The Truth About those Improved Western Union Wires

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 8, no. 15, p. 114, col. 3

The Truth about those Improved Western Union Wires.





THE attempt of "One of the W. U. Operators" to reply to my former communication compels me to ask for space in your columns again. The writer, if he be really, an operator in the Western Union office here, must certainly be possessed of an elastic conscience to make the statements he does about the condition and insulation of the western wires, before and since the glass insulators were substituted for the paraffin.

The attempt which he makes to locate me in the opposition office has as much truth for its basis as his statements in regard to the wires. I am neither "Pacific" by service or by nature, as he will be apt to discover before this discussion is ended.

Imputations are not arguments or - as in his case, generally - facts, therefore I will not discuss the motive which he may have for the part he takes. That is a matter for him to settle with his own conscience. If he serves his superiors well, and avoids the use of galvanometers, he may, perchance, in time reach some higher position than that of an operator in this office.

Your correspondent says no business from Philadelphia for Pittsburg was relayed at Harrisburg for Pittsburg and other points west. What I intended to state was that Pittsburg and Philadelphia business was relayed at Harrisburg, and this is strictly true. Will this swift witness deny that Pittsburg and other western business was relayed at Harrisburg for Philadelphia and New York on this occasion? He cannot truthfully do so; and it is a fact, as was stated, that our superintendent, Mr. Clute, was called out of bed at midnight to help us out. This statement this veracious correspondent does not pretend to contradict.

Your correspondent further asserts that the "lines between Harrisburg and Altoona, and Harrisburg and Philadelphia, show a marked improvement since glass insulation has been used." I will not characterize this statement as it deserves, but it is one which every person in this office knows to be at variance with the facts. I know of one operator in this office, at least, who has been making efforts to get out of it on account of the bad working of these wires, and of the tedious labor of tending repeaters, etc., whenever there was rain. I will state a few facts connected with these wires, which will show their actual condition and the effect of the change of insulation. Four years since this coming winter all the Western Union wires in this direction were prostrated by a heavy sleet or ice storm; they were hastily hitched up, without supplying any broken insulators, by fastening them to the poles with spikes and tying them to trees, and anything else to keep them clear of the ground. In this condition they remained until the following autumn, when all the wires between Altoona and Philadelphia were reinsulated, except one - No. 12 - and that was our reliable wire until it was finally reinsulated, and now there is little or no difference in any of them. All the joints were soldered, and thousands of dollars were spent in this work. Now let us contrast their working with their condition previous to the administration of General Superintendent T. T. Eckert:

For years Nos. 12 and 20 were worked direct between New York and Pittsburg at the highest speed, during the heaviest rains, and for hours without a break from the receiving operators. After all the work before mentioned has been done, the objectionable insulators, at a large expense, substituted with glass, (which finds so much favor in the eyes of our superiors,) we have main batteries at Harrisburg, which were not before required, with repeaters in use in every slight rain, and a main battery at Altoona. And, notwithstanding the assertion of my caustic critic, business is delayed and relayed here whenever there is a heavy rain. "The crowded condition of our lines, and the demand for an increase of wires," is cited as an evidence of the "prosperity of the company, and confidence of the public in our ability," etc. The wires are "crowded" in every rain, and any number of additional wires, in like condition, would only add to the obstruction and delay of business. In good weather a much larger amount of business could be transmitted over the existing wires than is now actually done-for then all the wires are in order-but in storms a large portion of them are necessarily opened to enable us to work the others at all, and even then at an extremely low rate of speed.

I might go still more into details which would convince not only "One of the Western Union Operators" but also his superiors that I know whereof I speak, and am not a "Pacific" operator either, but this communication has, I fear, already extended to an unreasonable length. "If the above is not sufficient and satisfactory to One of the Western Union Operators," I may hereafter inform him why I take this method of ventilating facts so damaging. Until then, or until there is a decided improvement in the condition of our wires, I must remain as before,



Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:November 27, 2005 by: Elton Gish;