Friday 19 December 2014

How it was first achieved - fast information between Europe and America

The following extract from an account of the very exciting story of the laying of the, Greenwich made, Atlantic cable, comes from "Wonders of World Engineering" Part 46 1938.  The first part of the article is missing (I don't have Part 45!) - but the story picks up when it has been decided to make the cable and to lay it across the Atlantic Ocean ----   read on ------
Bitter experience was to prove the correctness of the engineer's original estimate. The cable, as it was built, had a central core made up of seven strands of copper wire, having a combined thickness equal to No. 14 gauge. Manufacture of the cable began in February 1857. The copper core with its insulation of gutta-percha was surrounded by hemp saturated with pitch, tar, wax and linseed oil, and finally armoured on the outside with eighteen strands of iron wire rope, each strand containing seven wires and having a diameter equal to No. 14 gauge.
This cable was then drawn, finally, through a fresh mixture of tar. Thus finished, it weighed 1 ton per sea mile in air, and no more than 134 cwt per sea mile in salt water. The shoreward ends of the cable were much more  heavily armoured than the main section,  the sheathing consisting of twelve  No. 0 gauge wires, giving it a weight of  9 tons per mile. This heavy sheathing was adopted for ten miles at the Irish end and for fifteen miles at the Newfoundland end. Even so, it was found in the light of subsequent practice that this was barely half the amount of armouring needed over these sections. 

The contract allowed only four months for the spinning and assembly of the entire cable, which was to be ready by June 1857. About 20,500 miles of copper wire were needed for the 2,500 miles of cable, all but 300 tons of gutta-percha, and for the sheathing 367,000 miles of wire had to be drawn from 1,687 tons of charcoal iron, this being laid up into 50,000 miles of strand. The contract price for the whole cable came to £225,000, the core costing £40 and the armoured sheathing £50 a mile. 
Cable Snaps in Mid-Ocean 

 As the cable was manufactured, each finished length was coiled and stowed in a huge circular tank, in readiness for shipment. Bright and Whitehouse were much harassed by the absurdly short time allowed them, the result of an unlucky arrangement with business interests on the other side of the Atlantic. Within that short while they had also to devise apparatus for paying out the cable, and to choose cable ships.  The Admiralty and the United States Government each offered a ship for cable-laying, the British ship being the warship Agamemnon, and the American the steam frigate Niagara. 
H.M.S. Agamemnon was a screw steamer of what was then the latest design. She had spacious hold space, essential for a cable ship. As auxiliaries,  the U.S. Navy provided the paddle frigate, Susquehanna, and the Admiralty,  H.M.S. Leopard and H.M.S. Cyclops  - the latter a sounding vessel. Paying-out machines were fitted to the Agamemnon and the Niagara, and to prevent  the screws from damaging the cable  should it come in contact with them by  accident, the screws were shielded by  strange looking external guards, which  the men promptly nicknamed "crinolines," after the items of feminine  equipment then in fashion. 

Loading of the two cable ships-the Agamemnon in the Thames and the Niagara in the Mersey took place during the first three weeks of July 1857, and its completion was signalized by great celebrations on the part of all concerned. The two vessels, with their precious freight, met at Queenstown (now Cobh) on July 30. The ends of their respective coiled cables were temporarily joined and messages were flashed through the entire length of the Atlantic cable. 
The story of how the Agamemnon and the Niagara tried, and tried again, and eventually did lay the cable, is one of the greatest in the annals of shipping.  The European end was landed on August 5, 1857. Bright wanted the two ships to meet in mid-ocean, where the two ends of the cable were to be spliced. The vessels were then to steam away from each other, the Agamemnon towards Ireland and the Niagara towards Newfoundland. Once again his better judgment was set aside. The directors decreed that the Niagara should lay the cable from Valentia to a point in the middle of the Atlantic, whence the Agamemnon should continue the work until she reached the American side. 

After one false start, the ships got away properly, telegraphing back to the shore messages of their progress. The start was made on August 6. Day after day, in beautiful weather, the laying went on. By 3.45 p.m. on August 11, Niagara had laid 380 miles of cable, transmission of signals through it being perfect all the time. Then, on that fateful afternoon, the cable, now going down into depths sounded at 2,000 fathoms (12,000 feet), suddenly snapped. The work of the Niagara, inaugurated with such rejoicings, had suddenly finished in an anti-climax. 
The disconsolate "Wire Squadron” steamed to Plymouth. Later Bright went to Valentia Harbour with a little paddle steamer, and succeeded in recovering about fifty miles of the lost cable. New capital had to be raised,  under great difficulties, for the public  was fighting shyer than ever of this  admittedly risky enterprise, and Bright  resolutely set himself to devise some  better means for paying out the cable.    
The existing apparatus had been the same as that used for laying short-distance sections, to which the peculiar difficulties entailed by the vast depths and distances of the Atlantic did not apply. Bright fitted a brake in which a lever exercised a constant holding power that remained in perfect proportion to the weight attached to it. He also rigged a dynamometer which controlled and indicated the strain entailed by paying out. Moreover, experiments were conducted by Professor Thomson to test the conductivity of the copper strands, so that all copper wire below a certain standard of conductivity was rejected. This was the first example of organized conductor testing to be carried out in a cable factory. 

Another Set-Back 
By the end of May 1858, 3,000 miles of cable were coiled- in the two ships.  This time Bright's' original plan for  splicing the two ends and allowing the  two ships to steam away from each  other was adopted, and successful  trials of this arrangement took place in the Bay of Biscay on May 31, 1858.  On June 3 the ships set sail for a mid- ocean rendezvous. There followed an appalling storm, in which the Agamemnon nearly capsized. As it was, part of her precious cargo shifted, as did a     large proportion of her coal. Many of her crew were injured, and timbers were started all over the vessel, so that her cabins were swimming in water for days on end. It was only by a series of fortunate events that the battered Agamemnon, on June 25, was able to rejoin the Niagara and the assistant vessels, which were this time the Gorgon and the Valourous. 

 On the following morning, the Niagara’s cable was conveyed on board the Aqamemnon and the splice was made.  After all the disappointments which had gone before, a gloom seemed to have settled over everyone, and there was no celebration beyond the binding of a lucky sixpence into the cable.  The cable broke when the two ships had each paid out three miles of it. 
The vessels joined each other again and a fresh splice was made. ‘Once again they steamed slowly apart.  Everything worked beautifully until 3.40 a.m. on June 27, when Professor Thomson reported that current had  ceased to flow in the cable, "A gun and a blue light," reported a newspaper,  "warned the Valourous of what had  happened ... and that the' first part  of the Atlantic Cable had been laid  and effectually lost." 

Each vessel carried a considerable spare mileage of cable, against accidents of this kind. The arrangement was that they should continue operations until 250 miles of cable had been lost, after which both were to return to Ireland. Once  again the Agamemnon and  the Niagara returned to the  rendezvous, and once again the wearisome and by now quite unceremonial business  of splicing the two ends was gone through. That was on June 28. There had been no fault on either vessel. The cable had parted mysteriously and completely somewhere down in the pitch darkness of the miles-deep Atlantic disheartening to think of Nature being the enemy. There was something beyond soft and harmless ooze down there in the black Atlantic deeps. 
The two ships headed away from each other, and, as before, everything went as smoothly as possible. Yet nobody yet dared to dream of success. Sure enough, when the Agamemnon had laid 146 miles of cable, another break took place. She returned to the rendezvous, but the master of the Niagara had decided that the limit had been reached.  The Niagara reached Ireland on July 5, and on July 12 the disconsolate company of the Agamemnon also reached port. 

The fate of the Atlantic cable now hung in the balance. The chairman of the company advised abandonment of the whole enterprise. Only the original projectors still kept faith. On July 17, 1858, the squadron once again left Valentia Harbour. Their move was described as “a mad freak of stubborn ignorance,” among other epithets, and was" regarded with mixed feelings of derision and pity."  Yet this time they succeeded.  On July 29, the splice was made, and for the last time the cable sank into the depths, weighted with a 32 lb shot. This significant act was watched without enthusiasm by the dejected company. Cautiously the two ships steamed away, one eastward and the other westwards, with their companion vessels in attendance. In the afternoon, a large whale, making straight for the cable, passed the Agamemnon. Every one held his breath, while the huge animal swam under the stern, just grazing the cable, but doing no damage.  There was one bad scare - through a sudden cessation of electrical continuity, but this was later found to have been due to a defect in the apparatus on the Niagara. 
Ireland and Newfoundland United 

ON July 31 a gale blew up, and for three days it was expected that the cable would part as the stern of the labouring vessel pitched upwards. On  August 2, the Agamemnon narrowly  missed collision with an American  schooner, the Chieftain, which bore right  down on her with no other object than  to see what she was doing., One other accident was narrowly avoided through  similar ignorance on the part of another  vessel. On the morning of August 5, the mountains of Kerry rose high before the Agamemnon, and at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of that day, Bright himself brought the cable ashore. 
At the other end, the Niagara met with no storms, whales or mismanaged schooners, but a certain amount of anxiety was caused by large icebergs on the Grand Banks. She dropped anchor in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, on August 5, and the cable was carried ashore. 

Great enthusiasm greeted the long- last completion of the arduous and doubtful task. Engineers and navigators alike were feted on both sides of the Atlantic, though what they all felt they needed was a complete rest over an indefinitely long period. A few days later, Bright was knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in the absence of Queen Victoria. Bright was just twenty- six years of age at the time. 
Now came the second tragedy. Wildman Whitehouse used currents at a high tension and the simple insulation was insufficient to bear the strain. Signals grew weaker, and to strengthen them the voltage was increased, thereby hastening the end of the cable which had cost so much pain and time to lie.  For a brief period, the cable showed the world how man's communications could make nothing of distance. Then the signals began to fade. They grew fainter and fainter. They became so weak as to be unintelligible. The great Atlantic cable was dead. 

Tests suggested that the main leak in the cable was situated about 300 miles west of Ireland at a depth of about two miles. There appeared to be no fracture of the cable, as it was still possible to pass weak currents through it. Whitehouse's huge 5-feet induction coils had wrecked the cable. Sir Charles Bright compared the usage it had received to getting up high-pressure steam in a low-pressure boiler. 
It was the year 1865 that saw the laying of the first successful Atlantic cable. The type of cable adopted, on  the recommendation of Sir Charles  Bright and others who were called into  consultation, consisted of an armoured  copper core, the armour consisting of  iron wire, each separate strand being  encased in hemp.  The weight of conductor and insulator came to 300 lb and 400 lb. per mile respectively. 

As for the laying of this cable, it was decided that one vessel should accomplish it throughout. In all the world there was only one ship large enough to carry the whole cable. That ship was Brunei’s premature giant, the Great Eastern, of 27,384 tons displacement. Cable-laying activities came to provide the one bright chapter in her undeservedly sad history. She was the perfect cable ship, at least by contemporary standards. The cable was shipped on board the Great Eastern at Greenwich, and on July 23, 1865, she left for the south of Ireland. At the point where the shore cable had already been laid by the steamer Caroline, the Great Eastern effected a connexion.  Then, accompanied by H.M.S. Terrible and H.M.S. Sphinx, she turned her head towards the open sea. A fault in the cable was discovered when the great ship had paid out about eighty-four miles. After about ten and a half miles had been hauled in again the faulty section was cut out. The cable was spliced again and paying out was resumed. The defect consisted of an iron wire perforating the cable through from one side to the other.  When 716 miles had been laid, the same thing occurred again, and the fault was the same also. This happened a third time when the ship was two-thirds of the way across, having laid 1,186 miles of cable. 
Average Depth of 1,400 Fathoms 

A FAR more serious mishap occurred one day. There was a heavy swell and, to add to, existing troubles, a breakdown took place on board. The cable was damaged by the movement of the steamer and, before this additional trouble could be remedied, the cable had parted and disappeared into the depths. 
Repeated efforts were made to fish for it with grapnels, but without avail.  The grapnels had succeeded in hooking the cable, however; it was the rope that broke. All was not lost, however. The Atlantic Telegraph Company, which had sponsored this first attempt, was absorbed into a new concern, the Anglo- American Telegraph Company. 

For the purpose of grappling the lost cable, twenty miles of rope, composed of forty-nine hemp-covered iron wires, were provided. The Great Eastern had her single screw covered by a "crinoline" (she had both paddle and screw, propulsion), and the hauling-in machinery consisted of two drums driven by a pair of 70 horse-power steam engines. On June 30, 1866, the Great Eastern, followed by the auxiliaries Medway and Albany, arrived at Valentia Harbour, where the ships were met by H.M.S. Terrible and by H.M.S. Racoon. The Great Eastern took the shore cable on board on July 13 and headed for the open sea.  Fourteen days later, the great steamer arrived off Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, having laid 1,852 sea miles of cable, at an average depth of 1,400 fathoms. 
On August 13 the, Great Eastern, once more in mid-Atlantic, began dragging operations for the lost 1865 cable.  Several times it was hooked, only to be lost before it could be shipped. Yet on August 31 the cable was successfully brought on board, when the grapnel had been lowered for the thirtieth time. The cable had been hooked at a depth of two miles. This message was shortly after flashed through the previously lost cable to the listening operators in Ireland, who had almost given up hope “ship to shore. I have much pleasure, in speaking to you through the 1865 cable. Just going to make splice.”

Such was the beginning 'of the history of inter-continental communications.  The Atlantic cable pioneers, in the face of so much that was discouraging, even heart-breaking, persevered to bring about one of the most revolutionary innovations of modern times. It is a story in which all concerned acquitted themselves brilliantly. 

... and just remember all this as you routinely receive almost instant web site information and much else from America  - it is still passing through cables to reach you. 

Saturday 13 December 2014

Cable ship Faraday.

A tweeter has put out today a picture of Cable Ship Faraday off Charlton
I promised to put out more information - and I am sorry - this is direct quotations from books rather than something original written. 

First of all - Stewart says:
"There were two cable ships named Faraday both owned by Siemens Brothers, the picture shows this vessel moored off the Siemens Brothers factory in Charlton.  This two funnelled ship is Faraday (1), Faraday (2) only had one funnel. Your enthusiast’s picture must be pre 1924
There is quite a bit about her in Haigh pages 67-69  (K.R.Haigh  Cableships and Submarine Cables. STC 1968)   This says
Built in 1874 by C Mitchell and Company Ltd, Newcastle.  Length = 360ft Breadth = 52ft Height Overall = 40ft Gross tonnage = 5,052.  She was one of the first vessels to be fitted with  twin screws driven by a compound steam engine.  She also had a fairly unique bow rudder for increase manoeuvrability at slow speed.  Both of this innovations were conceived by William Siemens.  She had 3 cable tanks that could carry  400 + 800 + 800nm of cable, a total lift capability of 2,000nm (3,710km). n 1909 she underwent major reconstruction work and in 1924 she was sold for scrap but her one inch iron plates proved too tough for the breakers to deal with and she was sold on as a coal hulk in Algiers where she was known as Analcoal and owned by the Anglo-Algiers Coaling Company.  In 1931 she was towed to Gibraltar to continue her role as a coal hulk and in 1941 she was moved to Sierra Leone where she did service as a naval stores ship.  Finally she was towed back to a South Wales breakers in 1950".

................ and Bill (in America) says:

I see Stewart has provided some good information while I was asleep!
But it's always worth checking my site if you need a quick answer:

The search box at the top of the main page and the bottom of most other
pages is the fastest way to find anything.
.................... I also found a history of Siemens with quite a bit in it about Faraday 1 (J.D.Scott  Siemens Brothers 1856-1958 Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1958).
"In 1874 there was launched the firms own cable laying ship, the Faraday, a vessel especially designed for cable laying by William Siemens himself in collaboration with his friend William Froude, the great pioneer in design of ships' hulls.The Faraday was a vessel with a gross tonnage of 4,908 a length of 360 feet, a beam of 52 feet  and a depth of 35 feet. She was built upon the principle of a whale boat; that is to say that she had bows at each end, and was thus particularly well adapted for the close manoaeuvering required in laying cables. Also, in aid oc manoeuvrability she had twin screws, a very early example of a ship so built. She was in fact 'built round the cable' in every way.  In order to give a large deck space her two funnels were abreast of one another and in order to cut down rolloing, 'Mr Froude suggested that there should be two enormous bilge keels instead of an ordinary keel  ... in fact she was remarkably successful ..throughout her long life she had the reputation of being a lucky ship.  The Faraday excited great interest and there are many descriptions of her. See Trans.Inst. Nav. Arch. Vo XVII 1876 Bright C. op cit pp 162-3 and the newspapers of the period.
can probably find more.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Book reviews, contacts and so on

LOTS OF BITS AND PIECES - things which have just come out and things I should have listed down a long time ago - so

Industrial Archaeology News - this (national) publication normally has very little about South East London BUT the Winter 2014 edition has major items on Greenwich  - an article by  Alan Burkitt Gray on 'Campaign to save Enderby House, the Birthplace of International Telecommunications'  and also an article by - er - me - 'Restoring the Greenwich Foot Tunnel'.  The website is  I have been unable to get any offprints - but they have agreed I can do a PDF of the articles. So if you want a copy I am

Vickery - were a firm based in Norman Road which made a paper cutting device.  I do intend to put a few notes here soon, but if you know anything about the firm, please get in touch

Gutta Percha Works in Crooms Hill - any info out there about this??

London's Industrial Archaeology No.11.  (should have put this info out years ago).  This is a journal article and very substantial about 'The Kings Yard: Archaeological Investigations at Convoy's Wharf Deptford 2000-2012' by Duncan Hawkins.  The GLIAS web site should give details about how you can buy copies of this.

Lewisham History Journal.  no.20 2012 has an article on the Macmillan Sisters and the 'Deptford Welfare Experiment'

New book 'The Windmills of North West Kent and Kentish London' - which of course includes Blackheath and Greenwich. published by Stenlake and Co and by Rob Cumming.

That's all - but here's a little non-industrial snippet.  In 1916 a German Zeppelin was shot down at Cuffley in Hertfordshire.  It was a big thing at the time - the only tourist attraction Cuffley has ever had - and there is a memorial to it there.  The commander of the Zeppelin was Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm - and now while he was clearly very German you might be interested to know that he was born in Charlton and lived there until he was 15 (his Dad worked for Siemens).
Oh well.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

A bit of moaning in the Mercury

So -  the Mercury isn't happy with the state of Greenwich - it says

"For some years past the town of Greenwich, although the central one of the three which constitutes this great Borough, has been steadily sinking into a state of decay.  The depression has, at length, become so manifest, in the form of empty houses and diminished trade that everybody who has an interest of any kind in the place is anxiously enquiring whether something cannot be done towards a recovery of its lost position and a restoration of its former prosperity.   Deptford, which ten  or twelve years ago used to excite the sympathy of the people of Greenwich by its impoverished  state, its heavy taxes, its silent wharves and its deserted streets, is now thronged with a bustling, cheerful, thriving population while poor Greenwich  half the day long is as stirless in its scenes as Salisbury plain. 
The silence in it is only broken at intervals by the sepulchral sound of the wheels of an empty omnibus wending its solitary way to Deptford and the Kent Road  to pick up  a few passengers for the West end.   Even if you see some active pedestrian approaching the public baths for having nothing else to do, his melancholy countenance renders it doubtful whether he is about to enter for the purposes of ablution or to drown himself, in consequence of the dullness that reigns in the town. 
Woolwich, it seems, is equally prosperous with Deptford and from a like cause- the activity in its government establishments. Scarcely a house in either town is empty; while on many streets in East Greenwich there are more houses to be let than there are houses occupied.
Kentish and Surrey Mercury  27th November 1858
The reason behind the article can be found in diagram below:

Drawing thanks to Chris Grabham

Sunday 19 October 2014

From Elektron to 'e'' Commerce

AND ALSO - more about submarine cables.   Here is the front cover of Stewart Ash's book on submarine cables - where there will be a lots about Greenwich

-- read the book   ----------------------------  theres more to come -------------

Transatlantic telecommunications timeline

WITH work on the Enderby Wharf project in our minds we hope to publish here various items about the history of telecommunications in Greenwich.   BUT to start with, as a bit of general background, here is a timeline of transatlantic telecommunications generally.  You will have to wait to find out where Greenwich fits into all this ......................

Timeline of Transatlantic Telecommunications

1600 William Gilbert publishes De Maqnete (On Magnets)

1794 Visual semaphore telegraph established between Paris and Lille

1796 First visual semaphore telegraphs established in the UK

1820 Hans Oersted discovers electromagnetic field due to electric current

1821 Andre Ampere establishes the elementary laws of electrodynamics

1826 Georg Ohm defines basic electrical law V=IR

1831 Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction

1837 Cooke and Wheatstone patent the 5 needle electric telegraph

1838 Alphabetic code of dots and dashes developed by Alfred Vail for Samuel Morse

1839 5 needle electric telegraph established between London Paddinqton and West Drayton

1842 Joseph Henry discovers oscillatory nature of a suddeelectrical discharge

1843 William Montgomerie introduces Malayan gutta-percha to the UK ( used as insulation for submarine cables)

1850 - Lord Kelvin defines relationship between resistance, inductance and capacitance of an oscillatory circuit  
Pierre Guitard observes 'coherence' of dust particles in air when electrified
Proposal that a telegraph cable could run between St Johns Newfoundland and Ireland to connect old and new world

1851 - submarine telegraph cable laid between Dover and Cap Gris Nez
Heinrich Ruhmkorff invents the induction coil

1852 -Michael Faraday announces theory of electric and magnetic 'lines of force' - submarine cable laid between Portpatrick (Scotland) and Donaghadee (Ireland)

1853 Lt Maury USN surveys sea bed from Newfoundland to Ireland finding a plateau suitable for laying submarine cable

1854 The American entrepreneur Cyrus Field initiates the project to lay a telegraph cable from USA to Ireland

1855 -Lord Kelvin calculates that speed of signalling through a cable is inversely proportional to the square of the cable length
Charles Bright surveys Irish coast and selects Valentia Bay as cable landing point for a submarine cable

1856 Cyrus Field forms the Atlantic Telegraph Company

1857  HMS Cyclops surveys the great circle line Newfoundland to Ireland and confirms Lt Maury's findings 
8 August USS Niagara and HMS Agammemnon attempt initial cable lay Ireland to USA but cable breaks on 11 August after 400 miles laid in depths up to 2.5 miles

1858  First transatlantic telegraph cable completed (but fails after 3 weeks due to insulation breakdown) Lord Kelvin develops the mirror galvanometer

1864 Maxwell publishes paper 'A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field' detailing mathematical formulas for the propagation of electromagnetic waves

1866-First successful transatlantic telegraph cable laid by the 'Great Eastern' supervised by Lord Kelvin - American dentist Mahlon Loomis discovers elementary radio telegraphy by sending on-off signals 22km across Blue Ridge mountains using a kite to pick up static electricity as energy source

1872 Loomis awarded US Patent 129971 for his 'aerial telegraph system' but fails to turn his discovery into commercial success.

1873 Maxwell formulates theory that electromagnetic waves are of the same nature as light with similar characteristics

1874 Emile Baudot develops the 5 unit telegraph code

1876 Alexander Graham Bell submits telephone patents.

1888  Heinrich Hertz experiments prove existence of electromagnetic waves as predicted by Maxwell. Oliver Lodge identifies importance of 'resonance' between oscillatory circuits to optimise energy transfer leading to the principle of selective tuning which he called syntony

1891 Eduard Branly constructs the 'coherer' for detecting electromagnetic waves (cohesion of iron filings contained in a glass tube when exposed to electromagnetic waves, and hence their decrease in resistance to a current flowing through them from Latin 'cohaere' = stick together

1892 William Crookes predicts 'telegraphy without wires'
First Strowger automatic telephone exchange operates in Indiana USA

1894 Oliver Lodge transmits 'Hertzian' waves over 60m during lecture to British Association for Advancement of Science using a modified Branly coherer

1895 In Italy Marconi transmits 'Hertzian' waves some 2-3km using elevated aerial and an earth connection
In Russia Aleksandr Popov demonstrates reception of signals over 60m using lightening conductor as an aerial and a Branly -Lodge coherer.

1896 Marconi obtains patent for wireless telegraph

1897 -Marconi demonstrates radio link from Lavernock Point near Cardiff 14km across Bristol Channel
Marconi establishes the 'Wireless and Signal Company Ltd' later to become the 'Marconi Company

1899 Michael Pupin proposes adding induction (loading) coils to cables to extend transmission distances

1901 Marconi transmits Morse letter 'S' across Atlantic from Poldhu Cornwall to Signal Hill, Newfoundland
Canadian Reginald Fessenden patents radiotelephony

1902 Oliver Heaviside and Arthur Kennely predict ionised layer in upper atmosphere

1903 Marconi Poldhu - Cape Cod radio link provides limited commercial telegraphy (mainly used by newspapers)
Fessenden transmits speech using modulated arc over 20km

1904 John Ambrose Fleming invents the thermionic diode
Fessenden demonstrates radiotelephony over 40km in USA

1905 Fessenden invents the superheterodyne circuit

1906  -Lee de Forest adds third electrode to the diode to create the 'audion' (triode) thermionic valve
Fessenden broadcasts gramophone records to ships over distance of 80km probably the worlds first radio broadcast

1907 Marconi establishes limited public radio telegraph service between UK and USA via Canada

1912 Alexander Meissner develop s the electronic HF generator

1914 Marconi experiments with valve transmitters for British navy

 1915  New York-San Francisco cable uses telephone amplifiers
first transatlantic radio broadcast Arlington Virginia to Paris usin 3kW transmitter with over 300 thermionic valves

1922 Regular sound broadcasting commences in the UK

1924 Edward Appleton demonstrates existence of the ionosphere
Marconi and Franklin exploit skywave transmission via  ionosphere over distance of 4000km

1926 Canada-UK radiotelephone service commences

1927 USA - UK radiotelephone service commences

1935 Armstrong demonstrates frequency modulated system

1937 Alec Reeves invents pulse code modulation

1943 Submarine coaxial telephone cable using submerged valve amplifiers laid between Anglesey and Isle of Man

1944 Werner von Braun develops V2 rocket at Peenemunde Germany- forerunner of USA launch vehicles for their space programme

1945 Arthur C. Clarke publishes article in Wireless World proposing placing man-made satellites in geostationary orbit to act as extraterrestrial relay stations to provide worldwide radio coverage

1947 Transistor invented at Bell Labs by Bardeen, Shockley and Brattain

1950 Key  West-Havana submarine coaxial telephone cable laid

1954 US Navy reflects voice messages off the moon

1956 TAT 1 the first UK-USA/Canada transatlantic telephony coaxial cable with submerged repeaters completed

1957 USSR launches first man-made satellite (Sputnik 1) with a 96 minute, 229/946km elliptical orbit

1958 -USA satellite Explorer 1 confirms existence of the Van Allen belts
US Air Force satellite SCORE tested as active repeater recording incoming messages on tape then retransmitting them

1959 Laser is invented

1960 -Aluminized plastic balloon ECHO 1 launched by USA at altitude of 1600m to act as passive reflector of radio signal - ECHO 2 tests reflected transmission between USA and France

1962 -Telstar active satellite is launched by USA - telephony and TV tests between USA and UK France commence
Joseph Licklider of MIT suggests a network of interconnected computers to provide rapid data access ( origin of the INTERNET

1964 SYNCOM satellite is launched into geostationary orbit

1965 INTELSAT 1 geostationary satellite commences commercial satellite communications

1966 Kao and Hockham of STC Laboratories propose optical telecommunications through pure glass fibres

1969 US Defense Department creates ARPANET (advanced research projects agency network) using packet transmission and switching (routing) which eventually develops into the INTERNET

1979 Analogue cellular mobile radio telephony commences in Japan

1980 Commercial optical fibre link Brownhills-Walsall in UK goes into service

1987 First long distance submarine optical fibre links Corsica and French mainland

1988 TAT 8 first transatlantic optical fibre cable completed

 1990 Tim Berners-Lee working at CERN devises the World Wide Web operating over the INTERNET

1991 Digital mobile cellular radio GSM commences in Finland

2000 Transatlantic optical fibre cable 360 Atlantic with capacity of nearly 2 Terabits/s commences operation (1 terabit = 1012 bits/s )
This list was given to us and it is understood it was part of a conference pack in 2007 - we do not have details..  If that is not so, and if it is your list, and your copyright, then please email ( and it will be removed from this site, with an apology - or remain with a note from you.


Thursday 16 October 2014

Wednesday 24 September 2014

GASHOLDERS - what is happening to them round the world

Preserved Gas holders

This post has evolved from one I did a couple of days ago on   This was about the gasholder conference organised by the Institution of Gas Engineers last week. As a result a number of people have asked about gasholders around the world which have been converted to this and that - and so I have prepared this posting solely on that subject.  Thank you to all the people who have sent links and information - some of which are replicated below.

One of the papers at the Conference was on gas holder conversions (and I will come to Kings Cross later).  Russell described conversions at: 

Gasometer City, Vienna - shopping malls, flats and offices
Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam - used for creative industries.
Gaswerks, Augsberg - museum
Gaswerks Shoneberg, Berlin - event space and a structure resembling the Reichstag Dome
Leipzeig - commercial exhibition space and panoramas
Tauchrevier Gasometer, Duisberg  -indoor diving centre
Hobro Gasworks, Denmark - museum
Stockholm Gasworks, Sweden -  cultural venues
Turku, Finland - public spaces and music events
Museo del Gas, Barcelona - museum
Suvilahti, Helskini, Finland - cultural events and a circus school
Technopolis, Athens - industrial museum and cultural centre
MAN Gasholder, Oberhausen - cultural venue and landmark
The Gas Works, Dublin - now contains 240 flats
Newstead Gas Works Plaza, Australia - now a 'public plaza'
Kallang Gas Works, Singapore  - now an arena in a park
Oestre Gasveark Teater, Copenhagen  - now a theatre
Gefle Gasverks, Sweden    -  now a theatre

and did it with great slides and detail.  I am not sure of the status of his report and if a link through to it would be acceptable to IGE,

I did a brief article on gas holder reuse in a GIHS Newsletter over ten years ago - none of the web links I quoted work any more.  But I have put what information I have below. 

The links below gives information on holders in Continental Europe and America.  They are usually brick built structures - for the simple reason that in areas with very, very cold winters the water sealed holders used in Britain are just not practical. They are described on one site as "giant masonry round towers with several narrow windows and covered by metallic cupolas." - and those in St.Petersburg as "40 meters in diameter and stands 20 meters tall" They were built in 1872 and the same architect designed permanent circus buildings.  . However look and see what is being done with them:

Vienna - Simmering - One of the most famous examples of re-use of gas holders has been 'gasometer city' at Simmering. Read about it here - and much more than one holder is involved  and here are some reviews of their use as a shopping mall, albeit each with a different designer  and here's their web site

Brisbane.  A holder of the British type is a feature in a new park - and here is one of their bloggers on the subject
Oberhausen - easily the most famous gasholder conversion is at Oberhausen.  again it is in a type of holder not that familiar in England, although some do exist.    It is a museum and cultural centre and it is described as "the landmark of the city of Oberhausen and, beyond that, it has become an entire region's identification sign that cannot be overlooked".  /

Liepzeig - A link to a picture of the gas holder in Leipzeig can be found at and there is more about its conversion into a panometer in the America industrial archaeology magazine, below, which also describes the one in Dresden.

Dresden - the following link is to an article about a reinforced concrete gas holder in Dresden which has been turned into a art gallery for a panorama - and has renamed the holder as a 'panometer'.
Amsterdam - where a gasholder - one more of type we would recognise is now a feature in a park. Read a wildlife based web site on it and here's the whole story on their web site 
Milan - Bovisa.  What is happening here is more confused - and not helped by the way that some web sites seem to translate 'gas works' as 'gasometer'.  An old holder - of the type we would recognise - seems to be still standing on a site which has now been redeveloped as a Polytechnic.   There seem to have been a number of plans for the holder but the current state is unclear, to me at least.  There seems to be a plan to build a new library which looks like it.  Perhaps someone could clarify this for me.

Florence While I am entirely unsure what at sceneographic nucleus is, and sure its very nice and here is something about the holder there - again one we would recognise

Dublin - this is a bit nearer home, and a holder of a type we would recognise. This is a housing project.

St Petersburg -  a site with several holders is under consideration - information at  and here is another picture

Stockholm - and a plan for data storage centres.

SO - Here we have a ground breaking scheme at Kings Cross where one holder has recently been re-erected and the landmark 'triplets' are to become - well landmarks, and housing. We had a very good presentation from a developer and I wonder if a link to the paper would be possible??
Meanwhile I have been kindly sent the following link to the architects web site

Also - I have been sent information on a campaign in Hornsey to save the gasholder there from destruction, and also something from Edinburgh.

After all - we only invented the things.

PS  My attention has been drawn to the latest edition of the Newcomen Society's 'Links' (9/14).   This describes a Society visit to  Moravia and Silesia - from which the following is an extract:

"the full impact of the Vitkovice Ironworks became clear. Steel-making finished in 1998 on this fully integrated site, with its own coal mine, coke ovens, four blast furnaces, steel-making furnaces and rolling mills. In 1994, nearly 35,000 people worked here and .... it has applied for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  ............................ The gas-holder has been turned into a concert hall and a reception area for the tour of No 1 blast furnace – the smallest of the four.