Station agents and telegraphers

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Thu Aug 27 09:34:14 EDT 2015


Re your request for information on station agents and telegraphers who may have worked at AY, Rural Retreat. (You probably know that the original name for the railroad station there was Mount Airy. The old telegraph call, AY, was never changed.) 

If you are willing to invest some elbow grease in this project, go to Google Books and find all the digitized issues of a magazine called Railroad Telegrapher. It was the monthly publication of the Order of Railroad Telegraphers. Each local lodge of the ORT had a correspondent who was supposed to send in the local news, for publication. The N&W goings-on are reported under the heading of Division 12. 

Depending on the diligence and literary skills of the correspondent, these reports range from quite juicy to hopelessly trite. Who became married, who had babies, who took vacations and where they went, who was off sick, who went hunting and fishing, who changed jobs, who was working relief assignments, and other gossip. Some of the monthly reports contain only a paragraph or two of meaningless information, and some run to three pages of very interesting data. To me, the most valuable postings concern the opening and closing of various telegraph offices and stations, the implementation of manual block or automatic block rules, the addition of second tracks, and the like. 

Division 12 covered the entire N&W, and this leads to one drawback. If the correspondent were, say, a Shenandoah Valley man, his monthly rants would be heavy on S.V. happenings, and almost nil on events on other territories. So the information you get for a given territory will be hit-and-miss, but quite frequently you find a real jewel which has been recorded in no other source. 

I am presently reading through the 1907 volume of Railroad Telegrapher, abstracting information on other railroads in which I am interested. If I see anything on AY Mount Airy / Rural Retreat, I will pass it along. 

Since you now have a station of your own, we should talk some day about getting your location on the Internet Telegraph Wire we now have. A number of museums are now putting in a set of telegraph instruments and hooking them up to the Internet Wire using a laptop computer. All you need to make it live is someone who understands Morse (and an amatuer radio person won't fit the bill, because radio people use the wrong code.) Something to think about, long term. 

-- abram burnett 
SW Telegraph Office 

Sent to You from my Telegraph Key 
... better than AT&T 4G LTE 

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