Re: Western Union's satellite loss [Telecom]

I am curious as to how much of their microwave network > they used in the 1980s, how much of their own pole lines > were still in use, and how much they had to lease from > AT&T.

Now that's a fascinating question. In my experience, I'd say that WU owned zero poles, but I suppose there's an exception somewhere. However, WU did own conduit-and-manhole structures as late as 1986.

In my entire career in the cable TV industry (1976-2000), I never encountered a single utility pole owned by Western Union. In fact, before I read your question, it hadn't occurred to me that WE might still own any poles.

Cable TV companies typically lease pole-attachment rights from other pole owners. Although most poles are owned by electric power or telephone companies, I've written permit applications for poles owned by municipal governments, county governments, state governments, the federal government, private landowners, educational institutions, other cable TV companies, and railroads.

But I never encountered a pole owned by WU.

Neal McLain

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Neal McLain
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WU had to transmit data from its microwave terminals to its end users as well as service locations not connected by microwave. According to a Sept 1980 NYT article, WU paid AT&T $106 million for leased lines in

1979, but if it didn't own its own network it would have to spend another $30 million. "The WU network reaches 35 major cities across the US and offers direct access and extension channels to most other areas of the nation". The article noted WU's unfunded pension liability was a concern. Later articles noted the high number of pensioners relative to the number of employees.

I wonder when they discontinued their pole lines. In 1975 AT&T still used some pole lines for toll service, though almost everything was on microwave or coax by that point.

Perhaps WU's lines were more concentrated on railroads.

As late as 1965 WU still had some Morse lines in service, which, understandably, they didn't like to brag about.

Did you ever utilize poles owned by street railroads or electric railroads? Street railroad power is only 600 V, but many electrified railroads were 11,000 V.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I'm curious which location(s) still had Morse circuits in operation in

1965: I'm a member of the Morse Telegraph Club, and the history of Morse always interests me.

Bill Horne Moderator

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I think most of W.U. pole lines ran along railroads, so they might not have been where you would have encountered them.

Reply to
Jim Haynes

In the WU newsletters they mentioned lines out in the west in service circa 1960. (I thought I submitted that as a post here).

The 1965 reference was a side mention of operator's duties in NYC. That is, apparently in the main buliding in New York they still had a Morse station in 1965. I don't know what it connected to. I got the impression from context that it was not frequently used.

In its heydey, Western Union switched trunk circuits around to accomodate traffic flow. For example, a political convention or presidential visit required extra circuits for media staff to use. I suspect the 1965 Morse circuit was an older backup circuit. The 1960 circuits out west appeared to regular trunks.

As Mr. Haynes mentions, perhaps this line served railroad needs.

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At the Museum of Communications in Seattle, Washington, their exhibit on toll facilities includes information related to using Morse between toll testboards in the Bell System in days before (probably) the early 1960s or so. One of the docents there (a former toll testboardman) is still proud of his ability to send and receive at a fairly good rate! It's a great museum, incidentally, and merits a visit if you're in Seattle. And it's just down the road from the Boeing Museum of Flight, another excellent museum!

Reply to
Al Gillis

I worked for WU 30 years in Kansas City. I removed the last morse station in 1968.

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