Home:  Sounders & Stations: WHEATSTONE NEEDLE TELEGRAPHY STATION, 1930's


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In 1851, Samuel Morse and his code was accepted around the world. (See 'A brief History of Telegraphy' above)
Devices for sending and receiving intelligent information were needed to inprove communication on the railways. One such piece of apparatus was the Needle Telegraph, devised by William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, in 1936, from an idea by Baron Pawel Schilling, demonstrated around 1832.
Information could be read if a needle was moved to the left or right, on this model the movement can also be heard hitting the plates on either side giving different tones. The single needle unit was a further development of Wheatstone and Cookes 5 needle system, which did not use Morse Code, and was replaced by the single needle system, which would be used in signal boxes around the World for the next 100 years.

Your comments:

  • I was a Telegraph Lad at Crescent Junction Peterborough early 1960s. I used this machine from time to time. The Morse sender handle was called a pump handle. It ceased to be used when the Signal Box was demolished in 1973. Also prior to the signal box employment, I was a Telegraph Messenger in the Telegraph Office on Peterborough North, where I self taught the Morse code.

    .......... Philip Parish, March, Cambridgeshire, 22nd of December 2019

  • they were great to use,quieter than the sounder type of instrument,at higher speeds the needle could bounce about a bit,the last one I used was at Lancaster telegraph office,an omnibus circuit from Lancaster to Windermere,in 1967 the stations on that circuit were Lancaster LA,Carnforth CY,Oxenholme OE,Kendal KK
    And Windermere YD. The clerks at LA were Jack Dawson Charlie Marshall Tommy Stockton Jim Swindlehurst Les George Fred Lawrence - happy days
    .......... Trevor Bate MBE, Witney west Oxfordshire, 6th of August 2017

  • In 1948 - 50, I used this machine at Chingford Railway Station and other stations on the recently formed Eastern Region. To 'call' Chingford, the sender would 'tap' CF.
    Left was a dot and right was the dash. To increase the difference in sound, we stuffed the left hand side with paper.
    Later (1956) when interviewed for promotion, the Assistant District Passenger Manager asked me questions related to the machine.
    I used similar at Fenchurch Street station where there was a Telegraph Office.
    Some machines had 'cones' and not the 'slats' shown in your pictures.
    I have strong memories of using the machines and the code book we used; for example the word 'tick' meant "The following wagon has been stopped for the following reason"; usually that necessitated advising a consignee that his wagon of coal/pipes/etc was delayed.
    I joined the BTC in 1948 and learned that there had been a time when probationary clerks were expected to attend classes in Shorthand or Single Needle.
    I have memories of tapping two partially filled milk bottles when learning. Normally you tapped the letter T after each word received - to indicate it was understood. The time came when you were good enough to tap at the start SG to show "Send slowly and I shall not need to tap after each word"; but the pinnacle was being able to tap 'G' to indicate "You can go as fast as you like without me giving a T at any time. The letter E was the opposite of T.
    Please ask for more, I enjoyed remembering.
    .......... Tom Marshall, Whitstable, Kent, 5th of March 2012

  • The so-called Morse cipher, actually devised by Alfred Vail, was not used on British railway circuits, only on the state-owned Post Office lines.

    The dot-dash cipher for the Roman alphabet used throughout the world was assembled by Freidrich Gerke, a Hanoverian telegraph engineer, in the 1850s and was originally known as the "Hamburg Alphabet".
    .......... S Roberts, London, England, 14th of January 2011

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