many tools and test equipment were developed to be able to maintain telephone service throughout the exchange. One such piece of test equipment was “The Woodpecker” as it came to be known.
This test unit was devised to be used in locating “faults” in telephone cables, such as the most common “case of troubles”, short circuits. Officially called a Cableman’s Test Set, the Woodpecker was comprised of some electrical relays and other components, mounted inside a hinged wooden box that also had space for dry cell batteries to power the unit.
Another piece that was used with the Woodpecker was a headset and pickup coil. The pickup coil was also constructed and installed in a smaller wooden box. Both boxes had leather straps so that a lineman or Cableman could sling them over their shoulder, making easy to transport.
The technician would simply clip the test leads onto the telephone circuit (a cable pair) and switch the Woodpecker to “on”. The Woodpecker would be connected to a cable pair, usually at the Central Office and would generate a tone or series of tones onto the circuit. The technician would take the headset and pickup coil outside along the telephone cables and listen for the tone(s). When the tone could not be heard, the technician would retrace steps back toward the Central Office until the tone was heard again. It was determined that at the exact point where the tone stopped was the fault location.
So, the tone produced by the Cableman’s Test Set, sounded a lot like a woodpecker tapping its beak on a tree, pole or log and that is how it got its name.
Paul Violette, NHTM curator, long-time Warner resident and storyteller