I'm an Ex BT telephone engineer (Openreach engineer) and spent many years installing and repairing telephone lines. Working as a BT engineer taught me a lot about the telephone network in general as well as installing drop wires, internal cables and telephone sockets for customers.

I started working for British Telecom (BT) back in the early 90s after a friend, who was already a BT engineer, mentioned that they were looking for adult staff. After successfully passing the interview and practical test, I started my BT engineering training which included going to a BT training centre at Shirehampton near Bristol.

After my initial training I joined an 'uplift' group which was formed to carry out preventitive maintenance of the overhead BT cable network. A lot of the drop wires in a particular area were becoming quite corroded and the DPs (distribution points) at the top of the telegraph poles were in need of replacement. We would replace the corroded drop wires with a newer cable known as drop wire 10 and run the cable directly from the DP into the customer's house. We would also replace any internal cables as needed and fit a new BT telephone socket known as an NTE5.

I certainly enjoyed my time on the BT uplift group but what I really wanted to do was to join the line maintenance team. I'd become quite good at diagnosing and repairing faults with telephones and phone lines so made it quite clear to my manager that this is what I wanted to do. 

BT training centre in Staffordshire

I did get sent to the BT training centre near Stone in Staffordshire once or twice. I think that it was near a village called Yarnfield but it's a long time ago now. I also remember there being a pub called the labour In Vain. The pub sign displayed a white couple with a little black boy in a bath tub. Whether they were trying to scrub the black boy white is open to debate but I bet someone has complained about the pub sign being racist.

I didn't have to wait long and was soon teamed up with a local BT engineer, he picked me up from the local telephone exchange and we went off repairing phones and phone lines. Once the manager was happy that I was sufficiently trained I was given my own yellow BT van and I was sent off on my own.

Can I move my BT master socket (NTE5)

One of the most common questions that I used to get asked when I was a BT engineer was 'Can I move my BT master socket?'. Well, technically BT own the telephone cables all the way up to the BT master socket (Usually an NTE5) so members of the public shouldn't touch things at all. 

I don't know whether BT still frown on people moving their master sockets, I should think that's it's ok. If you make a mess of it then your telephone will stop working and you'll end up calling BT Openreach to fix it. I have no idea what Openreach charge but it's probably not cheap.

The idea behind the NTE5

The idea of the NTE5 is that it has a removable lower plate. Behind the plate is another socket where a phone can be plugged in. The intention is that any telephone extensions are connected to this plate but, in the event of a fault, the plate can be removed to isolate the extensions from the incoming line. 

If the phone works without the plate being connected then it's down to the customer to repair the fault. If the phone still doesn't work then it down to the telephone provider to fix the line fault.

Rotary dial 746 telephones

Back in the early 90s there were still a lot of the old rotary dial 746 telephones in service which needed maintaining. Very often they needed new dials or microphones fitting although, if they were beyond repair then they were converted to the new style Plug and Socket Telephone system (PST). I sometimes wondered whether people just might have damaged their old rotary dial 746 telephones just to get the new PST phones :)

With the introduction of the plug and socket telephone system, it was far easier to unplug a faulty telephone rather than scrabbling around on the floor disconnecting them.

Working on the British Telecom (BT) phone network

Now that I was a fully trained BT engineer I started to get a good working knowledge of the telephone network although I only dealt with the overhead and internal side of the network. 

I became quite used to climbing telegraph poles and changing drop wires when necessary as well as carrying out internal cable repairs or rewires. If I found that I didn't have dial tone at the DP (distribution point) on the telegraph pole or the connection point on the wall of some one's house then I could pass the job back to the underground network engineers to repair.

After I'd been at BT for a few years they decided that all of the telephone engineers were going to become multi-skilled. By this I mean that we were all going to be trained to do each others work. 

BT sent us on various training courses and we learnt how to install new telephone lines and also how to work on the underground (UG) side of the phone network. I really enjoyed my time as a BT (Openreach) engineer and repairing faulty telephone lines, I'm now an Ex BT engineer and still enjoying life.

I used to be a BT telephone engineer