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Author Topic: Railroad Operators  (Read 1408 times)
VE5AE
Member

Posts: 12




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« on: April 20, 2009, 10:08:51 AM »

I'm coming back to ham radio after 16 yrs. I was operating only on CW and I committed myself re-learn CW. I'm now around the 15 WPM mark and I'm looking forward to make my first few QSO.

As I recently spend time learning (I personnaly call it conditioning) CW, I wonder about the Railroad company operators all over North America decades ago. How were they learning morse code?

Were they trained by the company or they knew morse before being hired? Did they trained themselves to 15-20 WPM and then get hired and later built their experience?

73 de Ian, VE5AE
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W8ZNX
Member

Posts: 1




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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 02:23:54 AM »

lots of land line morse code ops
and early radio ops
learned as kids

R/R would hang around the terminal
doing go fer work for the op or ops
after a bit
they would take the kid under their wing
and teach them the job

Western Union
would be working as messenger boys
and pick it up from a helpfull op

Tom Edison learned by hanging out
at a R/R station

David Sarnoff learned as a messenger boy
working for Marconi in NYC

later there were schools
the NYC YMCA had a ships wireless radio school

 
mac
dit dit
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WA2ONH
Member

Posts: 431




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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2009, 07:39:37 AM »

FYI  Here?s an interesting CW article written by Paul Harden, NA5N on his page:

http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/~pharden/hobby/Hobby.shtml

The article, a downloadable PDF file (3216kb), is entitled
?The history of Western Union, the railroad telegraphers and early wireless?

http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/~pharden/hobby/History/WESTERN_UNION.pdf

Enjoy!

73 de WA2ONH Charlie
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73 de WA2ONH   ... Charlie
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Never be satisfied with what you know, only with what more you can find out"   Dr David Fairchild 1869-1954 US Scientist
N2EY
Member

Posts: 4710




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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2009, 11:09:14 AM »

It was a requirement to be hired. Lots of folks learned the code for those and other jobs. There were schools, but a lot of folks learned it on their own.

There's an old story about a railroad that put out the word, during hard times, that it was hiring a new operator. Many applicants flocked to the division office, where interviews were being held, and waited in the anteroom to be called. The clicking of a sounder could be heard but that was common in railroad offices at the time and caused no comment.

Then a young man entered the anteroom. After a few moments, he confidently went to the door that led to the Superintendent's office and went inside. This caused a stir among those who had been waiting, but they did nothing because they expected the young man to be tossed out for rudely barging into a private office.

However, a few minutes later the Superintendent came out, thanked everyone for coming and announced that the position had been filled. There were protests among the waiting applicants, many of whom had come long distances and waited hours. The Superintendent pointed to the sounder, and said it had been sending the same message over and over:

"IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THIS, COME INTO THE SUPERINTENDENT'S OFFICE"

The young man who was hired was the first one who had been alert enough to notice the message, understand it and act on it, and so he got the job.  

--

The landline telegraph used a different code than what we use on radio. They used "American Morse", which does some letters differently, has letters with spaces in them and at least three dash lengths. The landwire sounder clicked rather than beeped.

Some American Morse stuff has survived into amateur radio, though. For example, "ES" is the abbreviation for "and" because in American Morse, . ... is &.

Being a "railroad operator" required a lot more than sending and receiving messages using the telegraph. Train orders, freight consists and other messages were all sent on the wire. Depending on the road, a small-town station might have the operator selling tickets, handling train orders and sending/receiving messages.

Most railroad lines in the USA stopped using the telegraph in the early 20th century, as telephones became inexpensive and better signalling methods were developed. By eliminating the need to know the code, the pool of qualified operators was increased and the pay could be reduced.

But at least some railroad telegraph operation continued well into the 1960s and even the 1970s.

All ancient history now, at least in the USA and probably Canada.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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