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#60521 - 01/04/06 02:24 PM Electrical-related motion picture trivia
SvenNYC Offline

Registered: 08/19/02
Posts: 1685
Loc: New York City
OK, maybe some of you guys who work on urban & suburban powerlines (overhead wires) might know what this is.

If anyone has seen the first movie in the Back to the Future trilogy, there is a scene where "Doc" is trying to re-connect some cable coming down from a lighting rod on the roof of a courthouse.

He's hanging from the clock hands and reaching out for a connector of some type.

Can anyone identify what kind of connector this is? It's some sort of square boxy looking thing with a female insert. He also gets the pins of the male end snagged onto his pants.

Was this a legitimate high-power connector used in the 1950s (when this is supposed to be happening) or is it just the product of some inventive props department?

Also would be nice if someone could post a nice picture if this thing really existed.

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#60522 - 01/04/06 03:49 PM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
togol Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 426
Loc: NW In. USA
when I was a lad, I worked in a truck freight terminal, and the strings of lights we used inside trailers had connectors that were smaller versions of that prop.,
...there were IIRC three strips of brass? screwed to a rectangular block of wood at the end of the light string, and the "plug" was shoved into a duplex "receptacle" by every pair of dock doors.....all 450 of em

#60523 - 01/04/06 06:35 PM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
frenchelectrican Offline


Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 938
Loc: Wi/ Paris France { France for ...
the connector what the Back to Futre show by "Doc" that connector look like they used on forklift truck battery connector aka early Anderson connector useally handle high current DC system and of course the AC also if rated too

Merci , Marc
Pas de problme,il marche n'est-ce pas?"(No problem, it works doesn't it?)

#60524 - 01/04/06 07:46 PM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
gfretwell Offline


Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 9026
Loc: Estero,Fl,usa
I bet it is something they borrowed from the "best boy" (stage electrician)
They use some big honking connectors for lights and such.
Greg Fretwell

#60525 - 01/04/06 09:04 PM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
Attic Rat Offline

Registered: 12/14/03
Posts: 530
Loc: Bergen Co.,N.J. USA
... AMPHENOL anyone???
.."if it ain't fixed,don't break a Licensed Electrician"

#60526 - 01/04/06 11:37 PM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
e57 Offline

Registered: 05/27/03
Posts: 2837
Loc: S.F.,CA USA
I second the fork truck battery charger cable. Like one of these guys:

I guess I could also think stage high amperage lighting feed cable right from the set too.

Been a while since I've seen the movie....
Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#60527 - 01/05/06 04:52 AM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
pauluk Offline

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
I remember the scene. Could it have been some sort of Twist-Lok in a box? Was Twist-Lok even around then?

#60528 - 01/05/06 05:03 AM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
iwire Offline

Registered: 01/05/03
Posts: 4343
Loc: North Attleboro, MA USA
I remember the scene and strangely enough did focus in on the connector.

I felt it was a cobbled together prop, not a real electrical device at all.

What made me focus on it was the fact the "The Doc" was able to simply plug it together but then it was able to support the weight of a overhead cable for quite a long distance.

I think we have to chalk this up to Hollywood.

I mean anyone can make a DeLorean fly and time travel but to make a cord connector...
Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician

#60529 - 01/05/06 07:03 AM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
Mike Wescoatt Offline

Registered: 06/17/01
Posts: 164
Loc: Cedar City, Utah
There's an old theatre connector series called a "stage connector" that came in two versions, large and small. I don't remember the amperages offhand...

The plug was two brass or copper plates about 1/2" wide wrapped on the sides of a 1/2x1-1/2" block of bakelite from the tip to a covered screw terminal at the handle where the H/N or +/- cable connections were made. Two of these could fit into a connector side by side.

The connector was a boxy looking thing with two brass or copper stripson the inside where you would stick these plugs. The opening was about 1x1-1/2" to accept two plugs. No need for a two-fer...

The dimensions above are approximate and were for the lower amperage version, probably 20-30A. The larger version was probably about 100A.

The plug and connector had the advantage of having a large contact area, but you could VERY EASILY stick your fingers inside an energized connector. The contacts of the plug were also energized when you started to make the connection and you could again VERY EASILY have your hand wrapped around both contacts while making the connection. The ontacts weren't hidden until the plug was fully inserted, and then there was no guarantee that it would insert all the way. There wasn't much pressure on the contacts and could easily fall out (I've heard of varieties with springs between the bakelite and brass) and you all know how well bakelite holds up to being dropped or stepped on...

I'll try to find pictures to post They're almost as scary as the Mole Lugs still in use today. (Needless to say all of this was before UL listing, NEMA, and common sense got the better of the connector...)

Techie, do you have any pics on these connectors?
Mike Wescoatt

#60530 - 01/05/06 09:56 AM Re: Electrical-related motion picture trivia
mamills Offline

Registered: 11/30/01
Posts: 739
Loc: Wharton, Texas, USA
That's the plug I was thinking about, too. Those wicked-looking things were available in 50 amp (full plug) and 25 amp ("half plug") sizes. They were also used in both A.C. and D.C. (carbon arc) circuits. What was so insidious about these things was that they were completely interchangeable . I ran into a few of these stage plugs when I was with the I.A.T.S.E. many years ago. At that time, touring companies still used old "piano boards" that were equipped with porcelain receptacles, old resistance dimmers and the usual knife switches and fuses. There were also "plugging boxes" available for connecting anywhere from 2 to 6 stage plugs to one dimmer circuit. Those things would spark like July fourth fireworks when you hot-plug them . It was common practice to wear asbestos gloves when handling these things because of the relatively small "safe" handle area, and the heat produced in these connectors.

Mike (mamills)

[This message has been edited by mamills (edited 01-05-2006).]

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