Learning about electricity
The Grand Trunk Railroad connected Port Huron to Detroit, the nearest big city, and the young Edison at 12, always fascinated by the steam locomotives and eager for adventure, got a job selling newspapers and candy on the train. Edison continued to devour science books and the newspapers, magazines, and novels he sold on the train. He later claimed that he had decided to read through all the books in the library but gave it up after reading about 10 books that were pretty dry reading.Around this time, Edison realized that his hearing was deteriorating, and this grew worse later in his life. His deafness has been attributed to various things, but was probably caused by a childhood illness or ear infections that went untreated. In those days, without penicillin or other antibiotics for treatment of illnesses and infection, deafness was fairly common, even in young people. Edison said that his deafness was actually an asset He said it allowed him to work with less distraction and to sleep deeply, undisturbed by outside sounds.As a teenager Edison was very enterprising. In Port Huron he opened two stands selling newspapers and magazines and hired other boys to run them. For about six months in 1862 he also published his own newspaper, the Weekly Herald, which he printed in the baggage car of the train with the help of a friendly conductor. It concerned itself largely with local news and railroad matters and attracted many subscribers along the Grand Trunks Michigan line.
Some of the profits Edison received from his various businesses went into building a small laboratory in one of the baggage cars. Bottles, batteries, and test tubes filled the shelves in the little lab, which thrived until one of his experiments involving phosphorous started a fire in the train car. The conductor ejected Edison, his laboratory, and his printing press at the next station But Edison kept his job on the railroad.Then his life took an unexpected turna telegraph operators young son wandered out onto the tracks in front of a rolling freight car. Edison ran out onto the tracks and snatched the child to safety. As a reward the childs grateful father offered to teach Al the intricate skills of railroad telegraphy. At 16, Edison had found a new career as a telegraph operator. The job demanded very fast thinking and sharp reflexes to turn codes into words and vice versa. Not only were the wages excellent, the position was prestigious.