The Cycle and the Telegraph

The history of cycling and telecommunications goes a long way back, with a Royal Engineer using pedal power to communicate...

We recently came across this article in an 1890s magazine; it offers fascinating insights into experimentations with uses for the still-young bicycle, in this case as a tool for laying telegraph wires:

“The water-cycle of M. Romanes has been tried in laying telegraph wire in the sea at Marseilles. This velocipede is fitted with hollow bi-convex wheels, which run well on a road and also serve as floats in the water. They are mounted with copper vanes, which act as paddles in propelling the vehicle afloat. A reel of insulated wire and a portable set of telegraph apparatus were taken out on one from the sea-shore in Marseilles, the wire being paid out into the water as the cycle advanced; and telegrams were exchanged between the cycle and the shore. The best receiver of the message was a magneto Bell telephone, and a battery was formed by lowering plates of zinc and carbon into the sea-water. The 'Line' was connected to 'Earth' through the metal frame of the cycle. The object of the experiment was to show that this amphibious velocipede, which travels on land at a speed of twelve miles an hour, may be serviceable to scouting parties in crossing rivers and submerging telegraph lines.”