Vehicles of the Open Wire Era

Telecom Utility Vehicles

of the Open Wire Era


Fully restored original 1930 Model A Ford Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company installer’s truck.

 Recently this October 2013, an admirer of this website wrote concerning his collection of restored, antique service vehicles in his collection.  He was gracious enough to allow some photos to be displayed as well as sending information about vehicle equipment of the period.  I thank Nate for allowingSong of the Open Wire to add this valuable information to our website.  I’ll let him explain further about the photo above:

“I have a 1930 Model A Ford Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Installers Truck, [which] had been in the family for a long time.  On the back there is a steel box with a ‘boss’ on top meant to be used for a pay-out reel [for conductor, cable, & etc.].  I have pictures of what it looks like, although I have never seen a physical example.  Have you ever come across one of these pay-out reels?  It would be nice to replicate one or find one [for this truck].  Attached is a picture of the truck.  I hope you can see on the back the pay-out reel.  It is a mock-up I did using wood and aluminum.  It is non-functional.


Attached is a 14-page document I have.  I don’t remember where I found this.  See page 10 of the document for a great picture of the pay-out reel.  Too bad I can’t purchase a new one today!  Note the price.  Also is a picture of a Ford with the reel on the back of the box that I got from SBC (AT&T) at one time.  I have more pics of 1930 era vehicles and equipment.”


If any of our readers have information which might be able to help Nate to obtain this “finishing touch” to his remarkably well restored truck, please contact “Song of the Open Wire” and I will forward your information to this contributor so you may communicate directly with him on locating this pay-out reel!

Here are some photos of a long distance trip taken with this vehicle from the high plains to California.

DSC_4202re_loresDSC_4238re_lores_bwDSC_4408re_lores_bw (1)DSC_4479re_loresDSC_4629re_loresI hope you enjoy these grand landscapes complimented by this fantastic motor vehicle of the open wire era.  Thank you for your contribution to our site with these pictures taken a year ago.

Drawing by D. G. Schema of 1930s Installer’s Truck used by many telephone companies.

2016-07-21 13.19.512016-07-21 13.20.212016-07-21 13.20.462016-07-21 13.09.151927 United Telephone Company of Indiana utility truck retired and then restored in 1972.  On display at the Museum of Independent Telephony, Abilene, Kansas, 2016.


Graybar Electric Mechanized Equipment.  Graybar was among the first, if not the initial, sellers of mechanized pole line maintenance, pole setting and erecting equipment.  This photo is from the 1920s.  Source unknown.


This photo shows an auger mounted on the rear of a vehicle of the Bell System sometime around the end of the World War I era.  Photo source unknown.


Western Electric Supply Vehicle.  This pre-World War I horse drawn wagon predates the auto era, but illustrates how many communication equipments were supplied to the Bell companies locally.  Photo source unknown.

American Coach & Body Company of Cleveland, Ohio Sales & Service Manual, c. 1930 

Along with the request for information on how to obtain the pay-out reel on his restored Mtn. States c. 1930 Model A Ford truck, Nate attached a very interesting Sales and Service Manual from 1930.  The company represented here is the American Coach and Body Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  I have reproduced it in its entirity and thank Nate for making it available to be included in this historical website and section on open wire vehicles.


If you are an expert on utility vehicles of this era, perhaps you can help in the search.  We welcome any contributions to this open wire vehicle era.

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Graybar Automobile Pole Derricks, c. 1929-1930

Graybar Electric Polestting Derrick as installed on early 1930s utility truck body. Drawing by D. G. Schema.

From the original 1929-1930 Graybar Period Catalogue:

“Graybar Polesetting Derricks have been developed by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company as a result of the application of modern methods to the erection and maintenance of telephone, telegaph and electric transmission pole lines.  They are standard equipment on a majority of Bell System line construction trucks.

The outstanding feature about Graybar Derricks manufactured by the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company is the FWD inspection which is famous for its exacting requirements.  Graybar Derricks are made to conform to the specification sof the AT&T  Company.  The tubing is of the well-known Shelby manufacture.  It has a tensile strength of from 115,000 to 120,000 punds.  The flattened ends of the tubes are strongly reinforced.  The cable sheaves are fitted with self-lubricated bronze bushings.  When the parts have been built and thoroughly inspected they are painted with a rust-preventing priming coat and then finished with red enamel.

Middle type derricks which are used for general derrick work, center over the middle of the rear of the trucks.  Only two men are required to operate this type of derrick; one man operates the winch and the other guides the pole.  As many as ten men are required to do the same work by hand with pike poles; through the use of the derricks, pole setting is done in much shorter time at a reduced cost and yet with less danger to the workmen than hand methods.  The middle type derrick is raised and adjusted with th winch.  When used as a stiff leg assembly an old pole may be removed from the ground without preliminary digging unless it is firmly embedded or has an abnormal flare.  When not in use, the derrick may be dsassembled and carried on the side of the truck body, where it is out of the way.

The corner type derrick which works at the right rear corner of the truck body facilitates derrick work in alleys and other restricted places where it is not possible to use the middle type to good advantage.”  –Page 289.

Automotive Pole Derricks by Graybar eliminated the ten men needed to erect a pole with pike poles. Drawing by D. G. Schema.

A drawing of an early Illinois Bell Installer’s Truck. Drawn by D. G. Schema.