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Telegraph Poles
History behind “Telegraph Poles”

Although a relic of the past, telegraph poles once played an important role in society. Instead of removing the poles, the Village of McAdam decided to keep and maintain the poles to allow future generations have a glimpse into the past.

The electric telegraph was introduced in 1844 by Samuel F. B. Morse and was adopted by Railways in North America for operating purposes. In the beginning, the pole line may have consisted of one single wire on which the Dots & Dashes of the Morse code were transmitted to the stations along the route. As time and technology advanced, pairs of wire were added to carry railway Dispatcher’s telephone service to each station. In addition to the services that Canadian Pacific required for their rail operations, a Commercial telegram department was established for the public to send and receive Telegrams, transfer money and transmit the news of the day to the world.

As more wires were required, cross arms were added to the poles resulting in a mass of wires near major cities. Radio broadcasts, Air traffic control telephone lines to airports, railway block signals and highway crossing control wires became part of the maze of wires along the track. This was followed by Telegraph carriers that operated over a single voice channel that would handle a dozen or more Morse code telegraph circuits, and by the late 1940s, teletype circuits, that provided faster and an instant print copy for the railways and private companies that leased service from CP Telegraphs.

In the late 1950s a joint Microwave communication network from coast to coast was constructed by CP and CN Telegraph Companies. Microwave was more reliable and not subject to ice storms, falling trees and train derailments. Wires began to disappear from the pole line as services were transferred to the microwave network. The Morse code telegraph service ended on Canadian Pacific in 1972 and Point to Train radio Service replaced the Dispatcher’s telephone. Today the only wires remaining are used for some highway/railway crossing controls.


-Local history buff Danny McCracken, (born and raised in McAdam)