Based on the American made Western Electric 55X series rotary wall phone, this example represents the Canadian made equivalent. Produced by ITT in Canada either for of under sub-licence to Northern Telecom, these are generally indistinguishable from their US counterparts. This style is also equivalent to the well known and once very popular Western Electric 500x rotary desk phone, also made by Northern Telecom/Northern Electric (and ITT). Every household in the 1970s had one. The internals are mostly the same, allowing for easy parts interchangeability between styles.
Northern Telecom later became Nortel and was at one time a huge employer and a darling of the technology sector. The firm has since fallen from grace (many times). Of course there are the Western Electric versions of this phone too which sometimes show up in Canada. In the end it does not matter who made it or what era its from as everything is for the most part interchangeable.
The example here was made in 1976, but the design dates from the mid 1950s and was produced at least into the 1980s. It was offered in many colours with black of course being the most common. However it was also produced in a nice red, a very retro-cool mustard yellow, a lime green and countless others. Wow, some were stunning and others were so loud! The coloured ones are rarely seen today and I believe some are very, very rare. It’s not clear if Northern Telecom produced all the colours offered by its US counterpart but I suspect no. Demand was certainly much smaller in Canada making it uneconomical to produce anything but the most popular shades.
This phone has some wonderful retro salmon coloured paint splotches on the chassis, case and cord, due to some sloppy wall painting. These add so much character and were retained. This particular phone arrived in fairly good condition, with the aforementioned paints marks and some minor scratching as the only visible flaws. It also had some kinks in the handset cord. The client wished to keep all these for a slightly distressed look and I like that too.
Internally this was a simple rebuild, with only some minor rewiring, cleaning and adjusting of components needed, These phones are so well made, they’re built like a battleship, and so most parts require only minor fiddling. And if not, nearly every component can be rebuilt in-kind. An old donor phone was used to provide some minor parts and bits to this project.
Like all the rotary phones from this series, this one has a ringer that would wake the dead. Even at it’s lowest setting, it’s loud!
Wall phones today are pretty rare and this makes it a nice change of pace from the numerous desk versions I see.
If you have an old rotary or push button phone, or other vintage electronic device you’d like fixed or rebuilt, click here to reach Chris.
To see some other phones I’ve fixed, follow these links…
Automatic Electric 80 and Northern Electric WE500 phones rebuilt.
KTAS D08 phone rebuilt.
Date: October 2012.
Location: Calgary Alberta.