Some time back I posted on MMD asking for help with installing a set of
swell shades on our Wurlitzer 153 band organ. I want to thank all who
responded, and we are now well on the way to getting the job completed.
A special thanks to Jack Breen who sent a lot of photos, and Matthew
Caulfield who provided lots of related information.
This is what I think I found out while adding swell shades to the
DeBence Wurlitzer 153.
1) The on/off system is lock and cancel for several features as well as
the swell shades, but it is not "lock and cancel" mechanically. When
the features are turned on vacuum is applied. Constant vacuum keeps
things on. When the feature is cancelled the vacuum is turned off, thus
no mechanical latch is used.
2) This control is done from a unit valve bank, mounted on the right
side (as you face the organ) high on the inside the case, that controls
the "lock" (turns it on) and "cancel" (turns it off) functions. The
three features controlled are Trumpets, Bells, and a set of pipes.
3) Mostly nobody uses the hole #1 on the tracker to turn on the swell
shades. The swell shade pneumatic is most often teed into the lock
(on) hose carrying vacuum to one of the three other functions. I am
choosing the "trumpets on" for the swell shades to be open. The swell
shades will remain open as long as the trumpets are playing. When the
vacuum to the trumpets is tuned off (cancelled), a spring mounted on
the swell shades pulls them closed.
4) The #4 hole cancel function kills the vacuum to all three functions,
but if the arrangement calls for one or more of them to stay on then a
long hole it the paper turns it or them back on immediately. Depending
on the speed of the transition they may be back on before you hear them
5) Our 153 has had numerous repairs, and some of the connections are
"wrong". If you hook the tracked bar line to the "wrong" on valve,
and then hook the "on" hose to the corresponding "wrong" connection,
everything works correctly but it drives the next guy crazy trying to
figure it out. I decided not to "correct" all the "wrong" connections.
6) The age of the organ is roughly revealed by the stack. Ours has
the stack that resembles a player piano stack. This is the earliest
design, probably pre-1919. Next came the unit valve design invented by
Mr. Jameson of Chicago. Later the 4-in-1 valves were the final design.
I wish we had unit valves; from our experience they are a lot easier
7) From a phone call I learned that the DeBence 153 was owned by the
Floyd Gooding organization [Gooding Amusement Co. of Columbus, Ohio]
before it went to Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio, in a trade for the
German organ they had been playing on their carousel.
Scotty Greene - DeBence Museum