Wheels and belts

Behold the power of the Stagenkunsten! Thanks to @liamvhogan for the link, which gave me a Proustian memory of my grandfather’s electroplating business, now run by my Dad and brother.

Plating involves suspending your article to be plated (a spoon, let’s say) in an electrolyte solution with an anode (often, but not always, of the metal you’re plating it with). For a reason I can’t remember but which has something to do with getting an even coating, the article being plated needs to be ‘agitated’ – moved gently backwards and forwards in the solution. These days the agitator is a small electric motor attached to the tank, but the original factory was built in 1947, when motors were neither as small nor as cheap, and its oldest section had an intricate arrangement of leather belts, wheels and shafts running along the ceiling which transmitted to each of the tanks the mechanical power generated by a single hulking and Cyclopean electric motor. This system was still in use when the business moved in the late 70s, and I can remember as a child being lifted up by my Dad in order to reach the bright green power button (the original control, still on the wall, was a Frankensteinian knife-switch) which would bring the whole room creaking and groaning to life.


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