Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 081

"To Call Trains by Phonograph," Literary Digest 38:19 (No. 994), May 8, 1909, p. 795.

The megaphone is now a familiar sight in the hands of the railway train-announcer; but it is said that the "man behind" it is now to be dispensed with by the Canadian Pacific road and replaced by the useful and tireless phonographic record. The human worker may--and usually does--mumble and roar inarticulately; while the well-selected record, we are told, goes on forever talking intelligibly and correctly. Says Railway and Locomotive Engineering (New York, April):

"The fact that a man possesses a powerful voice is no guaranty that what he says will be understood in a big building. This fact is often painfully brought home to the traveling public in the waiting-room of almost any large railway station. There is a great difference between mere loudness and distinctness. This fact has led Mr. G. J. Bury, general manager of lines West, on the Canadian Pacific, to introduce what is probably a most welcome innovation in the manner of announcing the arrival or departure of passenger-trains.

"Ordinarily a man with a loud voice calls out something and the public is made aware of the fact that something is happening, but what it is nobody seems to know. Mr. Bury has substituted a phonograph for the loud man in the Winnipeg station of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and records have been prepared where distinct enunciation has been substituted for the usual jumble of sounds and where a clear, steady voice supersedes a roar. The new arrangement, if satisfactory, will be repeated in the Montreal station. Mr. Bury believes that to make a traveler understand what is said is the main thing, and if this is not done, Stentor himself would be a useless railroad employee in the matter of train announcement."

Automatic announcers were tried for a time in the Grand Central Station in New York City, but were found to be indistinct and were soon abandoned for the old-fashioned human larynx.