Were phones ever installed on BR trains?

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Yorkshire222, 8 Dec 2019.

  1. Yorkshire222

    Yorkshire222 Member

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    Reading a 1960 issue of Trains Illustrated, a letter makes interesting reading comparing then with now. (Perhaps in response to an article in a previous issue - but I don't have that one.)

    "Do you not realise that the telephone is the curse of the modern businessman's existence? Only in a railway train can he feel really free. Many businessmen travel by train for precisely this reason. No doubt this infernal contrivance will be forced on us and British Railways will be able to net a surprisingly good revenue from a supplementary charge for telephone-free trains. Railway journeys in this country are not long enough for a business executive to be worried that he is out of touch; rather, he welcomes the short break."

    Perhaps a previous article described continental practices as the Editor comments "all the best trains between Paris and Lille have telephones, which the French recently reported as being used about 30 times a day".

    Did BR ever install phones on trains?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 8 Dec 2019
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  3. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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  4. Smitham

    Smitham Member

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    I know that there were payphones on the mk4s in the early nineties. Not sure if there are any other instances.
     
  5. Failed Unit

    Failed Unit Established Member

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    The 158s had them. I suspect you can probably see where they used to be on the northern ones. Mk4s had a couple as well as other posters have said. Not sure about on NSE. Bet the 442s did.
     
  6. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Yes, in the DTFoL in the 442s. Mk3b "Pullman" FO also had them and I believe some RFM were also equipped.
     
  7. D2007wsm

    D2007wsm Member

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    Didn’t FGW HSTs have one near the buffet pre Dynamic Lines refurb by the buffet and one right at the far end of the last First Class carriage H at the time adjacent to the Power Car?
     
  8. Aictos

    Aictos Established Member

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    The 365s def had them fitted to a number of the class, not sure if to the ex Connex or ex GN ones as you can see where the phone booth was.
     
  9. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    All HST buffet cars ended up with one, and going off the 2003 Platform 5 about half the FGW TF had a payphone installed.
     
  10. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    Fairly sure I remember Virgin XC Mk 2 or Mk 3 stock having them. Young me asked the buffet steward guy why it didn't take coins...
     
  11. JonathanH

    JonathanH Established Member

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    166s as well - the location where the phone was installed is still obvious in the vestibule by the tables in the middle coach.
     
  12. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Both types had them, took BT phonecards only I believe.
     
  13. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    If you look very closely at the screen over the vestibule doors (the one where the WC light is) you can still just make out a phone symbol as well. I presume it would have lit up when the phone was in use?
     
  14. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    Only the Connex units AFAICR. I vaguely remember a trip to Ramsgate on one when virtually new, with the guard announcing that a phone was in working order.
     
  15. Failed Unit

    Failed Unit Established Member

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    That’s a test of the memory. I thought it was on if the phone had reception. Which. Crossing the pennies it often didn’t. Can’t remember getting cut off however. Saying that it was expensive. Your calls were pretty much. “Running late. Expected xxx”
     
  16. Trainfan2019

    Trainfan2019 Member

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    Might sound a daft question but how did phones on a train work and connect to the bt network?
     
  17. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    Ah that would make sense! I suppose I'm too spoiled by modern mobile networks where you've pretty much always got signal! :lol:
     
  18. swt_passenger

    swt_passenger Veteran Member

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    I don’t know what network they used, but I think you needed a high value prepaid BT phone card to use them. Remember them?
     
  19. Failed Unit

    Failed Unit Established Member

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    Just. I think it was cellnet as BT owned it.
     
  20. Aictos

    Aictos Established Member

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    You’re not a EE customer by any chance are you? :lol:
     
  21. Devonian

    Devonian Member

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    BT's 'Trainphones' were indeed connected to the Cellnet system, and introduced in 1984 on Intercity trains out of Paddington. They ate 'units' off phonecards at an alarming rate: at the time a 10p unit bought about 3 minutes in an ordinary payphone, but time bought on the train was in the range of seconds, so a Phonecard with plenty of units was essential for all but the briefest calls.
     
  22. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    Funnily enough I'm on Three which everyone always seem to complain about being dreadful! Perhaps I'm just lucky?!?
     
  23. 47271

    47271 Established Member

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    As I recall they were regular analogue Cellnet connections but metered, very expensively, via a standard BT Phonecard unit identical to those found in call boxes at the time. I only ever remember using one once, for the novelty as a child, on a Scotrail 158 around 1990 or so.

    Probably the most visible leftover signs of them up until a few weeks ago was in the Caledonian Sleeper mk2 lounges - the vestibule spaces had been left in tact and unused for the best part of 20 years, only the telephone equipment had been removed.
     
  24. D2007wsm

    D2007wsm Member

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    That would be about right then as the FGW HSTs used to have 2 TFs per set, so roughly half would be 1 TF per set. The of course one was removed per set and converted to Standard or Composite dependent whether it was a regular or micro buffet.
     
  25. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    They were so expensive.
    I remember ringing my mum from a train while on an All-Line in the early 90s and it caned an enormous amount of my money (on the pre paid card) in really not very much time.
    God it felt space age though!
     
  26. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Going through Platform 5, it seemed to be standard with all TOCs using Mk3s, Mk2e/f, Mk3a/b to have either the buffet, or buffet and a first equipped with a payphone.
     
  27. dubscottie

    dubscottie Member

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    I remember the mountains of the green BT cards that were discarded in Edinburgh Waverley.

    We used to pop them in the phone to see if there were any units left of any of them while my uncle went for a quick pint.

    IIRC you could stick in multiple cards with little on them and the call would not be disconnected.

    Like yourself we used the train phone as a novelty.

    Family lived under the Forth Bridge so we called them from the train to say we were passing soon and we would then hang out the window to wave to each other.
     
  28. GrimShady

    GrimShady On Moderation

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    The BBC Documentary - Inside Story which features 225s in the early days has two scenes with a German bloke using the phones to call in late to a meeting. The large que around him was amusing.
     
  29. pdeaves

    pdeaves Established Member

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    Going off on a slight tangent, I believe the royal train had a phone installed in the 1930s. Clearly that was a special case (did it connect via military radio wave bands, I wonder?), but phones on trains are much older than most of us realise!
     
  30. GusB

    GusB Established Member

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    I'm struggling to remember the denominations that the BT Phone cards were issued in (was it £1, £2, £5 etc...?), but you definitely needed one of the higher ones to make a call from an on-board payphone. I'd have been around 16 when I tried one on a 158 and phoned home for the novelty factor. The credits would disappear at an alarming rate!

    Did they sell phone cards from the trolleys at the time, or is that a false memory?
     
  31. GarethW

    GarethW Member

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    I’m sure they sold them in the buffets on the 442s at one stage.
     

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