More on Metrostyle Lines
By Dan Wilson
|In MMD 96.09.22 John Phillips asked:|
> Dan also indicates that rolls Metrostyled after WW1 aren't
> very reliable. But how about those with a liitle block of
> text at the beginning of the Metrostyle line; weren't these
> lines put on the roll with a rubber printing strip (or
> stencil) as long as the roll itself? Didn't the Aeolian Co.
> in the UK build a special printing tower at the factory at
> Hayes near London in order to print Metrostyle and
> expression lines on their rolls?
I've asked the fount of all UK knowledge on the matter, Rex Lawson, about this and the answer, here at least, is that the answer is no. In England Metrostyle was applied initially to 65-note rolls in 1906 and the same machine was used for 88n when they started production at the end of 1907. This was a loom-shaped affair with a single drive cylinder nine rolls wide. The operator sat at the central position where a master roll was threaded through and followed the line on it with a pointer connected to a knob in his right hand. This was mounted on a long carriage on wheels with four pens each side of the operator marking eight rolls in all. The ink had to be allowed to dry, so the rolls were stretched out horizontally for about 12 feet before being spooled up, back end outwards, on carriers from which they could be released. In the factory rolls moved about as paper scrolls back end out, which is why the number is always on that end. The operator controlled the speed with (before the Great War, at least, his) left hand operating a rheostat.
After that they had the various rubber stamps applied to them that marketing policy decreed was most alluring for the moment, had the heavy leaders with string buttons stuck on and were finally re-rolled onto their eventual spools by a girl sitting at a cut-down "push-up", bound with the string and boxed.
Some time during the Great War it was decreed that the Metrostyle gantry took up too much factory space and it was reorganised into a compact tower with a pen frame covering the front of its upper half. Again there were eight copy rolls but for ease of setting-up they were all positioned above the master roll and their tails (or rather heads) were arranged in a nest of Ls down the back. It's this machine that a eye-witness saw being worked by an extremely bored girl with the copy rolls all out of kilter.
Certainly Metrostyling strikes me as an activity suitable only for those sentenced to penal servitude and I find it surprising that it, and come to that all the song word and musical direction printing on the rolls, wasn't done by a simple development of the teleprinter, which had been around since 1904. Instead of punched tape you'd use an 88-note roll, for which all the punching and playback facilities existed in-house and which can carry an immense amount of information. The early teleprinter heads only gave 32 possible characters, so the Metrostyling would be done by a specially made one (I'm working it out as I type) with angles and lines and the printing pitch would be 30/inch instead of the 10/inch pitch which a teleprinter has, since you only need to print over a third of the roll's width. Interesting ! It would take a fraction of the time to do with multiple printer heads and all the rolls would be accurate too.