early operations and telegraphy

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Apr 12 13:56:44 EDT 2020

Also during "the late unpleasantness" was an operator who would tap into an enemy line and transmit deceptive traffic.
Tom Cosgrove
On Sunday, April 12, 2020 NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org> wrote:
Thanks to all who have addedinformation on these topics. I am only beginning to try toassimilate the wealth that has poured in, so rest assured morequestions will be forthcoming as I dig in. Special thanks of courseto Dr. Burnett for taking time away form his research on a cure forthe turnip epidemic to provide information and insight.

1. With regard to early telegraphlines, I suppose it would have been quite convenient for a telegraphcompany to run a line along the path that was cleared and maintainedfor a railroad. And I presume that for the privilege, the telegraphcompany might grant the railroad certain usage of the facility, butthat since it was shared, this arrangement would have beeninsufficient for operating trains. I found an entry athttp://www.csa-railroads.com/from a meeting of the Virginia railroad superintendents in May of1861 at which they recommended that every railroad construct atelegraph line for its own dedicated use as soon as possible. However, I would image that the events that immediately followed mayhave interfered with this plan. Also the descriptions ofinterruptions to operations from acts of war such as burning bridges,destruction of track, etc. are plentiful and if telegraph were beingused for operations, I would assume that the cutting of wires anddowning of poles would have been reported along with the otherimpediments. Based on this very shaky foundation, I would hazard theassumption that telegraphic operations of the N&W predecessorsdid not begin until at least after the Civil War.

I have also, thus far, failed to findany mention of stationary signals during this period, but wouldhesitate to rule them out entirely at this point.

2. With regard to “blocking” andsignal towers, it is my impression that when early railroads werebeing constructed, stations were built at the population centersalong the route for handling passengers and freight and notstrategically placed for operations. Where the distance betweenstations was great, I would assume fuel/water stops were put inplace. With the coming of the block system for operations, it wouldhave been both convenient and cost-effective to use the existingstation facilities as block boundaries, but there was a desire forsome “regularity” in block length and stations would not alwaysbe present at a location at which a signal should be placed. IASSUME at such places a minimal facility would be built with a signaland housing for a telegrapher/signal operator but no provision forpassengers or freight. If information can be found as to when suchstructures were built, that would seem to be an indication ofbeginnings of train block operations.

Once again please comment, expand andcorrect my musings.

Happy Easter to all,

Jim Cochran

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