Museum of Communications


The following is an unofficial background on the Museum of Communications

The Museum of Communications (formerly known as the Vintage Telephone Equipment Museum) was founded in 1985 by Chapter 30 of the Telecom Pioneers. The Telecom Pioneers is an organization made up of retired telephone and telecom engineers and staff that wish to preserve old telephony for future generations to learn and enjoy. Members of this chapter were well aware that older electro-mechanical telephone technology was fast being replaced by new computerized digital technology.                       

The museum occupies the second and third floors of an existing and operational Qwest (former US West/Pacific Northwest Bell) central office building just south of Seattle on old highway 99 (Marginal Ave.). Currently this central office houses a Lucent #5ESS fully digital switch and a Western Electric #1AESS electronically controlled analog switch on the first floor (closed to the public). Both the #5ESS and #1AESS take up considerably less room than the electro-mechanical equipment (probably crossbar) that occupied the building prior to the new switch. Hence, when the old decommissioned phone switch equipment was removed from the building, the second and third floors of the building were completely empty.  

When the local chapter of the Telecom Pioneers found out about the vacancy in the building, they were able to obtain use of the space for a museum. Since they were retired telephone employees, they had connections to be able to obtain old telephone equipment (especially old telephone switches) as they were being removed from service as new digital switches were installed. Instead of sending all the equipment to the scrap heap, some of the equipment was saved and sent to the museum. The retired engineers have been able to restore and maintain various telephone switches in operational order, such as the Step-by-Step, Panel (circa 1923) Number 1 Crossbar (circa 1938), Number 5 Crossbar (circa 1948). They also have a Number 3 Electronic Switching System (though I do not know if it is operational). 

Over the years, there were many additions to the museum. Old telephones of various styles and vintages were added. Outside plant equipment was added. Other old equipment of various eras were also added. So the museum grew from just being a telephone equipment museum to a museum of various technology items of various vintages. 

There is no admission to the museum, but donations are very graciously accepted. The museum is only open to the public from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM on Tuesdays, except by appointment for pre-arranged groups. Access is from the rear of the building (park in the adjacent Qwest parking lot). Take the elevator to the third floor to start the tour. 

Their website address is:

Their E-mail address is and their phone number is (206) 767-3012.

Start with the Third Floor Tour - Page 1 ->

Copyright 2008 Telephone World
Page last modified December 20, 2008
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