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Adolphous Graves

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Adolphous Graves (c1839-1903),Telegraph Superintendent of the North Eastern Railway

1903 Obituary [1]

ADOLPHUS GRAVES, Telegraph Superintendent of the North Eastern Railway, died at his residence at York, on the 19th of January, 1903, at the comparatively early age of 64 years.

Entering the service of the Electric and International Telegraph Company in 1852, Mr. Graves had almost completed his Jubilee in the telegraph service when an attack of paralysis necessitated his retirement in October, 1902.

On the acquirement of the telegraphs by the State in 1870, the railway companies, who were even at that date probably the most extensive users of the telegraph, were left free to provide and maintain their own lines, and Mr. Graves was appointed to the post of Telegraph Superintendent by the Directors of the North Eastern Railway, with his headquarters at York. The appointment involved the creation of a new department of the railway service, and Mr. Graves' organising abilities rendered him particularly fitted for the task.

Dating from the time of Mr. Graves' appointment, railway telegraphy was destined to great development. Attention was being largely directed to the question of the safe operation of railways, and almost the first thing Mr. Graves was called upon to do in his new position was to install the block-system throughout the North Eastern system. Naturally, so large an extension of the service involved heavy work for the chief executive officer, complete reorganisation and a considerable increase of staff.

Further work of a similar character was necessitated later by the absorption by the North Eastern of other lines such as the Stockton and Darlington, the Blyth and Tyne, and others which, combined, now make up one of the most important railways in the kingdom. The system of block-working established by Mr. Graves - the 3-wire, single needle system - is still in use throughout the line, and it is indicative of the soundness of his judgment that the system and apparatus decided upon then is now more extensively used than any other for block signalling.

The introduction of the telephone at a little later period led to a further development of Mr. Graves' department. The very large use made of the telephone for traffic arrangements necessitated the erection of numerous lines in all parts of the system, and most careful supervision of circuit arrangements in order to produce the best results from a service point of view. It is probable that the introduction of the telephone involved even more consideration on the part of a conscientious executive officer than the establishment of the block system, since, whilst the latter followed regular and well-defined routes, the former had to be taken to all kinds of out-of-the-way places, and required the greatest possible care in order to prevent overlapping without restricting use.

Still later, in 1891, the North Eastern Railway introduced the electric light in their Hotel and offices at York, and Mr. Graves took charge of the plant, and of all further extensions, and he retained this branch of electric work until within about 15 months of his retirement. During this time plants for which he was responsible were laid down at Tyne Dock, Blyth, and Middlesbrough, and the original station at York was remodelled and finally removed to a new site. Electric light was installed at many other points on the North Eastern Railway during Mr. Graves' supervision, supply being taken from local public mains.

At the time Mr. Graves relinquished this work, the consumption of electrical energy by the North Eastern Railway Company was considerably over a million units per annum. At an early period Mr. Graves became impressed with the advantages that copper-wire possessed over iron-wire for overhead construction under certain circumstances. In the neighbourhood of large towns where space is scarce and railway telegraph lines converge, the large number of wires made it difficult to construct satisfactory lines, from a mechanical standpoint, if iron wires of the usual gauge were used. Moreover, the deterioration of iron-wire was very rapid in the neighbourhood of large works, such as were established at many points on the North Eastern system. For these reasons Mr. Graves was led to experiment with copper as a substitute for iron in such places, and he was more than satisfied with the results obtained, and consistently advocated its use under similar conditions.

Some misapprehension arose a few years ago with reference to the extent of Mr. Graves' claims, but he himself never claimed more than is here indicated. Mr. Graves was of a modest and retiring disposition, and possessed of a most equal temperament. His chief characteristics were his capacity for work, his untiring industry, and his entire devotion to the interests of the great Company that he served for nearly 32 years. To the last he kept the whole of the work of his department in his own hands, and directed operations as at the beginning of his career. No detail was too trivial for his personal attention, and he never seemed to realise that the amount of work he put upon himself was greater than was desirable.

In his personal relations Mr. Graves was ever the most courteous of men, considerate and patient with wrong-doers of the minor order, and helpful to all his fellows. Up to the last two or three years of his life he was very active, and his figure was known to all classes of railwaymen from Berwick to Doncaster, and from Carlisle and the West Riding to the North Sea. Probably no other prominent official was so well known to men in remote parts of the line.

Mr. Graves was an original member of the Society of Telegraph Engineers, and, although he was of too retiring a disposition to take part in the discussions, or to appear publicly before it in any capacity, he always took a keen interest in its proceedings.

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