Wire procedures

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Jun 21 09:42:53 EDT 2009

Thanks for the info. This is a really interesting topic. When did N&W stop
using telegraphs?

Mike Weeks

-----Original Message-----
From: nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org
[mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 8:58 AM
To: William Dunbar
Subject: Wire procedures

GA, and other thoughts
Posted by: "Bill Dunbar" wkd25 at comcast.net morseopr
Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:31 pm (PDT)

Frank Scheer wrote (snipped):

> One thing to observe about the keys and bugs used for radio

> telegraphy versus land-line is that the latter has a switch to open

> and close the key. Since telegraph connections along a wire were

> serial connections, only one person could be sending on the wire at

> a time. Once they finished, my understanding is that they sent "GA"

> for "go ahead." They had to close the key to hear the reply.

If I may clarify a bit, in wire work there is no need to tell the
other office to go ahead, since it is implicit in closing the key that
you release control of the wire. During a two-way exchange, closing
the key not only releases the wire, it implies, "go ahead." And it
should go without saying that if you want to use a wire and it's not
active (nor a dedicated circuit), it is at your disposal; open the key
and call another office.

Once an operator calls another office and receives, "i," (that is,
aye) followed by the office call, the connection is established; each
knows the other's identity and it is totally unnecessary to send call
signs with each transmission. If the second office doesn't catch the
originating office's call, he/she might answer with "i" and his call,
but send a question mark and "wo" for "Who?" and the originator will

In my experience (admittedly confined to the Midwest) "GA" was used
for "go ahead" followed by the last word copied correctly. If you had
not missed anything but had to break the sender, you might send "GA"
and a comma, meaning "I've copied everything so far; go ahead from
this comma." The other office would send a comma and proceed from the
last word sent before being interrupted.

"GN" was used to request or give permission to close an office, and
frequently as a pleasantry to another operator when ending a trick.
Since "GA" was used as a procedural tool and GN stands for "good
night," initial pleasantries in an exchange were confined to "GM" for
"Good Morning" any time between midnight and noon, and "GE," "good
evening," from noon until midnight. (This wasn't confined to
telegraphy; on arriving at Camp Bowie near Brownwood, Texas late in
December, 1943 I was surprised to hear local radio station announcers
starting programs shortly after 12 noon by saying, "Good evening.")

Relay operators employed another time-saving trick. Upon contacting an
office to send several messages, he/she would send the first message,
then say, "hr wo," and close the key, meaning "I have more, what's
your sine?" The receiving op would send his sine and maybe add "GM (or
GE)," then the relay op would respond with "gm hr..." and launch into
the rest of the file. If he was acquainted with the other op he might
say, "gm Frank hr..." He now had the receiving operator's i.d. and
would write the service on each message with one hand while
simultaneously sending with the other. After sending the last message
he'd say "nm" for no more, and close the key. The receiving operator
would respond with OK and his sine, thereby acknowledging receipt of
all messages sent after the first.

All this takes much more time to describe than do and I hope it
provides a bit of light on our art.


Bill Dunbar

June 20, 2009

Thanks for the clarifications, Bill. It is interesting to me how many of
the telegraphic traditions carried over to telephone and teletype. For
example, on the C&O Richmond Division around 1971, a day office operator
would say "Good morning, Mineral" (with Mineral being the station name) and
the dispatcher would reply "Good morning, Mineral." The same protocol was
used when closing the office, such as "Good night, Mineral."

I worked at C&O's Q office a few times, which was on the top floor of the
First National Bank building on East Main Street in Richmond, several blocks
west of the Main Street Station. The General Manager's office was on an
upper floor, with other divisional offices. In the teletype era, it was the
hub between local teletype lines and the long-distance ones such as a wire
to Cleveland, Ohio. At midnight, the operator counted how many messages had
been sent and received for each office to which it was connected, put that
count in a message, and closed with "GN&GM Q." The message went on top of a
bundle closing out the previous day's wire traffic for that office.
Meanwhile, the "Good Night and Good Morning" was the greeting appropriate
for midnight, at the end of one day and start of the next.



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