Transcript for How a telegraph was sent – What happened in the telegraph room


This display shows the sending and receiving equipment used in a typical telegraph room in the mid- 20th century. When a telegram message arrived here, a telegraphist typed it out on a teleprinter. Men and women worked as telegraphists, which was unusual at the time. If you look, you’ll see there’s a dial attached to the teleprinter. This was used to dial the code for the telegraph office nearest to the address where the telegram was to be delivered. When this was done, the message was transmitted electrically, along telegraph wires, to the receiving telegraph office.

Here, the same message arrived, printed out on paper tape. The receiving telegraphist cut the printed tape from its spool and moistened the back of the tape by running it along a waterwheel. This made the tape tacky enough to stick on to a blank telegram form. The telegraphist wore a ring with a blade attached to cut the tape into phrases that made sense, so that the message could fit onto one form.

The message was folded and placed into a typed, addressed envelope and handed over to a telegram messenger.

Fred Stanford takes up the story from here:


Now, the messenger would have been a young boy between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, who, in the early days, would have used a tram or walked to deliver the telegram. In later years they had cycles and motorcycles. When they got to the person who the telegram was addressed to, they would knock on the door and say “telegram for Mr./Ms./Miss. So-and-So”, they would have waited while they opened the telegram [and] when the person had read the telegram they would have then said “is there a reply?”. If there was going to be a reply, the messenger would take his notebook out, write the message down, count the number of words in the message, take the money from the person, ride or drive back to the office and the telegram would have been sent in the similar manner, but in the opposite direction.