It is interesting to note how the perfecting of the magnetic circuit increases the self-induction.

Thanks to the kindness of Mr. Preece, I have been furnished with some most valuable information about the coefficients of self-induction, and the resistance of the standard pattern of relays, and other instruments which are used in the British postal telegraph service, from which data one is able to say exactly what the time constants of those instruments will be on a given circuit, and how long in their case the current will take to rise to any given fraction of its final value. Here let me refer to a very capital paper by Mr. Preece in an old number of the "Journal of the Society of Telegraph Engineers," a paper "On Shunts," in which he treats this question, not as perfectly as it could now be treated with the fuller knowledge we have in 1890 about the coefficients of self-induction, but in a very useful and practical way. He showed most completely that the more perfect the magnetic circuit is - though of course you are getting more magnetism from your current - the more is that current retarded. Mr. Preece'e mode of experiment was extremely simple. He observed the throw of the galvanometer when the circuit which contained the battery and the electromagnet was opened by a key which at the same moment connected the electromagnet wires to the galvanometer.

The throw of the galvanometer was assumed to represent the extra current which flowed out. Fig. 56 represents a few of the results of Mr. Preece's paper.


Take from an ordinary relay a coil, with its iron core, half the electromagnet, so to speak, without any yoke or armature. Connect it up as described, and observe the throw given to the galvanometer. The amount of throw obtained from the single coil was taken as unity, and all others were compared with it. If you join up two such coils as they are usually joined, in series, but without any iron yoke across the cores, the throw was 17. Putting the iron yoke across the cores, to constitute a horseshoe form, 496 was the throw; that is to say, the tendency of this electromagnet to retard the current was 496 times as great as that of the simple coil. But when an armature was put over the top, the effect ran up to 2,238. By the mere device of putting the coils in parallel, instead of in series, the 2,238 came down to 502, a little less than the quarter value which would have been expected. Lastly, when the armature and yoke were both of them split in the middle, as is done in fact in all the standard patterns of the British postal telegraph relays, the throw of the galvanometer was brought down from 502 to 26. Relays so constructed will work excessively rapidly.

Mr. Preece states that with the old pattern of relay having so much self-induction as to give a galvanometer throw of 1,688, the speed of signaling was only from 50 to 60 words per minute, whereas, with the standard relays constructed on the new plan, the speed of signaling is from 400 to 450 words per minute. It is a very interesting and beautiful result to arrive at from the experimental study of these magnetic circuits.

Short Cores Versus Long Cores

In considering the forms that are best for rapid action, it ought to be mentioned that the effects of hysteresis in retarding changes in the magnetization of iron cores are much more noticeable in the case of nearly closed magnetic circuits than in short pieces. Electromagnets with iron armatures in contact across their poles will retain, after the current has been cut off, a very large part of their magnetism, even if the cores be of the softest of iron. But so soon as the armature is wrenched off, the magnetism disappears. An air gap in a magnetic circuit always tends to hasten demagnetizing. A magnetic circuit composed of a long air path and a short iron path demagnetizes itself much more rapidly than one composed of a short air path and a long iron path. In long pieces of iron the mutual action of the various parts tends to keep in them any magnetization that they may possess; hence they are less readily demagnetized. In short pieces, where these mutual actions are feeble or almost absent, the magnetization is less stable, and disappears almost instantly on the cessation of the magnetizing force. Short bits and small spheres of iron have no magnetic memory.

Hence the cause of the commonly received opinion among telegraph engineers that for rapid work electromagnets must have short cores. As we have seen, the only reason for employing long cores is to afford the requisite length for winding the wire which is necessary for carrying the needful circulation of current to force the magnetism across the air gaps. If, for the sake of rapidity of action, length has to be sacrificed, then the coils must be heaped up more thickly on the short cores. The electromagnets in American patterns of telegraphic apparatus usually have shorter cores, and a relatively greater thickness of winding upon them, than those of European patterns.

[1]Lectures delivered before the Society of Arts, London, 1890. From the Journal of the Society.[2]"La Lumiere Electrique," vol. ii.[3]"La Lumiere Electrique," vol. iv., p. 129.[1]"Bulletin de la Societe Internationale des Electriciens," 1886.