The Western Electric Model 265

This interesting little phone is one of the local designs produced in Europe, but apparently never sold back in the United States. It looks like a direct descendent of the big WE "fiddleback" Model 85 of 1895 .

The long case version of the phone, shown below, is the European equivalent of the Type 85. The illustration shows it as a magneto phone with a very early folded steel transmitter mount that was abandoned in the late 1890s, and the ornate top woodwork crest that is typical of the range. The crest seems unique to the European phones and appears to be an attempt by Bell Telephone Manufacturing of Antwerp to match the styling of the other European phones of the time. The model is listed in Ron Knappen's "Old Telephones" as 1904, but this is the date of the catalog from which his illustration came. A starting date in the late 1880s would be closer, taking into account the style of the transmitter bracket. An early catalog illustration in Andrew Emmerson's book "Old Telephones" shows a small "chesspiece" of turned wood at the top of the crest as an extra decorative touch.















Left: U.S. version of the long case WE Model 85

Right: European CB version. Note the ornate transmitter mount and peg for an extra receiver. The phone looks far more stylish with simple changes to the woodwork.


The 265, as shown at the top, first appears in the catalogs of the National Telephone Company of Britain as their Telephone No. 15. It is listed as having been available until 1898 (when National changed to Ericsson phones). The Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company and its successor, Western Electric, were still making the large three-box Blake phones at this time. They did not buy a factory in Britain until 1898, so who made the Model 265 phones for them?

From the mid 1900s GEC, and later its subsidiary company Peel-Conner, was producing their model K8160 which is almost the same phone as the 265, apart from slightly different woodwork. It used an Ericsson handset with a WE capsule transmitter on a Peel Conner cradle in their catalog illustration, but in practice most seem to have been fitted with Ericsson cradles. The difference is minor - the Ericsson cradle has a square head at the top of the pillar, the PC has a grooved horizontal cylindrical head. It is this combination of Ericsson cradle and handset that seems to have given rise to the idea that the phone is an Ericsson, but Ericsson never produced it. All these phones I have been able to examine are fitted with Western Electric generators, switchhooks and transmitters. The National at the time was buying phones from both GEC/Peel-Conner and Western Electric. GEC / Peel-Conner also produced the bigger Model 85 magneto wall phone, and the K8160 in a separate transmitter / receiver version.



Above: Peel Conner K8160 catalogue illustration of their handset model. Note the distinctive Peel Conner top to the pillar, which does not appear to have made it into production. The backboard on the Peel Conner models is a little wider than the WE version. The phone was also sold to the Hull Corporation, another British telephone service.


Left: Comparison of the WE265 on left and the Peel Conner on right. Note the deeper bottom box on the WE, and the wider woodwork on the Peel Conner. The shorter backboard on the PC has been achieved by mounting the transmitter bracket higher. Because of their superficial similarity, they seem to be regarded by collectors as a single model.








The exact relationship between GEC / Peel-Conner and Western Electric is lost in the mists of time and company takeovers, but GEC and Peel-Conner produced many Western Electric parts and phone designs. It seems quite possible that they either redesigned and produced the model for Western Electric, or built it to WE specifications, or continued to build it as their own model after WE discontinued it. The practice of using Ericsson parts was common among many manufacturers until they could set up their own production facilities, and many catalog illustrations exist of WE phones with Ericsson parts..

Peel Conner-sold their phone overseas during their history, and the K8160 in both versions and the Model 265 are known from Australia, South America, and South Africa.

The WE phones were upgraded with the Delville transmitter, then the Solid Back. The original Model 122 outside terminal receiver seems to have been replaced with whatever was lying around when it failed. The transmitter bracket was changed to the plain rectangular WE style around the late 1890s.

In 1912 the National Telephone Company was compulsorily bought out by the British Post Office. The National phones were taken into the BPO inventory as their Tele No. 1. The BPO was now buying the simpler flat-topped WE model, the Model 312, so the 265 was gradually retired from service.

In 1917 and 1922 (the dates on the circuit diagrams) some were refurbished and reissued to fill post-War needs. Tele No. 79 was a "Special Fire Telephone for CB Exchanges", and Tele No 81 was its magneto equivalent. The newer smaller magnetos could be fitted into the old CB case quite conveniently, although some may also have been originally made up as magneto phones late in their history. In the master phones at the fire station a very large generator was used, requiring an extension to the case. These were built into the Model 85 long case. The CB exchanges referred to were the Fire Station switchboards, not the public telephone exchanges.










Left: Original version, early transmitter mount

Centre: Peel Conner version with different base scallop, handset, and wider backboard.

Right: Final WE version with simple transmitter mount, painted steel metalwork and solid back transmitter










Left: Delville transmitter. This phone is from South America, and may have been produced under license. It more clearly shows the deeper bell housing and bigger writing slope.

Right: The Model 312 that replaced them all from about 1904.










Left: Model 265 circuit diagram

Right : BPO tele No 79 circuit.













Left: BPO Tele No 81 Fire phone based on a longer case model so far unidentified. Note the add-on cover for the large generator used to signal all the fire phones on a circuit.

Centre: Ex-national model from the Hull Corporation, refitted with a dial.

Right: The Model 85 was often rebuilt as an intercom phone. Note the visual indicator at the top left to signal a call from the exchange, and the drop shutter at the base to signal a call from the extension.The extra set of gongs just visible under the writing slope is for calls from the extension phone.

All these phones are quite well known in Australia, and were apparently imported in large numbers before Federation. Following Federation they were replaced by the simpler model, as in Britain. The Peel Conner phones appear to be quite rare, but may simply have been misidentified as WE or Ericsson for the reasons given above. It is possible that Peel Conner phones were built under license in Australia, but I have not been able to confirm this.

Many of the phones branded with the National Telephone Company logo have been repaired with Ericsson parts, further adding to the confusion. These repairs probably date to the last days of the National, when they were keeping their phones going by refurbishing them at Beeston for as long as possible before the BPO takeover.



Bateman J History of the Telephone in NSW

Emmerson A Old Telephones

Knappen R Old Telephones

Peel Conner catalogue 1912 courtesy Linley Wilson

Bob Freshwater's Telephone File website

Meyer Ralph O. Old Telephones! Technology Restoration and Repair

Special thanks to Lawrence Rudolf for the photos of phones in British collections

There are still many gaps in the information on this phone.

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