The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

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StevieG
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The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:18 pm

PLEASE NOTE : The title of this post should have read : -
"THE LAST YEARS OF SINGLE-NEEDLE TELEGRAPH USE ON THE LNER/BR's EX-GNR ROUTE IN LONDON AND HERTFORDSHIRE", but I seem to be prevented from editing it (it's probably too long), or deleting my post and starting again ; No matter.

I recognise that this subject may be something of only 'niche' interest to a few forum members, but as part of the Great Northern Railway Society's Autumn meeting, I am presenting my talk/demo on the last years into the 1970s of single-needle morse telegraph use at the southern end of the ECML's ex-GNR route, at 14.00 on Sat. 26th October 2019, at Digswell Village Hall about 100 yards NNE from Welwyn North station ; Address,
30 Harmer Green Lane, Digswell, Welwyn, Herts. AL6 0AT.
I am advised that entry for non-GNRS members is from 13.30, fee £5 per person, tea coffee and biscuits available free of charge.
On-site car parking very limited, but may be possible nearby and or at the station.
BZOH

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Dave S
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Dave S » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:50 am

Looking forward to your talk Steve.

For those interested in attending, I do bring along choccie biscuits....

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R. pike
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by R. pike » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:46 pm

The single needle telegraph is rather neglected generally. A few minutes looking through the whole forum shows that people use telegraph codes to describe rolling stock quite regularly. We use Cape and Spate at work too. Very few people seem to know why.

I have a working telegraph circuit between three of my signalboxes. It's sad to say other that a few tinks to demonstrate how it works the last person to send an actual message on it was StevieG a good few years back.

Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey » Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:44 pm

The single needle telegraph which used Morse code was fairly easy to read when rudimentary telegraph messages were being sent for example a common one that could be heard on the Kings Cross-Hitchin telegraph circuit was-

Hatfield No.1 who's telegraph code was HD would 'send on' to Finsbury Park No.6 who's telegraph code was GB the telegraph messages about any late running Up expresses which would start first with Hatfield No.1 calling Finsbury Park No.6 and waiting an acknowledgement from Finsbury Park No.6 which would go something like this-

Hatfield No.1 would send the letters GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB... to Finsbury Park No.6. When the Finsbury Park No.6 signalman or telegraph lad heard Hatfield No.1 calling GB GB GB GB... they would acknowledge the GB by sending back to Hatfield No.1 there own GB call sign and then Hatfield No.1 would then send Finsbury Park No.6 the simple telegraph message which could be-

1E01 ten late HD (Hatfield No.1)

Finsbury Park No.6 would after hearing the message usually give the letters TA for thanks or ta or a double tap of the needle to the right of the instrument as an acknowledgement of receiving the message.

The single needle telegraph made 'distinctive sound patterns' for various words or numerals for example the number 'eight' was often used as an example as it gave a very distinctive 'sound pattern' on the single needle instrument also the number 'one' was another easy one to make out especially with either Hitchin South or Hatfield No.1 'sending on' late running Up expresses to Finsbury Park No.6 quite often during the day and night which were always class 1 trains.

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StevieG
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG » Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:21 pm

Thanks for mentioning the TA message acknowledgement Mickey. That's a new one on me, but quite believable; as you probably know there were quite a few 'unofficial' codes that might be heard.

The two ticks of the needle to the right (done by two moves of the handle to the left, which is also the letter 'M') as the acknowledgement, is spot-on.
RD was another of the same. but was listed in an LNER telegraph training booklet as meaning "Message correctly received.", and the late Dave Tilbury always used that one.
Other, seemingly unofficial ones, were TKS (Thanks) and TKU (Thank you).

A small correction to your HD --> GB late train message process : After Fins.Pk. 6 would have acknowledged being called by returning their 'GB' call code, the calling location would identify themself [in this case, your Hatfield No.1 by sending their 'HD'][/i], which GB would either acknowledge by repetition, or by returning 'T' if a novice operator, to ask for a pause after each word (or even letter) in order to allow the receiver to indicate individual understanding (with another 'T') or not understood (by 'E'); or by returning 'G', which meant I'm an experienced telegraph operator, so "Go on" (no need for slow speed or pause-separated word by word sending).

So the text of your example message would then be just "1E01 10 late" (actually, although I can't say that you're wrong on this, I never heard, or heard of, the messages quoting 'xx late', instead sending the minutes past the hour that the train passed or departed the sender's box, and leaving the other end to work out any lateness).
BZOH

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Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey » Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:15 pm

StevieG wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:21 pm
A small correction to your HD --> GB late train message process : After Fins.Pk. 6 would have acknowledged being called by returning their 'GB' call code, the calling location would identify themself [in this case, your Hatfield No.1 by sending their 'HD'][/i], which GB would either acknowledge by repetition, or by returning 'T' if a novice operator, to ask for a pause after each word (or even letter) in order to allow the receiver to indicate individual understanding (with another 'T') or not understood (by 'E'); or by returning 'G', which meant I'm an experienced telegraph operator, so "Go on" (no need for slow speed or pause-separated word by word sending).
Funny that you should mention that Stevie because when I was writing my example it did cross my mind did after Finsbury Park No.6 acknowledge Hatfield No.1s GB GB GB GB GB GB... by sending GB to Hatfield No.1 did Hatfield No.1 first send HD to Finsbury Park No.6 and have Finsbury Park No.6 acknowledge it before Hatfield No.1 sent the message?. It has been about 46-47 years since I last saw the single needle telegraph actually being used and heard the 'tinkling' of the needle!. Ha ha ha...
StevieG wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:21 pm
So the text of your example message would then be just "1E01 10 late" (actually, although I can't say that you're wrong on this, I never heard, or heard of, the messages quoting 'xx late', instead sending the minutes past the hour that the train passed or departed the sender's box, and leaving the other end to work out any lateness).
I was trying to simplify it but should have done it the way you have posted.

When I was a telegraph lad at Welwyn Garden City box between July 1972 & March 1974 the single needle telegraph instrument was still in use at the box at least until about late 1973 or maybe early 1974 just about the time when I left the box although it may have been discontinued or disconnected by either late 1973 or early 1974 I can't remember now exactly when it was?. From memory most of the single needle telegraph messages that were heard during my time at the box were between Hitchin South either 'sending on' to either Hatfield No.1 or Finsbury Park No.6(?) I can't remember exactly which of those two boxes it was now and also a lot of telegraph messages were heard being sent between Hatfield No.1 and Finsbury Park No.6 and occasionally to Holloway South Up as well. Another one that was occasionally heard was Sandy 'sending on' to Hatfield No.1 but I think that may have depended on who the signalman was at Sandy?. A regular weekday morning telegraph message that was received at Welwyn Garden City was Potters Bar 'sending on' a light engine around 06:30hrs that always came along the Down slow line from Potters Bar and worked one of the Welwyn Garden City to Moorgate services during the weekday 'morning peak' which was comprised of inner suburban non-corridor stock that was stabled in the Up sidings overnight and weekends and finally another rare telegraph message that was occasionally received at Welwyn Garden City was Wood Green No.1 'sending on' a early weekday evening freightliner train on the Down fast line 4S83 that originated from Kings Cross Goods yard and was bound for Scotland but again I think it depended on who the signalman was in Wood Green No.1 that evening?. On the Welwyn Garden City 'special box instructions' I recall that it stated that Welwyn Garden City was suppose to 'send on' late running Up expresses to Wood Green Up Box No.4 although this telegraph instruction was rarely if every complied with that I can recall although on one summer evening during 1973 a few months before the NX panel was commissioned at Welwyn Garden City the signalman Harry Fitzgerald said to me "Try calling Wood Green No.4 and 'sending on' a late running Up express?" so when I sent the AU telegraph code for Wood Green No.4 about a dozen times in quick succession there was no acknowledgement from Wood Green No.4?.

Hatfield No.1 box closed late May 1973 so obviously the telegraph messages ceased as well between that box and Finsbury Park No.6 after that date.

Mickey
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by Mickey » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:06 pm

Pretty much a standard designed single needle telegraph instrument although some instruments were very slightly different to the one featured below but only slightly different whereby the instrument may have had a recessed 'square face' rather than just a 'round face' like the one has featured below. The handle to operate the needle to either the left or right is slightly hidden underneath the small counter where telegraph note paper would sometimes be provided to write down the messages. Occasionally a piece of tin from a old tin can mite be cut up and fixed in between the two metal 'sounders' to give a slightly more pronounced sound to the 'tinkling needle' when a telegraph message was being transmitted from another box to that instrument or other instruments including that one in the telegraph circuit.

http://www.telegraphkeys.com/images/nee ... le%20c.jpg

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StevieG
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Re: The Last Years of Single-needle Telegraph on the LNER & Herts.

Post by StevieG » Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:36 pm

That's an interesting link Mickey.
Thanks.
BZOH

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