British Ericsson

Strictly speaking this is a generic name for phones from the Beeston factory in Britain. In Australia it designates one model of wall phone, the N2500, known in Australia as the Type 35MW, which was produced in large numbers for the Australian Post Office and other worldwide users. The name also covers the many models and modifications derived from it. It is also known in New Zealand as the “Box Ericsson”. It was simply constructed and finished, reflecting its mass-produced nature and changing styles. An Ericsson catalogue sets its place in the market by stating “These instruments, although cheaper and not so elaborate ... as the AB230 or AB535 types, are thoroughly reliable and efficient in service”. The numbers that survived are proof of this.

The case is a plain box, 240mmm X 400mm X 150mm deep. Terminals and wiring are concealed. Bells are mounted at the top of the front panel, and a writing slope at the bottom. Timber is “matt polished oak” or (in the last models) dark varnish over oak. The phone was evaluated by the APO from 1912, and was supposedly put into service in Australia in 1916. I have seen one example carrying this date on the service card. A later date for full scale introduction is more likely, as it was in the middle of World War One, and Britain would hardly have resources to spare. Major stocks only started to arrive in Australia in 1919-1920.

The original Swedish Model AB232 was fitted with a handset, but British models had a separate transmitter and receiver. This was unusual for Ericssons, who had been using handsets since 1892. It was made necessary by the British National Telephone Company, who used Western Electric switchboards. Their Chief Engineer maintained that the Ericsson phones did not work correctly with the WE boards. Ericssons then produced a solid-back transmitter to replace the handset, and this necessitated the separate receiver as well.

On later Australian Post Office conversions, a bakelite handset was fitted on a modified switchhook. The transmitter holes were covered with a “How to Use” notice. Some of the last phones have a circular wooden plug above the writing slope, filling a hole for a dial. Few were actually converted to dial operation in Australia. The genuine conversions were used on automatic exchange party lines where the magneto generator was still needed to signal other parties.

The receivers were finished in “copper bronze”, which appears to be oxidised brass, but later APO renovations used black enamel. The other metalwork was also copper bronze. Earlier models may still be found with the remains of an “Ericsson-England” transfer on the front, but this was vulnerable to wear. The later refurbished models may have a brass PMG plaque or transfer.

A similar phone has been noted from Sterling in the UK. Its main difference is in the shape of the corners, and its electrical fittings. The door has more squared-off corners than the Ericsson, and the sides are 118mm deep against the Ericsson’s 113mm. The generator is a 3-magnet model with cast end plates. For further details, see ATCS Newsletter January 1998.

Once the Beeston factory began producing its own models, the Swedish “AB” model numbers were replaced by a new “N” series.

For a comprehensive range of the British phones, including those used in ex-British colonies, I recommend Bob Freshwater's site at http://www.britishtelephones.com/

 

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