The Golden Telecruiser


On location at Burnett Field in Dallas, Texas about 1952

DuMont Telecruiser Model B, Number 101



This is the way we found this DuMont Telecruiser.  It's "Model B, Serial Number 101" built on a 1949 Flxible coach.   We found it parked in a lot near downtown Dallas.  The folks at Dallas's Sixth Floor Museum let us know about its presence.  It is thought to have been used during part of the ABC TV/WFAA  coverage of the Kennedy Assassination.    Even if it wasn't, there is a lot of Dallas history to it.  It was used by WFAA-TV well into the early 1970's.  We purchased it from the estate of Edward Terry, of Dallas, who purchased it at auction from A.H. Belo Corp, parent company of WFAA.  That makes us the third owner. (Perhaps the fourth owner, since Belo purchased the bus when they acquired Channel 8 in 1950).  Mr. Terry intended to make a motor home out of it, but never got that far.  It seems he used it as a traveling store, visiting numerous  flea markets with  it.  To his credit, Mr. Terry saved most of the electronics that came with the bus.  We are still missing quite a lot, but the equipment we got from Mrs. Terry is certainly a good start to restoring this to a working black and white TV Mobile Unit.   That is our goal.

This TV Mobile unit was originally built for Channel 8 in Dallas, Texas by Allen B. DuMont Labs in Passaic, New Jersey.  (Parent company of The DuMont Network).  

Channel 8 was originally called KBTV, before it was purchased by A. H. Belo Corp. (The Dallas Morning News) in 1950.  The coach originally said KBTV on it.   KBTV was originally owned by Tom Potter, an East Texas oil man who lived in Kilgore. The funny thing is, is our mailing address is Kilgore, so in a way, the Flx has "come home."

Part of the KBTV crew outside the door of the bus.  If you can identify any of the people, let us know.

Master Control inside the bus.  It must have been quite hot inside during the summer.


In the early days of TV, there were three networks, NBC, CBS and DuMont.  The DuMont network's  biggest accomplishment was the early versions of The Jackie Gleason Show.  The parent company, Allen B. DuMont Labs made TV broadcast equipment, as well as high end consumer receivers.

Dumont Labs was an early pioneer in television technology and equipment.  The even dabbled with color TV.  This mobile unit was built before the days of any production color TV equipment or receivers.  Consequently, it was delivered as a black and white unit, using DuMont built equipment.  Later in its life, WFAA updated this vehicle with "state of the art" Marconi cameras and equipment.  We  got some of that equipment when we acquired the bus.

Here's one of the Marconi MK-IV Image Orthicon Cameras from the bus.  We are told these were marketed in the USA by Ampex.  We're looking for more.  If you have one, we need to talk.

Here's the bus after we moved it to East Texas.  You'll notice the very large (and ugly) air conditioner mounted on the top.  It should come as no surprise that it was added as an after thought.  Originally there was no air conditioning!  Can you imagine what that must have been like with a bunch of very hot tube type equipment inside?  Now think about the summer in Texas when it is over 100 degrees outside.  It must have been like sitting inside a pressure cooker.  No wonder they added the air conditioner.
Here is the surprising thing.  This bus has been more or less parked since 1973, but the air conditioner actually works.  In fact it works very well.  On a near 100 degree day, it can be downright chilly inside!

DuMont Logo on the rear of the bus

A real "Fixer Upper."

The interior.  Unfortunately, the previous owner ripped out the equipment racks and custom cabinets.  Although we can see where they used to be, we are not sure what they are supposed to look like.  If you happen to have any pictures, please contact us.  When we got it, it was full of junk up to the tops of both seats.  It took over two full sized dumpsters to dispose of all the junk.  Of course, we had to sort through everything to keep the stuff that belonged here.  It was a several day affair just going through it.

View from the passenger seats looking rearward.  The big fan in the rear was to help keep cool while we worked.  That was before we discovered that the Carrier Air Conditioner actually works!  The ceiling is also in excellent shape, requiring very little work.  It's amazing what a little soap and water did. 

Drivers compartment and front passenger seat, which folds up against the bulkhead.

A Birds Eye View of the driver's compartment.  No air conditioning here.  It's like being inside a fishbowl in the sun.

One of two power distribution panels in the bus.  This one was for the electronics.

A "Man Size" electrical disconnect plug.

Audio Patch Bay and Monitor Loudspeaker (to left).

Buick Straight Engine.  There is a shroud that surrounds the fan that we removed for the picture.  It is very important for proper engine cooling.

Engine compartment as viewed from inside bus with service cover removed.

The rear part of the passenger door window is missing (frame and all) We could really use one. 
 If you have a spare, please let us know.
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We found the ladder inside. There is a deck on the roof that could accommodate a camera, assuming you have at least four fairly strong men to get it put there.  The cameras weigh about 200 pounds, plus cable, lenses and tripod.  I'll bet that was a lot of fun.

 

The outside audio and telephone patch bay.  Rust never sleeps.

Looking inside in the rear compartment.  The engine is on the left. The stand next to the fan is for camera cable reels.  We have the reels and the cables!

This is the "ever so lovely" main power panel.  (After removing a rats nest of brittle wires).  We found a Readers Digest book beside it, titled "Home Wiring Made Easy."  We'll blame the previous owner.  I doubt that WFAA would have had such a mess.  We did find the cover for the box.  Yea!

There are lots of access doors.  Here we are looking across from the left rear door.  Cable reel holders are on the left.

It seems like climbing on the roof was a regular pastime.  There are lots of these movable steps all over the coach.  I think you can buy these fairly easily, which will probably be a lot easier (and cheaper) than re-chroming the originals.

Most of the siding is in pretty good shape.  This is the worst of it.  I don't know if it can be straightened, or if it will require replacing.  I understand it is hard to come by.  Does anyone have some extra pieces?

An example of the really nice tires.  They have been replaced.

 

The TV Equipment

Here's some of the equipment we got with the coach, including the early 1960's GE audio console, (they were awful - I used to work at a station that had one) Camera cables on reels, Marconi Power Supplies, sync generator and camera electronics.  To the right are some 9" tube type Conrac Monitors.  Behind them is a 1957 BMW Isetta "project car."  The Flxible is in better shape than the Isetta. 

More goodies from the bus.  The dark gray box in the middle is a Conrac VHF TV Tuner.  It is still tuned to "Channel 8."

Marconi Camera Controls for three cameras.  These things required a full time engineer to set them up, and operate them while in use.  The operator kept brightness and contrast ratios in line, as well as insured that everything was working OK.  The job was called "shading."  It's a far cry from your point and shoot camcorder that effortlessly makes great pictures and cost $399.00!

GE Audio Console c. early 1960's.  These were the first audio consoles I ever saw with linear faders rather than round knobs.  They used a device called a "Raysistor" to control audio.  Essentially, there was a light bulb at one end of a small metal tube.  A photocell was glued into the other end.  When you raised the fader, DC power lit the bulb.  The higher the fader was pushed, the brighter the light.  The photocell responded to the light variations and controlled the volume.  It was awful.  There was about a one half second delay between the time the fader was raised and when the audio actually got louder (or softer).  It was very disconcerting to use.  I hated these consoles!

Conrac tube type monitors.

More goodies

Houston Fearless tripods for the cameras.  We are always looking for more of these things.  Any leads, and/or donations are sincerely appreciated and fully tax deductible.  We're a 502 (c)(3) not for profit corporation.

Another shot of the Marconi MK-IV camera head.  We are looking for two more.

 

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