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How to open a Western Electric Payphone Vault No Key Offical Version Single slot

Started by Payphone installer, December 30, 2016, 08:27:18 PM

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Payphone installer

I have read many versions of opening a W/E payphone single slot with no keys so I thought I would post the Bell System method.

Payphone installer

we used to copy sheet number one and tape it to the door then drill,it worked every time.


In what situation would the phone company not be able to get into the vault ?


The More People I meet, The More I Love, and MISS My Dog.  Dan Robinson


Quote from: Dan/Panther on January 15, 2017, 11:37:38 AM
In what situation would the phone company not be able to get into the vault ?


When someone tried to break in to steal the coins and mangled the lock?

Payphone installer

There were many reasons that you could not get in a payphone lock. The first level of resolving a lock problem was by using a pic set that included two tools or pics that had hooks on the end that were good at removing foreign objects. Foreign objects included,gum,toothpicks,glue,wire, and anything else that people could find to stick in the lock. Also lock damage due to robbery attempt. The most common reason was due to lock malfunction do to coin collector error. The 14A type lock was the first in the 14 series and was introduced at the time of the new 3 slot Western Electric vault door or what we know as the flat door with no trim around the edge. The 14A unlike the 14B,C or D can be spotted right away by the round key head versus the round and falt key head like on a 29A key. The 14A had a snatch feature build in the lock which was fixed. Meaning there was not way to release it once it was triggered. What triggered it was the insertion of any key other then the one that was supposed to be in the lock. So when the coin collector was on a route he had a route book and a key ring. The keys were on the key ring lock in the same order as the pages in the route book. The order and phones on the route were determined by the collection interval. The coin collector was always supposed to check the route page and match the key number before inserting the key,all this being associated with the phone number. The lock key shackle was a long pad lock that came in several lengths depending on the route size. Shackles were also carried,small ones by installers for removals,moves or changes. As the route was collected the keys were moved from one side of the shackle to the other,so one side of the lock was collected phones the other side were uncollected phones. This should match the route book which had a large rubber band that held in place collected versus uncollected route book pages. So if the collector took time to make sure the collected versus uncollected matched in both places and check the phone number on the phone he was collecting all was well. But if he or she got in a hurry failed to move the key to the collected side and pushed the wrong key in the lock the lock grabbed the key. It would turn half way then not go forward or back. Now we have a problem. The coin collector does not have the key to the shackle and the key on the shackle is not coming out of the phone. So the collector is told to break off the key in the lock. But the problem is bigger then that. There were to keys to every payphone. Two keys only. One key was kept at the Public Telephone Office (PTO) the other key was kept at security. If one key broke or was damaged the remaining lock and key were destroyed by hammer on a steel table. So when the collector broke off the key in the lock he now ruined one lock and made another lock on the route have only one key. The phone with the broke off key in the lock now had to be drilled. And the other lock with one key had to be changed and destroyed. I remember being told by the foreman that if we found any lock with a round key or a 14A which you could not tell when it was in the phone except for the key being round,to turn it in for replacement. So now you understand why there are so few 14A locks and way payphones had to be drilled. As a side note one of the reasons that you always see W/E payphone locks with one key was because the other key resided in the security department. When the locks were junked they never went and retrieved the second key. Most W/E locks you see today have one key. When I was in the PTO I was a manager I instructed that the public telephone office retrieve the second key from security and that they match them up and sell to to a refurbisher. To my knowledge I was one of the only managers to ever do that. There were 5,000 locks that were sold to a refurrbisher. I then called Paul Valverchak who then purchased the locks from the refurbisher. Paul is gone now and all the locks were sold over time. So when you see a lock out there with two keys you now know where it came from.


Jim - This is great detail!  Thanks for taking the the time to post this.  There is nothing like history from the first-hand account of someone who was there.


The majority of my 30 type locks I had both keys for.  The operating company I got them from didn't keep the second set off site, just in a different physical location than the route set.  In this case, the route set was at the coin tech's house and the spares were in a storage unit about 100 miles away.  When the phones were pulled from service, he gave me both keys with the phones.  When we helped clean out those storage units during a massive downsize there quite a few spare 30A/B/C locks in a box that had both keys zip tied to them.  At one point I think I had over 200 locks and around 1000 keys, but I've sold off pretty much all of them that I consider"extra" by now.