F Telephone No. 1 - "Commonwealth Ericsson"


Telephone No. 1 - "Commonwealth Ericsson"

This phone is a slightly modified Ericsson Model AB530/535/590, a reliable and well made phone that had been in use in some of the colonies already in its earlier forms. Initially the standard Model AB535 was imported until 1905, but with experience the APO was able to specify some modifications to improve protection in lightning strikes. It was purchased in large numbers as the standard wall phone until 1911.

The handset and transmitter were connected in parallel rather than in series. The line terminals on the earliest versions were in lacquered brass, but this was changed to nickel plate. Line fuses were mounted internally.

Model AB530 had a 4-magnet generator and a ringer resistance of 300 ohms.

Model AB535 had a 4-magnet generator and a ringer resistance of 1000 ohms

Model AB590 had a 5-magnet generator and a ringer resistance of 2000 ohms

Earliest versions had a spearpoint crest, which seems to have been rather fragile. It was changed to a carved fleur-de-lis type crest, until about 1904 when it was changed to the simple stamped (?) crest as shown. The phones can be dated accurately from the serial number, which is stamped into the front edge of the shelf and covered by the door when it is closed. A list of serial numbers matched to dates of production is here. The timber was usually walnut, but oak was also used occasionally. Veneer was not used. The woodwork was french polished to a high gloss.

Until about 1904 the transfer on the battery cover was a plain Skeletal phone logo, but after this it was changed to the one shown with "L M Ericsson" and "Stockholm" at top and bottom. The battery cover was painted in a woodgrain finish with a wooden insert down the centre until about 1904, when it was changed to the all-steel cover . Bells were always nickel plated, never polished brass, with a raised dimple around the mounting hole.

Supplies came direct from Sweden for many years as the British Ericsson company had not yet been established. They were installed until the 1920s, when supplies of the Type 35MW British Ericsson arrived in quantity. The final deliveries came from Britain, and had an "Ericsson England" transfer on the bell motor cover.

The handset ranged from the early version with thick grooves on the grip to the 1904 model with fine-grooved ebonite grip and the slimmer transmitter. The cords were brown or green in a plaited multistrand design, and terminated on a 4-pin plug.

Some phones were fitted with an extra "bullring" or "mother in law" receiver , connected to the right hand side of the case and hung from the hook under the wriiting slope. The hook was not provided on all phones.

In the early years, customers were expected to provide their own instruments if they were more than a certain distance from the telephone exchange (eight miles, I believe). This may have been a measure of how far a Telephone Mechanic could travel by horse in a day (and still be back at the pub by knockoff time). Some of the best examples I have seen were privately purchased and lovingly maintained for nearly a century.

The phone gave excellent service, being able to work across very long, poor standard rural phone lines. It managed to survive lightning strikes well, and needed little maintenance apart from replacement batteries every so often. A surprisingly large number survived well into the 1980s and even the early 90s, when automation finally made them redundant. About the only major problem they had was cracking of the timber panels in the dry heat of the Australian summer.

The phone was renumbered Type 131MW in the late 1930s.













Left: AB535, early version with "fishtail" base and early handset

Centre: 1904 version with plain base and later handset

Right: British Model N2300, about 1918. The illustration shows a woodgrain finish on the battery cover, but this would have been discontinued by the end of the First World War.


The circuit diagram shows the simplicity of what was, for its time, a fairly sophisicated piece of machinery. Note also the handwritten "MW1". This stands for Magneto Wallset No 1 and marks the introduction by technicians (then called Electrical Mechanics) of a shorthand naming system of their own.














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