Coast Station Introduction

   This table is from Statistics Canada's web site and is labeled "Wireless and radio stations in operation in Canada, March 31, 1924 to 1927. (I've only listed the items that pertain to Rough Radio's area of interest.)

 

 

1924

1925

1926

1927

Gov't Coast Stations

31

34

26

27

Gov't Radio Telephone Stns.

 

5

5

4

5

Gov't & Private Ship Stations

232

239

252

272

 

The First Stations

 

  In the opening years of the 20th Century the Dominion Government began a construction program of coastal wireless stations.  The technology was new, less than 10 years old, and was still experimental to some point.  For instance the ideal location for a transmitter site was at best a guess, the coverage range was a guess, and the receivers were powered by whatever impinged on the antenna wire.

 

   On the West Coast the Dominion Government was concerned about the loss of life and materials and in 1906 embarked on a program of wireless (radio) station construction.  Included was the building of a life saving trail along the south coast of Vancouver Island between Port Renfrew and Bamfield.  A couple of manned lifeboat stations was included, the Bamfield Station the only remaining one. 

 

   The wireless stations at Victoria, Pachena, and Estevan covered the west coast of Vancouver Island, while Point Grey (Vancouver) and Cape Lazo (Comox) managed the inside waters between the island and the mainland.  See a Google Earth link here.

   Previous to any radio activity out on this coast, the Marconi Company had installed a number of coastal stations on the Atlantic coast. The capital cost, operation and maintenance were all born by the Company. The Marconi Company made their money by charging an amount of money per word in the telegram.

 

   At the time Marconi had an irritating policy ofcommunicating only with Marconi fitted vessels or stations. Thus a vessel fitted with a Telefunken transmitter would not be answered by a Marconi shore station. The Government wisely felt this Marconi policy would not be in the best interests of the shipping concerns on the west coast and so installed equipment manufactured by others

 

   Marconi Company huffed and puffed, waving what they thought was an iron clad contract giving them a monopoly to supply and man Governmentstations. (Marconi eventually changed their policy. Imagine if a cell phone on the Bell systemcouldn't call a cell phone on the Telus system!)  A news item in October of 1926 reportsMarconi is still operating the eastern stations.

 Landline Telegraphs

    Landline telegraphy came with the railroads.  Communication was critical for safe operation of a railway and the wire was strung on poles next to the tracks. 

    The banner photo is likely the Canadian Pacific Railway's landline telegraph office at Victoria, British Columbia in the period 1905-15.

   Note the telegraph 'sounders' in the elevated boxes next to the heads of the two telegraphers on the left. The railroad's rails never did make it to Victoria but the CPR services certainly did in the form of the trans-Pacific Empress steamers, coastal steamers, the Empress Hotel in Victoria and of course, the telegraph system. A customer could walk into a C.P.R. prairie whistle stop station and purchase a ticket to any place the transportation company went. For instance get on the train in Moose Jaw and eventually disembark from an Empress liner in Hong Kong, all on the same ticket!

   The landline code consisted not of beeps or tones as with a wireless/radio, but the spaces between clicks as the circuit was opened and closed by the operator at a remote station using Morse Code to key the circuit. The on again, off again current flowed through a coil of wire in the sounder box creating a fairly weak magnetic field which pulled at a spring loaded soft iron clapper. Thus there would be a click each time the remote telegrapher tapped his key. The sounder was mounted in an elevated box firstly to bring it nearer the operator's ear, and secondly to make the clicks more pronounced in a noisy room.

  

   In the right background are three telegram runners. No doubt their bicycles are outside and waiting to take the boys and telegrams to the recipients. They were the equivalent to today's bicycle couriers.

 

   In those days telephone systems were in their infancy and served only the local community. Convenient long distance calling was some years into the future. Canada had been spanned with telegraph wire when the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in the 1880's. Undersea cables connected the continents together. Thus telegrams were a vital and quick communication tool for messaging between towns and countries.

 

    A wireless fitted vessel could now sail the coast knowing the weather conditions ahead, receive messages from their agents to pick up cargo or passengers, send a message to have supplies awaiting, and if anything did go wrong, call for help immediately. Passengers could send and receive telegrams and thus not be out of contact with their families or companies. Turned out that passengers and cargo shippers in those early days would prefer to purchase a ticket on a vessel fitted with wireless over a vessel not fitted. Steamship companies responded accordingly and within a span of about 10 years all major coastal vessels were fitted with wireless.

 

Rough Radio

Ship to Shore Radio on the

West Coast of Canada  1900-70