1899 BSA Fittings Machine: Telegraph Battalion, Royal Engineers ‘Cable Layer’


1902 BSA Boer War 01 copy



As is well known, electrical communication plays an important part in the warfare of today, a part that emphasizes the necessity of developing it to the highest degree of efficiency for armies operating upon a base apart from a commercial telegraph system. Special attention has been given by the Signal Corps of the United States Army to provisions for temporary telegraphic or telephonic intercommunication. Flying telegraph trains equipped with the most modern appliances are located at several government stations in the West. Among pending experiments are those pertaining to insulators, wire, batteries and the most important one of the naked wire telephone. 

The question of the reeling out and recovering of wire and outpost cable by bicycle, automatically, has come in for a considerable share of attention, and the results have been very satisfactory. The Signal Corps has now a bicycle equipped with an automatic reel that works perfectly. The attachment was made in San Antonio, Texas, under the supervision of its inventor, Captain R. E. Thompson, of the Signal Corps. The line was laid out and recovered at a moderate rate on the day of the first test. The speed was  gradually increased, and it was found that the wire was paid out quickly. After dismounting for a moment to reverse the action, the officer began a return trip, keeping in the middle of the road and riding hard. The recovery was perfectly made, the wire being spooled evenly and the tension was at no time troublesome, although the course of the line was occasionally departed from by many feet, showing that the problem of compensating for increased speed of the recovery due to increasing bulk of the spool has been solved. The time occupied in running out and then picking up the reel of wire was two minutes, the reel holding about one-third of a mile of cable. Practical use has been made of the equipment in sending messages at other times than on the trial trip. 

We present an engraving of a device for the same purpose which has been invented by a German who is at present living in London, Mr. Leo Kamm. This is a cycle for laying wires for military purposes. It consists of an ordinary pneumatic tired safety provided with two or three drums of wire of about four inches in diameter. On each of the spools is wound a twisted wire composed of fine steel threads. Each reel carries a mile of wire. The wire passes over a wheel connected with a telegraph receiver. As the rider travels, the rotation of the bicycle unwinds the wire from the drum, leaving it on the ground. The bell rings before the wire is entirely paid out from the drum. When it is desired to send a message to the starting point, the rider dismounts and fixes in the ground an earth rod which is carried for that purpose. The apparatus for laying the wire weighs 7 lb., and each mile of wire weighs 10 lb. This machine was actually employed at the recent Aldershot manoeuvres. It was also shown at the military tournament at Agricultural Hall. 

Scientific American Magazine, 29th August, 1896


1899 BSA Fittings Machine 01

1899 BSA Fittings Machine:

Telegraph Battalion, Royal Engineers Cable Layer

26.5″ Frame

28″ Wheels

28 x 1 3/4″ Tyres

Fixed Wheel