Historical information

Manufactured in the 1960s, this mobile emergency telephone exchange was fitted into a caravan. Part of the Shepparton Division State Disaster Plan, the caravan could be towed to areas affected by disasters to enable communications to recommence. The caravan remained in service until approximately 1974.


Mobile infrastructure plays an important role in Australian communications, owing to the often remote and hostile environments in which Australians live and work. Exchanges such as this facilitated phone calls in the aftermath of an emergency, particularly for hospitals, police and other emergency services. Today, Mobile Exchange on Wheels (MEOWs), Cell on Wheels (CoW) and Satellite Cell on Wheels (SatCOW) - which provide temporary landline and broadband services, mobile phone coverage and service in areas without communications infrastructure respectively - are a critical part of emergency response procedures for natural disasters such as fire and flood.

Though technology has progressed, the need for rapid service in remote areas remains a present concern of the communications service providers in Australia. This mobile service infrastructure is historically significant as an early example of a service which has evolved over decades, yet is still needed today. The exchange, as a representative example of a vehicle which would provide early-response in a disaster, is socially significant as a facilitator of critical communications needs in devastated communities: access to emergency services and contact with family and friends. The exchange itself, intact from its period of use, provides an insight into technology of the 1970s.

Physical description

Mobile emergency exchange housed in a caravan trailer on 2 wheel base, duralin body, steel tow bar, Caravan divided into 3 sections; the exchange room; the relay room and the main frame room. The exchange room contains 3 switchboards, a folding table, cupboards, benches and switch rack (.1). table (.2), steel bar for attaching the table (.3), back boards of switchboards (.4-.6), switches (.7-.16), box of switches (.17). There is a wall phone magneto, 300 type handset on wall and 2 skylights with wire screens. .11? hat pegs and shelf; there are 2 fluorescent tubes for lighting, all in exchange section. The floor is covered with 2 tone grey tiles and there are wire mesh on outside of windows and a geometric curtain inside behind switch rack. There is a flywire screen door as well as exterior door. The relay room has a sectioned door so half can open at a time. Room contains a cupboard with folding bench top beneath a curtained window. The opposite wall has a bank of batteries and transmission condensers; there is a shelf above window, one fluorescent tube and fuse boxes. Tiles on floor also. The main frame room contains many metres of coiled black covered cable, a black covered magneto wall telephone with 300 type handset; grey plastic jumper cords, a rack of termination points and wire with wasp nests attached. There is a small iron step under door, a fluorescent tube on wall and 3 hat hooks. Roll of Paper Handtowels (.18), cord and handle (.19), red exchange cords and plugs (.20-.22), plastic aluminium runners (.23,.24), headset (.25,.26), logbook (.27), battery readings (.28), box containing papers circuit drawings etc (.29-.93), paper lists off wall (.94,.95). Books, record books etc (.96-.103). Manila folder (.104) containing circuit drawings (105-.124). Wooden drawer (.125), metal drawer containing subscribers master cards, record of faults cards, particular switchboards connected, Junction line cards (.126). Box of valves (.127), box of clamps (.128). Box of 2000 type rack fuses, red 1 1/2 AMPS, black 3 AMP, blue 1/2 AMP (.129). Box of sleeves for covering wire joints (.130), plastic beakers (.131,.132), soap (.133), box of white plastic squares (.134), time switch "Venner BF/43 time switch" Made in England (.135), box of bolts, knobs etc (.136), box of switchboard number indicators (.137), fuse (.138), fuse wire (.139), football card (.140). Box of cartridge fuse 6 AMP (.141). Envelope of drawing pins, rubber bands (.142), black plastic, paper tape centres (.143-.152), metal plug (.153), 2 signs "Beware of vehicles" (.154-.155). Paper listing Naringal East automatic conversion (.156). Green Commonwealth of Australia note pad (.157). Wiring plug for tail lights (.158). Black fuse plugs (.159,.160). Box of bolts (.161). 2 sections of blue plastic coated wires (.162,.163). Gloves used for working on batteries (.164-.167). Wasp nests (.168,.169). White fuse (.170). Photographs of van in use (.171,.172).

Inscriptions & markings