Thorn Europhane Pilote T2 2

Lanterns acquired in January 2017.

These two lanterns are believed to have been removed from columns 8033 and 8246 on the westbound 'on' slip road leading to the A516 dual carriageway to the west of Mickleover; their columns being removed as well, owing to the road undergoing realignment, in order to accommodate a new roundabout that would provide access to a new housing development on the opposite side of the A516. The Pilote is quite a rare lantern in the UK - it is far more common in its native France, where it is manufactured (by Thorn Europhane; the company formed following Thorn Lighting's acquisition of Holophane's European 'arm' - Europhane - in the late 1980s). These two examples are part a large number of Pilotes that were installed in the mid-1990s as an energy-saving initiative along the sections of the A38 and A516 at the Derby / South Derbyshire border (the previous lanterns on these roads being 180 W SOX). Whilst I am surprised that Thorn's own 'native' 150 W SON lantern, the Alpha 8, was not specified for this scheme, perhaps the Company did not have the capacity to produce the required quantities of lanterns within the required timeframe, whereas the French factory was able to meet the deadline, and so the Pilote was selected instead.

The Pilote's design is similar to that of the later Alpha 2000 and Riviera lanterns (particularly in respect of its internal construction), and is probably a forerunner to both products, although it continued to be manufactured and listed in catalogues as a contemporary product. Three versions of the Pilote were available - the T1, T2 and T3, with the lantern size increasing with every consecutive number suffix change. Amongst collectors, the Pilote is a rather 'polarising' lantern, with opinions over its daytime appearance being strongly divided, though I will confess to having a certain fondness for it - if only because of its rarity in the UK, and local usage.

Thank you to the street lighting contractor involved with the road alteration scheme for saving these lanterns for me - I am very grateful!

The photograph below shows the site as it appeared on the 28th January 2016 - little did I realise at the time that the scene would begin to change dramatically in just under twelve months. Column 8033 is visible on the extreme-left of the picture (obscured partially by the hedge in the foreground), whilst column 8246 is the double-arm column at the point where the 'on' and 'off' slip roads diverge; I believe that the left-hand lantern is the one that has entered the collection.


This screenshot from a video made in September 2016 shows the two installations again; notice that the lights are dayburning. The lights are group-controlled from a nearby pillar, with a T1 Pilote fitted to a short base-hinged column positioned alongside. This lantern is equipped with a photocell that operates the three-phase contactor housed within the pillar. Its own lamp (a 50 W SON-T) is not wired to operate on the photocell control; instead, it is controlled manually using a switch that is also located within the pillar - this allows anyone working on the pillar at night to be able to inspect the pillar wiring without having to rely on torches. Another user-friendly feature of the pillars installed for the Pilote schemes was the inclusion of a manual override button, which activates the lights outside of normal operating hours; the button is linked to a device that returns the lights to automatic operation after a user-determined amount of time. Until early 2016, this was set to four hours, for some unexplainable reason, meaning that the lights would sometimes dayburn for this period after the photocell had registered 'dawn', owing to local power spikes. The time was then changed to a far more acceptable five minutes; however, on the occasion in September, the timer unit became 'stuck' in override mode, which meant that the lights remained lit for a couple of days. This issue was resolved by switching the pillar off completely for a few hours, and only restoring power at dusk.


The Pilote is easily recognised, thanks to its two-tone canopy with a distinctive curved front end. These particular examples feature deep acrylic bowls, although this could be substituted for flat glass; as seen here. In all cases with the following pictures, the lantern believed to have been removed from column 8033 is at the top, or on the left, whilst the lantern believed to have been removed from column 8246 is beneath, or on the right.


Optical control is provided by a smooth, satin-effect aluminium reflector that surrounds the lamp.


The lanterns' polypropylene canopies carry the signs of approximately 22 years of outdoor service on them, as is to be expected, given that they were installed for approximately 22 years!


The remains of the lanterns' Abacus-made brackets remain secured to their fixing points. Unlike many other lanterns that employ grub screws as a means of securing the lantern to the bracket, the Pilote features a single, large, bolt for this purpose. Another unusual feature of these lanterns is that access to the wiring and lamp control gear is gained by placing a narrow screwdriver into the slots on the lantern underside and pushing towards the lantern. This releases a stainless steel clip located within the slot that unlocks the canopy. Instructions on how to carry out this procedure are provided on the two small stickers that are visible on the backs of the lanterns. The fact that these stickers are not placed in a consistent position on both lanterns assisted in my identifying the columns from which both lanterns are likely to have been removed - another use for Google Street View imagery!


A close-up of the label on 8246. What this fails to mention is that screwdrivers designed for electrical use (i.e. those with insulated shafts) are unlikely to fit into the narrow slots, requiring anyone working on the lantern wiring to open it with a regular, non-insulated screwdriver. Thorn addressed this issue with the Riviera by changing the clips to a type that could be pressed into the open position by hand.


A close-up of 8033's rear section; the left hand label provides three possible IP ratings for the lantern, depending on its setup. Surprisingly, an option with the Pilote was that it could be supplied without any form of cover over the lamp area. I suspect that this was an option more commonly seen in France, where open lanterns are more common - yes, I do realise that many British lanterns see the lamp being 'unofficially' open to the elements as well, though this tends to be because the bowl has fallen away at some point! With the open option, the optic area is rated at the rather meagre value of IP 23, whereas it leaps to IP 65 with any sort of cover in place. The rest of the lantern is rated to IP 44 regardless of the presence (or lack) of the cover. Amusingly, this label appears to have been translated directly from French without an English-speaking person checking it - the optic area is described as the "Lamp House", which although is understandable, would, probably, have been better described as "Lamp Housing".


The bowls protecting said "Lamp Houses" are hinged, and two sprung polycarbonate clips located at the front of the lantern hold them in place during normal operation. The reflectors are very clean - obviously, the IP 65 rating mentioned above is correct! The dirt visible in 8033's reflector will have occurred post-removal, when dirt from the gear area has entered the reflector, owing to the lantern being moved about. Thanks to the 'open' option for the lanterns, these clips, along with the hinges themselves, are removable from the inside of the lantern. Notice that 8246's lamp appears to be set further back into the reflector than 8033's is - the lampholder is attached to a moveable plate, in order to allow a degree of longitudinal lamp focusing, depending on the width of the road, bracket overhang, etc. In the case of 8246, this plate is loose, and so the lampholder has slid into its rearmost position.


Both lanterns feature Philips-made SON-T lamps; 8033's carries the date code 'D3', which represents April 2003 - only towards the end of 2016 did age catch up with it (13 years for a SON lamp is highly impressive, even by modern standards!); at dusk, the lamp would take a little longer to warm up than lamps in surrounding lanterns did, and often, would not be able to remain lit all night (it would extinguish after a couple of hours and not re-activate until the following dusk). The rather blackened electrode visible below is evidence of the huge number of hours that the lamp has clocked up in its lifetime! The combination of this blackening, along with my knowledge of the lantern's latter performance when in use, adds considerable evidence that column 8033 was the location of this lantern.


Meanwhile, the lamp in 8246 carries a far more youthful '4A' (January 2014) date code. A handwritten date on the cap suggests that the lamp was not fitted until September of that year. Notice the addition of the 'Crossed-out Wheelie Bin' symbol to the lamp frank; a requirement of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which became European Law in 2003, and came into force in 2005.


The front overhang of the canopy prevents it from swinging too far forwards; the bowl impedes the movement. In this view, the ignitor and twin 10 F capacitors are visible.


The gear components are arranged on a u-shaped tray that fits around the lamp focusing mechanism.


The capacitors on both lanterns carry the manufacturing date of November 1993; however, those in 8033 are made by Cambridge Capacitors...


...whereas, in 8246, they are made by Prelyo.


The ballast is located at the other side of the gear tray; 8246's was loose when acquired, owing to the black plastic grip (to the right of the picture) having worked loose during removal. This was re-fitted and the ballast slid back into position.


The gear tray can be removed, should the need arise. In order to facilitate this, the terminal block for the incoming supply cable, as well as the one leading to the lampholder, can be disconnected. Although not fitted with a NEMA socket, provision exists on the gear tray for such a connection - the black terminal block in the bottom-left corner of the gear tray features a loop of wire that links the 'live' and 'load' wires. In a NEMA-equipped lantern, the loop would be replaced with dedicated wires leading to and from the socket. The lamp focusing mechanism is positioned beneath the transparent plastic cover in the centre of this area; a table advising on the individual optic settings is provided on the bottom-right of the gear tray.


On 8246, the screw holding the cover in place was loose, allowing the mechanism to be seen. The lampholder was re-focused to the same position as it is in on 8033 for this photograph.


The canopies are removable - they have just sufficient flexibility in order to allow the front hinge pins to be pushed out of the hinges, though replacing them is more of a challenge!


Of course, the inner surface of the canopy is still shiny and retains its original light beige colouring.


The aluminium spigot entry component is removable, and can be secured in two separate places, in order to allow the lantern to be mounted side-entry or post-top. This is 8033's version.


The lantern without this component fitted. The two screws that hold it in place can be seen top-left.


How the lantern would appear in the 'post-top' setting. Notice that the spigot is not perpendicular to the lantern; this would cause the lantern to be tilted upwards in this position - the tilt cannot be adjusted and so glare could be more of a problem with this setting. Another thing to notice is that there is far less corrosion evident to this side of the casting, owing to it being housed within the lantern during use.


An interesting modification made to the ends of the brackets are the inclusion of aluminium collars, as a way of widening the spigot diameter at the point where it is secured to the lantern. These collars wrap around the bracket, and are held in place with electrical insulation tape - brown for 8033; black for 8246.


8033's lantern underwent considerable cleaning on Wednesday, 8th March 2017. In order to facilitate this, the lantern was stripped down to its component parts, which were then cleaned individually.


With the adjustable lampholder being removed at this time, the opportunity to photograph the vertical focusing mechanism was taken. This is situated behind the lampholder; adjustment being undertaken by loosening the two nuts and then moving the lampholder up or down the rails as required. Notice that slightly different focusing positions exist, depending on whether the lampholder is an E27 (Edison Screw) or E40 (Goliath Edison Screw) type.


The bulk of the lantern was then reassembled. I left the canopy off for this picture, in order to demonstrate how much darker the external parts of the chassis would have been when new.


The canopy was then refitted.


The freshly-cleaned, and polished, optic shone in the camera flash.


With around 22 years' worth of grime removed from the canopy, the plastic appeared much brighter than it did when the lantern was acquired.


I was keen to see whether the aged lamp would still work. It did, though the eventual colour was a lot whiter than that of a new SON lamp would be, and a very noticeable flicker was evident. Seconds after this picture was taken, the lamp extinguished and did not attempt to re-strike, thanks to the anti-cycling nature of the ignitor (and perhaps the technology within the Philips lamp; I recall a number of the Pilotes having cycling lamps (quite possibly their original lamps) in 2000).


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 (W) Percentage Difference
243.6 0.88 169 214 50 0.78 167.21 17.21 11.47%

I left the device plugged in after the lamp had extinguished. This yielded some very strange measurements, and suggested that the ignitor was still drawing current - more, in fact, than when the whole lantern was operating normally:

Test Voltage (V) Current being drawn at full power (A) Measured wattage (W) Apparent Power (VA) Frequency (Hz) Power Factor True Power (W) Difference (W) Percentage Difference
244 1.21 5 295 49.8 0.01 2.95 -147.05 -98.03%

In fact, this turned out to be the Thorn ignitor's last ride - it refused to strike again, even after the lantern had been switched off and unplugged for several hours. Clearly, having to ignite a very old lamp over a prolonged period had burnt it out. I opened up its casing and inspected the circuit board. There were no obvious signs of component failure, although the unmistakeable odour of burnt electronics was present. Fortunately, I had a spare, compatible, Tridonic ignitor to hand; this was duly fitted and (thankfully!) the lantern came back to life.

A video of 8033's operation can be seen below:


With 8033 cleaned and returned to operation, 8246 followed suit a few months later - its own clean-up occurred on Wednesday, 21st June 2017. I knew from the start that this lantern would prove slightly more of a challenge, owing to the damage sustained to it during removal. The bowl hinges were broken beyond repair, as was the means of clamping the lampholder to the rail that provided lateral focusing. In both of these cases, the lantern was drilled and self-tapping screws inserted as a way of holding the loose component steady. One of the two capacitors required replacement as well, owing to its connector having snapped. A new 10 F capacitor was fitted, although the old one was left attached to the gear tray, but disconnected out of use. The following photographs show the newly-cleaned 8246 alongside 8033. As before, the latter is at the top, or on the left, of the picture, whilst the former is below or to the right of it.


This is the result of jet-washing the lanterns, along with plenty of patience - the dirt was so heavily ingrained that the washer nozzle had to be positioned only millimetres from it, or else it wouldn't shift.


With the moss removed from 8246's canopy, some slight scratch marks became visible - I expect that these occurred during or after the lantern's removal from service as well.


This view demonstrates the difference in width between the canopies and the bowls.


A rather asymmetrical symmetrical picture!


The video below demonstrates both lanterns activating simultaneously - notice that the much older lamp in 8033 takes a lot longer to warm up than 8246's lamp does.

The energy monitoring device revealed the following results for this lantern:

Test Voltage (V) Current being drawn at full power (A) Measured wattage (W) Apparent Power (VA) Frequency (Hz) Power Factor True Power (W) Difference (W) Percentage Difference
239.8 0.85 174 204 49.8 0.83 169.18 19.18 12.79%

8033's lantern was attached to a wall bracket on Friday, 4th May 2018. 8246's lantern was passed to another collector in October 2018.


The bracket features a 60 mm diameter spigot, as this diameter was what the lantern was designed to be installed on, and so the lantern is at its securest.


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