guys know who might have a reader https://www.microfilm.net.au/products/microfilm-equipment/

But perhaps they know something else: can you just get a couple of 16mm reels - with the same drive arrangement as the 35mm reels - and take the film out of the cassette and wind it on to one of the reels? That way, it should/might be possible to view the film on a 35mm reader, of which there are surely still survivors.

(A variant would be to make a couple of 19mm spacers, and just use standard 35mm reels.)

Of course the proper way forward is to convince someone that records like this should not be lost, and get the whole lot digitised. The Trove project, which digitsed most of the nation's newspapers, has been a revolution.

Stay safe over there. We've just cancelled Melbourne travel plans for the umpteenth time.

Cheers

Leon

Offline R

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2021, 02:55:51 AM »
I've got a microfiche page thats been photographed up to be readable.

Its a fairly modern motorcycle parts page.
Surprising who may have such stuff.
I'll bet they haven't thrown out this technology ...

Offline Vreagh

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2021, 09:57:28 AM »
I know nothing of the technology you're talking of but a check on ebay here in UK shows a 16mm microfiche to digital service at £10.

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2021, 01:01:07 PM »
I donít just have a ďUtilityĒ problem. That is just one make we have on microfilm. I need to find something/somewhere where I can have continual and easy access.
This 16m microfilm comes in cassettes each holding 50 feet of film. The Utility records are perhaps some 6Ē of this 50 feet. There are many cassettes and they donít just have motorcycle records on them.
Please keep up the suggestions theyíre all helpful and hopefully Iíll sort out some practical way to access these old records.
It might be boring crap to many but Iím a sucker for our local motorcycling history. I donít want to see it lost.

Offline murdo

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2021, 07:59:57 AM »
It is certainly not 'old boring crap' and I would hate to see all the Australian history lost. Please keep up the good work.

Offline 33d6

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2021, 05:18:40 AM »
Finally, finally, FINALLY, I have some 'Utility' answers. Thanks to a very helpful sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous we are near to starting the process of digitisiing all the AOMC engine number information held on 16mm microfilm.
I won't bore you with all the nonsense of seeking out a 16mm reader, blah,blah,blah, but I now have a sample demo file of what can be done with digitising and it includes the 'Utility' information. I will only say this about the original microfilm process. Never, never, never, leave it in the hands of an unsupervised office junior. It's obvious from the result how the organisation viewed the task of microfilming old records and how it got pushed downwards to the low man on the totem pole.. What a bloody mess. Anyhow, after much faffing about I've now got an overview of the Utility story. Getting it all correct and shipshape is going to take rather longer.

There are some 115 Utility recorded on the system. The great preponderance, some two thirds or so, are Villiers powered with either the early Mk VIIIC 148cc engine or its successor the Mk 12C, 147cc engine with some powered by the 123cc unit construction 8D/9D engine. One of these has the lowest engine number I've ever seen for this engine, AA686, so is from the first year of production, 1936.
Theoretically the Mk VIIIC ceased being used in motorcycles in 1931 with its role being taken over its successor the Mk12C but there are quite a lot of the earlier type. Did Villiers give Utility a good deal to use up these out of date engines? We'll never know will we.
From 1935 on there is a scattering of J.A.P. powered bikes, all ohv, and mainly 250 or 500's with very few 350 ohv. Mostly all dry sump versions but some not. It looks like 'Utility' did try to provide a bike with up to date technology.
I still have to plough through the handwritten initial registration dates which are an unholy mess so can't yet say when the first Utility was sold but we do know that this was yet another business that didn't survive WWII, so no post war Utility.

We are getting there, painfully slowly, but we are moving forward.

Cheers,

Offline cardan

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Re: Utility motorcycles
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2021, 10:24:45 AM »
Thanks 33d6 - very interesting!

I wonder if the presence of so many Mk VIIIC powered Utilities is a suggestion that they were locally built up from old stock. Unless Montgomery, or Excelsior, or someone else in the UK was building them and shipping them out here - too dated for the home market but just fine (at the right price) for the antipodes.

Anyway, I await the full analysis, but keep in mind that although I'm interested, perfect detail is not required for the current project. By the way, some of the previous Utility converstation starts here: http://classicmotorcycleforum.com/index.php?topic=6172.msg30144#msg30144

I'm working on the Ps at the moment. As usual, I've done most of the easy ones first. Pasco is the current puzzle - particularly the early years pre-1919. Stanley John Samuel Pascoe was the man, and in 1919 he entered into partnership with Con McRae, and trading as McRae & Pascoe they sold the Pasco Masterpiece, which was built for them by A. G. Healing. McRae left the partnership first, leaving his name behind, then Pascoe did the same, so in 1922 in Melbourne there was Pasco Motors run by Stan Pascoe, and McRae & Pascoe, where you would find neither Mr McRae nor Mr Pascoe!!

All the behind-the-scenes stuff is good fun, but the real deal is the bikes. With Pasco the problem is that there are two Pascos that have survived that pre-date McRae & Pascoe era. There is talk of a brother. I've just run down a promising lead in Bendigo where William Pascoe had a bicycle/engineering business, and during WW1 there is a reference to it as 'Pascoe Bros'. There was even a Stanley Pascoe from Bendigo who was injured in the war. But then it turns out the Bendigo Stanley Pascoe was not our Stanley Pascoe and we're back to square one. Sigh.

Maybe in the future I can ask when the first Pasco motorcycle was registered in Victoria.

Cheers

Leon