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52-key Cabinet Organ

This organ playing "Kleine Roosmarie"

This is an organ with a difference, in fact many differences! It first appeared as shown above in a half-size Sentinel steam wagon at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in 1989.

It looked very different at its first playing in the Page & Howard works earlier that year - shown here with Anna hand-turning.

I had envisioned the organ as a miniature "Dutch" street organ. It would use the standard 52-key scale, and be hand-turned. It also needed violins, the distinctive bourdon celeste sound, and a tremulant  Please see the specification.

This organ would be very portable, small enough to fit into the back of a reasonably-sized estate car. The late David Vipan liked the idea and commissioned the organ, so building began in earnest.

A set of double feeders, (one of which is shown above left), and a large reservoir were made. To prevent "tight" spots during turning all the internal valves for transferring wind through the feeders were made as large as practically possible. They were set up inside a case measuring no more than 36 inches wide (91cm) by 20 inches deep (51cm) by 29 inches high (74cm). A pair of strong torsion springs were fitted, together with a bespoke crank and traditional connecting rods, shown (above right) installed in the case. The lack of height meant using all of it at the front for pipes and action instead of just above the reservoir, as in larger organs. However, not all pipes could sit practically on the floor.

The pictures above show how I got over this. The small action box on the right is the melody tremulant relay - the short red tubes are for connecting to the keyframe. The relay's outlet runs through the red tubes into the action pouch-rail at the bottom. Here it is channelled to either the bourdon or violin pouches below the main pipe chest. The bourdon cannot play at the same time as the violin. The bourdon pipes will be placed on the bottom mahogany board with the eight longest violin pipes at the ends. The other violin pipes will be placed on the top mahogany board, with wind channelled through the vertical parana-pine board.

Above left: After the melody unit was installed, the accompaniment chest was fitted, to run across the width of the case. This chest also feeds the register box. Above right: After the keyframe was fitted - showing the main wind connection to the accompaniment chest, and some of the keyframe tubing in position.

Above left: the finished organ showing how the violin pipes were fitted into that tiny space. Some of the accompaniment pipes are just showing behind the violins, and the tremulant can just be seen on the right against the side of the case. Above right: The bass pipes are mounted in the plinth, together with their chest.

When he came to take delivery, David expressed his disappointment that it wasn't bigger, so he promptly sold it to Richard Haines of Watermouth Castle in Ilfracombe. He had a façade made for it and mounted it into his little steam wagon connected to a steam engine with a belt drive, also mounted in the back of the wagon. Just two months later he let me know it wasn't what he wanted either!

So I proposed a deal - to take the organ back in part exchange for a new one to his liking. He accepted with the result of the "Limonaire-style" fair organ, built specifically for the steam wagon. The Cabinet organ needed a thorough cleaning as a result of much steam-related pollution damage. This was duly done with minor alterations: the drums were turned 90 degrees and mounted against the organ's sides. Angled music shelves was made to help the music run up to the keyframe, but limited to the top of the organ, as there was no longer room for it behind the drums.

By the time it was finished the business had moved to Pembroke Dock. It was bought by Eric Cooper of Gosport, Hampshire. Later in 1990 we borrowed it back to display at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, a year after it was displayed there in a steam wagon.

Two years later this organ was sold to Mark Money, who had a small fairground in Hobart, Tasmania. To my knowledge it is still there.