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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

Birmingham Snow Hill: gwrbsh3013


An early Telephone Exchange room at an unidentified location. There are two exchange desks in the room. The one being used by the operator appears to be a public telephone exchange desk. The layout can be identified from the top as:

  • Six glass discs - indicating each Junction Line, with those connected being illuminated. Junction Lines are the external connections available to receive (or send) calls from (or to) the General Post Office (GPO) public system on a single telephone number.
  • Three rows of nine glass discs - which when illuminated indicate that an external call or an individual extension line is calling the exchange. The first six discs on the top row appear different, so these probably indicate the Junction Lines. The remainder are the possible internal extensions (maximum twenty-one) that could be connected to either the public system (up to a limit of six) or to any other internal extension. These would be for the commercial and railway departments.
  • Three rows of nine extension line plug sockets - corresponding to the Junction and Extension line indications above.
  • Desk - to holds ten jack lead loops for connecting to each pair of Junction or Extension line sockets plus a spring loaded switch, which presumably is used to select a line for the operator’s telephone.

Notes: The clock allowed the operator to record the time of all the outgoing calls.

According to a Great Western Railway Magazine article in August 1911, the original public telephone exchange at Birmingham Snow Hill had six Junction Lines and eighteen Extensions, so the telephone exchange equipment would have been similar (see Snow Hill Telegraph and Telephone development Articles). This was prior to its replacement with a new combination multiple switchboard.

The other telephone exchange desk appears to connect to the various omnibus lines and there is no connection between these and the Junction or internal Extension lines on the public telephone exchange system. Any long distance Trunk lines would also have been connected to this telephone exchange desk. There are two rows of ten glass discs with a plug socket directly below each and as before the desk holds eight jack lead loops, which are weighted to keep them hanging straight with a switch for each loop. Adjacent to the equipment on the wall there are four omnibus telephone circuit cards (see equip234) and several bells, including one associated what appears to be a twelve-way selective system telephone. The Great Western Railway developed these twelve-way selective system telephones but found that the complex arrangement resulted in cross ringing and that an eight-way selective system telephone was more reliable (see misc_equip233).

In the corner on the desk behind the operator is an electric telegraph hand set for tapping out messages in Morse code. For more information about Railway Telephones see 'Railway Telephones'.

Robert Ferris