June 21, 2018
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Lincoln firefighter’s rotary phone collection keeps department online after system failure

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Lincoln Fire Department Engineer Ken Goslin's love of old rotary telephones, as seen here in his basement man cave, bailed firefighters out when their station telephone system died last week.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

LINCOLN, Maine — Rotary telephones, those relics of decades past and “The Rockford Files,” got new life last week thanks to a firefighter’s ingenuity and favorite hobby, officials said Friday.

A failure of the telephone system’s computer in the Public Safety Building on Nov. 30 left firefighters and police without a working telephone system until Engineer Ken Goslin brought in five rotary phones, Fire Chief Phil Dawson said.

Dawson called the save “a blast from the past” in the Weekly News, the public town government report prepared by town staff every week.

“We noticed the problem when we were at lunch and the phones started ringing and blinking, even though no one was calling in. Eventually, it stopped responding completely,” Goslin said of the building’s phone system.

Once firefighters realized that the repair technician from Central Maine Communications would likely take a few hours to arrive, Goslin, a collector of rotary phones, went to his home in Lincoln and initially grabbed two, he said.

Two telephone terminals in the rear of the truck bays still worked. Goslin set up the phones on the desk near them and answered calls there through the afternoon, he said.

The technician arrived at the Public Safety Building at 5 p.m. that day and realized he had the wrong replacement phone system. Forced to drive to Pittsfield to meet a courier from Lewiston to get two replacement systems, the technician got back to the station at 9 p.m. only to find that the new replacements also didn’t work, Goslin said.

Goslin brought in three more rotary phones to use. The technician activated two lines to the dispatch center and single lines to the secretary’s office, break room, and rear engineer’s office, Goslin said.

The malfunctioning telephone system computer was finally replaced Tuesday, Goslin said.

The technician told firefighters that the particular model of PBX telephone system used at the station “was the last system [still in use] in the United States,” Goslin said, “which is why it took him so long to get it.”

Dawson thanked Goslin for donating his telephones. Goslin enjoyed the experience.

“It is kind of surreal that you collect something out of date, and people tease you about it, and then there is a time when it comes in useful,” he said.

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