Thorn Alpha 8

Lantern acquired in May 2011.

This lantern came from column 36394 on Uttoxeter Road, Mickleover; its removal brought about by a relighting scheme as part of Derby's Street Lighting PFI in April/May 2011. The electrical supply to the column was removed on Friday, 13th May 2011 (ominous!) in preparation for the column's removal from service a day later. This, and a second Alpha 8 (installed on the adjacent column 129998, where my integrally-geared Philips MA 50 came from in August 2003) were installed on or before Monday, 21st February 2005, in order to provide higher light levels on the adjacent zebra crossing; there had previously been a remotely-geared MA 50 installed on this Alpha 8's column. Coincidentally, column 36394 also had the accolade for being the last of the 'old' columns on Uttoxeter Road to both remain in lighting, and remain installed.

The inventory record for the column (as it appeared in 1997, when still fitted with the MA 50) is displayed below:

Unique Number: 36394 Location: O/S MIDLAND BANK
Postcode: DE3 5DA Road: UTTOXETER RD
Road Number: B5020 Parish: MICKLEOVER
Sequence Number: 11 Patrol: Y06
Lamp Type: SXP3 Wattage: 135  W Control Type: PE2E
Lamps/Lantern: 1 Lanterns/Unit: 1 Control Setting: 4
Lantern Type: SE Lantern Manuf:   Control Gear:  
Height: 10  m Support Type: CM CONC COL/METAL SLEEVE
Bracket Proj'n.:    m Support Finish: U UNPAINTED SUPPORT
Bracket Type:   U/G or O/H: U UNDERGROUND
Board Code: E76 Status Code: 0 USUAL / NORMAL
Service Owner: A Is this lamp/sign an Isolation Point ?: N
EB Order number:      
No-supply sheet: 0 Isol Pt : 102272 / Circuit: 1 / Seq: 1
    Location : O/S STEVES FISH BAR        
    Road : UTTOXETER RD        
    Parish : MICKLEOVER        

RELAY/DETECTOR W/S 404976 7/6/96

LAMP FITTED 07 05 1996

The first few photographs show the lantern whilst still installed.

The lanterns had not long been fitted in these first couple of photographs; taken on a wintry Wednesday, 23rd February 2005.


A few months later, in July 2005, and the snow has all gone - funny, that! Although this photograph only pictures the other Alpha 8, the shadow of the column supporting the acquired Alpha 8 can be seen on the carriageway.


Slightly more up-to-date now; these photographs show the installation in its final weeks of operation, in April 2011.


The replacement column had received a lantern by the 17th April:

They say that good things come to those who wait; I had been after one of the two Uttoxeter Road Alpha 8s since the PFI scheme along the road commenced, and after the column supporting the other lantern was removed, I was determined to acquire the second. Having seen that the lantern was no longer operational on the 13th May, I was sure that the column would disappear very soon afterwards. The presence of a platform van (FN03 BXJ no less!) further along Uttoxeter Road the following day worried me sufficiently to park up near the column in order to keep an eye on it - my concerns were well-founded; about an hour later, a HIAB parked alongside the installation and proceeded to attach a chain to the column shaft. I headed over and politely asked the workmen whether I could have the lantern...the results of this conversation are displayed below:


This version of the Alpha 8 (featuring a GRP canopy and aluminium chassis) was introduced by Thorn in the late 1980s as a replacement for the earlier all-aluminium Alpha 8 (a design which was approaching its tenth birthday by then). The original Thorn Alpha 8 was an indirect 'replacement' (by name only) of the bulky dual-lamp Atlas Alpha 8 that was produced throughout the 1960s, but quickly fell out of favour (and production) during the more "energy-aware" 1970s. The first of the 'new' Alpha 8 lanterns appeared in about 1978, and production of the lantern (in both of its Thorn guises) continued until the mid-2000s, when the Civic replaced it.



The one-piece construction of this version's canopy does away with the distinctive rear 'shoe' of the earlier design. Having been in use for over six years, the canopy's fibres are beginning to shed.



Although the bowl is the same physical size for both versions of the Thorn Alpha 8, their means of attachment at the front vary slightly, with the result that trying to fit a newer (non-refractor) bowl to an older lantern will work, but there will be a small gap around where the clip attaches. Along with the change to a GRP canopy, this version of the Alpha 8 brought about additional alterations - the lantern could now accommodate SON lamps up to 400 W, and three optical types were offered - a shallow polycarbonate bowl (as seen here), a deeper polycarbonate bowl (used when 400 W lamps are fitted) and a flat glass cover. Curiously, Thorn literature states that if the lantern is initially supplied to work with a bowl, it cannot be converted to flat glass operation. Using an adaptor, the lantern could also be post-top mounted. The 20 mm diameter hole that is visible between the two side-entry grub screws would act as the cable entry hole if the lantern were so equipped.



The underside of the lantern's chassis has the Thorn EMI logo embossed into the casting. Even after Thorn and EMI demerged, this detail was not updated (although some examples feature a raised block in place of the EMI suffix); thus, even the final Alpha 8s produced would have carried this 1980s' company designation. The two screw ends visible at either end of the logo are for the screws that secure the ballast to the chassis.



With the bowl unfastened, the reflector panels become considerably shinier - I think the bowl may need cleaning!



Although this version of the Alpha 8 is known as the "Mk 3" by collectors, it is officially the "Mk 16"! The "05 04" code in the top-left corner of the identification label suggests that the lantern was made in May 2004.



Another change that Thorn made to this version of the Alpha 8 is that the canopy now tilts forwards in order to allow access to the gear and wiring, in a similar manner to that employed by the Philips SGS 204. This is an improvement on the 'trapdoor' mechanism employed in the earlier version, as space was always rather limited in the gear compartment. Two captive screws located in the rear of the canopy prevent it from accidentally tilting forwards during normal operation.



A retention chain ensures that the canopy cannot over-tilt when unfastened. A number of drainage holes exist in the chassis; despite this, the gear components were not too "spidery" when the lantern was removed.



The Alpha 8 was attached to a Mk II AC Ford AC 872 wall bracket on Thursday, 28th September 2017. Of course, it was only fitting that the most recent lantern to bear the Alpha 8 name should be installed alongside the first lantern to carry this name. The size difference between the two is obvious.



The only similarity between both designs are the curved aluminium reflectors surrounding the lamp (or lamps, in the case of the Atlas version).



Once powered up, the lantern sprung into life. The NEMA socket had been disconnected in advance of the lantern's attachment to the bracket.



Lantern warm-up video:

Testing the lantern with my energy monitoring device revealed the following results:

Test Voltage (V) Current being drawn at full power (A) Measured wattage (W) Apparent Power (VA) Frequency (Hz) Power Factor True Power (W) Difference to rated wattage Percentage Difference
242.1 1.38 303 334 49.9 0.9 300.69 50.69 20.28 %

Wardle Murray | Philips MA 50




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