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Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
My fmily recently purchased a "new" holiday/weekend residence in the countryside, close to the Czech border. The house was built in 1879 but did not get wired for electricity until 1949 or even later as the entire village did not have electricity before. In 1976 the previous owners undertook a large but somewhat sloppy renovation, replacing some of the wiring in a fairly sketchy way and leaving some of the frayed old wiring which must have been bad even when they rewired as they covered some of it with plenty of tape.

The original meter and fuse board (1 single circuit for the entire place, likely 6 or 10A) were located outside. When a new meter/panel combo was intalled, the original feed was disconnected at the old fuse box and left hanging lord knows where - I can only guess the exact location. As they tapped the new feed into the middle of the circuit said end out in the back yard was still live until I disconnected it.

This is the panel:
[Linked Image from]
Made by F&G Austria, Moeller is still producing the same design. The metering setup is fairly typical of the area and age, left: 3 phase day rate meter, center: tariff switch, right: 1ph night rate meter (feeds the water heater 10PM -6AM). Both tariff switch and night rate meter have been removed as we'll put in a gas water heater (combi boiler). This also removed the nasty and very loud 50Hz hum from the contactor.

Circuit arrangement: bottom left day rate main RCD, 4 pole 100mA and general prupose circuits. Note the electric range (3 phase) being connected to two single pole breakers and one single pole+switched neutral... not a good idea to disconnect the neutral with two phases still present.
The three taped breakers used to feed a well pump which has been removed when the house was converted to city water. At the pump location in the wine cellar they just cut the wires without even taping the ends. Apparently taping the breakers did not do a good job, when we took purchase one of them was actually on. Besides, somewhere along the line there's a transition from 4 conduit singles to 2 flexible cords 3G1.5, that means either they used yellow/green as a phase conductor (about one of the most illegal things to be done) or they ran the phases of a three phase circuit in two different cords...

Bottom right: dedicated circuits for electric day rate heaters installed in the late 1990s. As you can see the standard breakers are smaller than the old ones and special covers have been fitted. RCD is 4 pole 30mA.

Top right: 100mA RCD (defective) and 16A breaker for the night rate water heater. Disconnected right now, maybe the circuit can be reused for a dishwasher or other purpose. At least unlike all the other rubbish it's wired in 2.5mm2.

Panel with the covers off:
[Linked Image from]

The original breakers are connected using adjustable copper bus bars with fit the breaker's screw terminals. Instead of using an appropriate bus for the neutrals too they were connected using wire links - 2.5mm2 for 35A (absolute maximum 25). The setup of the new breakers is similar, but there's a cover over the bus bars. The lonely object at the top center is the bell transformer.

A close-up shot of the day rate section:
[Linked Image from]

This is how the DIN rail for the new breakers was installed:
[Linked Image from]
The original breakers are bolted to the rails in the background. This setup brings the new breakers too close to the front, preventing the cover from fitting properly.

This was the hallway light switch. Yes, bare copper wire threaded through holes in a piece of plywood. But why the plywood?

Umm yeah...
[Linked Image from]
Apparently somebody did not have a flush light switch handy to replace the original...

A typical junction box, mix old and new work. Note the bare wire going into the neutral connection at the bottom right... awfully close to the metal edge of the box.
[Linked Image from]

This is how light fixtures were connected around 1950.
[Linked Image from]
Today the connections would not be twisted and taped and made inside the fixture rather than above.

Really old junction boxes pretty much look the same all around the world.
[Linked Image from]
A ground wire has been pulled through at a later point and the white zip cord (low voltage bell wiring) doesn't belong here at all.

Sheer beauty in the living room:
[Linked Image from]
There used to be a flush Schuko receptacle here, but it has been removed, a cover fitted to the box and the ungrounded duplex slapped onto the wall. The grey ugly outdoor rated receptacle is for the electric heater (the room was heated using two portable oil filled radiators).

The kitchen had a permanently installed electric heater.
[Linked Image from]
This is the illegal transition from solid NYM cable to flexible cord in PVC trunking next to the heater.

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
I had to split this up as there are too many pictures for one post. Thanks heaven for the thumbnail function! this should make it possible for dial-up users to load this thread.

Two older light switches:
[Linked Image from]
The white one is likely late 1960s or early 1970s, the black one dates back to when the house was first wired for electricity. It's one of the two remaining original switches.

At this point we had removed most of the very loose plaster and you can somewhat guess the layout of the original wiring.
[Linked Image from]
Lots of junction boxes near ceiling level and mostly vertical runs to switches and receptacles. By the way, this used to be a dirty yet functional kitchen.

[Linked Image from]
The term "hot rod" gets a whole new meaning considering the curtain rod was nailed right through this piece of conduit... thankfully it was made of wood and likely the nail didn't even hit the wires inside the conduit- they can move a little..

The picture also shows the oldest kind of conduit, Bergmann conduit. It's made of very thin metal with an interior lining of tar paper. Bending it required a parrot beak-like tool which indented the interior radius. Each of these indents was made individually and spaced to create the desired bending radius. One had to be very careful not to rotate the conduit while making the bend.

[Linked Image from]
The last image for this round shows a few different kinds of conduit - top: old dark grey rigid PVC conduit, bottom: modern light grey flexible conduit. Also shows the Perilex 3 phase receptacle used to connect the electric range (a rare thing to find but a real good idea, one of the very few good things they did in this house).

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,432
Likes: 3
An interesting thread to say the least.
Thanks for using the thumb-nail feature.

Your second to last pic, looks like it could be aluminium conduit.
Aluminium has a habit of "rippling" when bent over 90 degrees and it really distorts when bent.
I was talking to an Electrician from the UK that used AL conduit after WW2, but he never mentioned that saw cuts in it were needed.

In your last pic, what exactly is holding that socket to the wall?, it looks like the thing is bedded into some sort of rendering?
Most of this stuff looks really dodgy, I hope the house was worth the purchase.
What does it look like from the outside?

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
The conduit is supposed to be leaded steel but I don't have the slightest idea whether this is true. It does occasionally rust, so aluminum is out.

This is the kind of bender used to bend Bergmann conduit:
[Linked Image from]
The top "jaw" makes the ripples and the round bottom shapes the exterior radius. Takes quite a lot of skill to make nice bend with that tool, I tried it on some removed scraps. I bought the bender unused (likely it's about 50 years old) when a nearby paint and tool store closed down. Browsing through rows of screw drivers and paint brushes I suddenly stumbled across this beauty.

In the last pic, the remaining plaster is keeping the socket up. I did the same with all other electrical boxes in the room except the pull box seen above, where the plaster just crumbled away as soon as I touched it. I decided to leave the old wiring intact until we really start the rewiring (after the plumbing is done).

And yes, the house was definitely worth the price, it was close to free for taking. It doesn't need any structural work, but perhaps a damp course installed (in spots there are severe problems with damp rising up through the brick foundations and walls), a new bathroom, central heat (the previous owner had coal stoves and when she got too old to use them had electric heat installed, the most expensive way to get the place warm, besides we never got the house beyond 13°C using the electric heat), substantial electrical work, some new floors, doors and perhaps windows. Still, in the end it'll likely be considerably cheaper than building new.

Here's an exterior shot:
[Linked Image from]
The house is actually L shaped and extends quite far to the back on the left (about 15m I think). Still, it's a tiny house. Originally two larger rooms, one small room, kitchen and hallway. One of the larger rooms has been split up into a second hall and bathroom in 1976. Until then, the house did not have any interior plumbing, just a pump in the front yard and an outhouse in the back.

Houses are mostly small there, most people were day laborers for the princes of Liechtenstein. Today the area suffers serious economic depressions after the sugar factory, the only large employer closed down 3 years ago, most young people escaped to Vienna and a large percentage of the houses are weekend or holiday homes. In our village for example, there are 470 registered inhabitants in 300 houses, including all part time residents (who in some cases only spend maybe 2 weeks a year there).

With the construction of an international motorway 15km away and the general opening towards the Czech Republic the area is supposed to rebound within the next decade though.

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
Last week I removed a lot of wiring that came loos upon removing the plaster. Two rooms are now down to just one overhead light and switch. The ugly surface mount receptacles have been left in place to provide temp power - this is the only wiring I trust.

NIce find: a screw driven through the conduit that feeds the living room light - I got bitten touching the pipe and upon removing more plaster found the screw drilled right through. One more run to repull or even replace the conduit (no way to tell whether the hole has sharp edges inside the conduit that could damage new wire pulled through). Unfortunately the conduit runs underneath the attic insulation and we stored all furniture up there...
Maybe just run exposed conduit (painted brown of course) along one beam - the traditional way.

I also removed the extension cord feeding an outbuilding... the flex was in surprisingly good shape after some 10 years in direct sunlight (the cheap plasti strain relief clamps in the plug and trailing sockets had long since given up trying to hold 2.5mm2 flex though). My parents said they want power out there, so we'll likely bury some 2.5mm2 NYY (underground feeder) I got for free and wire the place with appropriate fittings (just got a load of weatherproof IP55 fittings).

Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 402
Why don't you just cut out the section with the screw and replace it with a coupler. Cut just on either side of the screw hole and insert a coupler.

Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 144
i agree with JDevlin, and nice finds soo far smile

“then we'll glue em' then screw em'”
-Tom Silva
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,498
This kind of conduit has been discontinued some time around 1965 and there's now way to find couplings except for scrounging old materials. Modern steelcouplings don't fit either since the standard diameters have been changed (old conduit was measured by interior diameter, modern is measured by exterior diameter).

The screw is close to a junction box though, so I might try to find a short piece of conduit and a coupling somewhere else - I already removed a few sticks of the same old conduit.

This is turning more and more into a full rewire I guess... but after all that was to be expected.

The full rewiring will start once the gas, water and radiant heat plumbing is in. Plumber is supposed to send an estimate this week.

Nice puzzler for you: there's a kitchen and a bedroom, living room whatever next to it, connected by a door. Why does one put a keyless light socket above the door in the bedroom and the switch in the kitchen?
The wiring was original to the house, cloth wire in conduit, original switch and socket probably original too.

I don't have the slightest idea...

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 787
Nice puzzler for you: there's a kitchen and a bedroom, living room whatever next to it, connected by a door. Why does one put a keyless light socket above the door in the bedroom and the switch in the kitchen?

The room off of the kitchen was a full size pantry?

Larry C

Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
Bad planning or to save on electricity? They probably took a candle to bed anyway, you could blow those out without stepping out onto the cold floor. My uncle Sam was such a miser. He used his supply as little as possible. We lived a few doors down the terrace, and he complained like billioh when the street's clockwork coal gas-light right outside his bedroom window got removed back in the mid sixties and replaced with a modern sodium lamp standard 100 yards up the road!

Sam d. 1972 aged 90. Strangest cause of death ever? Intoxicated by a now banned patent stomach-medicine he was hooked on that contained morphine, he fell down the stairs in the dark and drowned in the guzzundah.

Here's the very stuff!

Wood work but can't!
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