Super Rural 1


BB1 BB2 SR 2 SR 3 Home Talkie  Rural Sonore




This is about my acquisition of a Pathé Super Talkie, the presumed UK version ofthe French Super Rural. I had never seen one, and the only report of any in the UK was that Larry Pearce had had a16Rural couple thru his hands many years ago. I had seen one Rex silent machine (called the Rural in France) held by the Science Museum, and  two sound Rurals, (they are the Rural Sonore, see left, not the Super Rural) in Ron Grant's Cinema Museum in London. These, both  converted to 16mm, have now taken up residence in Cinerdistan.


SRad1     SRad2     SRf     SRb     Rural 5     Rural 6

For the avoidance of doubt, here are some ads and also pix of my first Super, which is undoubtedly a Super Rural, not a Super Talkie. The blue background was originally red like the front view; I was too lazy to photoshop that one.

I got the Super Talkie/Rural from another collector along with a whole load of films, and by the look of it, it's had a chequered past. The previous owner had identified an issue I have yet to bottom satisfactorily. He was convinced that there was a difference between the French sound/picture separation and the English.  If so, it has the apparent French sound separation of about 19 frames, as measured on the Super Rural, whereas the British separation, as measured on the Home Talkie, is 26 frames. (One wonders if there ever were in fact any British Super Talkies and, if there were, how they made the sound separation longer. If indeed it is).

This is all a bit hard to swallow. I had a brief email exchange with a French guy who has a Super Rural, and he was adamant there was no difference. On the other hand, some 17.5 leaders have 19 frames sound separation printed on them. Also, 19 frames is the sound/picture separation for 35mm, and one can readily see that Pathé could simply have copied this. I have measured carefully, and there is no way you can get 26 frames into the loop between gate and sound reader on the Super Rural. Equally, there is no way the loop on the Home Talkie, which goes under and round the lamphouse, can be shrunk to 19 frames. But the French Natan 175 is more or less identical to the Home Talkie, so Im not clear how that could have a 19 frame separation. It was only much later that I found any statement of a 17.5 film standard (which failed to deal with the sound/picture separation), although this exists in one form or another for all the other gauges. Once I get the Super Rural going (a long-delayed project), I shall finally be able to check, as I do have some French footage.

Anyway, the point of all this is that my predecessor had extensively modified the Super Rural (SR for short from here on) in an attempt to provide a longer loop and restore the alleged lost sound synchronisation. This involved removing the middle of the three sprockets on the machine and inserting some rollers before the sound reader. The film was then pulled thru the sound head by the third sprocket. He also made a number of other changes, to retention rollers on the remaining sprockets and a complete replacement of the exciter lamp assembly. The amplifier was gutted and replaced by an Elf amp. The removal of the middle sprocket produced problems. The drive to the middle sprocket is very direct, a gear off the main shaft. The drive to the third sprocket is less direct, and is part of the drive train that operates the take-up, which is powered by a long shaft running down inside the back of the spool arm. This latter is rather bent and dodgy; hardly the sort of thing you want feeding back into your sound reproduction - wow is inevitable.

As you know, progress in electronics has been exponential over the last few years, and by the time I got round to starting work on the SR, the possibility of doing the job electronically rather than physically had emerged. It appears that there is an increasing problem of synchronisation in TV/Home Cinema/Hi-Fi circles because of satellites. I have noticed a significant lag between terrestrial TV and the satellite signal. I have identified the necessary technology to sort out the SR, tho it seems too expensive yet. Anyway, the real possibility of an electronic solution made me decide to do what I could to restore the machine to its original state.

srdoc1     srdoc2     srdoc3

As something of an aside, the Super Rural continued after the war as the  (16mm)Type 45, but with a separate amplifier and without the switch block as well as the big amp case used as a base for the 17.5 machine. The new power connection at the front, obviously necessary for the Type 45, was already in use before the amp was separated. And now a piece of ultra-nerdery.

Here are the two sides of a leaflet acquired at Argenteuil. The interesting point (for me!) comes on the first page. If you look closely at the two projector pix, it would appear that the solid side of the lamphouse has been replaced by a simple sliding door. This obviates the need for the cassette to hold the lamp, that I have described previously. Also interesting (") is the question of date. One might have expected the change to come with the switch to 16mm, but it would appear that the original cassette idea had a short life or there were two types running concurrently. This may well be so, as I have a 16mm Type 45 (16mm) that still uses the cassette.

SRleaflet0003a     srleaflet0005b

The pictures of the SRnear the top  are after a fair bit of work, which I shall come to in a bit. You will note that I have extended the upper spool arm (in such a way that it can be restored to original if desired). This allows the use of 2000ft spools, which fit the lower arm as is. The standard spool size for 17.5 is 1000ft, two reels. This does tend to make showing features a chore, eg a 10 reeler like Lorna Doone requiring four changes. Imagine a commensurate limitation on 9.5 - a 9 reel film would require 4 and a half spools and four reel changes. Even worse on 16mm, where films tend to be longer. I have in mind to use 16mm split spools. Spindle size is the same, so they just need some holes drilling to engage with the spigot (what's it really called?) on the spool noses, and a bit of spacing to make them a bit wider.

The biggest single problem was that not only had the middle sprocket been removed, so had the internal gear driving its shaft. This had not been kept, although a non-original third sprocket did come with the machine. I had to get a gear made a complicated helical thing at considerable cost. This leaves the problem of how to hold the film onto the sprockets, the original guide rollers having disappeared and me having no clue what they were like; all the pictures I have found are not sufficiently detailed. I am having to make do with adaptations of what was there when I got the machine. I shall have to rebuild the rather crude exciter lamp arrangement.

The first job I did was to sort out the amplifier and its case. In here, everything original had been stripped out, and a pair of toroidal transformers installed on the remnants of the frame on which the amp had originally been built. These provided 110v for the motor and 24v 250w for the peanut QI lamp that had been installed. (The side of the lamphouse had also been adapted to hinge rather than unscrew). An Elf amplifier was mounted at the back, with an irregular slot cut in the rear panel of the amplifier case for the controls to be accessed.

The rear panel needed sorting, but could not be replaced, as it has folded edges which fit over the end of the main casing. I therefore covered the centre portion with a new sheet of metal, with small individual holes cut for each of the amplifier controls. The front plate was like a Gruyère cheese, holes everywhere. This I replaced entirely (but I have kept the original). Inside, I installed an Elf transformer, keeping the 110v toroidal. This enabled me to eliminate the separate exciter lamp power supply that had been fitted, using the built-in supply from a replacement Elf amp. The two ends of the amp housing were of course spray-painted.

The power feed to the lamp and motor, and the feeds to and from the switches, all pass thru a single, modern multi-pole connector (Maplin). I replaced the nasty grungy mess masquerading as a capacitor for the motor, using one Maplin have kindly added to their range. It fits inside the picture-head base. I also had to design a way of covering the exposed leads at the rear of the motor, feeding said motor and the lamp. I managed to fit a small plastic box (guess where from?), with a removable lid for access.

One problem I do not feel I have resolved satisfactorily is the provision of a motor/lamp interlock. When the machine was built, both motor and lamp would have been 110v, simplifying the connections needed, and the switches were arranged accordingly. These cannot be replaced as they are of unique double-button type, push one for on, the other for off. I ended up making the motor switch control the mains input, tho as the amp and lamp are fed from the same tranny and cannot therefore be separately controlled by this means, the amp (and the exciter) as well as the lamp is off until the motor starts. Not too bad with modern amps, but not ideal. I have since thought again, and decided that it ought to be possible to wire one motor lead at 110v and one lamp lead at 24v thru the same (motor) switch, with the other wire of each pair going direct of course. I just hope it won't blow up.

The main outstanding jobs are to rebuild the rather scrappy exciter lamp housing, and sorting out the film path.

The top sprocket has been converted to a Debrie type, with a semi-circular housing around the sprocket which in theory guides the film round. I can't get it to work reliably and keep losing the top loop with, as they say, disastrous consequences. I have studied in vain pictures of the SuperFr SR Talkie/Rural, including one from my French contact (right), but cannot see enough detail to establish how (if at all) the film was held on the middle sprockett, and how the bottom sprocket retention arrangements worked. I have spent a lot of time adapting what I found when I got the machine, but I am still doubtful.

I have made a replacement housing for the sound optic, which has been thru the same paint etc process as the motor end cap for the Rural Sonore, q.v., and is waiting re-assembly. Will add pix then (see below). Also plan to remove the horrible hinge arrangement for the lamphouse door and re-instate the retaining screws. I have two and will have to make two, also some holes to fill somehow and try to match paint finish. I came to realise that infact, behind the lamphouse "door" was originally a blank plate; my predecessor had hacked a hole thru to facilitate fitting a new lamp! See pic below.


Pic1 below shows the original type of retaining roller for the hold-back (third) sprocket on a Super Rural, together with my attempt to copy it. The lump of aluminium is a length of bar, extensively shaped and cut about, with a central bore for the long arm with the slot in it. This is needed because someone actually went to the trouble to hack off the original lugs that carried the arm. Go figure. So I have had to try to make a new pair of lugs, and a means of fixing them to the machine. Tricky, as I have very little depth where it goes before hitting the shaft on which the sprocket itself sits. Rendered even more difficult by the fact that, in a masterpiece of design, the entire front arm assembly is one huge piece and at some angles won't fit my machinery.

Ruralroller 003     Ruralroller 005     Ruralroller 006     SRthird2     SRsd

Pix 2&3 above show how the set-up should look, and how the second one actually does look. To call this bodgery of the worst kind is hardly enough. Pic4 shows my restoration effort once completed. The final pic shows the replacement cover I made for the horrid abortion that had replaced the original sound reader.

SRthird1     Ruralroller 007     SRtop1     SRtop2

Pic 1 above shows the layout of the soundhead area of the machine as I received it. The three small brass rollers are an addition, fixed to a plate located in a slot cut out of the face of the projector(!). You should be able to see the outline of the plate. You will note also that there is no middle sprocket. The idea of this piece of lunacy was to lengthen the film path in advance of the sound reader because of the issues I have discussed elsewhere over what is the proper length of sound separation as between French and English machines.

Pic 2 shows my first attempts to deal with this and restore the machine a bit. Not only had the third sprocket been removed, but the internal gears had been discarded too! I had new gears made; fortunately, how I know not, a third sprocket had somehow survived. I made a new plate and mounted a pair of rollers pivoted on this. As I received the machine, there was an arrangement of this type, but it had to be changed to accommodate the replaced middle sprocket. You will see the original sprocket retaining roller for the third sprocket had been removed and a plate mounted instead. To complete this little corner of madness, Pic 3 shows what was done to the top sprocket - it's supposed to be like a Debrie and is ingeniously done, but it don't work! PIc 4 is a copy of the original. My guess is that part of the reason why the Debrie-style "cage" did not work was that with 16mm, the film curl helped, whereas with 17.5 being the opposite way round......... You will note the sprocket in this pic has holes in the side. All the sprockets on the other machine have a plate fixed here which is 38mm, about 2mm more in diameter than the sprocket, so forming a guide lip to help keep the film on the sprocket. I have made one from scratch, but it's hard work and not terribly satisfactory - you can see it in one of the pictures just above. For the other two, I have some repair washers of a diameter halfway between, ie 37mm or 1.5" which I will adapt. 


SR 2  SR 3 BB1 BB2 Home Talkie Rural Sonore