Pearson Electrotechnology Centre

Telecommunications Museum a gateway to history

By Jim Morrison

The history of Canadian telecommunications hits you the moment you walk through the door at Pearson Electrotechnology Centre, in Lachine.

The museum, a 200 square foot room, displays telephones introduced in the 1890’s to present day.

The first exhibit, the 317AH Wall Mounted Telephone, was introduced to Canada in 1907.

Customers claimed that fragments of their conversation were lost, while the wooden box or wooden hand telephone was being transferred from mouth to ear. The 317A telephone had exposed terminals for connecting the telephone line and the receiver; these early models are easily recognized by their cathedral top located at the top rear of the phone.

The wiring was routed via grooves in the rear of the backboard. However, by 1910 wiring was changed so that no terminals were exposed and wiring grooves, along with cathedral top were eliminated.

An additional receiver-transmitter overcame this problem. The crank in the centre of the panel generated power to call the operator.

The Magneto Switchboard–150 Line Capacity switch board, used across Canada circa1920’s, is a key display for the museum. It allows telephone lines to terminate in the telephone office.

When a subscriber turned the crank on their phone, it generated a 20 Hertz ringing voltage to actuate a signal on the switchboard. The operator would see the signal operate and she would take a back cord, plug into the jack associated with the actuated signal and operate the front key towards the rear.

The museum is run by Ken Lyons and Bill Bartlett, centre director Richard Oliver, first director Paula Pedrosa and Neil MecPherson.

Ken Lyons began his career at Bell Telephone in 1962 at the Belmont building. He would go on to work at six different Montreal locations before retiring in 1999.

“I remember what employees who worked in the 1930’s said about the industry and it stuck with me,” said Lyons.

Cartierville native, Bill Bartlett began his career at Northern Electric in 1948. An Industrial engineer in communications, his first job was repairing radio equipment in automobiles. These experiences lead Bartlet to work on the maintenance of rotary phones during the 1950’s in the 500 series.

Bartlett produced a 40 year career working on the Solo desk project upon his retirement on January 15, 1988.

The Museum is open daily for tours, small or large groups, which lasts up to 90 minutes.

I am happy when I share my passion,” a beaming Lyons told The Suburban, preparing another tour for a group which entered thebuilding.

The Pearson Electrotechnology Centre’s Telecommunications Museum is located at 5000 Rene Huguet.

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