Nevada Appeal at 150: March 13, 1886: Edison’s air telegraph
Mr. Edison has contributed a paper upon his new system of telegraphy by induction between moving railway trains and the fixed stations of the road, the statement in which clearly enough entitles him to his familiar appellation of “The Wizard.” The introduction to his description of the air telegraph gives us a clue to his methods of investigation. Nearly all of his great discoveries have been made while he was studying in quite another direction, and the air telegraph is not an exception to the rule.
It was while hunting down a new force, with which he expects to astonish the world, that he discovered he could throw a strong electric current 50 feet through the air. He immediately dropped his new force, for evidently he has it safely corralled, and commenced investigating on the new lead, with the result that he can now send it 580 feet! No wonder he says: “It was like finding suddenly a new volume of romance in the endless library of electrical wonder.”
His description of the system itself is brief, for naturally he does not care to disclose all the secrets of his great discovery to the world.
The signalizing apparatus at the station is connected with three or four of the regular telegraph wires. On the moving train the wires form the battery and instruments are grounded through the axles and wheels and another wire connects with the metal roof of the car and charges it with electricity. In this way, he says, “the roof acts as one side of a condenser and the usual telegraph wires stretched on poles along the edge of the roadbed form the other side.”
The waves of electricity from the apparatus in the car following each other at the rate of 600 per second, making a continuous musical sound, and this is broken into long and short sounds which the operators hear through telephonic sounders. With this process he not only can telegraph from a station to a moving train, but from the train to the station, and from one moving train to another, at any point on the road.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.