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Telephones

British signalling of the past (UK, excepting Northern Ireland)

Telephones

Unread postby Baffled boffin » Wed Feb 7, 2018 6:59 pm

I'm trying to find out about typical signal box and lineside telephone setups 1950s-70s era, particularly in small-medium size boxes. From what I can gather there would be a wall-mounted telephone with two push buttons, one red one black (or blue?) and one button would ring all the LSTs (omnibus circuit?) whilst the other button would perform which function?

Would there be a separate telephone for communicating with adjacent boxes and/or control, and did any have a number dialing function or was that a later development? Finally, I would like to know how were they generally powered. As you can see, telecoms is not my specialty and my experience is limited to replacing modern SPTs!

Thanks!
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby RDNA » Wed Feb 7, 2018 8:19 pm

Baffled Boffin,

My first box in December 1970 was Hinckley, on the Nuneaton to Leicester line, being on the boundary of the Nottingham and Birmingham divisions we had two wooden cased omnibus circuit phones on the wall next to the desk. One communicated with locations between Hinckley and Wigston North Junction plus Leicester 'Telegraph Office' and Nottingham Control Office, the other with locations around Nuneaton. There was a wood and brass open 'slide switch' between the two phones to join the circuits when necessary.

That was the extent of our telephonic communication with the outside world!

The other boxes on the branch mostly just had the local omnibus circuit.

Some boxes on the Midland Main Line additionally had 'Block Phones' to talk to the adjacent box only, these utilized the goods line block bell wire - they had no ringing circuit - the signalmen 'tapped each other in' on the block bell, we did likewise to speak to our immediate neighbors on the branch if we did not want everyone on the omnibus circuit to hear the 'call code' ring!

This was mostly the situation at boxes that I worked on the LM Region until at least the mid 1970s.

However as with all things 'signalling' there were many and varied arrangements!

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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Ashley Hill » Wed Feb 7, 2018 8:28 pm

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8031

Hello,there was some discussion a while ago that may be of use to you. The above link should take you there.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby scarpa » Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:54 pm

The Eastern Region had a dedicated wooden case telephone which housed a code selector which connected direct to the Control Office.When Control was ringing the signalbox you would here the code selector operating then the bell would ring.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Fast Line Floyd » Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:17 pm

The red key on an omnibus phone would ring the control office where as the black key would ring everybody else. Some railways provided a separate box to box phone some did not relying on the omnibus phone instead. The Midland Railway did provide box to box phones that used the block bell lines as the transmission medium these phones can cause severe pain if you have the receiver to your ear when your colleague rings the block bell, I know this from personal experience!

Omnibus phones had two sets of dry cells to power them, one for the microphone circuit and one for the ringing circuit (this battery supplied the local bell circuit when no buttons were pushed and supplied the ring voltage to line when the ring buttons were pushed.

Some locations had signal post telephones where a signal was some distance from the box, this could either be the same sort of phone as the omnibus style but with a dedicated line or it could be one of a number of such phones grouped together and run from a central battery (known as CB phones).

The use of phones on an automatic exchange universally is relatively new in railway terms only becoming common as the exchanges grew larger in the 1950's and 1960's.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Baffled boffin » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:45 pm

Thanks all for the very interesting information; I suspected there might have been a thread somewhere already but couldn't find it. I hope to see some of these telephones in use on preserved railways one day.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Mad Mac » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:51 pm

You may want to stop by this site: http://www.samhallas.co.uk
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:38 pm

For completeness, it is probably worth mentioning again that some boxes communicated with each other using telegraph needle instruments. For instance this was the main means of inter-box communication on the ex-LCDR lines in the London area as late as 1959, the boxes were on the same omnibus phone circuit as the stations but that was never used for communication between adjacent boxes. The needles were used for train description, advising cancellations or out of course running, boat train path utilisation and general inter-box "conversation".
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby kbarber » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:21 am

davidwoodcock wrote:For completeness, it is probably worth mentioning again that some boxes communicated with each other using telegraph needle instruments. For instance this was the main means of inter-box communication on the ex-LCDR lines in the London area as late as 1959, the boxes were on the same omnibus phone circuit as the stations but that was never used for communication between adjacent boxes. The needles were used for train description, advising cancellations or out of course running, boat train path utilisation and general inter-box "conversation".

Of course, those signals never appeared in the block book (or at least not with that meaning). So at the risk of drifting off-topic (perhaps a moderator would split the thread if there's any interest), what codes were used and where?
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby John Webb » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:36 am

Baffled boffin wrote:Thanks all for the very interesting information; I suspected there might have been a thread somewhere already but couldn't find it. I hope to see some of these telephones in use on preserved railways one day.

We have samples of several types on display at St Albans South signal box - see http://www.sigbox.co.uk for our next open days - we have three working as an internal site intercom system.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby JRB » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:43 pm

Note that the telephone and Morse telegraph were both officially referred to as 'speaking instruments' to distinguish them from block bells with only set messages.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:08 am

kbarber wrote:
davidwoodcock wrote:For completeness, it is probably worth mentioning again that some boxes communicated with each other using telegraph needle instruments. For instance this was the main means of inter-box communication on the ex-LCDR lines in the London area as late as 1959, the boxes were on the same omnibus phone circuit as the stations but that was never used for communication between adjacent boxes. The needles were used for train description, advising cancellations or out of course running, boat train path utilisation and general inter-box "conversation".

Of course, those signals never appeared in the block book (or at least not with that meaning). So at the risk of drifting off-topic (perhaps a moderator would split the thread if there's any interest), what codes were used and where?


Unofficial codes were by their nature not documented and will be impossible to detemine retrospectively. We can only go on people's recollections. A common means of calling attention to the phone was a long single beat on the block bell, which results in a dull flatter tone as the hammer remains in contact with the bell for longer. Whilst this might sometimes have been unoffical practice, bear in mind that some pre-BR block regulations did include an official bell code for "Attend to Telephone", such as 1-2, 1-1 (this would presumably require a longer pause than normal between the bongs to avoid confusion with TES) or even 1 in the rare places where the regulations did not use Call Attention. There was also in LNWR, LMS and Irish regulations a code of 3-3-3-3 for an emergency telephone call.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:11 am

JRB wrote:Note that the telephone and Morse telegraph were both officially referred to as 'speaking instruments' to distinguish them from block bells with only set messages.

I think that needs to be qualified - I've never heard the term "speaking Instrument" applied to an SPT nor to (relatively) more modern systems like ETD, but only to direct box-to-box equipment.

Some systems had a switch at each end of the line wire to enable to select whether your block bells or your phones were connected toegther (thus saving installation and maintenance costs of another line wire). It was obviously necessary that both boxes made the same choice, and since the bells were how you called the other box it was also necessary to leave the circuit connected to the bells when the phone was not in use, and there had to be an (official) bell code to ask your oppo to change his switch .
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby JRB » Fri Feb 16, 2018 2:24 pm

Yes, only box to box in order to distinguish it from the fixed message block bells, train describers &c. SPTs were the only communication and did not need to be distinguished.
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Re: Telephones

Unread postby Chris Rideout » Sat Feb 17, 2018 6:10 pm

The open circuit phone that I remember well was a brown wooden box with 2 buttons on the front. The left one was dark red and the right one was black. They were respectively labelled:

"CALL EXCHANGE" and "CODE RINGING".

Underneath would be a list of signal boxes and station foremens' office numbers in a wooden frame screwed into mounting board on the wall.
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