Skip to main content
   

Street furniture

Engineer working on cabinet, 1960s

Cabinets : a residential connection

Cabinets can be found on residential street corners all over the country. They provide a connection point for the wires that link individual users to the telephone network.

The green cabinets are 3.5 feet high and 9 inches deep and can vary between 2 feet to 3.5 feet wide. They are made up of separate parts, bolted and sealed against the weather so that if any part is damaged only one segment has to be replaced rather than the whole thing.

The cabinets can accommodate 300 to 400 circuits, which join a customer's line to the network. If you have a problem with your home telephone, an engineer can check here to see if the line to the exchange is working, or whether the problem lies between the cabinet and your house.

Engineers at footway box connecting new lines, 1935

Footway boxes : accessing the underground network

Every cable laid underground needs to be accessible for engineers to make repairs or improvements, so every few hundred metres or so footway joint boxes are added at ground level to provide access to them.

They're called footway boxes simply because they sit under footpaths or pavements. (Larger boxes in the road are known as carriageway boxes.)

The boxes vary in size from three-quarters of a metre to two and a quarter metres deep, depending on the size and function of the cables inside them. This is where the lengths of cable are joined (or jointed, as it's technically known) together. The boxes can form a junction for up to four different cable routes, housed inside a brick-built space coved with a steel and reinforced concrete manhole cover. This is where you often see engineers working, surrounded by a protective barrier, to keep the network going.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...