Milestones-Nomination talk:Wireless Transmission between Fixed Antenna and Moving Trains, 1913

Contents

Thread titleRepliesLast modified
Nomination commentary113:16, 18 August 2011
Advocate's comments on the nomination113:14, 18 August 2011
Radio communications were carried out from airplanes as early as 1910213:00, 18 August 2011

Nomination commentary

This is a fine nomination that needs more documentation or a qualification regarding the consequences of the 1913 demonstrations.  Unfortunately no one has written with any detail on the history of electronic railroad communications.  Michael Duffys 2003 book, used here, gives no primary documentation to explain the evolution from inductive and phone systems to radio.Duffy  notes instead that railroads continued to use inductive and telephone systems for mobile communications, and that radio systems were used only when the train was stopped: “its use was in general communications, and not with moving trains.” (p. 112) An article in the February 1956 Radio-Electronics magazine, “Railroad Radio’s First Decade” (p. 62-64), confirms this. That decade refers to 1946-1956, not 1913-1923.

To resolve this problem, I suggest the following changes to the nomination justification:

The November, 1913 transmission between the train moving at 60 mph and this fixed tower, as well as those in Scranton, PA and Hoboken, NJ, convincingly demonstrated that such communications were feasible, reliable, and practical. For example, it showed that the antenna/receiver on the train extending just 18 inches above the train was adequate for good communication performance. During a snowstorm in the following February, only the Lackawanna continued to operate because its radio system was not disabled by the weather.

Nonetheless railroad companies were slow to adopt radio frequencies to supplement or replace inductive and telephone communications systems. At the same time, David Sarnoff, the assistant chief engineer of American Marconi who operated the on-board railroad radio in 1913, lobbied for wider implementation at the American Railway Association conventions throughout the 1910s and 1920s. His new company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), was a leader in promoting the use of Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communications on railroads in the 1930s. After World War II the Federal Communications Commission allotted bandwidth for the application and in ten years American railways had installed some 10,000 radio stations across their installations. Given the dominance of trains for high speed transportation in the 1900's, these results provided an advantageous enabling technology supporting communication between stations and trains. This led to improved safety and convenience of train transportation as well as future developments of wireless communications in other applications [1][2][3][4][5][6]. [This last clause also needs documentation to support the spin-off argument, or it should be dropped.]

Besides the 1956 Radio-Electronics article I cite above, the nominators should consult the December 6, 1913 Scientific American article on the initial demonstrations, which includes a photo of Sarnoff operating the station inside the railroad car: http://davidsarnoff.org/gallery-ds/DS_RRs_1913.html.  I can provide a higher resolution copy if necessary.

Amagoun21:54, 2 May 2010

Advocate's comments on the nomination

(Advocate's comments copied from discussion attached to the proposal for this milestone, since they apply more to the nomination)

This is a fine nomination that needs more documentation or a qualification regarding the consequences of the 1913 demonstrations. Unfortunately no one has written with any detail on the history of electronic railroad communications. Michael Duffys 2003 book, used here, gives no primary documentation to explain the evolution from inductive and phone systems to radio.Duffy notes instead that railroads continued to use inductive and telephone systems for mobile communications, and that radio systems were used only when the train was stopped: “its use was in general communications, and not with moving trains.” (p. 112) An article in the February 1956 Radio-Electronics magazine, “Railroad Radio’s First Decade” (p. 62-64), confirms this. That decade refers to 1946-1956, not 1913-1923.

To resolve this problem, I suggest the following changes to the nomination justification:

The November, 1913 transmission between the train moving at 60 mph and this fixed tower, as well as those in Scranton, PA and Hoboken, NJ, convincingly demonstrated that such communications were feasible, reliable, and practical. For example, it showed that the antenna/receiver on the train extending just 18 inches above the train was adequate for good communication performance. During a snowstorm in the following February, only the Lackawanna continued to operate because its radio system was not disabled by the weather.

Nonetheless railroad companies were slow to adopt radio frequencies to supplement or replace inductive and telephone communications systems. At the same time, David Sarnoff, the assistant chief engineer of American Marconi who operated the on-board railroad radio in 1913, lobbied for wider implementation at the American Railway Association conventions throughout the 1910s and 1920s. His new company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), was a leader in promoting the use of Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communications on railroads in the 1930s. After World War II the Federal Communications Commission allotted bandwidth for the application and in ten years American railways had installed some 10,000 radio stations across their installations. Given the dominance of trains for high speed transportation in the 1900's, these results provided an advantageous enabling technology supporting communication between stations and trains. This led to improved safety and convenience of train transportation as well as future developments of wireless communications in other applications [1][2][3][4][5][6]. [This last clause also needs documentation to support the spin-off argument, or it should be dropped.]


Besides the 1956 Radio-Electronics article I cite above, the nominators should consult the December 6, 1913 Scientific American article on the initial demonstrations, which includes a photo of Sarnoff operating the station inside the railroad car: http://davidsarnoff.org/gallery-ds/DS_RRs_1913.html.  I can provide a higher resolution copy if necessary.

Amagoun (Talk | contribs | block)02:54, 3 May 2010EditHistoryPermalinkDeleteReply

Administrator409:25, 10 June 2010

Radio communications were carried out from airplanes as early as 1910

According to an article by Ed Lyon, "A Century of Aeronautical Radio," Radio Age, vol 35, number 9, September 2010, successful two-way radio morse conversation was carried out between a Curtiss biplane and the ground at Sheepshead Bay, New York, on 4 August 1910.  Pickerill also heard communications from ships and ground-based long-haul transmitters while aloft.  This made the New York papers.  There may have been an even earlier test at Tanforan, California on 24 January 1910.

These predate the transmissions in this nomination.

Administrator414:35, 12 October 2010

I'm willing to accetp that there is a considerable difference in the challenges of interference for what might very well have been line-of-sight wireless transmissions between an airplane and static or moving ground stations on the one hand; and a train moving through tunnels and mountain passes while traveling besides telephone and possibly power lines on the other.  The problem here is the absence of a history of railroad radio systems that would explain the technical and then economic challenges that delayed the diffusion of radio communications to supplant the induction system often used in the early 20th century.

Amagoun15:33, 9 November 2010