A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

February 24, 2022

Telegraph Problems - now and 159 years ago

Steve Williams, Amby and I had a zoom conference today to discuss the fix to the telegraph stations on the longer cables. They came up with two simple solutions that should work. We will try them next Monday.

We also briefly discussed possible upgrades to the software. We will sort that out further once we have some operating experience.  I was thinking it might be fun to have the random messages lead to things that the dispatcher would have to react to and not just for ambience.  That would require  the dispatcher to translate the random messages and decide what to do. 

I have been listening to the random messages as I work on my computer. They arrive suddenly and often I miss the first sentence as I prepare to copy.  To make that translation easier, the random messages should have a preamble like the others. W-W-W - EoW is perfect.  Also, the message would have to be repeated until acknowledged. 

If we do this, I would need to compose messages that need action. Others can just be for ambience and or information.

The type of action the dispatcher could take include, order out an extra, such as the General’s special, set up a meet, tell a train to pick up a certain car , etc. Since the telegraph system is one way, the DS would write the message on a paper message slip and place it manually on the layout for the conductors to pick up.

We will see how hard it will be to upgrade the software. I am sure Steve could do it, but how do we get the new code into the installed stations? We may have to learn how to program the Arduinos. That looks more complicated that I want to take on, but every journey begins with the first step.

Meanwhile, we are not the only Aquia Line telegraphers to have problems. I found this letter while going through my files. I believe this letter was in a book in the Library of Congress that contains many of Herman Haupt's letters transcribed as well as some seemingly original, or at least hand written messages, from Haupt's records. Those messages were donated to the LoC by one of Haupt's sons well after the war. This is a link to the citation https://lccn.loc.gov/mm73025296 

If you can read this, you can see that W.W.Wright is complaining to Haupt about being unable to get reliable service from the telegraph. I believe this was because regular Army traffic was monopolizing the telegraph. This was after the battle of Chancellorsville and the Army was actively campaigning. 

 Letter from W.W. Wright to General Haupt

In that same batch of letters was this one from Haupt to Wright discussing how trains own the Aquia Line  were delayed to pick up wounded. The Army medical officers were using an ad hoc system to load wounded that was delaying the USMRR trains. Haupt would not have that!

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