Memories of a Derwent Field Service Engineer

5 1177
Memories of a Derwent Field Service Engineer 1

Submited by member: Captain Peacock

The other day I was thinking about when I used to work at Derwent TV rentals. Whilst for many years Radio Rentals was the T.V. rental market leader with around 400 shops in prime locations around the U.K., Derwent were by no means a ‘small fry’ company, with around 40 shops dotted around the U.K., but not always in such prime locations as Radio Rentals shops.

The company was still privately-owned when I was there and was run by the M.D. Winston Fletcher, by that time a grey-haired elderly man, along with two of the company’s other directors, his sons Michael & Peter who were always addressed as Mr. Winston, Mr. Michael & Mr. Peter.

Frank Newton was the Midlands area manager whom we nicknamed ‘Newton The Cute ‘Un’.
The branches I remember in the Birmingham/Midlands area were:

Wylde Green (near Sutton Coldfield),
Coventry (5, Longfellow Road),
Leamington (Clarendon Place?),
Solihull (40, Station Rd),
Wolverhampton (60, Chapel Ash).

Until the advent of BBC2 transmissions on UHF, Derwent designed & manufactured their own radio and mono 405-line only TV receivers at their factory at 26, Wadsworth Road, Perivale, West London (off Aintree Road and behind the Hoover building on the A40 Western Avenue). However, I believe the main company offices were on the London Road (188-192?) in Liverpool. The company remained privately owned until it was bought out by, I believe, Visionhire, sometime in around 1986-7.

Although the pay for its field service engineers was not as good as that for Radio Rentals, there was a real family atmosphere at Derwent and the company treated its staff very well and was the only company I worked for that still gave its staff Luncheon Vouchers (remember them?) and we received 5x 15p vouchers per week. Whilst 15p certainly didn’t buy a feast even in those days, it bought a sizeable crusty baguette stuffed with salad, cheese & raw onion rings and lashings of butter on the baguette. Like the sadly long-gone Rowntree’s Texan bar, they took time a-chewin’!

Derwent was also the only T.V. rental company I can remember that used to ship in trays filled with live plants in bloom that dropped into polished wooden outer trays to brighten up its showrooms and a chap called Sandy came over once a fortnight in a Ford Transit van from the Leamington branch to exchange trays of freshly blooming plants for those from the previous visit that were by now looking a bit jaded from the heat generated by all those TV sets and the sun shining into the showroom.

To give some indication of how well I was treated by the management, as I already had a provisional driving licence when I joined as an apprentice, the aforementioned Frank Newton arranged for the Midlands area lorry driver-cum-odd-job man (a chap called Norman IIRC) to drive over a couple of times a week in a Ford Escort van from Edgbaston branch to the Solihull branch where I worked and he then sat with me in the Escort van to enable me to carry out some (mainly monochrome) field service calls until I’d passed my driving test. I’m certain these numerous (free!) ‘driving lessons’ helped me to pass my test first time.

Another perk at Derwent was that you were not given a limited weekly fuel allowance and, as long as this wasn’t abused, you could use it for ‘private’ mileage whereas at Radio Rentals, you were only allowed just enough fuel to cover your area for the week – which on the odd occasion (usually during ‘Wimblebore’ fortnight or the 2 weeks leading up to Xmas) was not enough and the branch manager had to assign me an extra 3 gallons for the week.

Anyway, back to Derwent: once I’d gotten some experience in the field on the monochrome sets, a gradual progression onto dealing with colour calls was made as I gained experience – only the Philips G8 series for quite a while as the chassis was fully modular and all the PCBs were easily replaceable. Later, from the G8s, I gradually progressed onto the Philips G6 and K70 series.

Not only did the company provide me with considerable driving practice, but Derwent also honoured the existing day release arrangement for my City & Guilds TV engineers course. Once I’d passed my test and had been allocated a company van, I went out doing service calls on my own and a couple of weeks after passing my test, a training course on colour TV principles and fault-finding was arranged for us apprentices in the Midlands area in an upstairs room above the Wolverhampton branch showroom which entailed me driving there every Wednesday from Solihull (some 30 miles each way) along the M5 from Junction 4 (A38) to Junction 2 (A4123) and then along the Wolverhampton New Road – complete with seemingly endless sets of traffic lights, Burnt Tree Island and a 40mph limit throughout and into central Wolverhampton for a 9:30am start. Parking was a right pain even then but I always managed to find a space in a large circular parking area surrounding some public gardens about 10 minutes’ walk away.

In those days, the section of the M5 from Worcester junction (6) to Frankley junction (3) was only 2-lane and was a baptism of fire for any newly passed driver to join the M5 northbound at around 8:30am as the inside lane was bumper-to-bumper with lorries crawling up the long Frankley hill at around 15mph, belching out clouds of diesel particulates, with the outside lane consisting mostly of cars roaring past them at 70+mph. It often took me several minutes of crawling along at 15mph to find a large enough gap in the outside lane traffic and then having to slam the van into second gear and ‘floor it’ to avoid being rear-ended by little-boy-racers in their Triumph Dolomite Sprints, Mk1 Granadas and Rover P6s until I’d reached 70mph.

The course was run in an upstairs room at 60 Chapel Ash by the area engineer – a very knowledgeable and decent chap named John Boyce. I really enjoyed those training days – the only downside being that Bank’s brewery was close by and when the wind was in the right (or rather wrong) direction, there was a fiendish smell that wafted in through any open window that in terms of nasty niffs rivalled that evil smell of a Thorn silicone rubber-filled 3000 tripler that had let the smoke out of its selenium rectifier sticks.

I remember one incident which I can laugh about now but could have ended in tragedy! Mr Michael was visiting our branch one day and the senior engineer was showing him (showing off more like!) how quickly he could change a CRT on a 25” G6. All had gone well and quickly until said senior engineer was refitting the main chassis back into the set and was fitting those two red plastic chassis retaining clips-cum-bottom hinges when, for reasons never ascertained, suddenly the chassis dropped right onto the neck of the new Mullard Colourex CRT. A gentle but ominous hissing sound began emanating from the set. Instantly recognising what had happened, we all began nervously backing away from the set to the far corner of the workshop but Mr Michael firmly remained by the side of the set completely oblivious to the potential danger he was in. Thankfully after what seemed ages (only around 30 seconds) the hissing stopped and we all cautiously returned to our posts.

The senior engineer then had to sheepishly explain what had happened and face the music, but Mr Michael was far more annoyed with him and us for not warning him of the potential danger he was in rather than the waste of a new (well, re-gunned) CRT. Thankfully, Mr. Michael took it in good spirits and didn’t bear a grudge but for some time afterwards, usually with a grin on his face, he would rib the senior engineer about his faux pas!

As for company cars, for quite some years Derwent apprentices were given 1100cc Mk1 Escort vans and engineers 1100L Escort Mk1 estate cars with a choice of non-metallic paint colours. The senior engineer could have a 1300cc Escort GL version with a metallic paint option if desired.
However, in around 1974, the company switched to Hillman Avenger estates, with engineers given a 1300L and the senior engineer a 1600cc DL version with metallic paint option if desired. When your car came up for change (every 2 years), you could also choose the paint colour for your new car. I chose the Lavender ‘solid’ colour as I thought it was great – a sort of vivid blue-purple which I’ve never seen before or since. The Fiat Strada solid mid-blue was the closest I’ve seen to it. Annoyingly, the engines in these Avengers consumed a pint of oil every 200-300 miles! This was quite a shock after resting on my laurels with the Ford Escort engines, all of which went from service to service (6,000 miles in those days) with the oil level barely dropping a quarter of an inch down the dipstick.

On the plus side however, I discovered not long after I picked up this new Avenger, that although the ‘L’ version did not have reversing lights fitted as standard, all the wiring and even the bulbs in my car were already in place: all that was missing was the activating switch on the outside of the gearbox, so as I had a friend who worked in the Chrysler factory at Small Heath, he obtained a switch for me and showed me what to do and hey presto, my car had fully working reversing lights! I made quite a bit of money (minus the cost of the switch) off the other engineers by retro-fitting their Avengers with reversing lights as well!
Turning now to the sets I worked on at Derwent: the very earliest model I worked on (occasionally) was the 17-inch Regent model which was fitted with a wooden back cover and a MW43-69 70-degree deflection CRT with magnetic focussing along with the later AW43/53-80 CRT’d models that were sometimes retro-fitted with the aluminised AW43-80Z and AW53-88Z which did away with the need for an ion trap magnet. These later sets were the 17-inch Regal and 21-inch Keswick, Kirkstone and Coniston models.

These 90-degree deflection CRT sets consisted of two PCBs – IF, sound & vision stages and a smaller frame & line timebase stage. The sets were of fairly unadventurous, tried & tested circuit designs overall but some of the valves employed were unusual i.e. ECL80 for sound output and PL82 for frame output which unusually, used a blocking oscillator (half an ECC82 and transformer) for the frame timebase. I can’t remember what the video output valve was – possibly a PCL83, but I suspect it could have been an ECL80 instead.

The tube and all but the line, frame & video output valves (PL36, PY81/800, PL82 and PCL83 if used) had their heaters powered from two 6.3V windings on the mains transformer – a low power one for the CRT and a stonking great winding for the valve heaters. The ‘P’ valve heaters were also fed by another 100+ volts tap off the same mains transformer. An EY86 was used for EHT whose valve base formed part of the LOPTX assembly (which rarely failed!).

In the 17-inch Regal, the tube heaters often went short circuit in their later years but as they were powered by a separate 6.3V winding on the mains transformer, they used to glow at the end like a light bulb, thus keeping the cathode hot enough to work OK, whereas if the CRT heater was in a series chain, it usually glowed very dimly – as the AW47-91 CRT did in my Baird 626, but a tap or two on the tube neck resulted in a tube flashover which cleared the short and brought the picture back. That tube went on to work OK for at least another 14 years! It was a Mullard yellow-label job that were noted for their hard vacuums.

In series with the P-series valves was a stonking great NTC thermistor over an inch long that used to delay heater warm-up to around 4 minutes in cold weather, but the first indication that the set was beginning to warm up was some loud self-oscillation which was independent of the volume control that emanated from the sound output stage and rapidly reduced in frequency from around 600Hz to zero in around 3 seconds. I guess the gain of this stage was set as high as possible – to such an extent that it had a tendency to self-oscillate until the ECL80 had fully warmed up. Feeding the anode of the sound output valve from the boost supply (as Philips did with the 1768 chassis) would have prevented this rather annoying and uncontrollable howling.

Main HT on the Derwent-designed TVs was provided originally by a metal (selenium) rectifier (a.k.a Satan’s Radiators) and cue the instantly recognisable nasty niff when it failed! This was later replaced by a BY100/127 and a large 45-ohm wire-wound surge limiter resistor straight from the ‘set side’ of the on/off switch. The BY127s didn’t fail often and a ‘no sound or picture’ call-out was usually just a burnt-out 45-ohm resistor– and they didn’t fail too often either!
In fact, all of the Derwent-designed chassis were very reliable – I suspect because the circuits were simple and nothing was worked hard (unlike say the Baird 660 series) and in addition, the PCBs in these sets were built like the proverbial brick outhouse. I don’t ever remember having a problem with the print coming adrift whilst using the soldering iron on it or with crumbling paxolin due to heat damage from a valve or hot component. All the print tracks were wide and large, and well and truly stuck to the paxolin.
Access to servicing Derwent monochrome sets was really easy as the top & sides of the cabinet could be removed in one piece by removing four long 2BA screws under the base of the set which gave good access to ‘the works.’

With the arrival of UHF transmissions, Derwent ceased designing their own chassis and bought in first of all, the Mk1 and later the Mk2 Plessey chassis which used an ECH84 for sync separation and were fitted inside Derwent-designed and made cabinets. The Mk1 Rydal (A47-13W) was the only tube size and model offered with the Plessey Mk1 chassis. This chassis was also used in the Defiant 9A50 and 9A51 models, with the Mk2 chassis being used in the Defiant models 9A61U, 9A62U, 9B63U, 3A66U, 9A71U and 9A61UT: the last one having a transistorised UHF tuner: the rest all having a valve (PC86/88) UHF tuner.
Although the Mk2 had somewhat easier access, neither of these Plessey chassis were nice to work on (double-sided print didn’t help either!) and on the Mk1 chassis, the LOPTX EHT overwinds had a nasty habit of cooking up and the pitch covering them would melt and fall off into the bottom of the cabinet; however, the LOPTX’s in the Mk2 chassis were VERY reliable – and interestingly, pluggable. If I remember correctly, the EHT overwind on the Mk2 LOPTX was in a pot sealed with resin. The mains dropper was also very reliable: so much so that I don’t remember changing one!

As already mentioned, both Plessey chassis used double-sided print: however PCB quality was not good on either the Mk1 or Mk2 chassis, with the PCBs crumbling away around the ‘hot’ components, resulting in bad contacts, problems with arcing & general print repairs being commonplace and were mainly around the PCL84 video output, PCL82 sound output and frame output PCL85(805) valve bases and other components that got hot in normal operation.

Unfortunately, the PCBs on the Mk2 Plessey chassis were even worse than the Mk1, with PCB crumbling and resultant print continuity problems being commonplace around the same three valve holders. Unlike the Mk1, the Mk2 did give a nice picture when it was correctly aligned and didn’t suffer from the Philips/Thorn 1400 maladies on UHF (buzz, crackle, pull, roll etc.) which the Mk1 chassis was somewhat prone to as the sync separator worked well and the AGC was sync pulse gated. The two Derwent Plessey Mk2 chassis models were: the 19 inch (A47-13W) Mk2 Rydal and the 23 inch (AW59-90) Mk1 Windermere.

Whilst the company stopped designing its own TV sets, Derwent did, however build 625-line conversion kits for some of the last 405-line only sets Derwent designed & made: these being the 19 inch (AW47-91) Ullswater which had a square plastic implosion guard, the sort-of direct-vision Grasmere (seen on the top left of that pile of burnt TV sets outside the Derwent shop above) fitted with a A47-13W that had the inch-thick edges to the tube caused by the extra glass screen that was bonded onto the front of the CRT with clear silicone rubber and the 23 inch Kirkstone (AW59-23W) and once fitted & set up, the conversions themselves seldom gave trouble – apart from the usual noisy system switch and valve bases in the UHF tuner (EC86/88 – not PC86/88 as the UHF tuner valve heaters were also powered from that stonking 6.3V winding on the mains transformer). The transistor line-up on the UHF I.F. PCB (which was also very high quality) was a mixture of AF114s, 115s, 116s and 117s plus a few OC71s and 72s along with a sprinkling of OA91s etc.

Noisy system switches became ever more of a problem in these conversions – particularly say in a house with an Alsatian dog as these sets got covered in a fine, grey, earthy powder from the dog’s coat which played merry hell with the system switch contacts and valve bases and as the sets aged, I ‘strapped out’ many a system switch to UHF only if the signal strength was good enough. The same thing happened in a house where a portable Calor Gas heater was used: OK, these heaters were cheap to run, but they caused a brown, sticky film of tar-like gunk to build up inside the set – a problem that caused many CRT failures in the larger Thorn 3000 & 8800 series, where the build-up of this gunk plus dust and damp sometimes resulted in a cracked CRT around the EHT connector where the EHT had flashed over to the degaussing shield requiring the CRT to be replaced. Thankfully, I don’t recall that happening with any Derwent sets.

Once UHF reception had become fairly well established, sometime in around 1966/67, Derwent switched from using Plessey-made chassis in their own cabinets (probably due to the poor-quality PCBs) to Philips, the first of these being the Style 70 chassis with that pluggable ‘lawnmower grass box-shape’ line output transformer & output valves (PL504 and PY800) that could quickly be replaced if the transformer had failed – which they often did. Although the Philips PCBs were somewhat better quality than the two Plessey chassis, I’m not certain this change was entirely a good move – and – especially in terms of picture & sound quality as the Style 70 chassis used mean-level AGC that resulted in much buzzing along with picture pulling & rolling on UHF – especially if the contrast was wound up a bit too high!

Again, Derwent designed and made the cabinets for the two Philips Style 70 sets: these being the Mk3 Rydal (A47-14W) and Mk2 Windermere (A59-23W). After around 2-3 years, the Style 70 chassis was replaced with the 210 chassis, with a 6-push button tuner which could be set to pick up VHF or UHF stations on 405 or 625 and on various distribution systems that radiated on 625-line but at VHF frequencies, with the electrically operated system switch being actuated by the tuner itself. These sets were the 19-inch (A47-14W) Thirlmere and the 23-inch (A59-23W) Langdale models with direct vision Mullard (ALWAYS Mullard) tubes which used cabinets designed & built by Derwent.
Both the Style 70 and 210 chassis featured a (sort of) safety device that consisted of a 1-watt Dubilier carbon rod resistor soldered underneath two tags that were proud of the PCB. These drop-off resistors were used for the cathode bias resistor in the pentode section of the sound output valve (PCL82) and ditto for the frame output valve (PCL85/805). The theory of operation was that if (when!) these two valves went into runaway (which they often did), the cathode bias resistor would heat up, the solder holding the resistor in place under the two tags would melt and the resistor would drop away, cutting off the current to the valve. Well, that was the theory!

Unfortunately, when the cathode bias resistor dropped off, full, modulated cathode current that was by now approaching HT potential was applied across the cathode electrolytic decoupling capacitor which caused the electrolyte inside to rapidly boil and, after a few seconds, the cap would explode with a loud BANG, showering the ‘works’ with scraps of wet paper and metal foil as well as scaring the living daylights out of the viewer and any poor unfortunate moggy who had taken advantage of a nice warm set-top to have a snooze.

The Thirlmere & Langdale sets with the 210 chassis in were the last mono TV series Derwent had any hand in producing as from then on, the company focussed exclusively on Philips colour sets, firstly supplying the 25 inch G6 fitted with the dual-standard 500 chassis and given the model name of ‘Ascot.’ At that time, Derwent didn’t supply the 22-inch dual-standard G6 but later supplied the single standard 510 chassis, the 22-inch A56-120X FST set – also called the ‘Ascot’.
Then in 1970, when the Pilkington Glass strike had created a dearth of colour TV tubes, Derwent bought in the Swedish 26-inch Philips K70 (S26K497) with those white cabinet backs that gave off highly toxic fumes when they caught fire and screened EHT leads that failed with monotonous regularity. The line output stage comprised five valves – 1X PL509, 1X PL504, 1X PY500, 1X GY501 and 1X PD500 on early versions, with the PL504 being replaced by a second PL509/519 in later versions. The K70 was given the model name of ‘Epsom’ and was the last ‘named’ TV set to be supplied by Derwent as when the G8 chassis became available sometime in 1971, the company stopped allocating names to TV sets and immediately switched to and used the G8 exclusively in 22-inch and 26-inch models until the G9 chassis arrived with its simple tuning-fork channel-change remote control that first appeared at Derwent in early 1976.

Whilst the picture quality was superb on the K70, (complete with ‘Set White’ relay for displaying ‘Illuminant D’ on monochrome transmissions), I HATED working on them as the quality of the PCBs and (double-sided) print proved to be abysmal over time – along with the use of single-strand connecting wires which meant said wires frequently came off a PCB when you so much as breathed too hard near it. Then there was that PSU section that had a parallel, duplicated (presumably for extra current capabilities) full-wave bridge rectifier circuit comprising 4X BY127s and a 4.7-ohm wirewound surge limiting resistor: so you had 2X full wave bridge rectifiers i.e. 8X BY127s to fail – which they often did, along with 2X 4.7-ohm wirewound surge limiting resistors (which also often failed), with one 4.7-ohm feeding each bridge.
If ever I found one or both of these 4.7-ohm resistors O/C, my heart would sink as I knew this was not going to be a quick job! The only reliable procedure was to remove, check, replace any BY127s as required and resolder all 8 back in place – preferably with the correct polarity and double-checking the print for continuity. Then remove & check both 4.7-ohm resistors and replace as required; then resolder ONE of the 4.7-ohm resistors back in place and switch on: if the set came up OK, switch off, remove the aforementioned 4.7-ohm wirewound and resolder the other 4.7-ohm wirewound back in place: if the set came up OK again, switch off and resolder the first 4.7-ohm wirewound back in place.

This procedure had to be adopted to check both rectifier stages were fully working as if you left the set with only one of the two bridge rectifier circuits working, in a day or two, the sole working bridge would burn out its 4.7-ohm resistor, resulting in a dead set again. Needless to say, with all the heat being generated on the PSU PCB and around the video (PL802) and sound (PCL86) output and the 3X PCF200 (chroma amps & clamps) , the PCBs crumbled badly, leading to numerous continuity faults along the very thin printed circuit tracks. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the chassis was always at half-mains potential: nice!

Anyway, onto better sets: I recall that around 70% of all calls on G8s could be fixed with a pocketful of 3.15A fuses, BT106/116(?) thyristors, mains droppers, triplers and the odd LOPTX. For some reason, Philips LOPTXs were never as reliable as the Thorn ‘Jellypot’ LOPTXs – oh, and the many dry joints on the frame output transistors (BD124?) that were fitted on the earlier 520 series PCBs that had silver, half-rounded heat sinks on. That problem was fixed by drilling a tiny hole in the PCB near the heatsinks and fitting a tag washer to one of the heatsink securing screws and passing a short length of copper wire through the small hole drilled in the PCB and soldering it onto both the tag washer and the print underneath that was connected to the heat sinks. The later timebase PCBs had BD131s mounted on larger black heatsinks and I don’t recall these giving any problems in this regard.

Whilst faults on the user controls and channel push buttons were rare on the 520 series, the same could not be said for the 550 series. Intermittent channel drifting/loss of a channel or two was a common occurrence and down to those fork-shaped sprung copper contacts that made contact with the PCB inside the new-style ‘flip down’ ‘Electrobutton’ channel selector unit: these kept creating intermittent connections due to dirt build-up. I wish I’d had £1 for every one of those units I’d stripped apart and cleaned up!

Having been forced to realise that mono TV rental was far from dead even by the mid-1970s and, due to their age, the number of existing dual-standard mono sets still being in good enough condition for re-hire was failing to meet demand, in 1975, Derwent bought in a number of 20 and 24-inch Pye 176 chassis sets (24-inch model 184?). These were fully transistorised and gave a CRACKING picture and were reliable as well.

I also remember that sometime in late 1976, Derwent bought in an 18-inch Pye 713 chassis (model CT200?) that had A) a true southern hemisphere tube in i.e. the blue gun was at the bottom and the EHT connector at the top, whereas Thorn simply fitted northern hemisphere CRTs in upside down i.e. the blue gun and EHT connector were both at the bottom and B) a chassis that was always at half-mains potential like the Philips K70 chassis. I never liked working on these 713s either – again, for its half-mains chassis!
One of the last Philips chassis I worked on before I left Derwent was, as mentioned above, the Philips G9 chassis which first appeared sometime during that long hot summer of 1976 and came in two versions: the G26C581 which had the same ‘Electrobutton’ tuning/channel change assembly as the 550 G8 models had and the G26C585 with the same ‘Electrotouch’ touch-tuning/channel change unit and ultrasonic remote unit that was fitted in the G8 56x modles that comprised a tuning fork that was ‘twanged’ by a button being pressed to change channel. I have very clear memories of fooling this remote-control system by jingling a bunch of keys in front of the pick-up mic on the front panel, which led to to a furious outbreak of random, rapid channel changes!

Whilst the Philips Electrotouch touch pads were far more reliable than their later Thorn equivalents (n779 etc.), they did occasionally give trouble – especially where viewers with sticky, jam-covered fingers had recently operated the touch pads. However, unlike the original Thorn touch channel pads, a good wipe over with a slightly dampened cloth usually worked wonders on these Philips Electrotouch units.
Both G9 models had a 26-inch 110-degree shadowmask CRT but I can’t recall a 22-inch version of the G9 at all. I BELIEVE (although I can’t prove it) that the combined I.F, sound, vision and chrominance PCB fitted in the G9 was interchangeable with those fitted in the later runs of the 550 series G8 chassis. Common faults on the G9 included the spectacular failure of a 2200uf electrolytic on the line output panel (C138 or C155?) – or was it the 1000uf (C48?) on the timebase PCB that used to vomit its electrolyte all over the timebase panel and cause a similar rapid picture size flutter as the over-volts protection circuit on the PSU.

I clearly remember there was a very nasty ‘gotcha’ on the early G9 chassis: in that there was very little clearance between the print side of the convergence panel and the heat sink of the main thyristor on the PSU PCB and unless the two screws securing the convergence panel onto the top crossbar of the chassis were securely tightened after use, the PCB would hang down a little under its own weight and some of the PCB print tracks would foul the heat sink of the main thyristor on the PSU PCB which carried full HT, leading to a very loud BANG, copious quantities of smoke and closely followed by much weeping, wailing & gnashing of teeth from the unfortunate engineer, with the set’s PSU, convergence and possibly other PCBs now only fit for the scrap heap. Guess how I discovered that one!
Having obtained my City & Guilds whilst I was working for Derwent, I would have stayed working for the company much longer than the three years I did, but there was one long-established engineer at the branch who shall remain nameless who really made my life (and, apparently, most of the other apprentices’ lives before and after me) a misery, so I left solely because of him and went back to Radio Rentals as a fully qualified TV engineer.

Sadly, the much-loved G11 chassis had not yet arrived by the time I’d left Derwent to go back to Radio Rentals.

Before I finish, I must mention one of the engineers I worked with at the Solihull branch: his name was Reg Vayro. He was in his late 40s or early 50s when I was there in my late teens, so I’m assuming that sadly, he is no longer with us – especially as from what I can recall, he didn’t enjoy the best of health. Reg was a great help to me not only in helping me learn the trade but also in helping me to keep calm and sane in the face of the repeated spiteful nastiness inflicted by the aforementioned long-established engineer who shall remain nameless. I missed Reg when I left Derwent and I wish I had kept in touch with him. But one never thinks about these things when one is young!

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 months ago

Fantastic memoirs of the glory days! Well written, well done!

5 months ago

Excellent collection of memories of your time with Derwent Television and your early years in the trade. You mention the pile of “burnt” televisions outside the shop? what is the story there? Sorry to hear you had a problem with an engineer, I have met one or two over the years but continue on and ahead and usually surpass them. I moved into Broadcast Television after 3 years and have been there since. Coming up to retirement in a year or so but I have enjoyed every minuet of it, have no regrets and one of the fortunate ones that have been on both sides of the industry we all love.

Last edited 5 months ago by Hurty
Captain Peacock
5 months ago

Morning all and thanks for your appreciative comments.

I don’t know much about the story behind the burnt TVs other than it appears a fire started in the showroom which caused the destruction of the sets piled outside. Which set caused the problem (if any) I don’t know, but apparently it was not unheard of for the floor-level showroom spotlights to occasionally overheat and set fire to any adjacent combustible fittings. Other than that, it could have been say the ‘shrinker’ coil (that big purple one on the top of the focus panel) overheating on a dual standard G6 and setting fire to the focus panel or the EHT overwind cooking up on the line output transformer in a Mk1 Plessey chassis and setting fire to its pitch covering.

I’m guessing from a) the Derwent van being a ‘C’ reg (Jan-December 1965), b) the model types of burnt sets outside and c) that the prices of colour rental were shown in £.s.d. that the photo was taken sometime no earlier than July 1967 to the end of that year at the latest. New car registration letters switched from 1/1/yyyy to 31/12/yyyy to 01/08/yyyy to 31/07/yyyy in July 1967 with the E reg series only lasting 7 months.

Thanks too to Crustytv for supplying the photo: I remember it from a web page I visited some time ago, but could not find it when I came to write the article.

I also see from Google Earth that the Wolverhampton branch showroom was unoccupied when the video was taken. I must admit I felt a twinge of sadness when I saw it.

A few more memories have come back since I wrote the article: unlike say Radio Rentals where you left the workshop around 10am with say around 8-10 calls for the day, at Derwent, we left at around 10am each morning with around 4 calls, but then we all came back in time for lunch and went out again around 2pm with another 3 or 4 calls that had come in since we left earlier in the morning. This meant a) we often got to have lunch together and b) the customer was more likely to gey a ‘same-day’ repair when the set failed during the morning than they would at say Radio Rentals – not that there was much to watch in the mornings in those days – unless you liked watching Schools programmes or listening to Test Card or ITV Schools Interval music – some of which was BRILLIANT!

Furthermore, unlike Radio Rentals where you were given a small call chit (around A6 size) for each call with the name & address ( and possibly the phone number) of the subscriber and brief details of the fault written in Biro; at Derwent, each customer was allocated their own service record card on which their name, address and set type (including serial number) which was kept at the branch and filled in with a brief description of the fault and then placed in the day’s a.m. or p.m. service calls folder ready to be allocated to an engineer. This meant the engineer had a (brief but) full service history to refer to – as did the company. These cards (around A5 size from memory) were white for mono customers and light pink for colour customers. Directly beneath the fault call date and description, the engineer would then fill in the date and brief details of the repair.

Occasionally, one of these service record cards (I only ever remember the white cards having it) would have the letters D.O.S. written in large black ball-point pen at the top of the card: this meant the customer had bought the set instead of renting it and consequently the call was usually chargeable. What D.O.S. stood for I can’t remember (if I ever knew). Having completed the repair, the engineer would get out his receipt book and issue a receipt to the customer for any money collected and later pay it in to one of the office staff at the branch who would then initial the bottom copy of the receipt in the book to show the engineer had paid them the money on returning to the workshop rather than trousering it!

Again, unlike Radio Rentals, Derwent field engineers were also responsible for collecting any overdue rental payments: these being recorded on the customer’s service record card saying ‘Collect Rental: (e.g.) £3.25’ and these calls were fitted in with fault calls as and when workload permitted. Needless to say, it was always the same customers who were late paying time and again, with their fault cards having copious ‘Collect Rental’ entries on them – these often outnumbering fault calls!

Derwent field engineers were also responsible for installing sets in any new customer’s house or installing any rental upgrades e.g. from say an old Ullwater to a new Philips G8 colour set – or whatever.

Oh, and the probably the most-used sustantial tool at our branch was an old cylinder vacuum cleaner which had its hose fitted in the ‘blow’ end and which, along with the set, we would take outside the workshop door to the car park and use it to blow out the thick carpet of dust that was usually covering everything in a set before we worked on it. At least then the dog had a hope of seeing the rabbit as it were!

That’s about all I can remember for now!

Reply to  Captain Peacock
5 months ago

That situation of the chassis dropping on the CRT neck is similar to one of my own ‘mishaps’ back when I first started out with a private company….
I Wondered Where Those Screws Came From! – (

Captain Peacock
Reply to  sideband
5 months ago

Ooeerrr Sideband: that was DEFINITELY a ‘brown trousers’ moment – and not down to Director’s Ale spilt on them either! Not a bad drop of ale that – although I suspect not as good now as it was then when it was still brewed by Courage and not Coors! And speaking of Courage beers, anyone remember their adverts that featured suitably modified lyrics of Chas & Dave songs? Good job you had a spare CRT available as well!

Your tale has reminded me of another Derwent memory: In the article above I mentioned Norman, the Midlands area lorry driver who used to sit with me in the van before I passed my test: well, when he was collecting the scrap sets from our branch for disposal, he used to literally knock the necks off any CRTs near the connector with the very large, heavy Yale padlock he used to secure the lorry’s tail shutter down with before loading them onto the lorry. I used to run a mile when he did this but I don’t recall anything nasty happening to him, and he must have done this to well over 200 sets a year without incident.

Rather him than me!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x