Were phones ever installed on BR trains?

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

  1. RLBH

    RLBH Member

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    It may even have been simpler than that - hooking up a military radio to the local telephone exchange would have been a bit of a task in itself. More likely, I suspect, that the Royal Train carried a chap from the GPO with his tools and some bits of wire to hook up to the telephone network wherever the train happened to stop.
     
  2. pdeaves

    pdeaves Established Member

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    Could be. I confess I don't know if the intention was use on the move or not. Either way, the facility wasn't available to the general public until much, much later!
     
  3. Spartacus

    Spartacus Established Member

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    I'm sure that's exactly what I've read somewhere. The propensity for telegraph wires to follow railways would make it a fairly easy task, especially when overnighting locations are fully planned.
     
  4. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    As others have said they did eat the money off a BT phone card - think I tried one once in a 158 (yes, you can still see the area where the phone was installed in unrefurbed examples, between the 2 carriages I think sort of near where bike storage and the toilet is).

    Not sure if they worked with the other option BT offered in those days - which was use of a payphone with some sort of PIN that charged the call box call to you landline BT phone account.

    My mum, who worked a lot on the move and away from home used that system, and before that lots of BT phone cards that were then charged to expenses, for work calls when away from home.
     
  5. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    It I recall an old article correctly, it was hooked up to normal landline phone wires specially installed for the occasion by GPO linemen at a location when the train was known to be parked there or the night.
     
  6. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    Three can be dreadful speed wise but has pretty good coverage on account of its 800MHz 4G coverage. EE is arguably better, closely followed by Vodafone which is particularly good in the areas it has direct control of (mostly the west of England and south London and the city) compared to the sections it allows O2 to manage which are slow.
     
  7. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    I remember using a BT phonecard (the green things) on a West Coast InterCity journey from London to Liverpool LS. Either 1994 or 1995. Boy did it eat up units! But it was quite cool to call my dad and say "I'm on the train!". I think it was in the buffet car, though not 100% sure.
     
  8. GusB

    GusB Established Member

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    You're probably referring to the BT Chargecard. You could have them set up to allow any calls, or there was a restricted 'call home only' version.
     
  9. Merle Haggard

    Merle Haggard Member

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    I recollect that a TOPS enquiry for vehicle details (in BR days) produced data that included a phone no. in the case of buffet cars, but not sure whether this was the pay-phone or a staff phone.
     
  10. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    sounds probable now you mention it.
     
  11. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    Oddly enough that's the exact same circumstances I used one as well! Can't remember any other time.

    When were train phones axed?
     
  12. Midnight Sun

    Midnight Sun Member

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    The phones on the 442's were credit card or BT Chargecard only. 75p per minuite plus a 30p card fee (1988). Mobile calls cost between 75p-£1.50 per minuite depend on either of the two networks you were with and the contract you had.
     
  13. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    Ouch! According to an inflation calculator, that's the equivalent of £2 to £4 a minute today. It's amazing how cheap and accessible communication is now.
     
  14. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    Yeah I think that’s about right from memory. I’ve no idea when they finished though?
    Come on @hexagon789 you know this kind of thing. ;)
     
  15. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    I remember paying rather a lot of money on a sky phone to say 'I'm on a plane!', probably mid 90s, and now more recently you can Tweet that you're on a plane. Progress.
     
  16. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I recall there was a handset on a hook at the end of the buffet counter, with a full keypad like the mobiles of the time so probably not just an intercom. I think people were allowed to use it to phone forward if the service was badly delayed. So I suspect the system actually provided two "lines", one for staff and one for the payphone.

    Around the same time cabs were being equipped with the National Radio Network. This included the facility to call any NRN terminal from a phone on the railway telecom network, provided you knew the number of the terminal and which of about six regions it was currently in (different "area code" for each region). I think only one simultaneous connection of this type was possible within each region, so it obviously wasn't suitable for heavy use.
     
  17. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Do I? :oops::lol:

    Do you mean the last functioning ones on a UK train?
     
  18. Scotrail84

    Scotrail84 Established Member

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    All the old sleeper lounges used to have them, all the 67XX cars. The booth, if you could call it that was at the far end of the lounge next to the sliding vestibule door.
     
  19. dubscottie

    dubscottie Member

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    It was during WW2. Some poor sod from the GPO had to crawl across fields with cables to connect it up. I can look up the exact date in a book I have later.

    On the BBC "RailWatch" series the buffet staff had a sort of mobile device. It sent code (like a text) but not calls IIRC.

    The first stock I am aware of that had a proper "mobile" were the DBSOs when they went to Anglia. Much was made of them having "BT Cellnet phones" in the cabs.
     
  20. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    I also believe that, prior to even that, when the Royal Train was parked overnight the local post office was staffed throughout and a policeman was there with his bicycle ready to take telegrams to and fro :)

    In the USA you could send telegrams not only to a street address but also to a passenger in a train. A guy wrote in Trains magazine that he was travelling in the late 1940s to a railroad job interview in Chicago but the train was hours late so at a station he sent a telegram saying so. The reply of "no problem, see you when you get here" was telegrammed to an intermediate non-stop station, it was put up in the hoop along with the Train Orders, snatched on the fly by the conductor, and given to a brakeman to walk along the train and deliver it. It was addressed to "Mr X, Train 123 Eastbound, Car 8, Roomette 6". Not just railway business but anyone, financiers etc, who were travelling.
     
    Last edited: 11 Dec 2019
  21. Sad Sprinter

    Sad Sprinter Member

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    Remember my dad using the FGW pay phone in the early 00s to tell family we’d soon be arriving into Cardiff.
     
  22. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    Certain routes - even the local SAA - Watford branch had plug points and a portable phone set was carried on units , such that it was possible (if you knew where the plug points were , which was a stub off the track route internal telecom route was, often at stations) , hopefully plug in and ring an internal number on the railway system)

    Before the public had access - the first generation "mobile phones" - with a battery about the size of a jerry can were issued to the largely class 50 hauled trains from Exeter to Waterloo (phones handed over at Salisbury to the station staff for the next down train) , as in case of failure , out in the deep country , it could be a very long walk to any kind of signal telephone or landline. Around 198x - a good idea.

    I found the North London railway equivalent in a store room at Watford and asked if the Science Museum would like it , alas they already had a few. Went to the tip.
     
  23. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Yes, I recall an occasion on an HST that was heavily delayed, but I'd not have time to use a call box where I was changing trains to advise the person meeting me by car of the delay. I went to see staff to ask if there was any way to send a message and the guard told me I could use the handset on the buffet area that you describe so I could call from it. Probably in early 1990s
     
  24. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    It's amazing to think that not so long ago it was standard practice in rural areas that the way to get communication was to find a nearby house and ask nicely if the train crew could use their phone, or failing that find a phone box!
     
  25. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    There is an anecdotal story of a guard setting off across the Devonian countryside to a farm and getting lost on the return in the dark.
     
  26. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

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    Oh, so that’s who’s been living in my shed since 1982...
     
  27. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

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    Possibly a back story to that........around 1982/3 there was a heavy overnight snowstorm and just about every telegraph pole west of Salisbury was brought down.
    BR had to do a quick and dirty fix so just trailed a multicore cable loose alongside the line between the signal boxes. That cable remained seemingly untouched for at least ten years, and it wouldn't be surprising if the phones never got wired back in until the eventual resignalling.
    I remember that storm well - the roads were so bad I ended up commuting between Yeovil and Gillingham on a Honda C50 for a week, too much chance of crashing anything else
     
  28. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

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    Last edited: 19 Dec 2019
  29. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

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    just found this from 1978
    http://payphone.illtyd.co.uk/the-team

    the key point for this thread
    So that would have been the BT Cellnet analogue system
     
  30. TrafficEng

    TrafficEng Member

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    The Post Office were working on in-vehicle telephony in the 1960's and 70's. One of the problems was with handing the call from one mast to another as the caller travelled. Trivially easy now with cheap modern digital computing and communications, less so with the technology of the day.

    I know they experimented with equipment in parts of Suffolk not far from their base at Martlesham, but I've never seen anything published (or on the internet) giving details. It would make a very interesting story if any old PO/BT people are out there and feel like sharing.
     

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