Canada and the United States paralleled each other in telephone technology and in telephone history. The last mechanical (crossbar and step by step) systems were in the far outreaches of the “Great White North” of Canada. Here are examples from these last great mechanical switching systems.
Detour Lake, Ontario
Detour Lake was an old coal mining facility in northern Ontario. The coal mine shut down in the mid-1990s. The old step by step phone switch lasted until sometime in late 2001. As far as I am able to determine, the old switch was NOT converted to digital, but was closed down. These recordings were made in September 2000.
I’m not exactly sure what kind of switch this is. Some say it is a step by step, yet I think the ring is from a crossbar (Northern Electric, a clone of the Western Electric Number 5 Crossbar). These recordings were made in April 1998.
As far as telephone historians are able to determine, Nantes was the last step by step switch in the US and Canada. It was converted to a full digital Nortel DMS-10 on June 14, 2002. When this was a step by step, the exchange was so small that customers there could dial a call on their home exchange by using either the last 3 or 4 digits. These recordings were made from dialing into the exchange from the United States in September 2000.
“Evan Doorbell” made some excellent narrated recordings from a pay phone in Nantes in August 2001. These recordings (and many others) can be found at the Evan Doorbell Telephone Tapes website (hosted and operated by Telephone World!)