Exchange [Telephone Exchange]

Maker and role
Western Electric Company, Manufacturer
Production date
See full details

Object detail

Accession number
Production period
Telephone Exchange - Model "Western Electric USA".
This model was built from 1920s components from the Mt. Eden 1 parts in 1987 by several New Zealand Post and Telegraph technicians. The exchange is supported on an iron frame. This rectangular iron box frame is approximately 1500 mm high and rests on 4 rubber wheels mounted in the corners. The wheels are 100 mm in diameter. The exchange is contained in a small room which sits on the iron frame base.

The front of the exchange has 3 Perspex doors, height 920 mm x length 920 mm. These 3 doors can be lifted out for access to the system. The right hand end of the exchange has a wooden panelled door with 2 metal cup handles for lifting the door off to gain access to the central corridor of the exchange. The electrical switches and wires are all on the left side of the corridor as you enter the exchange. This affords access to the back of the system. The left hand side of the exchange has a glass window for light. The framework of the exchange is steel construction. There are metal lifting rings at each end of the iron frame. Apart from the glass portions, the roof, sides and back are covered in plywood.

Using genuine parts sourced from the dismantled Western Electric System at Mount Eden Exchange, this model and a similar one, now in storage at Ferrymead Museum, Christchurch, took over a year to complete. The Western Electric Rotary System was a mechanical first, and was originally installed at Mount Eden, Auckland in 1924 and maintained in working condition for 60 years. These Western Electric Systems installed throughout the larger towns and cities of New Zealand in the 1920s, represented the first chance for New Zealand subscribers to be able to dial their own calls and discard the various wooden and metal crank phones, that connected to manually operated switch-boards, with their array of plugs and long connecting cords.

It is believed that very few examples of this early telephone system exist, except possibly in Britain and Scandinavia. The model, now operational, will work from the mains voltage power supply lowered to provide 50 volts direct current.
Brief History
Western Electric Company rotary telephone exchange equipment was installed in large New Zealand centres from the early 1920s. Rotary exchanges gave New Zealanders their first self-dial phones, removing the need to first connect with an operator to make a phone call. This equipment was in use for 60 years before being replaced by mechanical designs which have now, in turn, been replaced by solid-state exchanges.
Other name
Rotary exchange
Credit Line
Western Electric Company. 1987. Exchange [Telephone Exchange], 2003.445. The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).


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