September 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm #11230oscar valenzuelaParticipant
i have what someone told me was a “motorman’s bell.” on the top is inscribed “made in philadelphia 1895”. it’s shaped like a smooth pumpkin 4.5″ in diameter and 4″ tall, with a plunger in the middle. press on the plunger and the bell sounds once, release it and the bell sound again. the tone is loud and clear for its size. sorry i don’t have a photo. it used to be common in manila and was used by the drivers of horsedrawn vehicles called “calesa.” it used to be common until the 50’s. i can’t find anything on it in the internet. anybody???
September 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm #14860
I suspect what you have is a coach step stool bell. See the image below. Does it look right to you?
These are a rather interesting bell that is mounted on either a removable or a flip down type step on the side of a horse drawn carriage.
Only the top ‘plunger’ protrudes through the step, the rest is underneath the step.
The driver listens to the bell and counts the rings as each person enters. Often they cannot actually see the people getting in (closed carriage) or aren’t permitted to turn around (etiquette). This way they know how many have entered or exited the vehicle so that they don’t drive off leaving someone standing or still inside.
I have heard them called various names, including Step bell and Stool bell. I haven’t found a definitive name for them yet though.
Hopefully this is what you are looking for though.
September 11, 2009 at 2:02 am #14859hjlong3Participant
Garry accurately describes one use for these bells. I have not seen one that was manufactured in Philadelphia. Similar chrome-plated brass bells were manufactured and sold by Bevin Brothers as late as the 1960s as a “Bermuda Carriage Bell”. They were mounted under the floor boards of a horse-drawn carriage under the driver where he could depress the plunger to warn pedestrians and other vehicles that the carriage was coming so that they could get out of the way. Trolleys used bells as a warning to vehicles and pedestrians that were in the way of the trolley as a warning to avoid an accident as the trolley ran on a track and could not swerve to avoid an accident. These bells were usually mounted on the roof of the trolley above the motorman and activated by a lanyard. The San Francisco Cable Cars had 2 bells, one to warn traffic that the Cable Car was coming and another that was activated by the motorman to notify the brakeman that it was safe to proceed after all passengers are safely on or off of the car.
Harry Long, MD
September 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm #14858
I just got e-mailed some useful information from DeeAnne W of ClassicBells.
The terminology for this bell is a “foot gong” (aka Bermuda bell, aka ding dong bell).
She also reports it was used both for what I described AND on early automobiles for the driver to ring with his foot (way to go Harry! you pinned this use!) to get people out of the way (kinda like we use car horns today!).
She has provided a link to some examples:
September 15, 2009 at 9:20 am #14861oscar valenzuelaParticipant
that’s exactly what i have, plus 3 bigger ones marked bevin. i bought them when i noticed that they were disappearing as fast as the horse drawn “calesas” in manila. but how come i don’t seem to see any of them for sale on ebay? do trolley museums in u.s. have them? i plan to donate them eventually since they’re a testament to (former?)! u.s. manufacturing excellence ! hard to fix the innards though! thanks! oscar
September 15, 2009 at 12:48 pm #14862
It’s good that we were able to help. As you yourself mentioned, these are a rarity. Given that they are mounted to the UNDERSIDE of carriages and steps, on vehicles that ran mostly on unpaved roads… Can you imagine the mud and corrosion on the innards? The mud would cake on them too. So I suspect that the ‘warning bell’ function likely was soon moved to a bell mounted higher up. The “Step Stool” type mounting was probably more of a luxury item for the aristocracy so I doubt that there were many made for that use!
All that means is that these bells likely had a limited run (not many made) and those that were made – most were probably damaged by debris and water from the underside. This would, to me, indicate a low survival rate for these items.
As far as e-bay is concerned, they do turn up from time to time – just not very often. The photo I provided to you is actually one I bought from e-bay last month.
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