Reader Nigel Scott sent these photos from his home in Dorset, England, of his very unusual 1951 Bianchi with a prototype of the "Paris Roubaix" rod-shifting derailleur.  This setup was very short-lived--1951 was the first year of production for the Gran Sport derailleur, which set the basic format for the cable-activated, dual-pulley derailleur that Campagnolo stuck with for the next 40 or so years, and rod-shifters quickly dropped out of sight.
Update September 2002:
Nigel reports that he has sold this bike to a new owner in Southern Califoria.  Britain's loss is California's gain . . . 

Campagnolo's first successful derailleur had been the "Cambio Corsa," which used a system of seatstay-mounted control rods to loosen the rear quick release and then move the chain back and forth with a "fork" device.  The fork sat around the chain on top of the chainstay, so that shifting occurred when backpedaling; since it had no jockey pulleys, the wheel moved back and forth to take up slack in the chain.  Once the shift was complete, the quick release was re-tightened, and the rider could start pedaling again.

The Paris Roubaix was introduced later, and refined the Cambio Corsa into a single control lever.  It shifted in the same manner as the Cambio Corsa.

The shifter on Nigel's bike is usually described as a prototype, but he reports that a number of similarly equipped Bianchis were imported into England--some are still on the road today, and at least one is being ridden daily.

The shifter in the photos below moves the shifting action to the run of chain below the chainstay (like the derailleurs we use today), so that shifting takes place while pedaling forward--a definite advance over the earlier rod shifters.

Scroll past the photos for Nigel's description of the bike, and his notes on shifting with this very unusual setup.

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Above: Nigel's 1951 Bianchi.  Note the blue details at the crimps in the chainstays Closeup of the drivetrain.  Note the pencil-thin steel cranks.  Below: pencil-thin steel cranks were common before the widespread availability of aluminum alloys.
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The rear end.  The words "Paris Roubaix" are stamped in the shifting fork, although part of "Paris" is obscured, perhaps because of the nonstandard connection to the shifting rod. Above: Rear view of the five-speed freewheel.  
Below: Close-up view.
The front hub.  Both hubs have a steel body mated to alloy flanges--aluminum alloy was still not widely used in those days.
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bianchi7.jpg (81794 bytes) Left and right, the front end.  Note the lugs on the head tube that transition to meet the headset cups, a precursor of modern "integrated" headsets.  Also visible is the classic TA bottle cage and alloy bottle (with cork!) bianchi8.jpg (69456 bytes)

Nigel describes the Bianchi:

"I enclose photos of my 1951 Bianchi machine with the prototype (according to The Dancing Chain) Paris-Roubaix changer on it. You will see it runs on the lower row of chain. There was a batch of these cycles imported into England at that time although they all had the normal P-R changer and a number are still in existence. I have seen one with a frame number just nine digits higher than mine and another which is seventy-four higher. me is #285446. A man I know bought one new and still rides it.

You will see Bianchi engraved on the barrel of the rear hub, this matches the engraving on the crank arms. It is a Campagnolo hub of the early type with the steel barrel and alloy flanges. I fitted a five speed Regina freewheel because the spoke protector is stamped 'per 5 pignoni'. The front hub is FB and you can see the FB crest on one side of the quick release cam cap. On the opposite side is stamped 'Brevetto Campagnolo', and also on the QR lever. This dates from when Campag had invented the QR and used them in FB bubs.

The handlebars and stem are steel Ambrosio, Universal brakes and levers, Bianchi chainset, Regina freewheel and chain. The sprint rims are unknown but have a distinct half-round section, REG bottle cage, The pump may be a little modern but is Bianchi crested, the right colour and with a Campag adaptor.

I took the changer to the Milan Show in September 1999 to show it to anyone on the Campag stand as frankly it is probably rarer than rocking horse manure but it was difficult to get a spark of interest out of them. I think they are interested only in the current product and the past is obsolete junk."

Shifting The Paris Roubaix

"The gear works in the same way as the conventional Paris-Roubaix gear but the intention with mine is that you pedal forwards because the Lower row of chain is running thro' the gate. You twist the lever outwards and the change gate is free to swivel across the width of freewheel and you pedal GENTLY forwards to guide the chain onto the desired sprocket. When you tighten the long lever the little pawl engages the ratchet collar that you see in the close up photo and all in the same tightening movement turns the whole main axle and hub slightly forwards thereby putting a little slack in the chain.

When you change with a Corsa gear your weight automatically causes the wheel to travel backwards in the fork ends and you end up with a tight chain, this little ratchet overcomes this. The hub has the same splined axle but is longer to pass inside the ratchet collar."

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