CMCR 9/ North 3 Outings 2014 – Jerry Clegg

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.

Steve Harris with North 3 at Lymm, last year. Copyright resides with the original holder.



North 3 Wins an “Oscar”

The last BBC Type 2 colour scanner still on the road, CMCR9/North 3, has won an award. The Duncan Neale Award for Excellence in Preservation has been awarded by the British Vintage Wireless Society to Steve Harris, the owner of the restored LO5 / Midland / North 3 OB unit CMCR9, which entered service in 1969. Steve’s self-effacing acceptance speech lavished praise on his small team of dedicated volunteers and their multifarious talents, but not mentioned was his own multi-skilled determination without which the North 3 Project would never have got off the ground.

Steve and his team spent the winter getting ready for the new show season and preparing new treats for the visitors. October saw Steve H  produce the first pictures for many years from a 44 year old EMI 2001 camera and December saw the first powering-up by Steve Jones of a very rare Philips PC80 camera originally from North 1/CMCR7. Richard Ellis, former Chief Engineer of Pye TVT Ltd has restored to full operation the original Pye sync pulse generators which he designed back in the 60s. This involved finding equivalents and replacing more than 100 discrete transistors.

Meanwhile, Eric Hignett has been building an amazing generator, powered by a Ford Transit diesel engine. In ‘proof of concept’ form, this was a real Heath Robinson affair on a trailer, with a motor-bike silencer and speed maintained by a modified cruise control for a car. It worked and the first run, apart from producing a tremendous amount of noise, delivered 40 amps at 230 volts, which powered three aircon units and other auxilliaries in North 3, all electronics being kept well away from this unproven beast for the test run. Eric went away to scratch his head, refine the design and try to make it produce less noise!

North 3 was booked at the time of writing to take part in the Cheshire Commercial Vehicle Run on 27th April starting at Lymm Truckstop on the M6. This is a trip of over 100 miles. The first public show this year was at the Llandudno Transport Festival on 3, 4 and 5 May, followed by the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Rally at Kelsall near Tarvin, Cheshire, on 21and 22 June.

Kelsall is a special event for ERF vehicles, originally manufactured at nearby Sandbach, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the enthusiasts’ club. Steve is hoping to take his latest acquisition, ex-BBC Type 7 scanner LO23, (an ERF E6) to display alongside North 3. Restoration has not yet started, so it will be just as it was when rescued from imminent destruction at a scrap yard following decommissioning by SIS.

Later in the summer we expect North 3 to be at the Wilmslow Show in July and the highlight of the season will be another appearance at the popular Onslow Park Steam Rally near Shrewbury over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Jerry Clegg

(This article is due for publication in Prospero’s June edition)


The following comment was posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Keith Brook (Scouse): ‘Of all my memories of that scanner, I think having so much fun with the riggers was the best. They really were the salt of the earth.’

CMCR6 – Birmingham’s first colour scanner

Gosta Green Studios – cutting c/o Gail Herbert













The first colour scanner (CMCR) in Birmingham was CMCR 6 which was based at the OB base which was then at Carpenter Road, Edgbaston.

It was equipped with 5 EMI 2001 colour cameras which had the lens within the body of the camera. 4 of the cameras were used normally and the other was used as a spare and for parts to repair the others.

BBC Birmingham did not have a Colour TV studio before Pebble Mill opened in 1971.  The BBC had a studio at the Cinema in Gosta Green in Aston.  It was fitted out in the days of black & white and during the late 60s until Pebble Mill opened CMCR6 would be used part of the week to produce Dramas or Drama series in colour.

I think that CMCR6 was at Gosta Green on a Wednesday & Thursday each week and would then go and do a Match of the Day or other OBs returning on Tuesday for the rig for the drive in.

CMCR 6 was moved to Kendal Avenue in the 1970s and replaced in Birmingham with CMCR 9 which had Philips PC80 Cameras. This meant that the cameras in the Studios at Pebble Mill and the ones on the OB unit were different which caused problems with maintenance, spares etc.

John Duckmanton

CMCR9/ North 3 outings – Jerry Clegg

CMCR9/North 3 at Onslow Park, by Steve Harris












Copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission.

The restored former BBC-tv 1969 colour mobile unit, North 3 / CMCR9 was on display to the public at two steam and veteran vehicle rallies during August. The first one was at Astle Park near Chelford, Cheshire on August 11th/12th  and it was a scramble for Steve Harris and his helpers to prepare for that one as North 3 was fresh out of the paint spray-shop and there were only a few days to get ready.

The truck had been at the body shop since January for a major exterior renovation. The cab windows had all been out for replacement of the windscreens and the interior had gathered a huge amount of dirt during the rubbing-down process. All the external fittings had been removed for renovation during this process and these had to be re-fitted. Bright window surrounds were covered with gunge from the masking tape used during the spraying, which could only be removed afterwards by careful use of cellulose thinners!  Steve, the owner, was busy replacing the waist trims all the way round, right up to the last moment.

The weather was excellent for Astle Park and North 3 was gleaming in her new paint, which exactly conformed to the correct colours, the original codes for which were still visible, recorded on the cab facia. Visitors flocked to inspect North 3 and the static display outside. Two broadcast cameras were on display : an EMI 2001 and a recently aquired Philips PC80. A live picture and various other sources were available on the functioning vision mixer in the production gallery and wipes between sources could be demonstrated for the first time.

Two weeks later North 3 was on show at Onslow Park as a special guest at the 50th Shrewsbury Steam Rally. By this time the truck was sporting its authentic 1969 graphics, which had been  revealed during the rubbing down process and were restored by an expert graphic artist using genuine gold leaf. The weather was very variable with occasional heavy showers, but large numbers of appreciative visitors came to file through the scanner and see how OBs were put together 40 years ago. The ‘mains’ feed from the show organizer’s generator proved very troublesome and Steve brought his own 6.5 kva unit for the Bank Holiday Monday and stability was restored!

Shrewsbury was the farthest south that North 3 / CMCR 9  has been on display so far and we were pleased to welcome a number of former staff from Birmingham and Cardiff as well as Manchester. CMCR 9 was the Midland Unit for most of it’s operational life and former crew members came to renew their aquaintance with ‘their’ scanner. The visitor’s book is gradually filling up and makes interesting reading.

There is one more North 3 public appearance this year and it will be in Salford in October.  The scanner will be on display on the piazza at the entrance to the University of Salford building (next to the BBC) on Salford Quays. The event is an interactive exhibition called ‘From Semaphore to Smart Phone’, charting the progress of technology in communications over the years and it’s on Saturday and Sunday 27th/28th October. Details can be found using this link :-

BBC staff glancing out of the window of the Media Centre on those days may be startled to spot the last BBC Tel OBs mobile control room still on the road.

They thought it was all over !

Jerry Clegg