In the early days of electrification around 1890 they had similar main switches, but probably of a better engineering quality. Same problem: unsafe at any speed to quote Ralph Nader. And the last answer is post 21
The factory where I was an apprentice used to build machines for use all over the world and the test area had an electrical section to generate the strange and unusual voltages- AC and DC – to test the machines with.
Big old motors driving big old generators and rotary convertors and a huge switch panel covered in knife switches, ammeters and voltmeters etc which looked like something out of Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory!