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Telephone B.P.O. No. 11.

by Ron Kay

In the March 1999 issue of the ATCS newsletter we asked for information about an unusual wooden wall phone which has appeared in three separate collections in Australia. Ron Kay, Editor of the New Zealand Newsletter has written some notes about his knowledge of this phone.

The phone is made by British Ericsson and is easily identified as it is stamped inside with G.P.O. and E25 over 238. The 'E' stands for Ericsson manufacture and the '25' is the year of manufacture while '238' is the 'Mark No'.

G.P.O. E25

The phones are quite different to normal box phones and especially English practice as they have a rather long transmitter arm. They must have been quite 'up market' in their day as they have a small generator (No. 4), and the bell gongs are on top of the box instead of on the front. The box is only 3 inches deep so this may by why the bells are upright as the bell motor is approaching 3 inches in length and the clearance would have been limited. The box is hinged at the back so the entire box swings out instead of just the door as is more usual.

There is space given to this phone in "Telephony" by Herbert and Procter. Reference is also made in H&P to the earlier 'No. 11' which looks to be of Ericsson scroll parentage. The circuits are identical apart from the positioning of the microphone and the DC goes in the opposite direction through the microphone although the polarity through the primary coil is the same.

One would think that there were enough differences between the old and the new 'No. 11 to have given the newer phone a number of its own, after all, they are not interchangeable on the wall as the screw holes are differently placed.

These phones exist in small numbers in New Zealand but I have no evidence that they were ever used by the N.Z. Post Office. In the mid 1950's a radio parts shop had them for salew in Christchurch for 27/6 each ($2.75). I used to look at them but as a schoolboy on a limited budget, I could buy more modern Ericsson box phones complete with moulded handset from the Post Office for 10/- ($1.00), then who in their right mind would buy one of these?

In 1969 a friend of mine obtained three of these phones and, as by then I was collecting phones, he kindly gave me one. Of the three phones, two had solid back transmitters and the third had a replacement bakelite transmitter. You've guessed it. I got the bakelite one. It has had a hard life. I don't know what my friend did with the other two, but I have never come across another complete one.

The writing shelf on this phone was attached to the front with small metal hooks and a central metal brace, not unlike the light coloured GEC wooden wall phones of around 1947. My phone has a Siemens manufactured receiver but this, along with the transmitter have been replaced and would support my thoughts that the phone is well used.

The phones in Australia are stamped E25 whilst mine is E33 indicating Ericsson 1933. There is the remains of another set (backboard only) at the Fairymead Museum and this is stamped TE33 indicating The Telephone Manufacturing Company, 1933. Both phones have the 238 mark number stamped as well as 'No. 11'.

I am not an authority on English manufacturers but I often noticed a similarity between Ericsson and TMC equipment. Was there a connection between these two companies?

The phone is certainly different. One of its 'ahead of the times' features is that the generator handle is held onto the shaft by a screw and not just wound on as was usual practice until the later Alnico generators. The handle has 'No. 6' stamped inside it.

Since writing this article I've begun to get a soft spot for the phone. I think I will have to unscrew it off the wall where it has been for thirty years and 'try it out'. I think I can follow the circuit. It is about as simple as they come. The generator cuts out the bell circuit when it is turned and the bell is not across the line during speech which was the case in many other sets. It is approaching 'CB' for simplicity. Has anyone else got one and if so, when and by whom was it made?

Ron Kay

We now have an answer to Ron's received August 2004......

"Ron Kay wonders in his piece on your site whether there was a link between Ericsson and TMC, because the 238 wall phones made by each were so alike.

The answer is no - either Swedish Ericsson or Ericsson Brothers. These telephones were all to Post Office design which is why they're generally alike. The parts will be labelled differently.

TMC had a link to two other firms - to Telephone Rentals which started life in 1924 with the same directors but fresh finance, so wasn't a subsidiary, until TMC was taken over by Pye in 1967: and to ATM/ATE as a result of their becoming TR's main auto exchange suppliers, between 1954 and 1960. ATE and TMC discovered they were duplicating effort making TR parts which were also standard PO stock items. TMC changed its drawing system to harmonise with ATE's and that remained standard until Philips took over Pye in 1969, when Philips numbering came in.

I revived the TMC/ATE system after Pye TMC had sold its analogue carrier business to the Irish firm Telectron, which opened a factory in Bromley in 1981 and made me its Service Manager - which was code for everything technical except assembly worker. I'd been with TMC since 1957, ending up Installation Test Supt which was a dream job. But I learnt far more about analogue carrier with Telectron - I had to ! The last TMC/ATE-numbered 62-type unit left Bromley in 1991, an Amplifier-Equalizer Card EC501702/1. By then another firm MS Instruments plc had bought the business, keeping me at the same desk.

You're probably not the right person to ask, but I have ended up with the whole of TMC's carrier equipment drawing archive, having managed to get the Dulwich phone archive taken over by the Minet Library in Lambeth. No-one is interested and rain is getting at it - it's in soggy cardboad boxes on my front verandah. Carrier is not glitzy like old phones, alas. Ideas would be welcome.

I used to be a phone collector, but piano rolls have taken over. As a schoolboy I used to buy Bell Sets 1 and candlesticks 1 and 150 from the PO Studd Street depot. In Lisle Street you could even buy 1929 GEC Neophones, which were not really very like the 162, merely an ancestor. The wall phones all went to the Ffestiniog Railway - which still runs a five-exchange-plus-tandem mainly ATE step-by-step network. It's had to find Tone-to-Pulse convertors lately as the freebie junked office phones don't offer Pulse any more.

I have a Telecoms page on my Web site but you have to navigate a bit to get to it. No file link is possible as the webspace is free.

All best wishes
Dan Wilson,
(formally, Eur Ing D H Wilson C Eng MIEE MIQA)"

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