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Power to 'The Truck'

    All of the original equipment in the RCA mobile television production van used vacuum tubes, and there were a lot of them! Vacuum tubes have a big appetite for electrical power, and dump a lot of that power as heat. The original owners of the truck installed an air conditioner in the left rear window, and cooling was necessary even on days that the ambient outside temperature was on the cool side.
    The combination of the television equipment and the air conditioner brought the total electrical current load close to 60 amperes, at 220 Volts. This rather heavy electrical requrement created some interesting situations as we traveled the community, setting up for  remotes in - well, rather remote locations, at times.
    The success of any set-up was therefore dependent upon a supply of enough electrical power to run a typical small house of that era. The ideal location had an outlet for an electric stove (range outlet, 60 amperes, 220 volts). Lacking that, Chief Engineer and Jack-of-all-trades Leland Hubbell drew upon his knowledge of electrical systems, and went inside the main power panel. A variety of "pig-tail" cables with connectors and heavy-duty clamps interfaced the supply panel to a fused switch box. An electrical meter was essential to the operation, and a check was made to assure things were correct at the power outlet/panel before powering up the truck.
     The electrical power supply cables to the truck had twist-loc connectors, and these had to be inspected frequently for good, clean contact, as they often showed signs of overheating. The connectors had to be soldered; screws would loosen under the load, and quickly overheat and char the connector. The cable entered the truck at a multi-plug outlet. The load was balanced as closely as possible, with part of the equipment on each side of the 220 volt supply.  The connector box had three low-wattage lamps as power indicators, and could be set up for 3 phase systems by internal links, if needed, but was always used on single phase settings while we used the truck. One lamp was across one leg of the 110/220 line, and two across the other.  If both lamps glowed equally, the incoming voltage balance was assumed to be acceptable.
    The truck had a 'power-stat' adjustable transformer to set the voltage to the correct range for the truck. This was located just behind the driver's seat, at the bottom of the equipment racks.  The truck electronic equipment required a nominal voltage of 110-120 volts, and local sources were found to vary all over the range, sometimes too high, sometimes too low. The air conditioner required 220 volts, supplied by its own power cable, but came through the
    Most set-ups were routine: Find a 60 ampere range outlet, or a "mains" supply panel, measure to determine voltages, plug in or clamp on the WGSF switch/fuse box, check the indicator lamps, and tweak the power-stat for the correct voltage. If things measured up, we could start turning on the equipment. We were not always able to turn on everything, especially at locations like the  Hartford Fair Grounds, because the lines couldn't handle the load. We were sometimes reduced to running only one camera, and no air conditioner.
    Electrical service is supposed to be inspected and installed by licensed electricians, but we were never sure what we would find. For example, when I connected inside the power panel for a set-up at a public location,  the lights on the truck power strip showed a big unbalance - one lamp went bright, the double lamps dimmed, before we turned on any equipment. And I was clipped onto big 4-ought (0000) size cables in the box. Turned out the ground cable wasn't! It fed an electric stove in the kitchen, and they had not connected the ground (neutral) cable to the main ground because the range was 220 volts. The ladies said the burners worked but the clock (operated off of 120 volts) never did. Once I went to the main ground with our clamp, all was OK. But I told them to get the electrical company back in and make it right!
    Another remote almost brought disaster from improper wiring. I had checked it out in advance, and left instructions to use the standard range receptacle behind the commercial type electric stove. The guys on the crew for the remote said that they would handle the set-up, and I could attend another function before showing up at the remote.  I arrived to find everybody in somewhat of a state of shock! (Luckily not electrical.)
    Spotting another standard range outlet receptacle out in the open, the 'techie' decided not to crawl behind the greasy stove, and plugged the truck power cable into the one feeding the large deep fry oil cooker.  The plugs mated; the voltages didn't! Someone had wired 220, 3 phase, service into what was supposed to be a standard outlet for 110/220 single phase service. They had presence of mind to unplug quickly - when the power-stat started smoking.  Fortunately, nothing was damaged, nor anyone hurt.
    We did an out-of-town basketball remote where the service proved to be under-powered. We were able to wheel the truck into an Industrial Arts shop room, putting us inside, nice and cozy, on a winter evening. Too cozy! Too warm, so we also plugged in the air conditioner.  We made it through the game, and were into the wrap-up when the breaker finally gave up and popped out. A close one.
    We had electricians install a special circuit for us at several locations around Newark. There was one at the Newark High School gym, and the Performing Arts Center (auditorium), as well as at White (football) Field.  Many of the schools had a kitchen with a suitable electrical range outlet available.