Mixing Idiots And Electricity. Tales Of Misadventures.

1st July 2020 0 By jarm69

For some reason, many of our tales of mishap seem to involve electricity. This one however really wasn’t our fault.

When I was still a youth, before I made the jump into the corporate market and I was still operating at traditional funfairs. I had a sideline, I used to design and build lighting control systems. When you see the lights flashing on the funfair rides, or at Blackpool illuminations, they have an electronic control system to flash them in the correct sequence. My first ever business was building these controllers.

A friend of mine in Scotland, used to act as an agent for me. I would build the units he would sell them. Now, many of the funfair rides at that time didn’t operate from standard 240v household type electricity. Instead they used a 110 volt Direct Current system. This was an older, but safer form of electric. You can hold a live wire in your hand without any ill effects. The one drawback to it, was if two wires touched they tended to spark and arc very badly. You could touch two cables together and move them apart a number of inches and keep a flame of electric present between the two.

Blinded By The Light

The lighting systems for these 110v powered rides tended to be very high current. Often needing to power three or four hundred amps of lighting. The mains connection tended to be brass bolts of around an inch diameter to carry the load. There were three main connections, one for the negative supply. One for the positive supply, and the final one for the common feed to the lights. The last two were actually joined together by a large brass busbar because they were of the same polarity.

My friend turns up one day with a unit for repair. Looking at it, the common and positive brass bolts had been melted down to nothing.

WTF!, happened I asked. When he finished laughing he managed to tell me. The guy that had purchased the unit, had misread the wiring diagram, and connected the positive and negative supply to the two bolts that were joined together. Basically a dead short. Now, he couldn’t start the generator. Not surprising as the dead short basically presented an infinite load and the engine wasn’t powerful enough to turn the dynamo over.

So, he had the bright idea of having a member of staff hold the cables ready. He would start the generator and when it was running, the said stooge would push the cables onto the brass bolts.

The result he reported, was a massive flash of light. What he rather though Hiroshima would have looked like just after the bomb dropped. This was followed by a huge flame. Which not only melted the bolts to nothing, it also removed the poor staff members moustache, eyebrows and most of his fringe. In fact he said, the guy very much resembled a chimney sweep. One who had just cleaned out a particularly filthy chimney.