On NCR Model 135 principle machines

Below is an article I have written for you on Cash Registers
Article on working on a NCR model 130 through 147 Class Total Adder machine

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Article for the CRCCA newsletter March 2000

135 principle machines

The outsides

I just finished restoring a model 147 Ni plated Cast Iron Bohemian register with 25 keys: 5-95 cents, No Sale and $1-5.  It was my first exposure to the 135 principle machine which is a knockoff total adder mechanism that NCR took over from someone and produced for a few years. This mechanism is also inside the very popular narrow machines the models 129 and 130.  It is also in the wide machines 138-147.  These machines have an odd look to them in that they are somewhat squat compared to their true NCR cousins and thus they are considered cute in either pattern.  There are 2 case styles that were used on these and they came in cast iron and brass.


NCR #130 Art Nouvou 1

Art Nouvou with is the most common on the narrow 130 is usually brass and can be Ni plated. It has the appearance of a Deco scroll pattern. The other pattern is the Bohemian


NCR #147 Ni Bohemian

which resembles the Dolphin pattern.  It is usually cast Iron as was mine. There are many of these machines around but the Bohemian case is more rare than the Art Nouvou.  These machines (model 130’s) appear frequently on Ebay and fetch approx. 600-$1100 depending on condition and top sign.  A nice Nickel Art Nouvou case wide machine just sold on Ebay for around $850. This was a very good deal.  Others have sold for over $1300 with original top sign. Bohemian case designs should do about the same.


The insides

These machines have a reputation for being a difficult mechanism to work on.

I can see why.  They have a strange and unreliable mechanical principle that is why it is hard to find one in good working order.  They do have a lot of cost saving features, which is why NCR continued to produce them.  Here is a description of some of the features and cost saves.


  1. Total adder with fewer parts (although less reliable)
  2. Fewer locks (only 2: Lid lock #1key and mechanism lock on side (labeled #2 key actually #5 key)
  3. No springs on indicator flags to make them go back down.
  4. Unique drawer spring mounted under the drawer.


Nice feature of the 147 I worked on:

  1. Ornate coin shelf, metal not marble.
  2. Solid ornate top, not glass under the top sign.
  3. Ornate gold coin box in drawer, (rare on cheaper machines or any machine for that matter)
  4. The register is designed with everything under the hood!  Bell stop, Drawer release, Register Lock, Total Adder Counter Reset (knob on outside), and No Sale Counter Reset (thumbwheel).


It is clever in that you cannot turn to reset the Total Adder Counter if the lid is closed and the lid will not close unless the reset knob is turned to the home position.    The mechanism lock next to the drawer release is redundant to the key lock (#2) on the right side of machine.


Ok, on to my experience with this machine and tips on disassembly and restoration.


Disassembly (specifically the bohemian 147):


I bought this machine in 1997 for a low price and then took it apart for polishing and nickel-plating in Dec 1998.  I paid as much to polish the arms and case as I did for the machine!  Just as a note: having a cast iron case replated can be more expensive than brass because it is MUCH harder to polish out the rust and pitting!!   This machine sat around in my basement as an empty frame and cups of screws and parts until Aug 99 when I just got motivated to get it all back together.


The cases on a narrow or wide 135 principle machines are fairly straight forward although on the cast iron models the back is held on by screws on the inside by the indicators and are hard to get to.  Starts by removing the wood base, these screws are often rusted in place and require a lot of work.  See previous article on disassembly techniques. The sides only have a couple of screws and the ornate top, coin shelf and curved cover and hinge plate will come off (leave the finger comb between the keys in place for awhile).   Next go to the back of the drawer and from the inside remove 2 screw holding the back and then the 2 at the inside top holding the back. The entire exterior should be off now.  Remove the locks and misc. parts and ship off for replating!

NCR #147 with counters and bell removed

Now that you can see all the insides you can get an idea of what a strange mechanism this machine has.  If it works you can see that as the machine is cycled one of the three main bars across the middle shifts right to left at the bottom of the key cycle, this was done to allow the adder mechanism to function properly and carry the 10’s.  Also odd is that one of the other main bars pivots in its mounting as can be seen from the side.  This looks very awkward.  The mechanism lock can be seen on the right side engaging the main power bar (the one that lifts with each keypress).  The counter mechanisms can be seen across the top.   The bell is mounted in the center.

Side view Drawer release /register lock 1

At this point you need to decide how much you are going to restore, I you elect to do the keyarms and indicators read on, otherwise clean it up (paint the indicators if needed) and regrease and do not go any further.


I removed some of the left to right cast frame bars, like the ones at the bottom holding the drawer spring and the one at the front above the drawer.  Then I proceeded to remove the indicators by removing the screw holding the comb at the top and then lifting out each indicator making detailed notes on each ones slot position. As I noted before there are no springs on the indicators to make them go back down as in most brass era NCR’s.  You will notice that there is a bar which goes across the back at the top of the indicators and rests on a tab on each indicator this is basically a weight to push each one back down and take the place of the springs. This bar may also be held in an upright position to prevent the indicators from going up too far and poping out.  Note if this bar is loose it will drop below the catcher bar and jam the machine if the indicators are removed.  You may wish to tie the bar up with a small piece of string.  It will save frustration later if you do.


Next I removed the counters: the No Sale counter is easy; 2 screws and it lifts out. It is engaged to the No Sale keyarm from below.  The total adder is also just as easy but when removed two ratchet arms underneath with tiny springs will jump out of place and are very hard to get back!!  This is the trick of the whole adder mechanism and is a point of no return.  Look carefully between the $1 and 10c adder wheels and you can see how a small cog is engaged on a pin.  This is what you have to get back when resameblying.  I cannot adequately describe it here but it is critical.  Basically the spring catch must stand up straight when the adder is lowered into place.  This takes some tiny tools and careful manipulation, but is not impossible if you know what is needed.  The machine will jam if not put back right.  Once the total adder lifts out the 2 little cogs with springs can be slide out of place.  If the spring on these parts is broken chances are this is why the machine does not add.


Now the keyarms are basically ready to be removed but again I warn you that this is a big job for persons with advanced mechanical and note taking ability!   I slid the main rod holding the keyarms out to the left (facing the front) I just let each arm drop in place as I slid the rod out. Again take detailed notes on the order of every piece on this bar and which slot the keyarms are in at the back of the machine on the divider with the dangling arms.  Once the bar is fully out the arms just fall out.  Remove the keycaps and relate as needed. (Make sure not to plate the hole for the rod).


I degreased the machine and cleaned the frame and got ready for reassembly.  You can operate the basic mechanics of this machine by moving the power bar ( the flat cast bar the keyarms lift up) with your hand up and down.  You can see how the drawer release and adder mechanism work from here.


Reassembly (specifically the Bohemian 147):


I reversed the procedure for removing the keyarms by inserting each arm into the proper slot from below and slowly inserting the rod from left to right.  Advancing it one arm and one centimeter at a time.   When I was to the last 5 or 6 arms they must be inserted all at once and the rod moved through them to complete the assembly.  This is time consuming but if you took good notes it should go together OK.


Once the arms are in, the indicators and frame bars go in easy.  The machine should function with few hang-ups.   Now installing the main counter is the tricky part.  See disassembly paragraph on what to look for placing the counter down into place while the small cam arms with the tiny springs are standing straight up.  GOOD LUCK!


The case goes on as removed with no special tricks.  Make sure you engage the lock on the right side and the case is put back on.


Overall I found restoring this machine very interesting to work on like a 300 class total adder.  Only the installation of the counter makes this machine more of a challenge.  The rest is about the same.  It is a clever cost saving mechanism but it is easy to see why NCR gave it up.  Good thing for us collectors as it makes this machine scarcer and although it is not the jewel of collector’s eye it is a great machine to own.  I highly recommend getting one narrow and one wide in each pattern!!


As I finish up this article I started months ago I am working on a #144 wide Art Nouvou Nickel plated machine (same as the 147) and a Bronze #129 Art Nouvou which is a mechanical basket case (lots of parts missing).   I am really becoming an expert in this machine and I hope I have passed on some good advice to you.



PS I have a few spare mechanism parts if you need some.
Email ergofred @ brassregisters. com