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Francis Tremain

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Francis Tremain (c1856-1941) of the General Post Office


1941 Obituary [1]

FRANCIS TREMAIN died, after a short illness, at Chichester, during a temporary absence from London, on the 12th December, 1940, in his 86th year.

He entered the service of the Post Office as a telegraphist at Plymouth in 1870 - the year of the transfer of the telegraphs to the State - and in 1887, after a course of technical study, was transferred to the Engineering Department.

In 1898 he was promoted to the rank of technical officer in the Engineer-in-Chief's office and, after further promotion, was deputed in 1903 to take charge of the newly established Construction Section of that office.

In 1905 he succeeded the late Mr. Augustus Eden as Superintendent Engineer of the Northern District of England with headquarters at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and, following the withdrawal of the Royal Engineers ("K" Company) from the South of England, he was appointed to take charge of the new South-western District, with headquarters at Bristol and, much to his delight, with a sectional engineer's headquarters at his beloved Plymouth.

He was an engineer of marked capacity, with an unusual flair for experimental work, and he was closely associated with the adoption by the Post Office and the subsequent development of the lead-sheathed, dry-core cable - "air space" cable as it was originally called - and, in natural sequence, of the loading (i.e. inductance) coil, based on the work of Oliver Heaviside, Silvanus Thompson and, in the United States, Campbell.

The experimental work of his mature years may be said, therefore, to have been focused on the problem of securing high-grade speech transmission on long underground cables. Among other contributions, he designed a new type of paper-core cable, known as the "quad pair," which became the standard cable for long-distance telephone lines until, with continued technical progress, it was displaced by the "star quad" type now in use. An important and very valuable practical feature of the quad-pair cable lay in the fact that it permitted of superposing and, consequently, of the economical extension, through terminal and intermediate underground sections, of the "phantom" circuits working on the long overhead main lines, e.g. London-Glasgow, in use at that time.

He was a man of deep enthusiasms and was one of the strongest supporters of The Institution, of which he was elected an Associate in 1883 and a Member in 1908. He served for a number of years on the Committees of the Newcastle Local Section and the Western Centre, and was Chairman of the latter in the 1922-23 session. He retired from the Post Office service during 1915 and, throughout the 25 years that remained to him, kept in touch with the progress of electrical science and, in particular, with the advances in the field of electrical transmission of sound, both by means of physical conductors and by radio. He was a man, too, of strong religious outlook of the liberal type and his work for the Unitarian Churches at Highgate, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Bristol, and also for the Unitarian Men's League, earned him many tributes of gratitude from his numerous friends among the adherents to the Unitarian and Free Christian cause in all parts of the country.


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