Antique Mechanical Restorations
Restorations Since 1973

Tangley Calliope


    Tangley calliope called "The Calliaphone" by the company, built in the year 1925 in Muscatine Iowa. Forty Three brass pipes operate on low pressure - high volume, while the player mechanism operates on vacuum. Uses a standard coin piano "A" style roll, although the volume doesn't come across in this format, the brass pipes are really whistles and the music can carry up to a mile away.


    Photographs of two Tangley calliopes are shown on this page to demonstrate the work required during restoration. This calliope, belonging to a customer, was in the shop for mechanical work only.


    The brass tracker bar is removable in order to clean a brass dust screen behind it. This machine had been played around the clock for so many years, the abrasive quality of the paper roll wore the brass away. A new tracker bar was constructed by machinist Don Sheetz. The large gears in the transmission are pot metal and need to be replaced. Custom gears were made by Meekins Music Box Company.


    The top has been removed uncovering a forest of hoses. The hoses connect underneath the keyboard to elbows and weave up to the underside of the top where they connect to each pipe. A steel bar screwed onto the bottom of each key is pulled down by a metal rod, two of which are lying on the keys.


    Brass pipes are screwed into the bass plate with fine threaded stems. Before the brass pipes are sent out to be polished and lacquered they must be repaired.
The pipes on my calliope were so dented, I sent them to a repairman who works on brass band instruments to remove dents before polishing.


    In the next photo you will see the brass disc that fits on top of this area. Air pressure enters through the opening in the center and is forced around the sides of the brass disc. The brass discs are soldered in place on "feet" that often times come disconnected. Here I have drilled and tapped treaded brass rods in place to take the place of the feet. All brass components of the pipe are soldered together. It is important to control the heat applied to any one piece so another section does not melt apart by mistake.


    Air pressure is forced up through the fine space on the perimeter of the disc. This disc is level with the outer edge of the pipe and must be centered when soldered back in place. Next, the brass rods will be ground level and the top of the pipe soldered back on.


    Interior components have been removed. The black area in the lower section of the cabinet made of sheet metal is hollow and serves the purpose of smoothing out the pulses created by the blower. Two pipes sticking up get connected to supply the keyboard with pressure, the hole on the near left is for the pressure regulator valve. This valve determines the highest level of pressure and spills the rest.


    Well designed units held on the chest by two screws contain valve and pneumatics for easy servicing. These were recovered years ago with synthetic material and sealed with caulk.


    Valve bodies have been cleaned of foreign matter. Cast from metal similar to material used for soft metal pipes in the pipe organ industry, these bodies have a higher lead content and are quite soft.


    Metal valve bodies are sprayed with metal lacquer.


    Very thin white leather is used to form each pouch installed on the underside of the valve body.


    Valves (shown upside down) are discs covered with leather with stems attached. A holes in the paper music roll causes the pouches to inflate and lift the valves up, in turn, the corresponding pneumatic snaps shut. 


    Key pneumatics being covered with rubberized cloth.


    Completed units installed on chest.


    When a note pneumatic closes, it pushes up on the back end of the lever. The front part of the lever attaches to the metal rod we saw earlier and it pulls down a key.


    Keyboard chest with top cover removed. The two large elbows bring the air pressure into the chest. Tangley decided to use gutter elbows for this purpose. Tar paper seals the top to the chest. I'll be replacing this with packing gasket leather.


    Top of keyboard chest. Brass elbows attach to hoses that connect to each organ pipe.


        Lock and cancel unit for music roll rewind. The general construction of the components is crude compared with that of automatic pianos. The restored unit is in the next frame.


    The large pneumatic now covered in wine colored cloth, collapses to pull music roll transmission into rewind. The unit is mechanically locked in the rewind position until a small pneumatic (top left) unlocks it to fall back to open.


    When the music roll goes into rewind, this unit cuts off the vacuum to the player mechanism to stop the notes from playing while the roll is traveling in reverse. Very crude construction is used in many components of the Tangley player mechanism.


    Chassis being reassembled. The year 1925 is etched on the galvanized metal (not clear enough to read). The wood, which is pine stained red mahogany, is needed to attach the interior components. Heavy gage sheet metal covers the chassis.


    Chassis front view.


    Music roll frame transmission. Large gear connected to lower spool and large compound gear (center) once pot metal castings have been replaced with custom made steel gears.


    Back of calliope with cover removed.


    Smaller hose (white) connected to a pneumatic reservoir, supplies vacuum to the player system. Larger tube below supplies pressure for the organ pipes.


    All Tangley calliope's left the factory with a wood grain finish. Originally, the cabinet was painted to give the appearance of dark walnut with brass plated trim. The faux grain paint was not durable, that, coupled with the fact that the factory paint made the calliope look funereal, most collectors choose to paint the sheet metal cabinets red or sometimes yellow. I have replaced the brass plated trim with polished and lacquered solid brass.
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