“The ingenious young telegrapher suggested signaling Sarnia by giving, with the whistle of a locomotive, the dot-and-dash letters of the Morse telegraph code. Or course, this strange whistling caused considerable wonderment on the Canada side until a shrewd operator recognized the long-and-short telegraph letters, and communication was at once established—important messages being transmitted by steam whistles—a gigantic system of broadcasting. This was a simple way out of a sublime difficulty involving the affairs of two great peoples.
“But the too-enterprising operator had started so much trouble for himself that he decided to find employment where his mind would not be distracted from his job or tempted away from working out his chemical and electrical experiments. Because of these he preferred the position of night operator. His telegraph work was really a side line.
“On these accounts he found a job as night operator at Stratford Junction, Canada West, as Ontario was then called. He was only sixteen but his salary of twenty-five dollars a month seemed very small after making ten or twelve dollars a day as ‘candy butcher.’ But on account of the chances it gave him for experimenting, he resigned himself to the smallness of his pay. The treatment he had received at the hands of that train conductor had convinced him that he could not follow his bent while working all day on the railroad.
“Mr. Edison likes to tell of the prevailing ignorance of the science of telegraphy. He once told a friend:
“’The telegraph men themselves seemed unable to explain how the thing worked, though I was always trying to find out. The best explanation I got was from an old Scotch line repairer employed by the Montreal Telegraph Company, then operating the railway wires. Here is the way he described it: “If you had a dachshund long enough to reach from Edinburgh to London, and pulled his tail in Edinburgh he would bark in London!”
“’I could understand that, but I never could get it through me what went through the dog or over the wire.’
“It was at Stratford Junction that the Edison boy began his career of invention. From the first his chief aim was the saving of labor. In order to be sure that the operators all along the line were not asleep at their posts, they were required to send to the train dispatcher’s office a certain dot-and-dash signal every hour in the night. Young Edison was like young Napoleon in grudging himself the necessary hours of sleep. While the ingenious lad was fond of machinery—to make a machine of himself was utterly distasteful to him. It was against his principles and instincts to do anything a mere machine could do instead. So he made a little wheel with a few notches in the rim, with which he connected the clock and the transmitter, so that at the required instant every hour in the night the wheel revolved and sent the proper signal to headquarters. Meanwhile that wily young operator slept the sleep of the genius, if not of the just. Of one experience at this little place Edison relates: