Grand Trunk Semaphore Company

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Also referred to as simply "Grand Trunk" or "Grand Trunk Company".

The major clacks service provider in Ankh-Morpork and as such, throughout the Disc as well. The semaphore technology of the clacks has been part of Discworld technology since The Fifth Elephant, but the company and the people behind it play a major role in Going Postal.

History

The idea of clacks communication was originally conceived by a group of inventors and artificers led by Robert Dearheart, father of Adora Belle Dearheart and John Dearheart. While they were all brilliant at designing and building mechanisms, they had no comprehension of finance whatsoever, and so sought the aid of some investment bankers and accountants to help them start up. As it happened, the company turned out to be a great success, and soon every city wanted to be connected to the Trunk.

Before long however, the very same bankers and accountants, led by Reacher Gilt, would betray the owners of the Grand Trunk and take over the company. Through manipulation of company finances, they made it seem as if the clacks was operating at a loss, and convinced Robert Dearheart and others to take further loans in exchange for greater control of the company, signing away all the rights they had to their company and own inventions in the process.

After seizing control they proceeded to squeeze as much money as they could out of the company, cutting down on maintenance, as well as raising prices for the service. Eventually the clacks system began to collapse under the strain and often had to be shut down for several days of emergency repairs.

Meanwhile, any attempt at setting up competing services met with failure, notably in the case of the New Trunk, as a result of the tragic and "accidental" death of John Dearheart. After his death, some of the engineers who worked with him created The Smoking Gnu to continue their work in secrecy and carry out acts of sabotage against the Grand Trunk.

During the events of Going Postal, the Grand Trunk's position as the sole carrier of messages throughout the Disc was being threatened by the resurrection of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office by Moist von Lipwig. By taking advantage of the frequent breakdowns and expense of the clacks system, Moist manages to make the postal office a feasible option in the eyes of the Ankh-Morpork citizenry, which infuriated the board executives of the company.

After an arson and assassination attempt on his life, Moist challenged the Grand Trunk to a race to see who could carry a message to Genua faster; While the Grand Trunk certainly carried the message much faster to its destination, the message was altered to expose the crimes committed by the Grand Trunk, provoking public outrage and allowing Lord Vetinari the excuse he needed to carry out a full audit of the company's assets.

Since then, the clacks company has been under the control of the Post Office, though Moist intends to return it to its original owners.

Notes

  • There is an interesting exchange in The Fifth Elephant that hints at trouble to come: when Reg Shoe and Buggy Swires are investigating the death of Wallace Sonky, the troll foreman at Sonky's factory complains bitterly to them about the high cost of sending a clacks to Überwald to alert Sonky's relatives to his death. Twenty dollars, it cost! Dat's murder, dat is!
  • Its link with the Post Office may refer to the telephones in Britain, which between 1912 and 1982 were run by the Post Office. Telegrams were also via the Post Office between 1915 and 1981.
  • Roundworld's Grand Truck Road is a major road that connects the eastern and western regions of India. It allowed news to move faster before telephones.
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