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Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Signalling Procedure: misc_equip255

Map showing the extent of the Electric Telegraph Company telegraph circuits in 1852

The map shows the extent of the Electric Telegraph Company (ETC) telegraph circuits in 1852 with an enlargement of those in Warwickshire. This includes stations on the Great Western Railway northern main line where instruments were listed at; Fenny Compton, Southam, Leamington, Warwick, Hatton, Knowle, Solihull, Acocks Green, Bordesley, Birmingham (Snow Hill), Hockley, Soho and Handsworth. Not all of these sites initially employed the telegraph for Railway Signalling, but when opened in November 1854 the double line between Hockley and Birmingham Snow Hill had ‘Distance Interval signalling by electric telegraph’ applied and this signalling system being subsequently extended through Snow Hill tunnel to Bordesley. The dotted line shown alongside the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (which was independent of the Great Western Railway at the time) indicates part of a new ETC telegraph circuit then under construction. This comprised of a further 249 miles of telegraph circuit with 30 instruments. In 1860 the ETC also installed a telegraph circuit along the new railway branch line from Hatton to Stratford-upon-Avon. This would almost certainly have been used for single line working between Hatton and Honeybourne, once the link to the OWW branch at Stratford-upon-Avon was completed in July 1861.

By 1863 the ETC was a major global concern which despite competition had retained a virtual monopoly on telegraph services in Britain and their service, tariffs and profits were attracting Government attention and criticism. Calls for State intervention resulted in regulations being imposed on all telegraph companies and culminated in the appropriation for the Nation of the various British telegraph systems in 1868, which were then formally handed over to the Post Office on Friday 4th February 1870. One of the ETC’s young engineers, Charles Ernest Spagnoletti was appointed as the first Telegraph Superintendent of the Great Western Railway in May 1855 and he greatly improved the telegraph instruments used for Railway Signalling (see misc_equip256).

Robert Ferris