Sunday, September 6, 2009

Of early electric trams and telephones


Image from the Observer, 17 August 1907

Something I hadn't considered before now was the effect that electric trams from 1902 would have had on telephones. For twenty years before the new-fangled electric transport, telephones had existed and worked as well as could be expected given the technology of the time. But then, there were problems.

Mr. Tregear spoke of the tremendous noise of Auckland cars, and stated that people from Sydney had informed him that the roaring noise made by the cars was entirely a New Zealand institution, and that in Australia the service was performed in a quieter manner, Mr. Hanson remarked that a new system like that installed in Auckland should not be compared with a much older one like that in Sydney. It took time for the cars to settle down to the running. During the last few days some now cars had been put on, and it was no doubt of these that the visitor to Auckland had complained. The "roaring noise" at the beginning was reduced to almost nothing as the cars settled down. Noise was proportionate to speed; but one car was not worse than another, and given the same time, the Auckland service would run with as little noise as the Sydney one.

Concerning the interference of the tramway wires with those of the telephone, Mr. Little explained that at present both wires returned through the earth, and the interference would continue until a metallic circuit was adopted for the telephone wires, as was adopted elsewhere. This was the only way to entirely remove the trouble. The noise on the Auckland telephones was much less than might be expected where an earth return was used.
(Evening Post, 25 March 1903)

When the electric tramcars started running in Auckland some of the telephone wires were so affected that it was almost impossible to talk over them. Since the cars have started running in Newtown, (says the Wellington " Post ") we have addressed inquiries to three or four residents or business men who have premises at different points on the tram route along Revans and Riddiford Streets. The evidence forthcoming is that, while there is considerable . interference -- the noise caused by the trams being unpleasantly noticeable, a persistent buzzing — it is not so much as to threaten to make the wires unworkable. The general summing-up of the degree of interference was "Not very much but we don't want it any worse." One subscriber stated that during the tram hours there were times when the wire was worse than at other times, but if the general average did not get worse than at present they would be able to get along. Probably the reason why there is less trouble than was experienced at the outset in Auckland is that before running the cars the preliminary precaution was taken of raising the telephone wires. The permanent remedy is claimed to be the substitution of the earth return system for the metallic circuit. The annual report of the Post and Telegraph Department, published last week states— "In consequence of the growth of the larger exchanges and the introduction of electric tramways in the four principal centres, the installation of metallic circuits., has been decided upon to eliminate cross-talk and induction from the tramways."' The first installment of the material for Wellington has arrived. The metallic circuit is giving satisfactory results on those lines in Auckland where it is installed. The complete conversion will probably take some years to effect.
(Christchurch Star, 12 July 1904)

The problem must have been sorted eventually. Trams in Auckland were to last another fifty-plus years.

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