Newsletter 2011

Marconi railway telegraph equipment

From Dennis Yates, 10th January 2011

I have recently found a Great Western Railway Company wooden cased slot repeater made by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company.  This has the company name on the front in the form of an oval black and gold transfer (see right) which dates it to the 1900-1904 period, I have collected Marconi wireless telegraph equipment from the 1900 to 1924 period for more than 50 years but have never seen any telegraph equipment made for a railway company before. Can you give me any information on this part of the company’s history.

Chris Gardiner replied:

Most of the early history of the Marconi Company focuses upon the wireless side of the business either as wireless telegraphy or later wireless telephony. Wireless was, of course, the new technology of the time and so more exciting than line telegraphy that had been used for several decades.

The MVA doesn’t have any specific details of this equipment and any details, if they still exist, will be in the Marconi Archive in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

There are two possibilities for this slot repeater.  Either it was made by Marconi or it was bought in as part of a larger contract with the GWR and badged by Marconi.  Although Marconi has re-badged many items over the years (I once persuaded Perkins to put Rolls Royce rocker covers on some diesel generators we supplied as part of a transmitter contract so it is not only Marconi that does these things) I suspect that in this case Marconi made the items and supplied directly to the GWR; the skills they would have had in the factory at the time would have been exactly what was needed to make the slot repeaters.
I am sorry we cannot be more specific but hope that these thoughts may clarify things a little.

Dennis Yates then asked about a second nameplate.

It was found on the instrument which is made of ivorine measuring 21/2 x 7/8 inches on which is written in uppercase letters The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Ltd (see right). I understand that this was Marconi’s first company, founded in 1897, being the forerunner to the MWT Co Ltd. Incidentally, in my original email I said that the name Marconi Wireless Makers Telegraph Co Ltd was applied in the form of a transfer when in fact it is actually stamped into the wood and filled with engraving wax, I assume this was added some time between 1900 and 1904 when the instrument was sent back to the factory either for repair or modification.

If any Veteran can help with further information on this period of the company’s history please contact Dennis Yates directly via email to