12/29/08 178 W, 1 I - + 12 - 13 City Installs New Fire Control Board, 1942

We've all seen alarm boxes, that familiar component of electric-telegraph fire alarm systems. Most have also seen gongs, tap bells, and punch registers. But what did it look like behind-the-scenes? Below is a pair of Gamewell control boards as photographed at the New Bern Fireman's Museum. Left is circa 1940s, right is probably 1910s1920s. In Raleigh, a new control board was installed in the summer of 1942. The "central control board" cost $13,000, and was installed in the alarm house on South Dawson Street. The new board was like the photo on the left, only longer, e.g. with more circuits. Raleigh's prior control board was installed in 19011925 with about 35__ boxes connected. The 1942 board had 128 boxes connected, with 35 more soon to be connected. The 1901 board had four circuits, the 1942 board had 14 circuits. The new board also allowed for two alarms to be transmitted from different sections of the city at exactly the same time. Raleigh's fire alarm boxes operated until 1973. Read more about the alarm system history. Click to enlarge:

The board on the right is also smaller than the board on the left. Maybe two-thirds the size, or smaller. Maybe half-size. The board on the right looks like a two-circuit system. The board on the left is either a four- or eight-circuit system. Still learning about these things.
Legeros - 12/29/08 - 22:32

Early VIPER technology from the 40’s? How many PS TAC or Mutual Aid channels can that thing handle? ;-)
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 12/29/08 - 22:44

Mutual Aid was good back in the Gamewell days when I was growing up. Every town had their own system, but your town had a single bell and tape for each town that they had a mutual aid agreement, in every station. You received every box transmitted from all your bordering towns and responded as assigned on their running cards. In return, so they knew that you were responding, your town transmitted a mutual aid box, so they knew that you were on the way. This, of course, was back when radios were very primitive and you often responded without radio communication to the town to which you were responding. Often you would be recalled from the alarm, when the "All Out" signal was transmitted over the Gamewell System, and you were notified by your own dispatcher. We thought is was a great system. Sometimes the calls were placed and/or verified by telephone. How far we have advanced !!!!!
Yankee Transplant (Email) - 12/30/08 - 20:15

Question Mike, why or when did the fire departments down here switch from calling “box alarms” to “fire alarms” and why??????
jkj (Email) - 01/01/09 - 14:55

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