Thursday, February 02, 2012

First Broadcast from a Train (Part 2)

Back in 2009 I posted a claim that the first broadcast from a moving train was staged in 1932. That post is here. A commenter rightly pointed out that trains did have wireless communication for decades before that. So allow me to walk back my post, and explain why I went with the 1932 date. Factually speaking, the Lackawanna Limited train tests of 1913 and 1914 were transmitted from a moving train. So I'll concede that point. Certainly any radio man with the right gear could have listened in.  But I'll split hairs on one point: This was not a broadcast per se, there was no program of entertainment; these were all intended to be person-to-person transmissions.

The Lackawanna Limited train left New York City on November 21st, 1913. It was the first train in the world equipped with wireless telegraph. Tests were conducted that day and on several later occasions, probably at 1600 meters. On the same Lackawanna train on May 1st, 1914, similar tests were conducted by De Forest radio telephone.

On April 5th, Lackawanna conducted its a public radio phone test on a train called the Cornell Special, that ran between Ithaca, NY and New York, NY. It departed at 12:35 PM and arrived in NYC at 7:10 PM. What was public" about this test was that they had installed speakers in the buffet car, so that passengers could listen to concerts broadcast by the various radio transmitting stations. It was an unheard of luxury at the time. They also had a small transmitting set on board for the purpose of testing the transmission of messages to and from the moving train to amateur radio stations along the route. I'll quote at length from Railway Signaling And Communications, of April 1922:
"The set used was operated by two young radio experts, David W. Richardson of Princeton University, and G. Donald Murray, both of whom were in charge of radio station 3DH of Princeton University. The Lackawanna installed wireless telegraph service at Hoboken, N. J., Scranton, PA, and Binghamton, NY, during the fall and winter of 1913. The installations consisted of standard Marconi apparatus. Five kw. was used at Hoboken and 2 kw. at Scranton and Binghamton, using multiple plate quenched gap and the induced voltage was 20,000 at 500 cycles; wave length 1,600 meters. No difficulty was experienced in maintaining continuous communication and a large amount of traffic was handled. Early in 1914 telegraph sets were installed on the Lackawanna Limited. Motor generators were especially built by the Crocker Wheeler Company, to operate on the 30-volt car lighting service."
The antennae were removed at the beginning of WWI, though it was later re-installed. Wireless radio signaling quickly became indispensable there and everywhere.