TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Public Wireless Phones on Trains?

Public Wireless Phones on Trains?
11 Jan 2005 08:07:17 -0800

In the early 1990s, public wireless payphones were installed on some
commuter and intercity railroad trains as a convenience to passengers.
Initially they were pretty popular. In NYC, the Metro North RR put
them on as many trains as possible. Amtrak provided them as well.
Calls were paid for credit card at about $1/minute.

Now with personal cell phones so popular, would anyone know if the
public wireless phones remain available on trains?

Some history:

In the 1920s, major passenger trains had telephones that were
connected to a city system by a plug/jack when the train paused in a
station, allowing passengers to make city calls. On major trains,
staff would receive and send telegrams for passengers. Until the
1950s, telegrams were an important way to transact long distance
business due to the high cost of voice telephone and delay in setting
up the call.

In the late 1940s, some trains got public radio telephones. I've seen
such phones on trains in the 1960s, but I don't know how long the
older systems remained in service for public use.

In 1969, the Metroliner entered service. This had phone service,
introducing direct-dial for mobile service. Calls were paid in coin
or calling card about $3 for three minutes. (Keep in mind in 1969
Touch Tone and pay phone direct dialing was still new technology.)
Land phones could also call the train and passengers paged to take a
call. A few years later, the govt pulled the frequencies for other
uses, and the original Metroliner cars were replaced by newer cars;
the phone booths remained but were not working.

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