Western Electric 161A Paystation

Published: 12/14/2017

The Western Electric 161A is a very rare piece of telephone/payphone history. It marks a major point of transition of the payphone when it came to the Bell System. The 161A is part of the first series of pay stations that was made by Western Electric. It is very interesting to study how for many years they built on the 161 series making changes and improvements that went into subsequent models, all the way until the 1960s.

The 161A was made by Western Electric once they broke away from Gray after Gray's patents ran out. The 161A was built in the image of the Gray 150G. The main difference is that the phone is completely made from Western Electric parts. On the inside it looks very much like a 150G. The chute on the inside of the upper housing is styled differently from Grays. On the outside note the Western Electric Company Inc. inscription on the lower housing above the vault door, the Gray 150G would have had an inscription for both the Gray and Western Electric companies both of which had parts in the machine. The back of the pay station also looks very different from the Gray. The back plate of the Gray is cast iron and has a couple vertical ribs that go from the top the the bottom to help strengthen it. The back plate of the Western Electric (161A) is made of steel and has 4 vertical and several diagonal ribs to add strength. In fact all the housing parts of the Western Electric 161A are made of steel. The coin gauge is stamped stainless steel, the Gray would have had a molded bronze one.

The Western Electric 161A, is a 5 cent automatic prepay pay station. This is it takes a minimum of 5 cents to make any kind of a call including a call to the operator. It is automatic because you can make a call without the need for an operator, it has a dial. It is pre-pay because you have to put a coin in before you can make a call. The 161A is wired for anti-side-tone, note the connection for a black wire along with the red yellow and green on the wood terminal strip, similar to the black lead on a 202 or 151AL candlestick phone that goes to the subset.