RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 20 . . Europe . . Part 2
RAILCAR GOLD is a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure, primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. This is Part 2 of Chapter 20 . . . Europe. A new part will be posted every Thursday. Recent chapters stand alone, starting here; however new readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 20 . . . EUROPE . . . Part 2
Since his brother Bill asked, George Billmeyer disclosed, “When I attended Princeton, several of the Professors did some of the pioneering work on a Telegraph Code. They had more than one-hundred students helping to prove out their work; I was one of them.”
George continued, “The first transatlantic telegraph cable started to be used in 1858, however receiving messages was problematic and tedious. It did not matter, that first cable only lasted a few weeks before it stopped working entirely.”
“The second transatlantic telegraph cable went into operation during 1866; it was not as problematic as the early cable, however receiving telegraphs was still a slow process. The received transatlantic signals were very weak compared to telegraph signals sent over landlines. Many transatlantic telegraph messages had to be repeated and verified, over and over and over to get one message that appeared reasonably accurate.”
“The idea was to shorten transatlantic telegraph messages by using code words, such that one word replaced a whole string of commonly used words. To do this, the code words had to be carefully selected; that is where the students came in. We were all trained in Morse Code and when judged to be proficient, we became part of the test group.”
“At each session, students of the test group were separated into two rooms. Each student in room-one was given a different list of words to telegraph to a student in room-two. The receiving groups’ lists were then shuffled and were telegraphed back to room-one; after students were randomly switched at stations within their room. The lists were telegraphed back and forth in a similar manner until time had expired for the test session.”
“The professors evaluated the string of exchanges to discover the words that consistently telegraphed correctly. They were creating a directory of telegraphically checked words.”
George picked up his copy of Palmer’s European Pocket Guide with Telegraph Code for Travelers, turned to page 11 and read:”
Instructions for using the Travelers’ Code
This code has been specially prepared to meet the requirements of travelers. Its use reduces the expense of communicating with friends at home to a nominal sum. The ciphers have been telegraphically checked, i.e., words only being selected whose telegraphic characters are not likely to conflict in transmission. It is the only safe code of the kind in existence. Those intending to use the code should procure an extra copy to leave with friends at home, and if necessary fill in the blank spaces with private phrases you are likely to use, care being taken to make both books agree.
George stated, “Today, the codes are used more to cut down on expenses, however they still serve a purpose in speeding up transatlantic telegraph transmissions. Mary is the keeper of the copy at home.”
George opened the book to the alphabetical list of the code words and tells Bill, “If I send a message home that says ‘Affinity,’ when we arrive in Liverpool, what am I telling you.”
Bill looks up ‘Affinity’ and reads, “Arrived well, stormy passage, was very sick.”
Emma demanded, “Why did you have him read that one?”
George laughed, “Don’t worry, there is a whole section in this book of potential cures for sea-sickness. However I’m sure our voyage will be ‘Adorable.’ Look it up,” as George pointed to Bill.
Bill read, “Adorable — Arrived well, pleasant passage, advise friends.”
Go to Part 3