Whelen ROTA-BEAM Family History

dmathieu

Premium Member
Here is the Whelen Rota-Beam family of beacons. Most are NOS or mint condition.

If you are like me, you believe that all of Whelen Engeneering Co's early history is in Deep River, CT.
I just recieved a NOS, NIB, in original shipping tube, 1st version ROTA- BEAM RB11. With it came an original 2 page advertisement sheet. The picture of the ROTA- BEAM on the sheet has a tag on the light that says ROTO- BEAM RB-10, that's right RB-10 not 11, and RotO, not RotA. Also on the tag is Whelen Eng., Joliet, Ill, Not Deep River, Connecticut. So it looks like in the very early years, Whelen Engeneering may have been based in Joliet, Illinois, and discontinued RB10 in favor of RB11, and for some reason changed the model name from RotO-BEAM to RotA-BEAM. I have 2 of these extremely rare RB-10 ROTA-BEAMs in my collection. (pictured elsewhere in this thread)
I also now have a ROTO BEAM RB10 pictured later in this thread.

I just received some information from a gentleman who worked for Whelen in the very early years. Whelen Engineering did indeed begin their operations in Illinois, in their living room. They soon moved to Deep River, CT to be closer to family. Production was continued in their garage in Deep River.

Thank you to that former worker!

To add to this, the 1st Motorcycle light made was this version 1 RB11, and the first department to get one was Joliet, Illinois, a donation from Whelen's founder, George W. Whelen, in November, 1956. See the newspaper article and picture later in this thread.
To complicate matters, I also have a few of very early ROTA- BEAMs, three version 1s, and two version 2, with rebadged tags marked Pyle National Company, Chicago, Illinois. These were labeled ROTA- BEAM PORTABLE instead of Model RB11, and according to research, Pyle National marketed these portable automotive lights in at least 1955.
I think there is more to Whelen's history than Deep River, CT. There seems to have been a lot happening, in Whelen's early years, in Illinois.

Version 1 of the RB11, Picture 8. Version 1 of the RB11 was made first in magnetic mount in approximately 1954-1955, most notably to convert hearses into ambulances. The only dome colors available in the very early days was red, blue, and amber. It was the FIRST rotating light made for motorcycles, to be mounted on a special bracket on the front fender, or in front of the windshield. It was designed and tested to stand up to the vibrations associated with motorcycles, and put into service on same in 1956. Picture 9.

Version 2 of the RB11, with screw clip dome retainers, including Uber Rare NOS clear dome. Red. Picture 8.

Rebadged Version 2 of the RB11 for Pyle National Company, model PORTABLE. Red. Picture 8

Version 3 and final RB11 with twist on dome, and slight changes to the lens cage, and eventually the base changed from chrome plated steel, and later chrome plated brass, to stainless steel. Picture 1.

The RB11 was also called the ROTA- BEAM STANDARD.

RB2-12H, picture 7 was the replacement for the DEPUTY and the RB11, in the early 1990s.

CLEAR-RAY FLASHER, CR-P (permanent mount). Made in the very late 50s, and early 60s, then discontinued. This version has the flasher accessable under the dome. Picture 2.

CLEAR-RAY FLASHER. CR-M (magnetic mount). This version has the flasher under the base. I believe this to be the original version. Picture 6.

DEPUTY, light duty motor version of RB11. Picture 3.

The only difference between the DEPUTY, and the RB11 STANDARD, is the lighter duty motor in the DEPUTY, and the name tag, of course.

Original Whelen flash shields and bungee cord came standard when light was ordered as dash mount. Left is for DEPUTY and RB11, and right is for CORPORAL and MODEL 66. Picture 4.

FIRST MULTI LIGHT CROSSBARS / LIGHTBARS
The first lightbars consisted of a chrome plated crossbar and mounting brackets and,
2 MODEL SENIOR DEPUTY ROTA-BEAMs, one on each end--CB-100 or,
2 MODEL 66 ROTA-BEAMs, one on each end--CB-200. Picture 5.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
CORPORAL.  Based on a product bulletin that I have, it looks like the Corporal was introduced in 1966. Picture 1.

MODEL 66. Amber has NOS GLASS dome. Clear has 2 red, and 1 clear lens. Picture 2.

FREEZ ALARM. Picture 3.

FREEZ ALARM FA-5. Picture 6.

RESPONDER, NEW in late 1977 / early1978, took the place of the CORPORAL in Whelen's line-up. Picture 4.

Newer blue vs. original vintage deep blue CORPORAL dome. Picture 5

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Here are the largest of the rotating lens ROTA-BEAM models.


SENIOR original version with screw clip dome retainers, and rubber gasket on base of dome.. Picture 1.


SENIOR newer version MODEL 22 with stainless steel dome clamp ring. Picture 2.


SENIOR DEPUTY MODEL 44, light duty version of 22. Picture 3.


MODEL 55, heavy duty. Picture 7.


The only difference between the MODEL 44, MODEL 55 and the MODEL 22, is the MODEL 44 has a light duty motor, and the name tag, of course.


77H and 33H, took the place of the MODEL 44. Picture 4.


2 samples of ROTA-BEAM SENIOR, 1 with incorrect tag, and 1 with correct tag. These have SS metal dome retention clips. Picture 5.


Comparison of 2nd version SENIOR and 1st version SENIOR. The 2nd version has a newly designed base, socket assy, dome, and dome retainer. Picture 6. Other than the RB-COMMANDER oscillating sealed beam beacon, the SENIOR is the largest beacon in the ROTA-BEAM series.


.


Size comparison picture. MODEL 66, CORPORAL, RB11 STANDARD, DEPUTY, CLEAR-RAY FLASHER, old SENIOR, and MODELs 22/33/44/55/77. Picture 8.


CORPORAL, and MODEL 66 = appx. 5" wide X 5" tall.


RB11 STANDARD, DEPUTY, CLEAR RAY FLASHER = appx. 5" wide X 6 3/4" tall.


MODELs 22, 44, 55 = appx. 6 1/2" wide X 8" tall.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
The 77H uses the same module as the 90H bar, and the 33H uses the same as the 80H bar. Both are halogen.


Dan
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
NOS Version 1 RB11 STANDARD with original shipping can, and brochure. Appx. 1954 - 1955 vintage.


The RB11 was originally made as a magnetic version only, to convert hearses to ambulances.


Note the screw clip, under the base,for more secure mounting, similar to what was later used on the Federal Fire Balls. This clip was meant to slip over a small screw mounted in the vehicle's roof. There is a small sheet metal screw in the cardboard inside the base, to be removed and used for this purpose. This clip system was not used on future versions of the ROTA-BEAM.


The cigarette lighter plug is the metal plug use by Whelen From the first ROTA-BEAMs in appx i954/55 through at least 1975.


Also note the absence of the large rubber dome gasket that is used on future versions. The dome is held on by the 2 acorn nuts on top, with a flat gasket under the edge of the dome.


As a side note, the bulb socket is the same socket with the black plastic base as is later used in the Federal original Flash Ball, and the original Federal Vitalite.

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Dan, thanks for showing your collection. I always liked the Rota-Beams, especially the model 66. While not suited for primary warning on an EV, due to the low intensity light source, they were very good for supplemental use, like on the rear of fire apparatus. Had halogen lamps been available in the hey day of the Rota Beams that used magnifying lenses, they would have been much more effective for primary use.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Dennis, Funny that you should say that!


I have a Model 22, the largest Rota Beam, installed on my plow truck. In that light I installed a 50 watt halogen bayonet base bulb.


Unbelievably bright!!!


This also does wonders in the smaller Rota Beams, like the Model 66.


Dan
 
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JohnMarcson

Site Founder
Administrator
I love how there are so many versions of these... very cool set of pics/lights.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
NOS light amber RB11.


Also here are 2 Version 1 RB 66s totaly refurbished.


Rechromed brass bases.


New motors.


Polished GLASS domes, 1 red, and 1 amber.


Totally cleaned.


Rewired. and new cord and plug on the red magnetic mount.


The amber has a quick disconnect mounting system.


Added a Very vintage Whelen First version Aircraft Anti collision light. This was Whelen's first entry in the lighting industry in appx. 1952.


This is refurbished, in great shape, and works on 12 Volts DC. The RB10,was their variation from this light that was their first entry into the automotive warning light market.


Heavy Duty Pipe Mount Branch Guard with RB11 STANDARD, and MODEL 66.

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stansdds

Veteran Member
That is a deep blue, at least for older Whelen stuff. European blue?
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Nope, not European blue, but most of the older vintage lights, no matter what brand, had a deeper/darker blue color. This deep blue dome is appx. early 60s vintage.


Dan
 

stansdds

Veteran Member
dmathieu said:
Nope, not European blue, but most of the older vintage lights, no matter what brand, had a deeper/darker blue color. This deep blue dome is appx. early 60s vintage.
Dan
Thanks for the clarification, I'm used to seeing a lighter blue on Whelen domes.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Yeah their newer domes are quite light. They were also subject to fading, which made it worse.


Dan
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Added info on motorcycle beacon in first post.


This police Dept. in Illinois was the first to have them in 1956.


Below are 4 ROTA-BEAM split domes. Red/Blue, red/amber, red/green, red/blue

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MESDA6

Premium Member
My name is Dan - and I'm a Rotaholic.....


Chorus - HI DAN!!!!!!! :haha:


I love this collection !!!! Nice pictures and great history lesson. Thanks for posting it Dan.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
These are the different mounting options that were available for the ROTA-BEAM lights.


1. Spade bolt permanent mount, 3 per unit, mounted on interior of base.


2 Magnetic mount with cord and cigarette lighter plug. Older vintage, and newer. Newer style has plastic base cover incorporated into base gasket.


3. Dash mount with magnets, eye shield and factory supplied bungee cord.


4. Permanent mount clips, 3 per unit, mounted on exterior of base.


5. Cast base pipe mounts, 2 types, for larger beacons.


6. Pipe Mount Branch Guards, newer, and older. Lights attached with spade bolt mounts.


7. Pipe Mount Branch Guard mounts for RB11, and Model 66.


8. Cast base Quick Disconnect mount, newer style for larger beacons. Pull button on base to remove light from nipple.


9. Cast base Quick Disconnect mount as above.


10. Older style Quick Disconnect base with nipple removed. Push button on base to remove light from nipple.


11. Older style Quick Disconnect base with nipple inserted.


12. Older style Quick Disconnect base only.


13. Pipe flange base to use with spade bolts.


14. Bar mount cast base for larger beacons.


15. Bar mount cast base for larger beacons.
 
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Hey Day, I also tried using halogen bulbs in a 66 and 22, and they were great as you said. Are you aware of Pintsch Bamag


beacons with lenses? While made in Germany, they were used extensively in Sweden but not in Germany, until light bars became common.


They provide an intense warning @ around 160fpm. Another firm (can't recall the name, sells re-badged them), and PB offers both


glass lenses, and plastic semaphore type lenses).
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Later version (1970s) of a ROTA-BEAM crossbar using 2 MODEL 44 SENIOR DEPUTYs. This bar was called the Twin 44 Bar.


This one happens to have a 5200 strobe beacon mounted in the center, as an option.

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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Here is a ROTA-BEAM Model SFD 120 Volt AC.


Meant for visual alarm applications.


This mounts in a standard 2 gang, or 4" square electrical box.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
Here is Whelen's signature metal Cigarette lighter plug. This was used on their portable lights from 1954 / 55 through at least 1975.

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stansdds

Veteran Member
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
According to a 1966 Whelen ROTA-BEAM brochure that I have, the Oscillating Commander light was called the RB - COMMANDER. It was considered part of the ROTA-BEAM family.

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stansdds

Veteran Member
I'm guessing that Whelen initially called all of their rotating and oscillating beacons "Rota-Beam". How about scanning your old Whelen literature and adding it to the catalog thread?
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
ROTA-BEAM Dash Cover / Eye Shield


I just grabbed on to this MINT, PERFECT Dash Cover / eye shield for the Whelen Corporal, and Model 66 Rota-Beam dash mount lights.


This cover, and the bungee cord in the picture were original Whelen parts that were standard with magnetic mount and cig. cord and plug, when a light was ordered "Dash Mount"


This one happens to be mounted on an original version, GLASS domed MODEL 66.

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JohnMarcson

Site Founder
Administrator
dmathieu said:
According to a 1966 Whelen Rota Beam brochure that I have, the Oscillating Commander light was called the RB - COMMANDER. It was considered part of the Rota Beam family.

I have never seen an actual ad for the oscillating commander.... I still claim to have the only one in existence.... lol
 

stansdds

Veteran Member
They are rare things.
 
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dmathieu

dmathieu

Premium Member
JohnMarcson said:
I have never seen an actual ad for the oscillating commander.... I still claim to have the only one in existence.... lol
Only one I've ever seen.


Dan
 

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