Written by Simon Lloyd Category: News
Published on 05 January 2008

It was Yorkshire Television's first colour Outside Broadcast Vehicle. In its day it was a beautiful specimen of Marconi Engineering. Originally fitted with four Marconi Mk 7 cameras it had covered many live events in the 1970's.   

For those who care about these details of broadcasting history, it was of a classic style of its generation, divided into four areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike most modern vehicles the production gallery faces forward, across the width of the truck and was normally staffed by three people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind this is the sound gallery, again forward facing and raised above the production area so the main monitor stack could be viewed by the single operator through a window. (One way to save on monitors.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving further along is the vision control area, staffed by two engineers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final area consisted of six equipment racks, three on each side, which held all the electronics. The four cameras took up three bays with a monitor and the vision mixer filled another bay. The final two bays were filled up by two SPGs, a Uniselector matrix and a couple of relay video switchers, some patching and distribution amplifiers and some very minimal test gear. There was not a sign of a VT machine anywhere as is would have worked live or with a separate VT truck parked alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it was taken out of service by YTV it was sold to the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) where it was used to produce information and training films. From there it was past to us at Harefield where it became our production Gallery for many years. However, the age of the equipment caught up with us and things began to break down faster than we could fix them. We changed the vision mixer for a far newer Marconi model - selling the old one to Paul Marshal (a collector and restorer of old Marconi equipment) We converted the van to take EMI 2001 cameras and then a few years later we installed Link 110 cameras, when Lime Grove Studios closed down. As the years went by it was getting into a state where we could no longer use it reliably. We didn't want to scrap it - we couldn't sell it at the time as we were bound by an agreement with the hospital not to do so. When we were given some Ikegami HL79 cameras we simply moved our production gallery in doors into the main studio area and closed the doors on the van.

 

That's the way things stayed for several years - being used as a store room. It began to look very sorry for itself. The chrome peeled off of the bumpers, kids smashed the head lamps. Then thieves broke in smashing the windscreen to get in. (They didn't even find anything they wanted inside!) Green mould, from the trees above, slowly covered the paintwork. So, after about eight years of sitting there doing nothing it was looking a very sad mess. Then one day Paul Marshal rang and asked if he could cannibalise some parts for the OB van he was restoring. A few weeks later he arrived with a few visitors and a long shopping list of parts, to have a look around. He struggled to get past great piles of equipment that we stored inside but he kept coming out with a big smile on his face, which got bigger as the day went on. He finally came out from dark insides of the van to say "It's in an almost original state inside - far too good use for spares". Paul said he was interested in buying it if we would sell it. We wanted to get rid of a millstone around us - the hospital wanted rid of an eyesore. Most of all, those of us who had used the van and grown to love it in the early days of HHTV wanted to see it go to a good home - someone who would put it to better use than we were now.

 

 

Paul then had the job of taking it away, while we had the task of finding somewhere to put everything we had been storing there for the past years. At first sight Paul's problem seemed the greater. A lorry with no windscreen - just wood over where all the glass used to be; an engine that hadn't been started for ten years six very flat looking tyres all in slime green colour!

A few weeks later Paul returned with a bigger team and Sam, a H.G.V. expert. Things went well as at appeared that the tyres were still in good condition and just needed some air. A similar windscreen is still produced for a much newer lorry and only needed some modifications. The headlamps could be replaced with almost identical units. Within two hours of arriving we heard a rumbling noise as the starter motor cranked the engine for the first time in a decade. We rushed outside to see what was going to happen. For ten, fifteen, twenty seconds it continued to turn then all of a sudden the speed of the engine slowed for just a moment and it fired! I wouldn't say it purred - more a cough and a splutter but it was running and sounding better by the minute. Black smoke had been bellowing from the exhaust but even this began to clear. By the end of the day we knew that we needed to get a portable building as soon as possible so we could clear the inside.

It turned out to be several months before we managed to get a builder's site hut but and then get the local council to grant planning permission to put it next to the studio. With this done the day finally arrived for the van to leave. Paul and his team turned up early with all the tools to get it ready - a power washer cleaned off the green while the new windscreen was fitted into place. The lights and indicators were tested and replaced; the rusty bumper was even given a lick of paint to make it look road worthy and avoid unnecessary attention from the police. Finally a new road tax disc was fitted. The previous one expired in 1983 and had cost over a thousand pounds - the new one was free as the van is so old it is classed as a Historic Vehicle.

 

Finally the time came for the van to leave - Paul handed over a cheque in front of our cameras and for the local press - then it was off. Since it arrived at Harefield there have been many changes at the hospital and the route it had taken on the way in was made much harder to retrace. We couldn't do much about the trees that were planted ten years ago but the only other big problem was a signpost and that was simply swung out of the way with the aid a spanner. Some very expert driving by Sam made getting it out of the gate look simple. Then it was gone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our camera crew followed it to a local garage where it stopped for some fresh diesel and more air in its tyres. Paul rang later that evening to say he was home. It hadn't all been straight forward as only a few miles down the road that an ancient radiator hose burst delaying the journey by a couple of hours and later a temporary side window replacement broke away on the motorway, making the last part of the journey cold and draughty. Paul says the restoration will take him five years to get it back into the condition he would like. All of us at Harefield wish him lots of luck, because we know he will need it.

 

 

 

 

 

Since leaving much of the refurbishment has been done. It had a starring role in 'The Royal' for ITV and now looks very different in its new paint job of blue/white/silver.

 

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