TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Old Party-Line Arrangements

Re: Old Party-Line Arrangements

George Kinder (
Mon, 07 Feb 2005 08:51:16 -0500

Paul Coxwell wrote:

> I'm interested in getting some more detailed historical information on
> the way party-lines were arranged years ago.

> Can anybody elaborate and explain in more detail the arrangements
> which were commonly used, both in the Bell System and in the larger
> independents?

> Thanks,

> Paul


I once lived in an area (1955) in West Virginia where pairs were
scarce. We were on a ten party line. Five ringers were tip-to-ground
and five were ring-to-ground. They used coded ringing to alert the
subscriber. (long-long, long-short, short-long, short short, etc.) To
get rid of the annoying rings I built a decoder out of old pinball
machine parts to screen the rings and connect my ringer only when my
code rang.

I do not recall any correlation between telephone number and ring cadence.

Eventually we got a 4 party line. On this one they used two phones on
each side of the line but used a small gas tube and a superimposed dc
voltage to select the appropriate ringer. I don't remember the


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