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


Docket Number: 2007-08

Proposal Link:,_1913

In the space below the line, please enter your proposed citation in English, with title and text. Text absolutely limited to 70 words; 60 is preferable for aesthetic reasons. NOTE: The IEEE History Committee shall have final determination on the wording of the citation

Wireless Transmission between Fixed Antennas and Moving Trains, 1913

From this tower and others in Scranton, PA and Hoboken, NJ, in November 1913, Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America experiments on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad showed that wireless communication between fixed stations and railroad trains was practical and reliable.  The experiments established that ground stations could communicate with trains moving at speeds up to sixty mph (100 km/h) over a range of 130 miles (210 km)

Please also include references and full citations, and include supporting material in an electronic format (GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC) which can be made available on the IEEE History Center’s Web site to historians, scholars, students, and interested members of the public. All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. If you are including images or photographs as part of the supporting material, it is necessary that you list the copyright owner.

In the space below the line, please describe the historic significance of this work: its importance to the evolution of electrical and computer engineering and science and its importance to regional/national/international development.

The historical significance of this work is that it was the first demonstration of communications between a fixed station and a rapidly moving train. Prior to this demonstration, wireless communication had only been used between two fixed stations on land or between one fixed station and a slowly moving station, such as a ship at sea. 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 was demonstrated that the antenna / receiver on the train extending just 18 inches above the train was adequate for good communication performance. Given the dominance of trains for high speed transportation in the early 1900’s, these results provided a very advantageous enabling technology supporting communication between stations and trains. This led to improved safety and convenience of train transportation as well as future development of wireless communications in other applications [1][2][3][4][5][6].

(i) Supporting Documents

[1] Scientific American, December 6, 1913, p 432, “Wireless for Railroad Trains”.
[2] Telegraph and Telephone Age, January 1, 1914, p 25, letter from L. B. Foley to, Mr. E. J. McNally, VP & Gen’l Mgr , Marconi Wireless Tel. Co.
[3] The Republican, Binghamton, NY, November 28, 1913 “Wireless for the Entire System”.
[4] The Leader, Pittsburgh, Pa., November 26, 1913, “Wireless Messages to Speeding Train Astonish World”.
[5] The Journal, Newburgh, NY, December 5, 1913, “Operate Trains by Wireless Now”.
[6] Duffy, Michael C. Electric Railways . London, Eng.: Institute of Electrical Engineers, 2003.

What features or characteristics set this work apart from similar achievements?

This test was the first demonstration that wireless communication between fixed stations and moving trains, proving that such communication was reliable and practical. Prior experiments were not successful. In addition the experiments identified parameters to be used in the expansion of this technology. For example, it was determined that wavelengths of 600m-3000m and power of 1kW -5kW provided for the successful transmission for the ground station’s and the train’s transmitters and receivers. It was also proven that a single fixed station could communicate with a train over a range of 130 miles. A series of stations, could thus be used to cover a much longer range. Prior to this, tests in the United States were focused on military applications. Few tests in Europe were conducted due to the density of ground stations. Given the dominance of trains for high speed transportation in the early 1900’s, there was great advantage of an enabling technology to allow communications from on board to stations. This 1913 feasibility demonstration improved the safety and convenience of train transportation and also led to the future development of wireless communications for other applications.[6]

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The paper copy of the permission is on file with Staff at the IEEE History Center.  It was submitted in paper prior to the GHN becoming operational.