Give me your wrecks, your damaged, your battered phones yearning to ring free!

Berliner wreck
Berliner wreck
Berliner puzzle
Berliner puzzle

Damaged beyond repair, but I want them anyway. Yes, broken phones, or plain scrap as my wife calls them, are always welcome. They are a good source of hard to find parts and sometimes you can learn something from them too. A couple of weeks ago I got this box of bits and pieces. It once was a, now very rare, TEFAG Berliner single line desk phone. Somebody contacted me and gave it to me for free.

Sad remains of a rare beast

Berliner wreck innards
Berliner wreck innards

Well, there it is: shards, loose wires, missing bits. On the other hand a handset, a dial, screws, a wiring loom. This TEFAG Berliner is very rare. It was mainly used before WW2, mostly in the the Hague area. After refurbishment multi line versions were used by PTT well into the 1960s. It was once an iconic phone in the Netherlands, about which I already wrote a blog before and I did a restoration report on one. Or rather how I made one good one out of two incomplete ones.

Berliner desktop inside
Berliner desktop inside

A lot of it is missing: speaking coil, hookswitch, innards of the handset are all gone, feet, fastening bolts for the body shell, shaft of the cradle that actuates the hookswitch, line cord, one of the bolts that holds the dial, strain relief bracket for the line cord as well as the line cord itself and of course a huge chunk out of the side.

Beyond restoration: how broken is broken?

Is it beyond restoration? Well, anything can be restored. The question is, how much work do you think you are prepared to spend on it, assuming you have the skills? Bolts can be found, I may even have a source for the right electrical components for this phone. But for me the biggest problem is the damaged body shell. Putting that back together without the cracks showing would be no mean feat, even though I have some experience in repairing bakelite. The major problem with this phone is the big piece missing from the right side. I could attempt restoring it, but I am not confident I would be satisfied with the end result and I would have to put in a huge lot of time. So for now, no. And these parts are needed on restoring other specimens of this family of phones. For example my wall model is missing its original wiring loom.

Educational

Berliner rear louvres
Berliner rear louvres

There isn’t much information around on these TEFAG telephones. Not many were made and even less are still around. You cannot find much information on them on the net. Initially I thought this one would be the same as the one I had already, but when it arrived it turned out to be somewhat different. The cradle has a different shape, but also the back has some kind of louvres moulded into the bakelite, although there are no openings. I am not sure what they are for, but it suggests there is yet another version, not yet observed by me, where these do have a function. Also, the earthing button is of a different colour and shape than on the specimen already in my collection. I’m not sure what this means yet and how to put these differences in chronological order. But I’m sure new finds in the future will shed more light on these matters.

Same problem, different telephone

Siemens & Halske VSa tist 90 c
Siemens & Halske VSa tist 90 c

Another rare gem that has seen better days. It is missing it’s speaking coil, handset, dial and again there is a big piece of bakelite missing from the housing. It was also given to me by another collector. A nice project for you, he said. It is a so called Bonsai telephone, a Siemens & Halske VSa tist 90 c. It is highly unlikely that I will find another one, without paying a lot of money. It is a derivative of the Modell 27/W28 and the missing bits are easily replaced. So in this case I will attempt restoring it. It will be quite a challenge to restore that broken body shell. Although the phone is in similar condition as that Berliner, I reached a different decision with regards to restoring it.

My reference phone: let’s restore it anyway

S&H VSa tist 66cM
S&H VSa tist 66cM

And here is another beauty that is past its prime. I bought it as a restoration project on the internet, but when it arrived it turned out to be suffering from heavy oxidation. Nevertheless I recognised it as a very very early specimen of this classic Siemens & Halske model. As it was complete and original, except for the missing handset and cords, I decided to keep it. I used it as a reference phone for restoring other ones and if necessary a source of parts. As I learned more and more about this particular model in through the years it dawned on me that it was one of the very first ones ever produced! So now I am thinking of restoring it, as I think it is worth the trouble. When I do, I will write a restoration report about it. 🙂

Grief and relief

Please don’t get me wrong: these damaged, neglected and maltreated phones do not make me happy at all. “Oh goody, spare parts!” is not my first thought when seeing these ruined telephones. It makes rather sad instead. I wish these phones to be in one piece, without too must rust. On the other hand I am of course glad to have these spare parts. And I am glad these busted up phones did not get thrown away, as so often is the case. Things being as they are, they will come to good use. Fortunately.

So, a mixture of sadness and relief. You probably know the feeling.

What is your wreck of the month?

Berliner wreck
Berliner wreck

Donations are not my only source of debris. I have dropped one once, with disastrous consequences. But most of the time a person puts a perfectly fine telephone in a box, ships it and when it arrives it has turned into 3d puzzle. Much to the surprise of the sender just writing “fragile” on the box, or just adding 2 piece of newspaper or wrapping the phone in a grocery bag was not enough. Did you ever have a wreck of the month?

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