The 50th anniversary of the Telephone Pioneers in Manitoba (now the MTS Volunteers) was celebrated on June 10, 1988. To commemorate this occasion, Raymond Mills of Stonewall suggested moving the Tilston Central Dial Office (CDO) to the museum. The building and its operating equipment were dedicated in the Homesteaders Village on June 9, 1988.
A CDO is a free-standing telephone building housing switching equipment provide dial service for a specific geographic area. This 23 foot by 23 foot single-storey wood frame building served the 190 Tilston telephone subscribers for over 37 years. It was replaced not because it was worn out but because technology had changed to digital service.
In 1951, the Tilston telephone service was cutover to dial service which eliminated the manual magneto service and the telephone operators. In 1951 the dial service required only three digits for the area but was changed in 1962 to seven digits ANC (All Numbering Calling) in preparation for DDD (Direct Distance Dialing). This allowed telephone customers to dial up any other number without going through an operator. Tilston numbers had the prefix of 697-xxxx.
Telephone service on the Agricultural Museum site, Austin MB – The Pole Line
On September 10, 1983, a telephone pole line was dedicated on the Agricultural Museum site at Austin Manitoba. This 12-span pole line would provide a means of communicating between buildings along Main Street in the Homesteaders Village.
This was no ordinary pole line. It had started its service life in the Rathwell area as part of the Trans Canada Telephone System (TCTS). TCTS was completed in 1932 by seven Canadian telephone companies. This revenue bearing facility allowed long distance telephone calls from sea to sea to be made entirely on Canadian soil. Previous to this, telephone calls across Canada would have to be routed into the United States then back into Canada to be completed.
The poles were high quality Group II Western red cedar 30’ high. The cross arms were 4” x 5” x 10’ long Douglas Fir. The pins supporting the insulators were of steel rather than oak. The insulators were Toll line #22 Pyrex and the open wire was #8 or bull 8 copper.
This was not the first change of service for this pole line. The advent of plastic insulated cable and microwave technology had replaced open wire for Toll networks in the 1950s and 1960s. This section of pole line was then repurposed for service to rural subscribers and now it would provide service for the Agricultural Museum.
The donation of the pole line was a project suggested and installed by Eastern Region employees. It coincided with the 75th anniversary of MTS and was to preserve a section of the old telephone facility in an historic location. Attending the ceremonies in addition to dignitaries was retired telephone lineman George Ardagh from Austin and Dan Bergson from Gladstone.
Best wishes were expressed by MTS in recognition of the importance of the pole line. United Nations Secretary – General Javier Perez de Cuellar sent a letter in honour of World Communication Year. His comments read as follows: “The role which the Trans-Canada Telephone System has played in the advancement of your country bears witness to a critical link between communications and development. May I take this opportunity to express the hope your exhibit will serve not only as witness to your important accomplishments but will help to focus attention on the steps which other countries of the world have yet to take.”
September 10, 2016 marks 33 years that the pole line has served the Homesteaders Village and 74 years of continuous telephone service.