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Ian Jolly, ATCS Member from Wales writes about things
in a past Newsletter, PAX Manufacturers, CNET
and his recent telephone activities in Wales.

Here in the UK we only had one Lorimer system fitted as a public exchange. It opened at Hereford in 1914 and ran for over 11 years before being replaced. It was one of a number of automatic exchange systems tried out by the General Post Office after nationalisation in 1912. Attached are two GPO loose leaf 'N' diagrams - the series used for subscribers apparatus. These relate to the Lorimer system at Hereford and are dated 1918 ('N' diagrams were first introduced in 1917). They were saved from the bin having been thrown out in 1960 when the GPO Engineers were moving between buildings in Chester, not long after I started with the GPO!

The only other Lorimer related item I've ever come across is a telephone that was in the BT Museum in London before it closed nearly ten years ago.

You might be interested to know that I recognised the 25 line Strowger PAX belonging to Mick Brett (from Brisbane). He was appealing for information about this unit he was displaying at the Pinpana Show in July. Not only that but I have the circuit diagrams and diagram notes - copies now on their way to Mick. He hopes to have the PAX linked in to others around the World via CNET - see

The design of the PAX originates from a building not too far from here. It is an Indian Telephone Industries version of the 25/4 PAX originally produced by the Automatic Telephone & Electric Company Limited of Strowger Works, Liverpool. I can, on a clear day with binoculars, see the factory 25 miles away! The PAX was later modified and became known as the 112 PAX. The 112 50 line PAX with eight connecting circuits. It was the smallest in the ATE/Plessey range. The next size up was the 50/7 (later known as a 111 PAX capable of linking to another cabinet to form a 100 line 14 connector exchange) and the 100/10 (or 113 PAX in later years). The 100 line PAX had 10 connectors with a three digit numbering scheme. The first digit was cabinets could be linked to form a 200 line exchange with 2XX an 3XX numbering scheme - the connectors having a WS relay to achieve the 200 outlets. There was also a matching Group Selector cabinet capable of linking four 100 line cabinets. In that case the connectors (final selectors) did not absorb the first digit as that was 'used up' in the Group Selector (which also provided the dialling one). I have one of the 25 line PAXes and bought another recently on eBay (see attached photo) - shortly to go on CNET!

Indian Telephone Industries was a company set up after WW2 in India by AT&E on behalf of the Indian Government (It was not owned by AT&E). They obviously used the AT&E designs. They were supplying the British Post Office (and even British Telecom so I'm told) with Strowger spares, well after the UK manufacturers had ceased to make Strowger bits and pieces. I remember being on a course at the old Ericsson factory at Beeston in the early 1980's when their last Strowger equipment shipped out. It was destined for the Middle East. They had sent a 'specification' for a 1000 line auto exchange. Plessey, not wanting to continue producing Strowger put the price right up and quoted for an electronic reed relay system (Pentaconta). Our friends in the Middle East worked on the principle that more expensive one must be the better system and Plessey ended up supplying the Strowger, not wanting to lose a customer with plenty of money!

With reference to AT&E - they were originally known as the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company Limited. Dane Sinclair, who had been the Chief Engineer of the UK's National Telephone Company (before it was nationalised and taken over by the GPO in 1912), had become the general manager of the British Insulated Helsby Cables in a small town in Cheshire (again within view of here on my hilltop). He saw the potential of the Strowger system and BIHC acquired the UK rights of the Strowger patent. They decided to set up a separate company (ATM) to deal with Strowger and eventually the Strowger Works opened in Liverpool. The works at Helsby was not deemed capable of producing the equipment as there was a limited local labour force. Helsby made not only cables but had manufactured early telephones and telegraph instruments For some years, I used to look after an ancient pre-2000 type PAX at he Helsby works until it was replaced by a PABX in the early 1980's!

I've been lurking around with telephones for 50+ years and have seen a few changes! Some public exchange were still ancient manual boards in private houses having been installed by the then National Telephone Company. One manual board was in a row of cottages and later I worked on installing a UAX13 (Unit Automatic eXchange No 13) in a small building at the end of the row of cottages. 12 years later I was back to commission the electronic exchange which replaced it. Even that has now long since gone being replaced by a digital exchange! I commissioned the electronic exchange which replaced the last manual exchange in Wales - the old exchange to go from manual direct to electronic.

As Strowger came to an end in the early 1990's, I expanded my collection of Strowger, acquiring several former public exchanges including the then oldest working public Strowger exchange in the UK network (a Unit Auto eXchange No 12 from 1935). I was present at the ceremony where British Telecom changed over what they said was the 'very last public electro-mechanical exchange' in the UK network. Little did they know it wasn't!! There still two tiny 20 line systems on remote Scottish Islands - I ended up with both of those as well! It was a three day trip just to reach one of them and another three days travelling back - eight days in total to collect it!

I also have a few manual exchanges ranging from magneto National Telephone Company ones through to the centre suite of positions used in the BBC 'Hello Girls' TV series (which I believe was shown in Australia.) I built the 24 position switchboard for the series - I was the adviser to the series.

I've recently acquired a couple of volumes of circuit diagrams of Australian telephone instruments amongst which I've come across reference to 'Multi Coin box telephone used with Rural Automatic eXhange' - I'm intrigued to know just what these exchanges were? I assume that the 'multi-coin box' was the old button A/B box made by Hall Telephone Accessories in the UK. I have one of the Australian pattern A/B boxes which I acquired from the cruise liner the Canberra at a time when the UK was changing the size of its coinage making the coin slots unusable!

I will follow this up with an article to expand on CNET and how to connect to it. It is incredible to hear my 1929 Strowger burst into life as some-one from the far side of the world dials into it. It is quite easy to connect even if it is just a vintage telephone. I've got a nice Ivory 300 type bakelite from New Zealand connected - with a little adapter to convert the reverse NZ dial to DTMF to link to CNET. We have a number of folk in the UK with just a telephone connected. It is great to be able to actually talk to other with the common interest - all for free - I didn't know you could actually use these telephone to talk to others.

I still look after some magneto telephones on a small island off the coast of Wales where even British Telecom can't reach! Little has changed there, the last building being put up before Bell invented the telephone (the chapel in 1875!) Little has changed since then. (Until I arrived with the telephone ten years ago).

Note the bi-lingual directory - Welsh is the language on the island (see sign).

cofion gorau/best regards,
Ian Jolly
+64 85 v32 889
+44 (0) 352 82 26
(via a 1929 GPO Rural Automatic eXchange!) from CNET - the Heritage Telephone Network.
+44 (0)1352 83 82 26
(via a 1929 GPO Rural Automatic eXchange!) from the Public Telephone Network.

More from Ian in the November 2007 Newsletter.

I can add a little more information about the 4 Line switchboard on Page 16 of the September 2007 newsletter.

The switchboard was used by the Royal Engineer's Signal Service (forerunner of the Royal Corps of Signals) during WW1. It was used with Telephone Sets D Mks 1, 2 and 3. The Tele Sets D were unlike the earlier Telephone Set C which was a magneto calling instrument fitted with an AC bell and a generator. The Tele Set D was fitted with a Morse type key which operated a DC buzzer/vibrator. This vibrator produced a high pitched sound when received in the receiver at the calling end. Hence the "receiver" fitted on the four line switchboard. Descriptions of the Switchboard and the Telephones are given in the book "Field Telephones for Army Use" by Capt. E.J. Stevens (Royal Artillery) - a small book hard backed book 1st edition published in June 1908, 3rd edition in April 1915 and my copy, the 4th edition published in 1917. The Tele D Mk 3 is described in Appendix A at the end of the book (introduced after third edition?). I've attached Appendix D which describes setting up and operating the 4 Line Field Switchboard. According to "Field Telephones for Army Use" states "Field Exchanges are made in different sizes by The International Electric Co., Ltd, Salisbury Road, Kilburn”.

The 1914 edition of the Army's "Instruction in Army Telegraphy and Telephony, Vol. 1 - Instruments" printed in 1916 doesn't show this version of the 4 line exchange but it does describe other 'pyramid' exchanges with standard drop flap indicators. However buzzer calling Tele D's had only recently been introduced.

Vibrator/Buzzer calling was also used on the "Switchboard, 10 line, Universal Calling" both during late WW1 through to WW2 when it was replaced by the "Switchboard, 10 line, Magneto". The "10 line UC" was a portable single cord switchboard with built in operators circuit. Each line was on a separate individual module which was interchangeable in the field for maintenance. The earlier versions were mounted in a wooden case and later ones in a smaller steel case. The later version also had a small 2 line unit which could be clipped onto the side to provide two lines to CB/Auto exchanges (there was a plug in dial for auto working if needed). This unit can be seen in the photo between the old and new versions of the "10 Line UC" - it would normally be clipped to the LH side of the newer version.

Many years ago I had both the later 10 Line UC Switchboard and the CB/Auto adapter unit.

Ian Jolly

* Lately (like 40+ years ago) Lt, Royal Signals.
* One of the last living who can say they "served under Lord Kitchener”.
* I was a teenage 2/Lieutenant in 326 Independent Signal Squadron, Royal Signals and my Commanding Officer was none other than Lord Kitchener !! His great-uncle had been the adjutant to the Royal Engineers' first Telegraph Company in the 1870's ! Everyone else in the unit (other than me) rows of medals having served through WW2 and most have probably "passed on" hence I must be one of the last left to have "served under Lord Kitchener".

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