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Western Electric field phone D86418


GaryX
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I have seen several of these Western Electric phones that appear from their construction to be of the WWI era, but I am wondering if they were used by the military or were civilian equipment in some capacity.  I am familiar with the EE-3, EE-5 and Camp Phones and this is very different, although the internal mechanism and case appear to be from this era.  One I saw had a paper inside that stated it had a patent pending from the late 1800's.  There are four posts for connecting line wires, and a plate stating how to use the four posts.  I have also seen a version that has two posts, but this was given the model number of 17C.  My question is this - was the Western Electric D86418 a field phone used by the military, perhaps in WWI?  I noticed that half of the phones I have seen on-line claim to be WWI sets, but that also means that half don't make that claim.  They do not have "Signal Corps" on them.  Thank you, anything you can tell me about these would be of great help as I do find them to be interesting and have considered purchasing one, but my interest is mostly in what the military used.  

Gary

Western Electric D86418.jpg

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Correction: there are actually 5 posts on these units, not 4.  In retrospect, these can operate as phones but I suspect that their primary purpose is as a line testers.  They are overly complicated to be just trench phones.  I am certain that there was line testing equipment in use by the American forces, as well as the French and British.  So perhaps the question is whether these were line testers that were used as part of WWI rather than if they were phones per se.  Western Electric also made the EE-5 phones, which were extensively used by the AEF.  

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  • 1 month later...

I have been fortunate to have discovered Telephone Collectors International (TCI), joined the organization, and accessed their library of phone and related information.  Researching Western Electric Telephone Apparatus and Cable catalogs, I have narrowed the date range for introduction of this piece of line testing equipment.  It does not appear in Catalog 8 from 1930.  It makes its first appearance in Catalog 9 from 1935.  So much for those sellers who think it was a WWI item.  What is interesting is that this unit (the D86418) is actually an improved version of the 1017 series of line testers that go back to at least Catalog 2, which was issued in 1908.  The 1017 series (aka "17") started as the 1017A around 1908, the 1017B appears c 1912 and 1017A is dropped, the 1916 catalog has 1017B,C and E (there is no version "D"), by 1935 1017 B has also disappeared with the catalog including 1017 C and E, and the curiously numbered D86418.  

 

The Western Electric portable line tester D86418 is a 1017E with an added "fault direction locating feature for use in testing open wire lines."  The quote is from the 1939 catalog.  This is accomplished by including "an exploring coil, special switching device and a modified circuit for controlling the test tone for the exploring coil." 

 

Although there is still no indication that these were ever used by the military, the question remains as to why it has a very unique designation (D86418) instead of just being given the next version format in the line and being named 1017F.   

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Buzzerphone

Well, actually this WE 1017 was used by Signal Corps lineman as a test set. 

WE 17 C test sets_us_phone_squad_01-a.png

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That is great to know.  This is the first I have seen anything linking the 1017 series of WE test sets to military use.   I have found a fair amount of information about field phones used in WWI, but these sources never mentioned line test sets even though they had to be used extensively.  Thank you for posting this.  

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I have recently seen on ebay a Western Electric 1017D-86418 with green paint like mine, that is, factory applied, inside and out before electrical components were added to the case.  This posting, however, included a case with "U.S."  printed on the outside.  The line tester was not visible in the case, but it appeared to be of the correct size.  This is the first I have seen a WE line tester offered with what appears to be a military case for it.    

Case.jpg

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12thengr

The bag shown is an 'ammunition bag'. I don't remember the nomenclature for it. It was used to carry all sorts of things, ammo clips, grenades, even a steel ammo box could be crammed inside. Not unlikely that an enterprising signal corp. man would carry various equipment in it but that's not the bags primary function.

 

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Thank you, that is good to know.  It makes the offering somewhat less attractive than if it were a bag manufactured for the WE 1017 D-86418 line tester specifically.   Had it been, the bag would have provided some provenance pointing this tester to military instead of civilian usage.   

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