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Western Electric Model 554 Wall Phone – Something Different

From a recent eBay purchase this 1958 Western Electric Model 554 wall phone looked promising. From the eBay description and the answers provided by the seller it had the potential to be a very nice Vintage Rotary Phone. But a couple of questions that were not asked were, “….have there been any modifications to the electrical components? Has the network block been removed and some type of transformer added?” That is exactly the case here. This is something I have never seen before. But then again, I’ve only looked inside a hundred or more of these. Apparently along the way an “after market” modification was made to this phone. I have no idea what the application was or what function it performed. I think that had Western Electric made this modification the 554 A/B designation would have been changed. Also the transformer looks relatively modern compared to the vintage June of 1958 parts of this phone. If someone out there has a thought about this unusual modification, I’d love to hear from you.

7 responses to “Western Electric Model 554 Wall Phone – Something Different”

Dennis, you’re overlooking the obvious. Your 554 clearly got past the guards at Area 51, and represents an attempt to reverse-engineer an alien communication device!
Or not.

You know Mark, I think you’re on to something! I never ever thought of that. I will say that it was a surprise when I took the cover off the phone. I have seen split networks on model 500’s but nothing like this modification. But it wasn’t as bad as having something that moves come crawling out!

Dennis – Since the output of the transformer is hooked directly to the handset cord, I suspect that this phone was modified for someone who is hard of hearing – the transformer would be used to boost the audio output to the earpiece. Just a guess on my part though – the alien communication device theory sounds much more interesting.

Many years ago I worked for the old General Telephone in Orange County, California (this would be in the mid ’60’s) GTE made a phone for hard of hearing people – they had a thumbwheel volume control in the handset. (available at an extra charge, of course) The installers called them “deaf amps”.

Oops, almost forgot — Great Site!

Thanks Dave for your comment and compliment! I’m sure you’re correct about the added parts on this phone. It is not something that I have seen before so perhaps this was done some years after Ma Bell took care of these phones, but obviously by someone that knew what they were doing. Western Electric also had a modulated handset with a thumb wheel under the handle. I think it has a G6 designation. Here is what Paul Fassbender says on his site:

G6: Impaired Hearing – receiver amplifier and volume control in handset. G6B (late) and G6BM have a 0.02mf cap across terminals R and G. G6AR has a single stage transistorized amp. (See G66.) Introduced in 1961.

Dennis

By the look of the transformer, my guess is this phone resided on a parallel two wire network with other phones to simply play pre-recorded message loops and nothing else. That transformer looks like a 70 Volt commercial sound type. Good for playing music, etc. at long distances with nominal impedance losses. Just a guess…

Thank you Eric for posting that information. I kind of threw that chassis aside and didn’t investigate any further. It sounds like you know what you’re talking about and I’ll take your word for it! Anything is possible with these old phones, especially once the phone company no longer controlled them and the public was free to do what they wanted with them. Thank you for your time in posting that information!
~Dennis

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