Retired Telegraph Fire Alarm Systems

Sadly, many towns have eliminated the telegraph fire alarm boxes.  With that, the history of these systems go as well, as old files of maintenance logs and other historical information.  Boxes are distributed to members or auctioned off.  To keep the spirit of the systems alive, we list the towns who had retired their telegraph fire alarm box systems an discuss their history.

Atlantic County:          Atlantic City

Bergen County:          Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Emerson, Englewood, Hasbrouck Heights, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Maywood, Midland Park, New Milford, North Arlington,  Ramsey, Ridgefield Park,

                                  Rochelle Park, South Hackensack Waldwick

Burlington County:     Burlington, Moorestown

Camden County:        Camden

Cape May County:     Cape May City, Stone Harbor, Wildwood

Cumberland County: Bridgeton, Vineland

Essex County:            Belleville, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, East Orange, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Maplewood, Millburn, Montclair, Nutley, Orange, South Orange, West Orange, Verona

Gloucester County:    Woodbury

Hudson County:         Bayonne, East Newark, Harrison, Jersey City, Kearny, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken, West New York

Hunterdon County:    Flemington, Frenchtown, Hampton, High Bridge, Lambertville

Mercer County:          Trenton

Middlesex County:     New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, South Amboy, Woodbridge Twp (Avenel, Colonia, Fords, Hopelawn, Iselin, Keasby Fire Districts)

Monmouth County:     Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold (Boro), Keyport, Loch Harbor, Long Branch, Manasquan, Matawan, Neptune City, Neptune Twp,  Oakhurst,

                                   Ocean Grove, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Twp, South Belmar, Spring Lake, West Long Branch

Morris County:            Butler, Chatham, Dover, Morristown, Riverdale, Wharton

Ocean County:           Lavalette, Point Pleasant Beach, Seaside Heights

Passaic County:         Bloomingdale, Clifton, Haledon, North Haledon, Passaic, Paterson, Prospect Park, Totowa, Wanaque

Salem County:

Somerset County:     Bound Brook, North Plainfield, Raritan Boro, South Bound Brook

Sussex County:         Newton

Union County:           Cranford, Elizabeth, Garwood, Linden, Rahway, Roselle Park, Westfield

Warren County:        Hackettstown

Atlantic County

Atlantic City

Bergen County

Carlstadt - Research on Carlstadt's telegraph system is being researched.  However, we do know that there were no telegraph boxes in the 1980's. Rather, there were wireless ADT boxes, which saw their demise in the late 1980's.  The wireless boxes were removed and pay telephones were placed at each location.  Remnants of old cross arms, blue lights and line wire remain in the Borough.  The only survivor of the telegraph system is the Clarke Cooper horns atop of the Borough Hall.  Carlstadt still transmits two rounds of the closest box number to the incident, in conjunction with the radio pager system.  There is another horn located at the Washington Avenue Firehouse, but that horn is inactive and has been for some time.

Due to complaints from the area residentss, Carlstadt no longer sends 2 rounds of the closest box number.  Instead, two rounds of 4 is blown.

Carlstadt Final Box Listing

East Rutherford - East Rutherford's Gamewell system is also being researched.  It is known that their system was taken out of service in approximately 1983.  The system included possibly three Gamewell Diaphones.  The diaphones were located at the East Rutherford DPW, East Rutherford Borough Hall and the former Flintkote factory building on Central Avenue & Oak Street.  Reportedly, the Form 4 and other items are on display at the New Jersey Firemen's Home in Boonton, NJ.

East Rutherford Final Box Listing

Edgewater - Ask and you shall receive.  Before I speak of Edgewater's system, I want to thank Glenn & Scott Marvel for providing me with some history on Edgewater's system.  I do not have the date as to when the system was installed as of yet.  But I do have some early history.  I can tell you that the system was in existence for a few years before 1922.  On January 1, 1922, O.E. Smith was asked by Edgewater Mayor Wissel to take over the fire alarm system. He was also asked to report on its condition in time.  Mr. Smith's report showed that there were 17 boxes in the system, located very far apart, with some parts of town not covered with boxes at all.  All the boxes were locked and required the user to locate the box key holder in one of the nearby residences.  Also, two boxes were found to be in a condition which would make their ability to send a correct signal extremely doubtful.  All of the boxes at the time were on one box circuit.  This was problematic because the wire was spliced frequently due to breaks and ground faults from wire insulation rubbing away against tree limbs.  Thus a broken wire would render the entire system useless.

    Mayor Wissel ordered Mr. Smith to plan on installing 4 new box circuits to cover every part of Edgewater.  This project was started in 1925 and eventually moved all the boxes onto the new wiring.  The old wiring was removed. In 1926, eleven new fire alarm boxes were purchased.  Four of these boxes replaced some of the original 17 boxes.  The remaining seven were placed in areas previously not served by fire alarm boxes.  The last fire box was added to the system on September 10, 1927.  This brought the total number of boxes in Edgewater up to 50.

    Edgewater also adopted a phantom box system for the factories located away from the main roads.  Thus, when a fire was called in from a factory, the box number codewheel assigned to a factory would be placed on the transmitter and sent out over the circuits to the fire whistle, house gongs and box indicators.  A phantom box number was also assigned for Route 5 for any car fires. 

    It was also determined that all the wiring to the firehouses had to be re-wired, removing from service the box indicators and replacing them with more modern punch registers.  in addition, gongs were installed in the homes of the Chief and Deputy Chief of the fire department, as well as the Superintendant of the fire alarm system. 

    Later on, plans were made to not operate the fire whistle on first alarms.  Should the first arriving officer need additional assistance, he would then send a second alarm with the whistle, by sending 2 blasts then the box number.  This made life a little easier on the residents' ears.

    The system has since been removed from service.  I do not have that information as of yet, but hope to in the future.

Edgewater Final Fire Alarm Box List



Hasbrouck Heights


Lodi Final Box List

Lyndhurst - The former Lyndhurst system dates back to the 1916, back in the days when Lyndhurst was part of Union Township.  The Township had purchased air horns with the system (It is uncertain whether they were diaphones or Leslie horns.  Eventually, the diaphones were used in the township). Nineteen boxes were initially placed in service and two sites were selected for the horns.  The first site was at the town hall on Valley Brook Avenue and the other was on top of a factory (which was rumored to be the Leslie Company) in the Kingsland Shops on Page & Schuyler Avenues.  Later in the mid 1940's a third site was constructed at the old Esso Station on Kingsland & Riverside Avenues, which is currently the site of the new Senior Housing Building.  In September 1955, the Gamewell telegraph fire alarm boxes were removedPunch register located inside Lyndhurst Fire Headquarters. from service and replaced with telephone boxes provided by the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company.  This new system was known as the EVRS, or the Emergency Voice Reporting System.  In 1966, the horns at the Kingsland Shops was moved to the Benedict-Miller Co. factory building at Orient Way & Marin Avenue.  Soon in 1969, the third air horn site at the old Esso was removed to make way for a supermarket.  In the summer of 1982, the second air horn site was taken out of service due to Benedict Miller requiring additional space.  At that time the Lyndhurst Fire Department had a paging system in service.  With that, only one air horn system was justified for the purpose of a backup warning system.  In December of 1987, the Lyndhurst Township Emergency Planning Committee Office of Emergency Management voted on a new type of community alerting network.  This new network utilized the fire horn system as an outdoor warning system to alert the public of severe weather and environmental emergencies that would affect the town.  Later in the 1990's the Gamewell diaphone atop of the town hall was replaced with a pair of Clark Cooper air horns.  The 1990's saw the demise of the EVRS system as cell phones became more prominent.  Most of the boxes were removed.  The only ones that stayed in service were phones located at key intersections.  During the early 2000's.  The remaining telephone boxes were removed.  Also in the early 2000, the Town Hall was completely renovated and the horns were removed.

Secondary alerting systems were not working out very well.  During the summer of 2015, Lyndhurst re-installed their air horns.  They are now located on top of the firehouse.  The horns sound 3 rounds of 3-2, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.  The horns officially went in service September 11, 2015. 

Lyndhurst Final Box List


Maywood Fire Alarm Box List (1978)

Midland Park - There is some limited information on Midland Park's system that I received graciously from members of the MPFD and from a friend in Gamewell groups in which we belong.  The telegraph fire alarm system was placed in service in the early 1930's possibly 1931 or 1934.  The system was made up primarily of SAFA boxes, but had a Gamewell master boxes and one Horni box on the Town Hall.  There were two circuits that covered the town.  From the looks of it, multiconductor cable was used leaving Borough Hall and traveled southeast on Highland Ave, turning North-Northeast on Vreeland Avenue, then turned easterly on Glen Ave, toward Ridgewood.  From what I understand the system was initially monitored by Ridgewood Water Control, located in Midland Park, since it was manned 24 hours a day, before the Police went to 24 hours.  I'm not certain, but I believe the water utility is located on Glen Ave, as the multiconductor wire ran right past a water tower and the multiconductor wire looked like it went from aerial cable to underground at that point.  The box alarm system itself was removed in 1995, but the quad horns on the Borough Hall would continue to sound.  At some point, the horns would not sound during the overnight hours unless there was an actual fire emergency.

Midland Park Final Box List

North Arlington - The former North Arlington system dates back to 1923.  The system cost $7,170.  However, alerting of the fire department using large locomotive rims were installed back in 1919.  There were 5 such rims throughout the Borough. At some point in time, the Gamewell boxes were removed and replaced with the Emergency Voice Reporting System.  During that time, the system still utilized three Gamewell Diaphones.  One on the Hendel Avenue Firehouse, one on the old Schuyler Avenue Station and the third atop of the Town Hall on Ridge Road.  During the early 1980's the diaphones were discontinued.  The two diaphones on the firehouses disappeared when each firehouses was leveled.  The diaphone atop of the town hall remained until a few years ago. 

North Arlington Final Box List


Ramsey Final Box List

Ridgefield Park

Ridgefield Park Final Box List

South Hackensack

South Hackensack Final Box List


Waldwick Final Fire Box List

Burlington County


Burlington City Fire Alarm Box List


Camden County

Camden - Before I start talking about the City of Camden's Telegraph fire alarm system, let me first say that I was pleasantly surprised to find out as much information as I did about Camden's system.  I wasn't certain that I would find anything at all.  I want to thank Phil Cohen, webmaster of Camden Fire Department History website, and Lee Ryan and Bob Bartosz, Camden historians and authors of the History / Yearbook for Camden FD for the 125th
anniversary of the paid department (1994), for permitting the use of their material to be posted here.   Gentlemen, I thank you!

Camden's telegraph fire alarm system dates back to the early 1870's.  The box were made out of wood and located at West & Berkeley Streets.  mid-way between Camden's two firehouses.  Then, on May 30, 1872, a proposal was made to the City of Camden by the American Telegraph Fire Alarm Company to install 25 boxes and connections between fire headquarters at 5th & Arch Streets to 16 factories or remote locations in the City of Camden.  The proposal would include 10 miles of cable and allow the alarms to be transmitted to both firehouses.  It would also allow for the City's Fire Chief to telegraph for assistance.  The cost was estimated at a few thousand dollars, with annual maintenance between $200 - $300.  The proposal was accepted by the city sometime in late 1872 or early 1873.  The fire alarm boxes were in service by May 27, 1882.   The fire alarm office was located in the former City Hall on Haddon Avenue.  Interesting note, on February 24, 1873 Camden Fire Chief Surralt telegraphed the City of Philadelphia for mutual aid, requesting 6 engine companies for several building fires on railroad property at Second Street, below Bridge Avenue. 

Over the years, and as with most systems, the number of boxes grew with the city.  On April 13, 1934, a new fire alarm central office opened on the eighth floor of City Hall.  The fire alarm office would operate here until 1977, when the fire communication services were moved to  a regional central office for Camden County.

On September 1, 1933, a citywide alarm assignment index was appropriated to all firehouses.  The indexes were located at each firehouses' watch desk and provided a standard listing of all fire company responses, first through fourth alarms, including automatic relocations for every box in the city. 

In April of 1942, the Camden Police & Fire Departments announced a cooperative venture, where Camden Police would send a police car to every fire alarm, to provide radio communications.

Up to 1955, the Camden Fire Department did not have two-way radios.  Alarms were transmitted in two ways.  For Still alarms, the Department telephone was used.  Box alarms were transmitted over the primary & secondary circuits using house gongs and registers to transmit the box.  To notify the dispatcher that a company was on scene or available from the scene, the company would either have to use a the property owner's telephone or go to the nearest box.  At major fires, the Chief would send his aid to the nearest box and use the telegraph key in the box to call for assistance.  Two taps followed by the box number would mean a 2nd alarm at that incident.  3 taps and the box number would mean 3rd alarm, and 3 taps, 3 taps and the box would mean a general alarm for the entire department except for the far reaches of East Camden and Cramer Hill.  For boxes east of the Cooper River, 2 taps 3 taps and the box would mean a modified general alarm, bringing in lesser units.  Special calls fir individual fire units were also made by telegraph key.  5 taps requested an engine, 6 taps a hook & ladder, 7 taps a chief, 8 taps a hose or chemical company and 9 taps a fuel wagon.  These preliminary signals indicate a special call, followed by the type of unit requested, level of alarm, then the box.  An example is 10-6-4-181.  This would mean Special call, for a hook and ladder, at the 4th alarm at Box 181 (Point & York Streets).  Finally, in 1955, police radios were installed in every Fire Chief's vehicle. 

Before the adoption of the automated Gamewell transmitter, the boxes were manually transmitted over the primary circuit by telegraph key.  So 4 rounds of Box 476 required 68 taps on the joker key to send the alarm.  The automatic transmitter did the work of the dispatcher and tapped out the box numbers.  However, the automatic transmitter posed some special problems not previously associated with manual operations.   During periods of high fire activity, when the dispatcher was holding as many as 5 and 6 boxes to be transmitted, the dispatcher had to be sure to clear the old box number from the transmitter.  Otherwise, the same box number would be sent out, delaying additional alarms to be sent.  Dispatchers were religiously taught the method of "Set-Dump-Clear" ....Set the box number in the transmitter, dump the box number from the transmitter to the circuit and press the clear key to reset the transmitter.

By 1961, every fire apparatus  had a two-way radio with a dedicated fire frequency.  With the advent of the new radios, the Camden Fire Department began using a series of 2-digit codes to keep radio communications brief.

By 1968, a hard-wire voice alarm and radio communications became the primary means for transmitting alarms, supplanting the use of gong and register circuits.

The 1980's saw the beginning of the end of the telegraph box alarm system.  In 1980, there were 4,400 alarms generated by the fire alarm boxes.  Nearly 4,100 (92%) of the alarms were malicious in nature.  The department began to look at measures to reducing the number of malicious alarms.  In 1982, there were over 6,000 malicious pulls of the boxes.  In some parts of Camden, it was not uncommon for an engine company to respond to 10-12 malicious pulls from the same box in one day!  This was putting a strain on the Camden Fire Department.  Initial considerations were to remove the system in its entirety.  But, the telephone system wasn't felt to be totally reliable and poorer citizens may not have phones.   Public telephones were frequently vandalized.  Many of the residents lived below poverty level and were faced with the choice of either buy food or pay the phone bill.  Another concern was a widespread telephone outage would pose serious ramifications if there was no dial tone.  Another option was to replace the telegraph boxes with the telephone boxes.  Many cities successfully reduced malicious alarms this way.  The City decided to remove problematic boxes.  Eventually, a few boxes were removed....then dozens.....then scores.....until eventually in 1992, the last telegraph box was removed from service. 

The information provided by Phil, Lee & Bob included numerous fires from the telegraph boxes.  The reading is very interesting.  I highly recommend reading the Yearbook if you can read it or visit Phil's site @


Cape May County 

Cape May City - Cape May is a beautiful historic seashore community at the very southern tip of New Jersey.  Researching their system is somewhat tough.  I only get down to Cape May during the NJ Exempt Firefighters' Convention.  What I have found out thus far, on my own accord, is that their street boxes have been removed for some time.  It does not appear that they had any master boxes.  It may have been an older system predating the 1951 style Gamewell boxes.  However, their diaphone is still active, as it is used to summon the volunteer staff of the Cape May Fire Department (Cape May FD is a combination paid/volunteer department).  When the volunteers are requested, the paid firefighters enter the closest box number on the manual transmitter and sound the diaphone.  A video of their diaphone can be heard here:

Adjacent to the Cape May Fire Station is the fire museum, which has a small fire alarm display, including the same manual transmitter used to activate the diaphone and a box indicator gong.  The museum also has some other artifacts and a beautifully restored 1928 American LaFrance pumper.  If you get the chance to visit Cape May, definitely take a visit to the Cape May Fire Department Museum, located at Washington & Lafayette.  They also have Box 52 mounted on the wall with a small plaque next to it stating "Box 52 This box was located at Broad & Elmira Streets and was activated more than any other box in the City of Cape May." 

Technicals about the system are few and far in between.  I can guess the amount of box circuits.  Behind the Fire Museum on Washington is a telephone pole where it looks like the wiring plant starts to go out in the field. There is conduit running from the fire station, underground and up the pole.  It looks like there is multiconductor wire in the conduit.  The multiconductor comes out into a junction box atop of the conduit. 2 runs of C-Wire leaves the junction box and heads out to the field.  Thus, there was at least 2 box circuits in the system.

As you walk or drive around Cape May, you will see remnants of the system.  You will still see some C-wire strung, some single strand line wire, cross arms, box drops, insulators and painted rings on telephone poles. 

Cape May and Stone Harbor both painted their rings the same unique color scheme.  It appears to be  the typical white-red-white, but for some apparent reason a thin red ring was painted in the middle of the white rings.  This picture was taken in 2012.  This is the pole where Box 52 was located.  This pole has since been replaced with a new pole, but you will see the color scheme.  There are no indications that there were red or blue lights mounted above the boxes.  Perhaps that is why they added an additional red ring around the white.  As will also see, the box drop is still on the pole.



Cape May Final Fire Alarm Box List

Stone Harbor

Stone Harbor Final Fire Box List


Wildwood Final Fire Box List


Cumberland County


Bridgeton Final Fire Alarm Box List


Vineland Final Fire Box List

Essex County


Belleville Final Fire Box List

Bloomfield - The Gamewell system in Bloomfield dates back to 1890, when the members of the Bloomfield Fire Department appealed to the town for the installation of an electric fire alarm system.  The Township voted in favor of the purchase of an alarm system and approved a $3,500 purchase from the Gamewell Company for 13 alarm boxes and a bell, striker and indicator for each firehouse.  The Gamewell system went into service on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1890.  The first alarm of fire from the Gamewell system happened the same day as Box 47, Broad & Canal Streets, was pulled  for a working fire at Mr. R.H. Davey's barn on Belleville Avenue.

By the 1930's, Bloomfield had 139 boxes.  The box numbers were 2-digit and 3-digit patterns. Bloomfield's Form 4, indicating some trouble on the circuits, but was being troubleshooted by the Signal Division.  See the Current Box List page for a copy of the old box listing from 1933. 

In addition to fire alarm telegraph, Bloomfield Police had police telegraph boxes.  Typically, these boxes were placed at the same locations of some fire alarm boxes, though it is not certain that the box numbers were the same.  Although not in service any longer, you will find the old police telegraph boxes still mounted against the fire alarm telegraph boxes at various locations in Bloomfield.  Last summer, the Bloomfield crossing guards placed a fresh coat of red and white paint on the boxes and poles.  They also painted some of the blue police boxes white.  It is rumored that the police call boxes remain to cover up holes in the back of the fire alarm boxes from the mounting of the two boxes together.  Either way, it still a nice setup to see.

The Township of Bloomfield continues to utilize their telegraph fire alarm box system.  Currently, Bloomfield has 195 fire alarm boxes, both Street boxes and Master boxes, all over 16 box circuits.  Visual inspections show that the system appears to be in fair shape.  However, it does appear that equipment is removed if there is a break, aside from a broken wire.  Recently removed was Box 5355, located at East Passaic & Day Street.  There was a new utility pole put in place in March of 2009.  It may have been struck by a vehicle.  The box appeared to have been moved to the new pole, but has since been removed.  Approximately 5 years ago there was a box on a pedestal at Bloomfield & Watsessing Avenues (Box 1511), which was knocked over by an automobile.  That box and pedestal was never replaced.  From reports I've heard, the bells no longer sound in most of the firehouses.  The reason is unknown at this time. 

The numbering scheme is interesting.  It appears that the town is divided in 5 wards.  Any box starting with a 1 is in the south part of the township, from Bloomfield Avenue south.  The 2xxx boxes continue from Bloomfield Avenue to Almira Box 5391 in Bloomfield, NJ at the corner of East Passaic Avenue & Bartlett Street, with an old Police Telegraph Box piggybacking it.Street.  The 3XXX boxes continue from Almira north to Augustus Street across to Chapel Ave.  4XXX boxes continue from there to, but not including Watchung Avenue.  The 5-series boxes start on Watchung Avenue and continue north to the Clifton border.  Also, if the second number in the box number is an "8", the box is a master box.  For example, Box 5816 is Brookdale Baptist Church.  Box 1851 is Carteret School - Grove Street.  In addition, there appears to be a trend in the numbering scheme for Essex County towns.  It seems that each intersection has a number assigned to it.  You can see it with the boxes on West Passaic Avenue.  Box 5399 is at West Passaic & Darling Avenues...a long block away (equivalent to 2 smaller blocks away) at West Passaic & High Street is Box 5397....2 actual blocks away from that box is Box 5395 at West Passaic & Bartlett Street (It was a similar setup in Nutley, which I hope to post information about the system soon).   As I was told, there are numerous phantom boxes in Bloomfield.

Westinghouse used to have a large facility in Bloomfield, and had its own extensive telegraph fire alarm system.  The Westinghouse plant has since been demolished.

During the week of August 16, 2012, All 194 boxes were bagged.  On Thursday, August 16, 2012, 50 boxes were removed from service.  While that was going on the Gamewell Box at Bloomfield High School was tested.  4 rounds were received at HQ.  That was the last box that I personally heard being tested or activated. 




Bloomfield Municipal Fire Alarm Box List



Caldwell Final Fire Box List

Cedar Grove

East Orange - I attempted to obtain some information via an OPRA request from East Orange.   They were very gracious, but unfortunately did not have any information.  What I was able to obtain from East Orange FD and historians was that the telegraph alarm boxes were removed from service in the early 1980 and replaced with the EVRS system, which was later removed from service.

Glen Ridge - The history of the Glen Ridge Gamewell system is forthcoming.  I can tell you that the Glen Ridge Gamewell system comprised of a mixture of telephone and telegraph boxes.  The system was housed in the basement of the former Glen Ridge Firehouse.  It was a unique system in the system ran on batteries and never on house current.  As it was, there was a day once a week that the batteries would be recharged.  Once the batteries were recharged, the house current would be turned off and the system would run on battery power.

Before the Glen Ridge Volunteer Fire Department was disbanded in the late 1980's early 1990's, the box circuits were replaced with new wire.  Soon after the GRVFD disbanded, the system began to deteriorate.  The batteries were not recharged and the system eventually abandoned.  Boxes were taped up with yellow caution tape.  Over the years, the caution tape began to rot away.  Now, most of the boxes have nothing on them to indicate that the boxes do not work.  Now, if you pickup the handset, no one would answer.  Nothing would happen.  You would figure that it didn't work.  However, the two telegraph boxes that I encountered still look like they are in service when they're not.  So, if you pull the box, you will hear it tap out and you will expect the box is working.  Mechanically, it is but the signal is not going to be received anywhere.  This is extremely dangerous and is setting up the town for a huge lawsuit, should someone try to call assistance from a box and not get the help they need.

Glen Ridge Final Fire Alarm Box List


Irvington Final Fire Box List


Maplewood Final Fire Box List

Millburn - Sadly 2009 marked the end of this Gamewell system.  As of April 21, 2009, the telegraph alarm system in Millburn has been removed from service.  As of last Friday, many boxes were bagged.  This past Monday, many of the boxes were removed from the telephone poles and pedestals.  Today, the pedestals were cut down.  See stories:  and

When in service, the system had over 60 master boxes, including master boxes covering various areas of the Short Hills Mall, and 100 street boxes over 8 box circuits. The boxes were all 4-digit box numbers.  There was meaning to the numbers.  The first digit indicated which circuit the box was located. For example all boxes that began with a 7 were on Circuit 7.  The second digit in the box number sometimes indicted the type of occupancy, if it was a master box.  More details on that to follow.  The last 2 numbers were simply the box number in the area. 

The system was in great health when the system was shut down.  This was verified by Chief Michael Roberts in a February 2009 interview with Jennifer Connic of the Millburn Patch (Click link: for the article).  All the boxes were in working order.  All the circuits were operating properly. Typically, when a system that is in great health is suddenly turned off and removed from service, there is something more to it....usually a vendetta of some sort is behind the removal of a system.  Someone did not like someone who was or is involved with the telegraph system.  The occurrence of malicious false alarms were far and few between.  However, there seemed to be a sudden surge in malicious false alarms in the last few weeks of the system's life (Click the following links: and 

Now, there's ways to prevent and catch those who pull boxes maliciously.  In Rutherford, NJ, there is dye on the hook.  This non-toxic dye will spread to the fingers on contact and turn purple as it reacts to the oils in your skin.  This dye does not wash off for a couple of days.  It is very inexpensive, east to apply and use and easily identifies the perp.  If the boxes had them the perpetrator would've been caught.  It still seems very weird, almost too coincidental that there were discussions about removing the boxes around the time the malicious pulls started....especially when there was a sudden surge in false alarms.  I just don't buy it.

In reading the stories, Chief Roberts is quoted as saying that "Alarm systems in commercial and residential buildings are now linked directly to fire headquarters....the lines to the master firebox alarms were moved onto the centrally stationed fire alarm system prior to removal" Well, what was gained?  The master boxes were tied to the building's fire alarm system and would activate the box when the fire alarm sounded.  Weren't the master boxes tied into fire headquarters?  So nothing is gained.  Over 60 businesses, schools and other occupancies were already tied into fire headquarters via the master box. 

According to the article, "the system cost approximately $6,000 each year and the maintenance fees have become increasingly higher as years pass and fewer parts are manufactured for it, limiting availability for replacement pieces. Most municipalities and large cities have already removed the systems."  $6,000 is peanuts in the Township budget.  And, if you wanted to offset those costs, you could charge Master box customers monitoring fees.  The only parts that are few and far between are the parts for SAFA boxes, which Millburn had a few (Millburn & Wyoming Avenues had a SAFA box).  To fix that, since SAFA is out of business, replace the SAFA box with a Gamewell box, if there are no SAFA parts available.  Little Falls had a SAFA box on Clove & Long Hill Roads, which had a broken part.  That box was removed from service and replaced with a Gamewell box.  Gamewell-FCI is still in business, sells manufactures and sells new fireboxes and makes replacement parts for the three-fold boxes ( 

Yes, many towns have removed their systems....for various reasons.  The worst reason is to say its due to the numerous false alarms.  How many times does someone accidently dial 9-1-1?  Ask a police officer how many times they respond to a 9-1-1 hang-up and its a false call.  Should we remove 9-1-1?  A question for firefighters....ever respond to the same address numerous times for activated fire alarms?  How many are actual fires?  I'm not talking smoke from unattended cooking.  I'm talking about working fires.   Should we have the building's fire alarm removed?  The answer to these questions is no.  So why would you remove the fireboxes?  Its a lame excuse.  Cell phones are the most common excuse.  Ok, I'm going to put an end to this once and for all.  Cell phones are not an end all to everything.  Cell phone batteries die.  I know for a fact that cell coverage in Millburn is not 100%!  There are numerous areas, especially in the Short Hills sections, along Wyoming Avenue, and in the reservation where I get no cell phone service.  Call 9-1-1...who do you get?  Not Millburn.  Fortunately in this case, Millburn is under contract with Summit to handle 9-1-1 calls and dispatches Millburn FD.  That is great....but that's only from a landline.  From your cell phone, you may not get Summit.  You may get Newark, NJ State Police, Essex County Sheriff, Union Twp., etc.  Check with your cell phone provider. So, cell phones advertise "fewest dropped calls."  The telegraph fire alarm box system can boast "No dropped calls."

Suppose 9-1-1 goes down?  Hey it could happen.  The Millburn Twp  phone lines went down in late April:  9-1-1 lines have gone down.  While I do not have any supporting documentation regarding Millburn's 9-1-1, I'm sure you can find something about other 9-1-1 centers who had phone line failures, if you search the web.

Last point I want to make, and I've said it many times on this site...Why would you want to remove the most direct link to alert firefighters of a fire?  You pull a box, the signals go right to the firehouses.  It doesn't get rerouted to the appropriate agency's dispatcher after the first receipt of an alarm.  It doesn't go through various switching stations.  It goes right to the dispatcher and simultaneously to the two township firehouses. 

As usual, the problem here was lack of education and promotion of the system.  Here is the Millburn FD webpage: .  Nowhere on the site is a mention of the fire alarm boxes, besides the FD responding to them.  No box listing.  No "For Fire Call 9-1-1 or pull a box"  Nothing.

Anyway, I hope to try to get more information about the history.  In the meantime, here is the final box list for the Millburn Fire Department.

Millburn Final Fire Alarm Box List

Montclair - Montclair's system was shut down and decommissioned in the early 2000s.  Some equipment and boxes were picked up and used by Rutherford.

Montclair Final Fire Alarm Box List

Newark - Newark had a large Gamewell fire alarm system.  The system had 40 circuits!  The system was removed in 2008.  Rutherford was fortunate to get some equipment from them....including the bell you heard in the background when they dispatched companies.  Like I've said on the main page, there aren't many fire department websites that talk about their telegraph systems.  Newark is no different.  However, a member of the Newark Fire Department has created a website about the history of the Newark Fire Department.  In it, they talk about their telegraph system.  It is very informative.  Rather than taking from their site (which they did give me permission to do...thanks again brothers) I will link the site to here...more specifically to the box system.  Oh, and I do have a Newark Box Listing.  I just need to put it in the format I use here....which will be an undertaking at best.  Hopefully I will have it up here in the future.

Newark Fire History

Nutley - Nutley's system was decommissioned in the early 90s.  Research has begun on their system.  The box list has been updated to include street boxes that were not listed as a physical street box on my master listing.  Also, there are three boxes not listed since I their location was not indicated on my listing. 

Nutley Final Box List

Orange - The City of Orange Township removed their Gamewell system.  When the Fire Alarm Superintendant retired, the Gamewell system was retired.  While the system was in service, there were 6 box circuits running through the city.  The system was comprised of street and master boxes.  There was a mix of aerial wire consisting of multi-conductor, C-wire and single strand line wire as well as underground wiring.  Pictures will follow.  Further research will also be conducted.  For now, here is the current Alarm Box Listing. a few years ago.

Orange Township Municipal Fire Alarm Box List

South Orange

South Orange Final Fire Box List

West Orange - West Orange's fire alarm box system was installed and placed in service on December 26, 1894.  The system was made up of 9 boxes, connected via telegraph lines to a gong and indicator as well as a whistle at the firehouse.  The boxes were an older style Gamewell fire alarm box (called a Keyless Door, or Door Opening Type) where the user turned a handle to transmit the box.  In 1900, the system expanded and a three circuit switchboard was installed.  Eight years later, a new switchboard was installed in West Orange's new Fire Headquarters.  The new switchboard increased the system to 5 circuits.  As the years went on, and the fire box technology changed, many of the old boxes ere replaced with newer Gamewell pull-style boxes.  By 1918, there were 45 fire alarm boxes throughout the Township.  In addition Fire Station 2, located on Washington Street) was online with the system.  By 1946, Station 3 was able to receive the boxes.  Also, the number of boxes increased to 67.  In 1957, just before Station 3 moved to its current location off of Northfield Avenue and Station 4 opened on Pleasant Valley Way, there were a total of 106 boxes in service.

The numbering of the boxes is interesting.  The first digit of the box number indicated the area which was closest to the station.  For example, If Box 2117 was pulled, the 2 indicated that the box is in Station 2's district.

Apparently, the Superintendent of the Fire Alarm System was put on the shoulders of Fire Chief Sheehan.  On March 7, 1914, Chief Sheehan advised the Mayor and Council that "the system was completely crippled by the storm on Sunday, March 1...and being unable to procure assistance or help at any cost, I placed a callman on duty and taking Fireman Hoffman with me, we started on Monday morning to repair the wires; by Wednesday evening, three circuits were working, and by Saturday, noon, all of the system was in use and working."  A service division and maintenance truck was soon created within the fire department for the purpose of overseeing and maintaining the fire department's box system and the West Orange Police Department telegraph system and air raid sirens.  In the 1920's Assistant Chief Al Elhert joined the service department.  In the 1930's Firefighter Ralph Curtis also joined.  In the 1950's Firefighters Ray Daum and Herman Catalano joined the team.

1975 met the demise of the telegraph boxes, as they were removed and replaced with the Emergency Voice Recording System, which leased telephone boxes and telephone lines from New Jersey Bell Company.  By the end of the 1970's, with the placement of 9-1-1, these EVRS boxes met their demise.

West Orange Final Fire Box List

Information on the West Orange Fire Department Telegraph box system was taken from the West Orange Fire Department Centennial Album.

Verona - Not much is found on the Verona Municipal Fire Alarm Box system.  There is an indication of  a white ring on a telephone pole approximately 30 " in length at the corner of Elmwood & Elk Roads, which may have indicated a street box was there.  Recently, I stumbled upon some additional information about the Gamewell system.    It turns out that Verona did indeed have a larger box alarm system.   The system was removed, with the exception of the two boxes, one on each firehouse, in the 90's.  Reasons for the removal were due to an increase in malicious false alarms, increase in maintenance costs, and near zero legitimate activations. 

Verona utilizes a diaphragm (apparently replacing a diaphone) to alert the FD and EMS of a call utilizing either 4-4 (for an EMS run, which was reduced from 7-7-7 due to complaints) or a phantom box number.  The diaphragm does not sound during the overnight hours or when there are functions at the Town Hall, unless requested by a fire officer.  Each intersection has its own box number assigned.  If you live in Verona or happen to be passing through and hear the fire horn, count the blast pattern, visit their website and enter the box number.  It will tell you the location of the box number:, go to FAQ's, scroll down to Questions about the fire department and click on  "What is that fog horn I hear every now and then?"

I do not see separate wires, such as old telegraph or C-wire in the town.  The Verona FD operates on the municipal trunking radio system.  So, it is possible that the boxes are connected through the same cable for the Trunked radio system.  However, years ago, if a member of the fire department wished, a bell could have been installed in their home.  Apparently, these small gongs are still active in those members' homes, as they are still tied into the system.  The gongs are also still in service in the firehouses.  A punch register is also still in service at Company 1's firehouse.

Update December 13, 2016:  I drove through Verona today and saw that a firebox on the firehouse on the East side of town was removed.  Traveling along Bloomfield Avenue and passing the other firehouse up the hill on the west side of town, I saw that box was bagged.  I do not know if the horn in the town hall is still operating.  So, since they were the last 2 boxes I've known to be active, now out of commission, Verona has been moved to the retired page.


Gloucester County


Woodbury Final Fire Box List

Hudson County

Bayonne -

Bayonne Final Box List

East Newark - The beginnings of the East Newark Gamewell system is being researched.  However, we can tell you that the system was removed around 2006.  The system was a tiny system in a tiny town.  The system was comprised of 9 Gamewell boxes, digitize receiving equipment and a Gamewell Type B Diaphone.  A Digitize Form 4 unit was in service and placed in Fire Headquarters and had only one box circuit.  The receiving unit was an older Digitize model, which had the box info burned into the memory at the factory.  The boxes in the system were all Gamewell.  The system had the 1951 style box as well as the older models with the dog house.  The older boxes did not have the automatic ground return feature.  Again, the 9 boxes were removed and auctioned off to the public.

East Newark Final Box Listing


Harrison Final Box List

Jersey City - The telegraph fire alarm box system in Jersey City actually predated the paid Jersey City Fire Department.  The paid department was formed on June 6, 1871.  So, their telegraph box system was at least that old.  Initially, the boxes were installed in the downtown areas around City Hall.  Eventually, as other fire companies were incorporated into the Jersey City Fire Department, more boxes and circuits were added.  The boxes were pole mounted as well as on pedestals.  The system was primarily made up of Gamewell boxes, but also had SAFA boxes in the field.  The system was comprised of 20 box circuits, 5 primary gong circuits and 5 secondary gong circuits.  It was also a Type A system.  Sadly, the system met its demise in early July of 1973.  The Gamewell system was replaced with yellow telephone boxes.  The telephone boxes were removed in 1985.

The fire alarm offices had three homes in its time.  The first fire alarm office was located at 333 Warren Street....a former volunteer fire house.  In 1897, the fire alarm office moved to its second home at 244 Bay Street, the current home of the Jersey City Gong Club.  The office made its final move around 1933, to the top floor of Fire Headquarters at 82 Grand Street.

Now, for all you fans of the Jersey City Fire Department, and those who like listening to them on 460.6000, I have a treat for you.  As you know, when you hear them go on a run, they are assigned a three digit box or district number.  Those are not, repeat, NOT the old box numbers.  Click the link below for the old box listing.

Now, there is a rumor circulating about the reason why the Gamewell system was removed from service in Jersey City.  Some say it was due to the numerous false alarms.  Others say the fire alarm staff was short staffed.  Others feel that the political machine at the time had an agreement with the phone company to let the Gamewell system deteriorate to the point where the system was too costly to maintain and was less than 100% reliable.  Then the phone company would swoop in with the telephone boxes and replace the Gamewells with these boxes.  It is difficult to fathom that someone would risk public safety for money.  Again, it is only a rumor.  No one knows for sure why the system was removed.

Jersey City Final Fire Alarm Box List

Kearny - The telegraph system in Kearny went into service on August 8,1899. The system was an all Gamewell Fire Alarm system.  Over the years, a new switchboard, transmitter and repeater and additional pull boxes were installed.  By 1913, there were thirty-three boxes. This system needed to be maintained, George M. Smack was appointed to the job on December 15,1917 at an annual salary of $1,600.

The system met its fate in 2005, when the last lineman for the telegraph retired.  At that point, Kearny had 168 street and master boxes.  I hope to have more information regarding the system.  The boxes were auctioned off and much of the receiving equipment was sold...including one of the Digitize 3500 units, which sees new life in the Township of Little Falls.  The other Digitize 3500 receiving unit is believed to be used by Bogota, NJ.

Kearny Final Fire Alarm Box List

North Bergen

North Bergen Final Fire Box List

Union City


Weehawken Final Fire Box List

West New York

Hunterdon County

High Bridge - High Bridge is being added to the active systems list.  While there is no evidence of street boxes throughout the town, there is a Gamewell box (without a number plate) on the High Bridge Fire House.  It is unclear at this time if the system was expanded to include street boxes or if there is a Diaphone or other outdoor warning device.  In addition, it is not clear whether there are boxes on other Borough buildings.  In visiting the High Bridge FD website, there was a steam whistle used in the 1910's a the Taylor Wharton Plant to alert the FD of a fire.  There were 6 "box locations," numbered 1 through 6. 

1 - Forge

2 -Steel Works

3 - Car Wheel Foundry

4 - East High Bridge

5 - High Bridge

6 - Mines

Sadly, according to their website, "the box alarms have become obsolete with the new technology and E 911 system" and the system was removed.  Since they kept one box on the firehouse, I imagine the box number is either 14, since High Bridge is Station 14 in the Hunterdon County Fire Plan, or it was a number from the old system.    Additional information will follow.

Lambertville - A few years ago, I was advised by a fan of this site that Lambertville, NJ had an active telegraph box alarm system with a working diaphone.  I was aware of the diaphone from a chat on another web site, but heard rumors that the system was removed years earlier.  As usual, rumors turned out to be as reliable as always.  In other words, don't listen to them.  Thanks to John Bensch, he confirmed that Lambertville had a box alarm system as of Sunday Jan. 16, 2011.  He also advised of some other towns in Western NJ and Central NJ with retired systems, which I will add in the future.  For the heck of it, I did a search on Google Maps and found an intersection with a street box that proved John's assertion.  I reported that I would attempt to contact someone from the Lambertville Fire Department or Board of Fire Commissioners to try to get as much information as possible about their system. 

In Mid December of 2013, I got in contact with one of the Fire Chiefs from the Lambertville Fire Department.  He was very gracious and provided me with some useful information.  He could not tell me when the system was installed (I later found that the system was in existence since the early-to-mid 1900's), but he did confirm that the system was removed from service early in 2013.  When removed from service, the system consisted of 24 boxes, with a mix of '28 style and '51 style Gamewell boxes.  The system consisted of street and master boxes.  Master boxes were primarily for the schools.  Also included in the system were two diaphones.  One diaphone is located on top of the Columbia Fire Company on North Union & Buttonwood Streets.  The other was located on a tower on top of a building in Mary Sheridan Park on York Street.  These diaphones remain in service, sounding 7 blasts for a fire call, set off by pager or DTMF tones.  It is unknown what receiving units were used.  However, the Chief believes that there were Digitize products used.  I hope to get more information about that.  Each of the four firehouses in town had a punch register and a board listing the box locations.

The boxes were numbered depending on where the box was located in the city.  Lower digit boxes were located in the southern end of Lambertville, increasing as you moved north.  The boxes had 2 digit box numbers assigned to them.  It is unclear whether there were any 3- or 4-digit box numbers.  Based on the small amount of boxes, it is unlikely that there were 3-digit box numbers.  I do not believe that there were any phantom box numbers, unless a location one time had a box that was removed.

Some highlights of the system include a complete rewiring of the aerial wire a few years ago.  From the looks of it, the wire plant consisted of multiconductor wire and possibly C-Wire.  As with most systems, Lambertville has a rash of malicious false alarms in the 1980's.  The Diaphones were out of service for a few months, repaired and returned to active service in May, 2012.  The boxes went up for auction in January 2013 and were all sold, except one which was presented as a gift to one of the Fire Chiefs.  The box location boards in the firehouse have also been removed.  I hope to get a fire alarm location list and some pictures of the remnants of the system. 

Lambertville Final Fire Box List

Mercer County


Middlesex County   

New Brunswick - I was fortunate enough to receive an email from someone who knew about a little bit about New Brunswick's system.  Below is what he shared with me.  The system was setup in wards.  The wards were all wired so that the first digit of the four digit box number was the ward, then the location. The card catalogue had first due, second due, third due companies, fastest route, closest and next closest hydrants, any hazards and brief appropriate info, such as a hospital, industry, etc. Phantom boxes were also there.  Every intersection was a box number or a phantom. The master dispatch room had the set ups so stills could be sent or definite locations could be sent. ALL alarms were announced on the radio for company verification "KEJ 874 to all units--box 3495 JERSEY AVENUE AND SIMPLEX" and what the call was if the info was phoned in. The railroad separated the city.  Headquarters went to everything and the appropriate engines in a ward firehouse would run also. The Gamewell system was difficult to repair and maintain. It was discontinued in the 1980s. Then the pay phones could dial "O" and get help with no money.  911 was just a story we read about.  It took awhile but it was installed and now it is the state of the art way to get help---FAST. The Gamewell system was in the 2 city water supply pump houses.  A code could be sent to request an increase in pump pressure.  The tape, bells and reels were in the pump house offices. Operating engineers knew how the system worked.  2 bells was an ambulance call.  3 bells was back taps.   I worked the Rutgers Fire Dept for 35 years--we had bells to wake us up--but a board with all the lights would light up with the location--no coded tape or reel--just the bells. It stayed lit until l the call was officially over--the run card had a time stamp machine for official time keeping.

Perth Amboy

South Amboy

South Amboy Partial Fire Box List

Woodbridge Twp

        Avenel Fire District

       Colonia Fire District - Not much is known about the Gamewell system in the Colonia Section of Woodbridge Twp.  It was installed in the 1960's and is still in use today.  Driving through Colonia, you will see that there are numerous fire alarm boxes.  I visited the firehouse, walked in the bay area, tried calling for someone, walked to the rear of the bay and saw the digitize receiving unit and the boards listing the boxes.  Unfortunately in my haste, I had the camera on the wrong setting and ended up with very blurry pictures.  I hope to return there again and speak with someone and perhaps get some pictures of the system, as well as an official box list.  Colonia has removed the entire Gamewell system.  The system was removed in 2006.

Colonia Final Box List

        Fords Fire District

        Hopelawn Fire District

        Iselin Fire District

        Keasby Fire District

        Woodbridge Fire District


Monmouth County  


Asbury Park

Bradley Beach


Fair Haven

Freehold (Boro)

Freehold Final Fire Box List

Loch Harbor

Long Branch




Neptune City

Neptune Twp,


Oakhurst Final Fire Box List

Ocean Grove

Red Bank

Red Bank Final Fire Box List

South Belmar

Spring Lake

West Long Branch

West Long Branch Final Fire Box List

Morris County


Butler Final Box List


Chatham Boro Final Box List


Dover Fire Alarm Box List (1960s)


Morristown Final Box List


Riverdale Final Fire Box List

Wharton - The Wharton telegraph fire alarm system dates back to 1929.  However, alerting the fire department of a fire was done by striking large locomotive rims located in several sections of town.  In December 1904, an 8" steam whistle was installed at the Hurd Mine. When the mine closed, the whistle was relocated to "The Furnace" and moved again to "Gunther Silk Mill.", before a manually controlled electric siren was installed in a cupola atop the borough hall in 1918.  Nineteen sterling system street fire alarm boxes were installed through the borough.  Through the years additional street alarm boxes were added.  During the 1950's. two electric sirens were installed and placed in the Luxemburg and St. Mary's.  In 1955, an additional siren was installed in the Woodland section.  When the system was finally removed in 1981, there were a total of 41 alarm boxes.  The Saturday noon fire alarm system test dates back to the action of the Borough Council requiring a test of the fire alarm as early as December 26, 1904.

Today the four sirens are still in place and used.   The fire department is dispatched by home radio receivers and personal pagers. The sirens are activated by radio tones. 

Why were the alarm boxes removed?  According to the Wharton FD website, It was due to maintenance expenses and the high number of false alarms they  were receiving.

Wharton Box list to follow.....hopefully.

Ocean County     


Seaside Heights

Point Pleasant Beach - Point Pleasant Beach had a small system.  The boxes were 2 digits and a had 2 Diaphone horns which blew the number out.  Members of the FD had a card in their house to check where the call was. Bay Head, and Manasquan also had these small systems but they wore out and now they are very seldom used.

Passaic County

Bloomingdale - The former Bloomingdale telegraph fire alarm box system dates back to the 1930's.  However, alerting of the Bloomingdale Fire Department dates back a few years earlier through the use of locomotive rims and sledge hammers, which were strategically placed around town.  The rims were replaced with what is being described as sirens which tap out the box numbers (as a diaphone would).  It is unknown how many boxes were installed when the system was placed in service. 

The system was relatively small with at most approximately 20 boxes and consisted of two box loops, known as "upper" and "lower."  Each loop had two sirens.  The sirens are located at Firemen's Hall on Hamburg Turnpike, SR Donald School on Captolene Avenue, MB Day School on Rafkind Road, and  at Delazier Field Rec Area on Ballston Street. Box 55 was located in Butler dispatch, since Butler used to dispatch the Bloomingdale Fire Department.  When Butler received an alarm of fire in Bloomingdale, Butler would pull Box 55.  Bloomingdale Fire would then contact Butler dispatch and get the location of the call.  When Bloomingdale Police took over dispatching duties, Box 55 was moved to the Bloomingdale dispatch office.

Bloomingdale is located in the central part of Passaic County, NJ and is susceptible to some severe thunderstorms in the summer months.  Frequently, lightning strikes would strike along the circuits, blowing fuses in the circuits.  These opens caused the sirens to constantly wail until  someone arrived to the firehouse, manually shut the power to the sirens and replace the fuses.  Any breaks in the single strand line wire would cause the same condition. 

As with any public telegraph fire alarm system, there were a lot of malicious false alarms generated from the box system. 

The alarm box located at Hamburg Turnpike and North Main Street was pulled in February of 1957 for a large fire in nearby Butler NJ at the North American Rubber Company, which was the first notification of the fire.  The fire was in a mill building complex, equivalent in size of a 1 square city block with buildings in the complex of varying heights, up to 4 stories. The complex was completely destroyed in the blaze and the costliest industrial fire in 1957 in the USA at over $6 million in losses.

The late 1990's to early 2000's saw the end of the telegraph box system, as cell phones and 9-1-1 became more prevalent.  However, the sirens remain in service, since there is limited range with the pagers due to the terrain, but use is limited in the overnight hours to structure fires.  Due to mechanical problems, two of the original sirens were removed from service in 2000 and replaced with two sirens from the system in Kinnelon, NJ.   However, the old railroad rim and hammer rang out one more time this year.  One of the original train rims were recently refurbished and put on display.  As January 9, 2010 came to a close, so did the first century of service of the Bloomingdale Fire Department.  At 12:01 a.m. on January 10, 2010, the gong sounded once again, to ring in the second century of service of the Bloomingdale Fire Department.  Who better to ring in the alarm than the Bloomingdale FD's oldest living member Lawrence "Bud" Bennett, who is 98 years old! 

Special thanks to the Bloomingdale Fire Department Officers and Members and to the BFD Historian Mike Wanklin for sharing this information and searching for additional info!  Stay safe brothers!

Bloomingdale Final Fire Box List


Clifton PARTIAL Fire Box List


Haledon Final Fire Box List

North Haledon


Passaic Partial Fire Box List


Paterson Partial Fire Box List

Prospect Park

Prospect Park Final Box List


Totowa Final Fire Box List


Wanaque Final Fire Box List

Salem County

Somerset County

Bound Brook

North Plainfield

North Plainfield Final Fire Alarm Box List

Raritan Boro

South Bound Brook

Sussex County


Newton Final Fire Box List

Union County

Cranford - Cranford's telegraph box system was placed in service on July 30, 1897.  On that day, "the wires and boxes being all in position, the new fire alarm system will be tested and adjusted this afternoon.  Unless some serious difficulty is met with the new system will be in use from today onward."  Five boxes were placed in service and a list distributed.  The list included the people who held keys to open the box.  The list was as follows:

Box #





Hampton & Eastman Streets


Union Avenue & Claremont Place


Lincoln & Central Avenues


Union & Lincoln Avenues

These boxes were the keyed type to activate the alarm.  If someone wanted to report a fire, they had to go to the people who were assigned a key.  They would then activate the box.  Cranford was also divided into districts.  The 1st number of the box indicated the district number.  At some point in time, these boxes were changed out to the three-fold boxes with the Quick Action Door.  Also, the numbering scheme using districts was abandoned.  According to a 1912 census, Cranford had 9 telephone Gamewell boxes and 1 police call box in service in addition to the signaling boxes.  The Box listing from Cranford in 1914 was as follows:   

Box #



Walnut & South Avenues


Union & North Avenues




Union Avenue & Claremont Place


Lincoln & Centennial Avenues


Lincoln & Union Avenues


Linden & Orange Avenues


North Avenue & Orchard Street


Hampton & Eastman Streets


Arlington Road & North Avenue


Holly Street & Springfield Avenue


Lincoln & Walnut Avenues

By October 1918, the system grew to 18 boxes.  By 1938, the system grew to 24 boxes.  The box list as of May 19, 1938 was as follows:

Box #


Box # Location


Walnut & South Avenues


North Avenue & Orchard Street


Union & North Avenues


West End & Berkeley Places




Tulip Street & Springfield Avenue


Burnside Avenue & Williams Street


Elizabeth & Bloomingdale Avenues


Union Avenue & Claremont Place


North Avenue near Elizabeth Street


Elmora & Dunham Avenues


Hampton & Eastman Streets


Lincoln & Centennial Avenues


Arlington Road & North Avenue


Lincoln & Union Avenues


Holly Street & Springfield Avenue


Union Avenue South & Marsh Street


Centennial & Lincoln Avenues


Linden & Orange Avenues


Broad & Elm Streets


Orchard & Washington Streets


Centennial Avenue & Cranford Terrace


Casino Avenue & Manor Place


Lincoln & Walnut Avenues

In June of 1939, the Town of Cranford was re-divided into five districts.  Fire alarm boxes were renumbered so that the first number indicated the district that the box was located.  By this  time, 5 additional boxes were also installed.  The box list now looked like this:

Box #


Box # Location

Union & Springfield Avenues


Elizabeth & Bloomingdale Avenues


Alden & Miln Streets


North Union Avenue & Claremont Place


South & Walnut Avenues


Casino Avenue & Manor Place

North & North Union Avenues


Orange Avenue & Maple Place

North Avenue, between Alden & Springfield


Columbia & Belmont Avenues


Lincoln & South Union Avenues


Elmora & Dunham Avenues


Burnside Avenue & Williams Street


Orange & Pacific Avenues


South Union Avenue & Marsh Street


Springfield Avenue & Holly Street


Lincoln & Walnut Avenues


North Avenue & Orchard Street


Centennial Avenue & Cranford Terrace


Eastman & Hampton Streets


Munsee Drive & Cayuga Avenue


West End & Berkeley Places


Centennial & Lincoln Avenues


Orchard & Tulip Streets


Broad & Elm Streets


Brookside Place & Division Street


North Avenue & Arlington Road


Springfield Avenue & Balmiere Parkway


North Avenue & Bell Place


From here until the removal of the system, all boxes that were added followed the district numbering scheme.  As boxes were add to the system, announcements were made in the local newspapers.  Box 26 at Mac Arthur Terrace & Mitchell Place was placed in service on August 27, 1945.  Also on that date, it was reported that there were 37 boxes were in service.  Box 411, located at Carpenter Place & Veronica Avenue was placed in service on January 26, 1954.  Interesection of Springfield Avenue & Holly Street where Box 51 used to proudly protect.  You can see where the box was mounted, as it faced the intersection.  Almost 14 years later and the blue light is still mounted above the striping.  Also shown are the two crossarms, as alarm  wire ran down both streets.

As with any telegraph system, during any era that the systems have been operating, the system is susceptible to false alarms. In May of 1954, there was a series of malicious false alarms.  No one was caught....until Box 12 was pulled.  The 11 year old prankster ended up with the purple dye on his hands that came from the hook on Box 12.  When a Cranford Police Lieutenant saw the youth in the area with the dye on him, he stopped the youth and questioned him.  The youth replied "that stuff couldn't have come off the alarm box because I didn't get anything on my fingers when I touched the other two boxes last week."  Anyway, according to the paper, due to his age, disciplinary actions were left for his parents to handle. 

As the years wore on, more and more boxes were added.  Box 58 at Brookside Place & Spruce Street was placed in service the week of August 1, 1957.  Box 242 at Livingston Avenue & Amherst Road was placed in service on August 25, 1959. Box 516 at Princeton & Amherst Roads was placed in service the week of May 19, 1960.   The system was now up to 60 boxes and continued to grow strong.  By October 29, 1964, the system grew to a total of 72 boxes, the latest two additions being Box 59 at Orchard Street & Dartmouth Road and Box 312, Commerce Drive & Myrtle Street, which was in an industrial park.

Information on the Cranford Gamewell became very scarce after 1964.  At some point, however, the CFD expanded the system to 200 alarms, run over 30 miles of cable.  The CFD also had automatic dialer alarms.  These dialer alarms may have signified the beginning of the end of the Gamewell system in Cranford.

On May 20, 1997, Fire Chief Arthur Kiamie discussed his desire "to eliminate the 90-year old Gamewell alarm system" from service to the Township committee.  His reasons for removing the system were due to there not being a Still mounted at the corner of South & Centennial Avenues, is a terminal box for the Gamewell system.  Also, the blue light at this corner is STILL illuminated at night time, despite no box being on every street corner, the system is old and the wiring is worn, there is interference from trees and the cost to maintain was too great.  To upgrade the system would cost nearly $70,000.  Chief Kiamie did push for a new 'practical' and 'cost-efficient' system.  This system would be tied in to a panel at the dispatch center.  Users would pay an annual fee.  The system would monitor burglar and fire alarms and possibly carbon monoxide alarms. On October 16, 1997, Cranford's new Fire Chief Leonard Dolan, III continued implementing the program started by former Chief Kiamie, by removing the Gamewell system.  As 1997 drew to a close, so did the Gamewell system in Cranford, NJ.

Cross arms, C-Wire, some blue lights suspended about 16-20 feet over the boxes, as well as faded yellow and whiteBox 19 at Cranford Fire Headquarters. paint rings are the only remnants remaining in the town where the system once operated.  On occasion, you will hear the CFD get dispatched to a low hanging wire, only to find out that it was old telegraph line from the old system.  However, there is still a Gamewell Box on the exterior of Fire Headquarters on Springfield Avenue.  It is unknown whether the box is still hooked up.  A final box listing is in the works.  I hope to be able to get in contact with the CFD to find out more information.  Below is a list of their boxes that I have so far.  It is NOT the final box list.

Cranford Incomplete Fire Box List


Elizabeth - Elizabeth's system dated back to at least the early 1900's.  I believe it actually goes back to the 1880's.  In its infancy, boxes were 2- and 3- digit box numbers.  As the city grew, so did the the system, as is the case in any system.  At some point the boxes were changed to 4-digit box numbers and the town divided up in six zones. 

The box numbers also have a meaning.  The first digit indicates the zone (or battalion, if they broke up the city that way).  The second number is a sub zone.  The third and fourth digits indicate the box address.  I'll explain that in detail later.  Boxes starting with 1 were in the southern part of Elizabeth within the area from the city limits to the south, the Elizabeth river to the north and east and U.S. Route 1 to the west.  Boxes beginning with 2 are in the area of Elizabeth bordered by the Elizabeth River to the south, the Arthur Kill Waterway to the east, Norrfolk Southern Rail Yard to the north and U.S. Route 1 to the west.  Boxes starting with 3 were located in the southwest section of the city, bordered by U.S. Route 1 to the east, city limits to the south and west and Morris Avenue to the north.  Boxes starting with 4 are bordered by Morris Ave to the South, city limits to the west and north and the Amtrak/NJ Transit rail lines to the east.  Boxes starting with 5 are in the north region of town, bordered by Amtrak/NJ Transit rail line to the west, city limits to the north, New Jersey Turnpike to the east and the Norfolk Southern rail yard to the south, including Newark Airport and the tank farm just northwest of Turnpike Exit 13A..  Boxes starting with 6 are the Port Elizabeth area east of the New Jersey Turnpike.

The second number in the box is the zone.  Each zone or battalion is further broken down into smaller zones.  The second number tends to indicate where in these sub zones they are located, usually low numbers are in the south part of the zone and increase as you travel north.  The third and the fourth numbers are what I call the box address.  The third number usually indicates how far west you are in the sub zone.  Lower numbers are to the east and increase as you travel west.  The fourth number indicates how far north in the sub zone you travel as well.  The lowest number starts to the south and increases as you go north in the sub zone.  Now, once you cross into a new sub zone, the 3rd and 4th numbers start over again.  For example, take Box 2243 located at East Jersey & First Streets.  We know that the Box is in the 2nd ward or zone, or battalion.  Its the 2nd sub zone and is at the fourth East-West Street and the third North-South street.  So, if we go to the next box on First Street going north, which is two blocks away, then only the 3rd digit will change.  So, it should be Box 2263.  Sure enough, it is.  Going back to Box 2243, if we travel west to the next box, then the first 3 numbers should stay the same and the fourth digit will change.  Thus, we travel one block, find a box and see that in fact, the Box number is 2244.

The City of Elizabeth also had many master boxes in their system. This is indicated by the 2nd digit in the box number.  Numbers 1-7 were reserved for street boxes (although there are very few exceptions) Boxes with an 8 in the second digit indicated a school, hospital, nursing home, or other highly populated buildings.  Boxes with a 9 as the second digit were master boxes for businesses. 

The wiring plant of the system included a lot of underground wiring and pedestals.  It would seem that most of the wiring left headquarters into 14 circuits underground, running primarily in commercial areas.  Residential areas seemed to be served by aerial C-Wire, Figure-8 and single strand line wire.  Most boxes were on pedestals and poles.  Some were mounted to a building's wall, including a street box.  I recall seeing a box for Woodruff & Henry mounted on a brick building, painted white....the same color of the building.  You would've thought it was a master box.  But it wasn't.  It was a street box placed on the building because there was no room to put a pedestal. 

Sadly, the system was removed in 2008 or 2009.  Boxes were auctioned off and given to firefighters who wanted one.  When the boxes were removed, they were painted red.  It is uncertain whether they were other colors. 

Elizabeth Final Fire Box List


Garwood - Garwood's system is being researched.  I have an email out to the former Superintendant of the Fire Alarm, hoping he will provide me with information on the system.  I do know that the system for this small town was in very good shape and very well maintained.  Included in the system was one Gamewell diaphone, placed atop of the Garwood Fire House on South Avenue.  For reasons unknown at this time, the Garwood council, under the recommendation of the Fire Committee, adopted "Resolution 06-277, authorizing the removal and disposal of the pull box Fire Alarm system in the Borough of Garwood."  Resolution 06-277 reads as follows:

"WHEREAS it has been brought to the attention of the Mayor and Council from the Fire Chief and members of the Garwood Fire Department that the Pull Box Fire Alarm System in the Borough of Garwood is obsolete and not utilized by the public; and

WHEREAS a yearlong investigation was done by the Fire Chief at the request of the Mayor and Council and the chief has validated that the system is not utilized by any Garwood business or Garwood Schools.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Garwood, County of Union, State of New Jersey hereby authorize the Fire Chief to dismantled, remove and dispose of the Pull Box Fire Alarm System in the Borough of Garwood."

Garwood Final Box List


Linden - Research on Linden's telegraph box system is still in the works.  However, I do have some information to report.  At one point, there were over 210 boxes in service.  The system comprised of 7 circuits.  Each box was 4 digits, starting with 2. There were no boxes that began with 1.  The numbering scheme seemed to follow that of many towns in the area, where the town was divided up in sections, with each intersection having a number.  Thus, it is possible that there were numerous phantom boxes.  The Northwest section of Linden near Clark & Winfield had boxes beginning with 2.  The 3-series boxes were in the area south of Roselle Avenue, bordered on the east by the railroad, St. Georges Road on the west, then zig-zaging toward Stiles Street down to the Rahway border to the south.  The 4-series boxes were Northeast of the 3rd ward and extended northward to the Elizabeth border.  The area east of the railroad were in the 5-series.  The small residential area bordered by Rts 1&9, I-278 and the Elizabeth border were in the 7-series.  The few boxes in the 6-series were master boxes.  In addition to the 6-series, any box that had an 8 as the second digit, was a master box.  For example, Box 5848 was the #2 School on South Wood Avenue.

At the height of the system's life, there were approximately 47 master boxes and about 165 street boxes. By the time Linden's telegraph system was removed in late 2005 - early 2006, the system had 137 Gamewell boxes.  Interesting note is that the City of Linden contracted with the City of Elizabeth to have the Elizabeth Police Department Electrical Bureau personnel remove the boxes at a cost of $14,000.

Final Linden Fire Alarm Box Listing.


Rahway was in the process of removing street boxes and keeping the master boxes a few years ago.   Boxes near the Colonia section of Woodbridge Twp and along Routes 1&9 had been removed.  However, it appears that the removal of the boxes have ceased.  Every so often you will hear the fire alarm crew working on the system on the Rahway Fire Department's fire band.  Typically, The Rahway Fire Department will go out on Saturday mornings between 9 and 12 noon and test 3 or 4 boxes.  From the sounds of it, there are three locations which receive boxes.  Firecom, which dispatched Rahway Fire; Fire Headquarters on Main Street; and a substation on Maple Avenue.   A box list is unavailable at this time.

UPDATE APRIL 25, 2014:  The Rahway box system has definitely been completely dismantled, and has been so for over a year now.  The boxes were auctioned originally though a government auction and then sold on ebay, as many may have already seen.

UPDATE JANUARY 15, 2017:  It appears the box system had been installed as early as the mid 1880s.  The numbering system had been originally 2 digits.  In the late 1930s early 1940s, new boxes had 3-digits numbers, with an eventual renumbering the 2 digit boxes to the 3 digits.  Through my current research, there does not seem to be a numbering system through the early 1970s.  There does not appear to be any phantom numbering.  The system did have street and master boxes and was made up of Gamewell alarm boxes.  There were approximately 109 boxes in the Rahway system when it was removed from service.


Roselle Park - I don't have much information to report on Roselle Park's system, but I'll tell you a little story and provide some facts based on a fire alarm box list I received.  In 2007, I had arrived early to an appointment at my client's place of business.  Since I had some time to kill, I drove around looking for a place to get a coffee and bagel.  I arrived to the end of the street and was thinking about turning left when I spotted a blue light about 500 feet down the road to the right.  I looked down the pole and saw a box.  I them proceeded to turn right.  I didn't realize that I crossed the border from Kenilworth into Roselle Park.  I continued to drive around, following the C-Wire and found a few more boxes.  I made it a point to return one day and try to get some information on the system.  That weekend, I returned to Roselle Park.  No one was at any of the firehouses.  So, I decided to do my own research and analyzed the system on my own.  I found that the system was made up entirely of Gamewell boxes.  There were about 40 boxes, both street and master boxes.  The wiring was mostly C-Wire and some multiconductor cable.  I did not see any single-strand line wire anywhere in the system.  I also didn't see any boxes on pedestals. I didn't see any wire heading down any conduit into the ground, so it may be safe to say that there was no underground wiring.  It sounds like the system was in good shape.  I'm not sure if that was the case, however.

The boxes themselves looked to be in good shape aside form the quick action doors with some damage and missing glass.  I also came upon one box with an out of service tag on it.  Looking at the C-Wire, I found that there was a lot of slack between poles.  In the span, the C-wire would drape under cable TV and telephone line, rather than remaining tight and above both utilities.  Some areas of the run were installed above a street light and even within a foot of a transformer!  I also noticed that the C-wire was suspended using P-clamps, rather than tangent supports.  I found that this was used quite extensively in the circuits.  Also, where two circuits were run using 2 C-Wires runs, the wires were attached to the drive hooks very close together to each other.  While it is pretty tough to rub through the wire insulation, over time it can wear through and you can end up with a pretty big problem.  But, on a positive note, they used a bunch of terminal blocks on the circuits, making troubleshooting much easier.  I also remember saying that I hope the system may need a little more TLC or else the system will go by the wayside.  Sadly, two years later the system was placed out of service and the boxes auctioned off. 

I am not sure what happened to the rest of the system.  To be honest, I do not know if they had gongs or punch registers.  It is my understanding that there used to be a diaphone on top of the town hall.  However, as I understand it, the town hall was either remodeled or a new building was built.  Either way, the diaphone came down and that was the last of it.

Now, the system was made up of actual boxes and a ton of phantom boxes.  The system was divided up into 3 Zones (not necessarily circuits.  I estimated 4 circuits were in use.  The first zone extended from the Galloping Hill Road on the north and east, to the Roselle border to the south and Dalton Ave & Spruce Street to the west.  Zone 2 starts here and proceeds west to Locust Ave, with the Roselle border to the south and the Union Twp. border to the north.  Zone 3 begins at Locust Avenue & proceeds west to the Cranford border, Roselle border to the south and the Kenilworth border to the north.  No boxes ever ended in 1.  I don't know why that is.  The boxes were all 3-digits and was relatively easy to figure out.  Low numbers began in the south, increasing to the north.  Generally, as you proceeded north, the last digit remained the same and the second digit changed.  For example, Box 213 is at West Westfield Avenue & Chestnut Street.  The next box north on Chestnut Street is at East Grand Street and that box is 223.  The next box north on Chestnut Street is at East Webster and that box is 243.  So any box on Chestnut street ends in 3  The same seems to hold true for boxes running east-west.  The second digit remains the same and the third digit changes.

What led up to the removal of the system?  I don't know.  It could be that a lot of the boxes did not have the painted white-red-white rings.  Most of the boxes had the blue light above it, but it is unknown to me whether they were illuminated at night or if the bulbs burned out and were not replaced.  The Roselle Park FD did not have any mention of the system on their website.  Also, within two years Elizabeth, Newark, and Linden removed their systems while Rahway continued to decrease their system.  Cranford had removed their system about 10-15 years prior.  Maybe Roselle Park felt that the system outlived its useful life.  Maybe with all the potential issues that I saw, there may have been issues with the system that they could not fix or did not want to put money into the system.  Maybe the Fire Alarm Superintendent or technician or whoever was responsible for the system retired or quit and no one had interest in maintaining it.  I've placed a few emails to the RPFD but never received a reply.  No worries, though.  I will continue to do some research and hopefully get an answer and some good history.  In the meantime, I do have the box list below.  Actual street boxes are indicated with an asterisk (*).  Also, if you go on Google Maps and enter an intersection where there is a box, you will still see the boxes up on the poles.  Although the copyright date on Google Maps will say 2011, believe me its an old picture. Look for the New Park Theater in Roselle Park, look at the marquee and see what's playing.  You'll see for yourself.  : )

Roselle Park Final Fire Alarm Box List


Westfield - Westfield's system dates back to October, 1898.  The system was comprised of 5 boxes and installed by the NY & NJ Telephone Company. It appears that the system was mostly in the center of the town and was slowly expanded outward.  There was a large housing boom in the 1940's.  However, the system never kept up with the new developments being built.  Thus, the system never completely covered Westfield.  Below is the fire alarm box locations from 1907:

Box No.



Summit Avenue & Park Street
322 Highland & Mountain Avenues
499 Elm Street & Kimball Avenue
579 Broad & Middlesex Streets
639 Cumberland Street & South Avenue
738 Clark & Charles Streets
898 Fire Department House
99 North & Fourth Avenues

At the height of the system's life, when the system was in service, there were over 60 boxes throughout the town.  In 1976, the Town of Westfield began to remove the boxes.  By April 11, 1976, 11 boxes were removed.  However, the Volunteer Fire Company petitioned the Town to keep the system and supported the Paid Department and Fire Chief to modernize and extended the system.   According to the Westfield Leader (article dated April 1, 1976) the volunteer firefighters of Westfield opposed the removal of the box alarms.  Rather, they requested that the system be "modernized and extended."  The Westfield Volunteer Fire Company wrote to the Mayor and Council summarizing their opposition to the phase-out of the system as follows:

"A fire alarm system us an integral part of the fire department and just as necessary as fire trucks, fire hoses, fire hydrants and firefighters.  In Westfield, the box alarm system has evolved as a back up system.  In the event the telephone service is disrupted as frequently occurs in individual homes or entire neighborhoods, the box alarm system affords an individual a secondary means of reporting a fire.  A vivid example is the wind storm on the afternoon of March 21 when a tree fell, severing telephone wires and power lines.  The power line was arcing toward the house and the owner, unable to report the fire by telephone, was able to transmit the alarm via fire alarm box, which was still operative.....Contrary to published statement by a Councilman that the Fire Alarm Box is antiquated, the system is well maintained and has been extended over the years...."

One councilmember, Allen Chin, was in support of keeping the system alive and fought to keep the system alive.    However, the Town continued to remove the system.  By February 24, 1977, 35 boxes were removed from service.  A study of the system was conducted later that year to decide whether the system should be completely abandoned or should be modernized.   Apparently, this caused the stoppage of boxes being removed for some time.  As a matter of fact, it is possible that the system was expanded or the boxes reinstalled.  The reason I say this is that there was a 1981 census conducted reporting that there were 61 boxes in service, according to a report issued in the Westfield Leader in the March 18, 1982 edition.  Thus, either the census was never adjusted to reflect the correct number of boxes, or the system was somehow extended.  In addition, when the system was removed, there were 7 private boxes in businesses.  Are these the Gamewell Master Boxes or are these something part of an expansion?  One thing is certain September 27, 1984 the remaining 45 boxes were removed from service.  The decision to remove the boxes were "approved by the Town Council following a Five-Year Effectiveness study which indicated that all calls from fire alarm boxes were either preceded or followed, within 60 seconds, by more informative phone calls."   The ironic part is that during 1984, there were 39 box pulls.  23 were false alarms.  That means 16 were fires!!!

There were additional reasons for removing the system.  The decision to discontinue the fire alarm boxes also was triggered by the high cost of repairing or replacing the console which translates fire alarm box alarms into action by the fire company.  The company that installed it was out of business at the time.  Estimated came in to rewire and relocate the equipment.  These estimates came in around $40,000.  The console, back then, was not adaptable to the plans for the rehabilitation of fire headquarters.  Fire Chief Walter Ridge also pointed out that "storms continually damage the alarm box system's wiring; replacement is complicated by the fact that the type of wire used is obsolete, making continued use of the old alarm system both time- and cost-consuming."

In May of 1985, Westfield auctioned of 11 of the 44 boxes.  Only 6 were sold to bidders.  The remaining 5 went to other towns who wanted them for their town's system.

While I have most of the boxes, I do not have a complete box list for Westfield.  I hope to obtain a final box list in the future and possible get more information to share.  In the meantime, I will give you what I have thus far.

Westfield Fire Alarm Boxes

Warren County

Hackettstown - Hackettstown is currently on the retired list, but may actually be active.  While the street boxes were removed a few years back, there appears to be two boxes on their two fire houses.  I'm not sure if they are tied in to the telegraph system, or if they have been modified to trip fire pagers or sirens, or what not, or if they are they as decoration.  They still have horns on their main fire house, but do not know if they still sound and if they do, do they blow out the nearest box number or a standard signal.  I will research this further.