21 Oct – Press Button B!

I have walked past the old GPO phone box at the Racecourse Station times without number. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noted the mechanism therein was the old Press Button A & B type which, for those of my generation (or older!) is nowadays quite an evocative sight.

The phone box itself is, of course, an icon of British design almost a century old. There are several different variants but the fundamental cast iron style – by renowned architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – remained very much the same for many decades, though I gather the gold crown was a marginally later addition.

One mustn’t, of course, allow too rose-tinted or sentimental a view of their functionality to develop. Younger readers may never have had the dubious pleasure of trying to find an empty, functioning call box on a busy railway concourse – only to discover one didn’t have the right change or that the kit wasn’t working! That of course wasn’t the fault of the box, rather the mechanism within. Equally, some of the more remote boxes were apparently used for activities other than phone calls though not, I am sure, any at Cheltenham Racecourse Station!

Assuming they were working, my distant recollection is that money was inserted first, then Button A pressed if you were connected and Button B only to retrieve one’s coin if the call was unsuccessful. Some readers may perhaps remember entering empty phone boxes simply to press Button B and see if anyone had left a coin in by mistake?!

Later these handsome structures tended to disappear from many railway stations to be replaced with more utilitarian concrete and plastic variants or, as we now have, virtually no phone boxes at all. The ubiquitous mobile – vastly more capable and flexible – has displaced almost all of them. But it is surely doubtful that many of those will remain usable in a 100 years time.

So perhaps then, the red phone box and its Button A&B mechanism is the steam engine of the telecomms world? Possibly, but it is difficult to imagine anyone running a charity simply to have them in use.  Anyway, since it is an attractive feature of our Station, and as it allegedly weighs in at over a ton, it should be a permanent fixture!

And as for today’s report: more rain and more pine needles!

No, seriously here’s an input from Dave T:

I don’t think a report of my (successful) efforts to unblock the urinal pipes in the gents are for the faint-hearted – yeucccch! I made up for it by having a ginormous smokey bonfire. Chris put the billy goat up and down the ramp and then did some platform weeding. Roger did some more paintwork rubbing down and at tea break provided us all with birthday cake! Mike swept a bit and made the tea. Bob came along to put more bulbs in the Platform 2 garden.



3 thoughts on “21 Oct – Press Button B!

  1. Lovely column Tim. Wonderful structures those telephone boxes. You imply that something other than a phone call was made from time to time. !!!


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