A Home Payphone

We can’t condone what [Bertrand] did as a kid to make him a fan of payphones, but we get his desire to have one of his own in his home. Even if you don’t want one yourself, he’s got some good shots of the insides of a real phone that came from a casino in Vegas.

As you might expect, these phones were built like tanks. They obviously took a lot of abuse. We had to wonder how much each one cost to produce back in the day. Cleaning up an old phone and getting it to work doesn’t seem like a big effort, but there’s one thing we didn’t think about. Turns out there is a backplate that holds the 50-pound phone up and you need special studs that screw into the phone to hold it up while you put screws through both pieces.

He did connect the phone successfully to a regular phone jack, but his goal was to let his 5-year-old use the phone so he decided to actually wire it to a phone line simulator that just provides a connection between two phones.

New York City recently ripped out its last payphones. They were replaced with multipurpose kiosks, but there are still privately-owned payphones in the city. Of course, you can always use an old payphone as a platform for a different project.

9 thoughts on “A Home Payphone

  1. I did the same thing…bought one off eBay. Mine is a 3-slot rotary dial one, made by Automatic Electric. It’s been gutted to make it compatible with a normal phone line (the coin relay has been removed and it’s been rewired to have dial tone present all the time). The coin slots still work, the coins “ding” as they go in, and they end up where the coin vault was. I’ve replaced it with a tea tin. It also has a bell added so it rings on incoming calls. You can find them unmodified, but there were businesses in the 70s-80s that bought up loads of them and resold them. If you get an unmodified one, there are circuit boards you can add to control the payphone functions.

    Anyhow, I have a VOIP line and wanted to hook it up. Along with some other phones. I discovered that not all VOIP boxen support pulse dialling, and many don’t have the “oomph” to drive a real bell. The solution turned out to be a Panasonic mini-PBX. Panasonic made a number of these, the KX-TA616 being one of the most popular. I got a KX-TAW848, which can handle up to 48 extensions and 8 incoming lines. Rotary or tone dialling, or Panasonic’s “digital hybrid” feature phones.
    The programming software is hard to find on the web, so make sure the seller provides it. Each extension has a number, and you can configure which ones have access to the outside line.

    Mine is set up to use the VOIP line as the incoming line and I have a number of extensions, all old Western Electric rotary and tone phones. The payphone is one of these and it works perfectly. I have it mounted to the wall in my basement workroom. The grandkids are coming next month, so we can try it out. My wife likes the old dial phone in the kitchen — she says it sounds so much better than the cordless portable; proving again that nothing beats Genuine Bell phones!

    Classic Rotary Phones Forum has lots of tips if you’re into old phones, and there are a couple of online merchants who sell parts for old (US) phones. I’ve had good service from both Old Phone Works and Old Phone Shop.

    1. I’d like to see someone take one of the early touch tone phones like a Western Electric 2500 and replace the front panel with a color touch screen display.

  2. I like it , even though my names not mike. then again if you asked me my name for a recording i would just tell you where I’m at.
    *********** Seriously it was a very good story and cool use of older style phones . your daughter is lucky ****************

  3. I have two pay phones that have lived in several houses/apartments with me now. I never bought that wall mounting bracket or the special studs to mount it. I just took the front off and drove a couple of large bolts into the stud with a socket drill. Easy every time. Just don’t tell my landlords.

  4. I traced the outline of the phone and the holes in its backplate onto a piece of scrap 3/4″ MDF, then cut it out with a jigsaw.
    Sunk four blind nuts into the back for the phone mounting bolts, and drilled more holes for the stud attachment screws.
    One more large hole for the RJ and it was done. I sprayed the edge of the MFD with black paint to match the phone.

    They were asking $100 or so for an “official one” :-)

  5. We still have pay phones, except they are free to use. The business model which had someone go around and collect dwindling money, vandalism from people trying to get the money Vs the publc phone booth as advertising space. The phone booths just got bigger. They require a work in ng phone in them to be a public phone, I have yet to see someone use these free public phones.

  6. Add me to the list. Bought my wife a reproduction UK phone booth (wood, not metal…sigh). Added a US payphone inside. had it connected but no one used it and rather than move the wiring when I moved the booth the other side of the room I just left it decorative.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.