The Telegraph Office

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Ed Trump

Railroader and Telegrapher

by Ed Trump,

Copyright © 1997, L. E. Trump

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Howdy from Ed Trump in Alaska. I guess in the way of introducing myself, I'll tell you a bit about myself. I am 54 years old, born in Cheyenne Wyo. (actually Ft. F.E. Warren, adjacent there to,... you might say I'm original Govt. Issue as my Dad was in the Army at the time,... Ha!) I grew up on various ranches in Wyoming and Montana, hung around small town railroad depots and telegraph offices on the CB&Q, C&S, UP etc. enough to learn a smattering of landline Morse telegraphy. Went to High school and College in Fort Collins Colorado, graduated from Colo. State University in 1964 (BSEE) and immediately went to work for the D&RGW R.R. out of Denver in their Communications department as a Telephone & Telegraph Engineer trainee.

I had connections with this railroad because I had spent summers with them while I was in College working in engine service as a steam locomotive fireman on the Narrow Gauge lines out of Alamosa and Durango, Colo., so I knew my way around a bit with this company already. Anyway, my boss the Supt. of Communications believed in starting his men out from the ground up, so I started out on the line gang as a groundman, digging telegraph pole holes with a shovel and spoon. But I soon progressed upwards to Lineman with the help of experienced line gang foremen and Section Linemen.

In a year or so I was located in the head offices in Denver. Some of my work in this department included engineering the removal and replacement of open wire telephone/telegraph lines at the many places across the Utah desert where (then being constructed) Interstate 70 crossed and recrossed the railroad. Other field work, such as open wire line inspection and such kept me busy up until about 1972. It was during this period, I became a fairly proficient Morse operator, as there were still plenty of active Morse wires and operators around., and I had reason to use Morse frequently in my work.

The Railroad had been working towards consolidating their dispatching offices into a single office complex in Denver, and I became involved in that project to the extent that I never got out "on the road" anymore, and I finally burned out on it. Got tired of living in the Big City. I "pulled the pin" in august 1973, and moved to a small town just west of Vernal, Utah, where I took up Muzzle loading rifle making full time. This had been a hobby for a number of years, and I went to work for an outfit called the Green River Rifle Works.

During this time, my Mother passed away, and left me some money which I used to train for a commercial pilot's license. The rifle works went belly up in 1975, and I flew a light plane to Alaska, just to see what it was like. And stayed. RCA hired me off the street in Anchorage because they needed a marine radiotelegraph operator for their coastal station out in Nome, on the south coast of the Seward Peninsula. I had a 2nd class commercial Radiotelegraph ticket, and the Union couldn't dispatch anyone out of their hiring hall that had one, so I got the job. Just plain luck. Or maybe Divine Design, I'll never know. RCA/Alascom flew me out to Nome, and I immediately went to work as a combination radiotelegraph operator and Earth station technician.

My training on the RR had equipped me with a unique set of skills for this job and I liked the work. I spent the shipping seasons May to October standing Distress watch on 500 KHZ, and handling a few ship telegrams mostly from Chevron tankers in the area which we relayed to destination via Telex. Winters the shipping disappeared (the Bering Sea freezes nearly solid and no shipping ventures there) so I worked as a traveling technician maintaining fourteen small village Earth satellite stations around the Southern Seward Peninsula/Eastern Norton Sound region. These stations are part of the statewide Alaska telecommunications network provided by Alascom which carry long distance telephone service, and video downlinks to nearly every community with population over 25 people. I was working there when most of it was built, as it replaced the earlier White Alice military network built in the late 1950's.

I eventually married a local Eskimo gal and started a family. Nome was a fun place, but by 1987, the CW radiotelegraph station was gone, and the company (now called just "Alascom") was beginning to modernize its stations statewide with newer digital equipment. I bid a job opening in Fairbanks on the Toll Test board and we moved here in 1987. Today, I still work for Alascom. We call it AT&T Alascom now, as AT&T bought us lock, stock and barrel last year. I work in the circuit order department, and am involved in establishing, and rearranging facilities for the entire northern part of the state at the circuit and carrier level. So I keep plenty busy. I hold First Class radiotelegraph, General commercial Radiotelephone and Amateur Extra class radio licenses (ham call is AL7N).

I believe I am the only practicing landline Morse telegrapher in the entire state of Alaska. I keep a dedicated phone line available (907 479-9633) with an auto answer modem on it that will cut in the Morse wire for incoming dialup telegraph calls anytime. If I am at home, and anyone calls on the Wire, I will answer if I am within earshot of the sounder. My regular mail address is : 2950 So. Kobuk Ave. Fairbanks 99709. Hope that tells you enough. Kinda hard to put 40 odd years on a single page. Its been a hell of an adventure up to now, and we look forward to the future, whatever it may bring.

73, Ed FB (FB is my Morse landline office call. See U on the wire)

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Neal McEwen,