Thank you, fellas. I was kinda hoping this thing would be our a typical Victor 
in that the normal 120VAC line would do it, but it's obviously gonna be more 
involved... The owners may not want to mess with it, but I'm already 
fascinated. Maybe they'll sell it to me. I bought the other phono they won at a 
church auction with this Columbia, a Brunswick highboy model GO with Ultona 
3-way tonearm and electric motor (that's how we met)... Weird for one church to 
have two 1915-1920 phonographs, both with electric motors, both very unusual; 
I'm thinking the original buyer was particularly handy (or fascinated) with 

It says a lot that any members of this list would be totally unfamiliar with 
this Columbia motor! That's a little scary! But thank you for your thoughts on 
the matter (and for the time spent typing, Greg!). I'll contact these folks and 
see what they wanna do. If I can convince them to give me the motor/baseplate 
for a while, maybe I can get it running for them over the holidays.


From: Phono-L <> on behalf of Greg Bogantz via 
Phono-L <>
Sent: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 7:32:52 PM
To: Ron L'Herault via Phono-L <>
Cc: Greg Bogantz <>
Subject: Re: [Phono-L] Columbia Grafonola - electric motor question

    Ron has a good point.  Most of the early electric motors that were used in 
the first electrified phonographs were of the "universal" type.  I seem to 
remember seeing this type in the early Columbia electrics.  Meaning they had 
windings of wire in both the armature and in the stator magnets.  This is 
unlike the pure induction motors that were typically used by Victor in this 
period.  The rotor of an induction motor has no obvious wire in the rotor that 
comprises a winding, so it's generally easy to identify it as an induction 
motor.  The armature of a universal motor has a commutator with electrical 
contact brushes that is required to switch and energize the several sections of 
the armature at the correct times to interact with the magnetic poles in the 
stator.  Motors of this type can run on either AC or DC current, hence the term 
"universal".  Since the household power commonly in use at that time could be 
anything from low voltage to high voltage DC (the Edison system) or variations 
of AC voltages, universal motors were found to be the most compliant with these 
early electrical systems.  Maybe as a consequence of the several voltages 
available back then, most of the early universal phono motors were designed to 
operate on a fairly low voltage of around 24 to 60 volts or so.

    So in order to use them with 120 volts power that is universal throughout 
the USA today, you need to add a "ballast" resistor in series with the motor to 
reduce its operating voltage to whatever it was designed for.  Some of these 
motors have an identification plate attached to them that states their 
operating voltage range.  But some don't.  So unless you have some other 
service data that tells you what the motor voltage should be, you have to 
figger that out by trial and error.  The easiest way to do this is to hook up 
the motor to a variable voltage device such as a variable autotransformer, 
typically referred to as a "variac" or a "powerstat".  These devices have a 
continually variable output voltage, usually determined by a knob that slides a 
contact brush around the periphery of a toroidal winding on a magnetic core.  
Then slowly raise the voltage on the variac up from 0 and observe the operation 
of the motor.  Motors such as these had their speeds dependent on their applied 
voltage.  In order to make them suitable for phonograph use where you want a 
constant speed, the motor assembly usually had a mechanical flyball governor 
attached to it which operated in a manner similar to the flyball governors that 
were used on spring motors.  The electric motor functions as a torque motor and 
its speed is controlled by the mechanical braking action of the governor.  So 
you would need to have the governor mechanism attached and functioning while 
you try to determine the motor voltage.  Crank up the variac until the governor 
engages the brake mechanism to provide the desired platter speed of 78 or 80 
rpm.  If you have the motor mounted in the player, play a record which will 
produce some additional drag on the motor and raise the variac voltage until 
the playing record is running at the desired speed at the outermost diameter 
(greatest drag).  Then notch the variac voltage up a little more, say 5% to 10% 
 or so to provide some  reserve torque for "draggy" records.  Note the voltage 
you are providing to the motor.  Then you can either leave the variac in place 
permanently, or you can figger out how to reduce the 120 volt household voltage 
to what the motor wants to see.  You can do this by inserting a big, 
power-hungry wirewound resistor in series with the motor, which needs to 
dissipate a lot of power and will get VERY HOT in operation, which is why they 
are typically wound on a ceramic core.  This is what most of the player 
manufacturers did in their original designs.  This allows the motor to continue 
to be used with either DC (maybe if you're still living in the downtown New 
York City subway system) or typical AC.  If you only plan to use the motor with 
AC, you can look for a fixed transformer that provides the required voltage 
change that you need.  You'll need to use a fairly hefty transformer for this 
application since the motor is probably consuming 25 watts or so and the 
transformer will have to provide sufficient current for the job.

    In summary, your Columbia motor is probably a low voltage universal type.  
So you DO NOT want to hook it up directly to your 120 volt household current.  
Doing so will burn it up pretty quickly.  Perform the variable voltage check 
described above to determine the proper motor voltage and then find a way to 
step down your household 120 volt outlet power to what the motor wants.

Greg Bogantz

On 11/6/2019 5:11 PM, Ron L'Herault via Phono-L wrote:

You should be able to figure out what connects to what with visual
inspection and a meter that measures continuity.   Most of the old motors
went through some kind of resistance device, a long coil of wire on a
ceramic tube, for instance, as a way of controlling voltage.  You may want
to submit the question to the Electrola group.,<>
but don't wait too long.  Yahoo is abandoning these mailing list type

Ron L

-----Original Message-----
From: Phono-L [] On Behalf Of Robert
Wright via Phono-L
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2019 3:39 PM
To: Antique Phonograph List
Cc: Robert Wright
Subject: Re: [Phono-L] Columbia Grafonola - electric motor question

Anyone? No one here knows about these Columbia electric motors? I would be
shocked if that were true!

On Oct 25, 2019, at 5:35 PM, Robert Wright via Phono-L
<><> wrote:

Hello, all! Got a question on behalf of a lovely couple I get this weekend

regarding a big, beautiful Columbia Grafonola. I was going to find them a
crank for it, since they thought that's what was missing, but upon further
inspection, it's got the same situation as in the attached ad. Pretty cool,
and super clean as well.

Problem is: how do you connect this motor to an outlet? No cable included

(that's the easy part), couple of loose wires, not sure what does what... I
only know Victor induction motors! Anyone have a schematic for getting this
thing wired up back to original spec? I'd sure love to help these folks if

Thanks from them and myself in advance!



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