Australian Post Office
Telephone No. 38AT

Telephone, Automatic, Table

The 38AT and the 138AT were the standard PMG automatic (dial) telephone introduced with the new automatic exchanges installed from 1922.  This type was superseded by the introduction of the 162AT in the 1930's but many still remained in service until the late 1940's.

The Telephone No. 38AT had a solid back transmitter, while the Telephone No. 138AT was fitted with a Transmitter, Inset No. 13 in a Bakelite housing.

The telephones can also be found in small numbers with Dial No. 24 and a metal cased Bellset.

The first automatic candlesticks were introduced around 1902, generally fitted with the Solid Back transmitter as shown. The style was similar in construction to the Type 36, but a raised mounting at the front held the dial. With the later Bakelite housing and Siemens inset transmitter, it was reclassified as the 138AT. As usual it was associated with a wooden bell box that held the induction coil and bell ringer, connected to the candlestick by a 3-conductor cord.

It was installed in larger numbers after the first World War, fitted with the No. 10 dial with the small centre. It was not terribly popular with many customers due to its weight and the clumsiness of the two-piece receiver and transmitter. People had become used to Ericsson handsets, and the two-piece arrangement was regarded by many as a step backwards. In the mid-1920s the PMG offered a reduction in rental to encourage subscribers to accept the candlestick. When Bakelite phones with a handset were introduced in the mid-1930s, this discount had to be continued to keep the large stocks of candlesticks in service. In some cases it was not described as a discount for a candlestick, but as a premium price for a handset phone. The phones were still being recovered in large numbers into the 1950s.

If the receiver was left off-hook, the telephone exchange staff could connect a "howler" across the line to signal the subscriber to hang up the phone. A notch was moulded into the earpiece to allow the howler sound to escape if the receiver was placed on a desktop with the earpiece down.

The Type 38 was made by a number of British manufacturers and there is little to distinguish between their models. They are known from British Ericsson, Peel Conner, GEC and Siemens. As for the 36MT candlestick, different makers used bases with a variety of contours. Although the standard finish was a black baked enamel, some were introduced with nickel-plated highlights (such as the switchhook and the cap at the top of the pillar). They were never finished in brass or all-nickel - this is due to later renovations and lowers the value of the phone. A black gunmetal lacquer finish is occasionally seen on some phones.

The British-based auto candlesticks differ from their U.S. equivalents in the location of the pillar. On U.S. phones the pillar was mostly displaced to the rear to make room for the dial . On British-origin phones, the dial was simply added on to the front of the base.

This Automatic Electric candlestick (pictured to the right) was bought in from the US for Australia's first automatic exchange at Geelong.  Although only brought in in small numbers, survivors would be included in the Type 38 series.  It is identical to its U.S. equivalent.

Made by British Ericsson, their model N1000.

Click here for the CB version - Telephone No. 36

Click here for Telephone No. 38 Portable

Click here for more information - BPO No. 150

Click here for the History of Candlesticks in Australia

Taken from Bob's Old Phones

To make a complete telephone the 38/138AT was fitted with a No 1 or No 25 bell set.  The dial was a No 10.

To make a complete telephone the 38/138AT was fitted with a No 1 or No 25 bell set.  The dial was a No 10.


Telephone 38 Lockable, popular in Police Call Boxes in throughout Sydney


Source: PMG Technicians Handbook 1951

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Last revised June 25, 2022