Blue sky, wherefore art thou

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photo by Adrian Trainsett Esq. photo by Peter Hawkey





Gazing out of my window at my severe, shivering, sleety surroundings here at T.P.A.S.’s Svalbard H.Q. I got to trying to remember what a blue sky looks like.  Or the colour green.  Then up pops*1 an email from friend of this very society, Adrian Trainsett Esq. – whose certificate bears the number 0484, adorning the wall of his drawing room as it does. 

Contained within this popped-up email was this first photo, taken by his good-self, of an azure sky background to a new-ish telegraph pole on the railway line near Oakworth on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. A gorgeous, busy pole with a full complement of 8 dropwires.  It could however have proven more gorgeous, scrumptious even, had it’s erectors deemed fit to equip it with some ceramic insulators.  Yes, I know they don’t tie them off on insulators any more, but they wouldn’t half look the part and can be had for a handful of beans off eBay.

Mr Trainsett also clearly frequents various photograph repository websites such as Flickr and sent us a link to this next beauty.  Another insulator-less blue sky pole.  This disused pole on a disused railway bridge across the river Ythan. My research of Chinese water courses turned up a blank though.  That’s because the Ythan is in Aberdeenshire not Zhejiang province.  This photo is from the collection of one chairman_pete who describes himself as a flute-playing, photograph-taking engineer from Aberdeen.  His is an eclectic photostream and this photo is now in my unofficial all-time top 5 telegraph poles.



*1  Yes, Adrian’s email really did pop up out of my computer like a piece of toast and even required the burnt bits to be scraped off before I could read it.

Abergavenny on a winter’s day

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Our African correspondent, Martyn Fielder (#0486), is back home in Wales, presumably for Christmas.  And after many months absent from the aesthetics not just of our native telegraph poles, but our gorgeous landscape he sent us these two photos with the following note attached…

A pole near Abergavenny, WalesA pole near Abergavenny, Wales


There’s no place like home and there is always a welcome in the hillsides when you come home again to Wales. Taking a welcome break from the relentless Summer of Senegal I am making the most of the cold and damp in the dark shadow of the Black Mountains.

Before you open the attached files, make yourself a nice TPAS mug of tea, sit yourself down somewhere comfortable and assume a calm, reflective frame of mind in order to appreciate these photos. Purity, simplicity and understated elegance on a hillside near Abergavenny.



We couldn’t agree more.  Not least the bit about TPAS tea.  Last few days to get a Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society Mug before Dec 25th.  There’ll be another 365 days after that, mind you.



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We get asked an awful lot of questions here at The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. Not least, why do we bother? But many of the questions we receive are also about telegraph poles. Here are the answers to a few of them.

How big are telegraph poles ? No hard and fast answer. But 30ft (9m) would be a good average pole.

They are classed for width as (L) Light, (M) Medium, (H) Heavy or the less commonly used Stout.

How deep are they planted ? A pole should be “planted” approx 6ft (1.8m) into the ground.

The doby mark is a notch 3 metres from the bottom of the pole. A pole then correctly planted would show the 3 metre mark at a height of 1.2 metres above ground level.

Often “Depthing Tubes” are fitted which allow inspectors to check that those rascal erection contractors have buried them deep enough.

How far apart are they planted ? Again, no hard and fast answer – all depends on the number of dropwires.  But for railway modelling purposes think approx 60-65 yards on a straight run and 50-60yds on curved sections.  Watch this answer for updates once someone has told me I’m wrong.
How long does a telegraph pole last ?

And how often are they tested?

Telegraph pole testing cycle plate

There is no reason why a properly treated pole shouldn’t last 100 years. We know of one that was “planted” in 1908 and is still not even classed as decayed.

They are tested first at 12 years from new then on a 10 year rolling cycle of inspection.

The inspection is often scurrilously described as the pole being whacked with a hammer and the inspector listening for the dull thud of rot. However, proper inspection requires a sample boring remote from the ground line.

Since 1964 telegraph poles have been affixed with a testing cycle sign (see left). This one was last tested in August 2006, test cycle G.

What does the green ‘C’ mean?

Shallow climbable poles have a green 'C' placard

This pole was not planted deep enough. It is classed as shallow, climbable.
What about a red ‘D’ then?

Poles that have found to be decayed have a 'D' placard

This pole was found to be defective (likely decayed) at its last inspection. It is marked for replacement, as and when!  A pole can be defective because :

A.  It’s rotten.
B.  It’s not planted deep enough.
C.  It has too many wires hanging off it and insufficient stay wires to counter-balance.
D.  Too close to spiked railings
E.  It has too many Coffee Morning posters stuck to it

And what about H?

Poles that are adjacent to a hazard have a 'H' placard

The H is for hazard. unlike a Z pole where the engineer could position his or her ladders to eliminate the hazard threat, the H pole can only be worked on through use of a hoist.  If you’d like to see what the hazard is in this example click right here.

Possibly no longer in use.


Z Poles?

A 'Z' Placard

If there is a ‘Z’ plate on a pole it means there is a hazard next to the pole i.e. a spiked fence, but the engineer can still position his ladders in such a way as to reduce the hazard rendering it safe to climb.


Thanks to Disco Dave for the H & Z pics and to Campbell Brodie for further info.

What do all these marks mean?

The markings on a BT pole

This pole belongs to B.T.

The horizontal notch is the “doby” mark, ie 3m from the bottom, 1.2m from ground level

It was preserved (in creosote) in 1999.  It will have been planted some time after that due to the pole lying in the yard until the lazy buggers finished their hand of cards to go out and plant the thing – anything up to 3 years later.

Apparently the 2I indicates which woodyard the pole came from*


*Thanks to John Paine for this info – he has mislaid his definitive list of woodyards and codes. It’s probably in the cupboard in the garage.  Or under the stairs.

Then what about these? The markings on a BT pole These are just the sequencing numbers for this pole in a run of poles from the exchange / branch.  I bet there’s one numbered 5 or 7 nearby.
 Who is responsible for telephone poles? B.T. Openreach. NOT the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society.  We just admire them. So if a pole near you has fallen down, or something has dropped off one onto your car windscreen then it is nothing to do with us.
 What about electricity poles? Your local power company.  Around here (in Wales) it’s Scottish Power.  Presumably they have Welsh power in Scotland.  Anyway, see previous answer pertaining to “nowt to do with us”.
Are the markings (or the crossarms) on a telegraph pole always on the side nearest London?   Yes, absolutely.  Except for all those where they’re not of course.


Does the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society have a BIBLE? Absolutely we do.  It’s called  “The Telegraph Pole” by W.H. Brent B.Sc (Hons.) A.M.I.E.E. and you can read it <HERE>
Thanks to :  Disco Dave & Campbell Brodie* for updates to these FAQ pages. And to Pete Gerrard aka Treebore for bringing along our bible.

* Possibly the same person

Twittering Telegraph Poles

We’ve finally given in!  Kicking and screaming we have moved into the 21st Century and signed up for a Twitter account.  We have no idea what it is or how it works.  But there is a link on the side just there on the left.  And if you click it and do something else then apparently you can hear our every thought.  I’m not sure I like that, but it’s supposed to be progress, and I’m told I have to be in it.  So there.

Twitter at us here…



Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society MUGS

A Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society MugOctober 29th it was when the checkout girl asked the person behind me – and I kid you not –  “Are you ready for Christmas?” Well I had to be restrained! I’d already been hearing Noddy Holder grinding out his annual fingernails-on-a-blackboard thing down at the garden centre for days by then.

We should all do well to remember that Christmas is only 99% about crass commercialisation and the endless purveyance of tat. The other 1% is about you parting with £8.99 to grab for yourself (or someone else) one of our all-new Yo ho ho! Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society Mugs.

Each mug has…

  • A handle.
  • A hollow bit in the middle for the tea.
  • A bottom.
  • Magnificent splendour.
  • A picture of a telegraph pole on one side.
  • And on the other
  • And some nice Technicolour www writing on the bottom.
  • A light buff cardboard super-strong box that it comes in.

What’s more, we have 3 special pricing plans so that everyone can afford one of these wonderfully collectable treasures.

Option 1 :  £8.99 including free P&P

Option 2 :  £5.99 only + £3.00 P&P

Option 3 : For our more skint telegraph pole fans we have easy terms on the tick: 2 instalments of £3.00 with a final payment of £2.99 all consolidated into a special one-off easy payment of £8.99.

You just can’t go wrong. So click that button now*1. Once for every person in your life who loves telegraph poles.  If you live in America or anywhere that’s not the UK then contact us first, please – there’s virtually nowt in this for us as it is !



*1 Offer limited to 1,000 mugs per household.

I’d like a mug please

A Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society mugGranted it may not still be Christmas by the time you’re looking at this.  But getting all the photography stuff out again to take a spring or summer-themed photograph is asking a bit much.  Especially when me and Mrs Telegraph Pole fell out over the taking of this one.  Anyway, declare loudly to the world down at the building site/office/church coffee morning your love of telegraph poles with one of these all-new Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society Mugs.  £8.99 all in, incl postage and all the stuff listed below…

The specification of these ultra-high quality mugs is breathtaking*1

  • Hold exactly 1.00 mugs worth of tea/beverage of your choice.
  • Empty bit in the middle to hold said tea/beverage of your choice.
  • Handle on side.
  • Telegraph pole image on one side.
  • Telegraph pole image on the other side too (not shown here).
  • The words WWW.TELEGRAPHPOLEAPPRECIATIONSOCIETY.ORG printed in lovely Technicolor (TM) to remind you where to go to order another one.

Also Included, absolutely FREE

  • High-tensile cardboard posting box – yours to keep, forever.  Built to withstand the weight of an Austin Allegro.
  • A warm glow of satisfaction of money well spent.

 Unlike some other appreciation society mugs, ours comes with free postage.  Unless you live in America, in which case, you’d bankrupt us so please contact us first for postage to the USA.  Or indeed anywhere outside the UK.

*1 If you at all suffer with Asthma

Telegraph Pole Appreciation Day

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We can’t quite run to the £27,000,000 that Danny Boyle blew on the olympic opening ceremony.  But we do have a Roman Candle left over from last year and I think there’s a pack of sparklers under the stairs somewhere.  Yes…

21st September


Telegraph Pole
Appreciation Day

This is a day when we finally look up and notice one of these unseen upright silent sentinels, be it a telephone pole or an electricity pole.  All year long, and in all weathers they perform their duties unflinchingly – holding aloft the wires carrying your telephone calls to your cousin who’s just got engaged; or keeping up the wires delivering the electricity that makes your slim-o-matic adjustable vibrating tv lounger work. All in a day’s work for a telegraph pole.*1

A lovely old GPO pole from Sutherland, the top of ScotlandAn interesting electricity DP near StirlingSo, why not organise your own little celebration underneath your local pole.  Maybe have a mini one-person street party with bunting and butterfly cakes and a bottle of pop with a wasp in it.  Or maybe you’re the quiet pensive kind, in which case, just find a pole and gaze upon it in a whimsical needy kind of way – that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this Friday.

 To help you get in the mood, why not visit last year’s posting about this special day and print off the postcard therein.  And tell others about the wonder of telegraph poles while you’re at it.

Meanwhile, if you can’t find a pole of your own, here’s a couple of needy ones that are worth celebrating.  The first is from the lane to Borgie Hotel, off the A836 a few miles west of Tongue, Sutherland. Just think how splendid this would have looked in its heyday.  Secondly, an eclectic electric pole which caught my eye at a village called Tillicoutry. A place so unheard of that even the locals just call it “look, it’s on the A91 near Stirling”.



*1 See Disclaimer, telegraph vs electric pole 

Telegraph Pole Patents

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Many thanks to Martin Cummins for turning up these British Telegraph Pole related Patents.  In his untiring search for information about the little metal ducts that run up the side of many telegraph and DP poles, Martin found these which may be of interest to our readership. All can easily be viewed by using espacenet advanced (gb).  Once on the worldwide site, just inserting gb followed directly by the number, will reveal all.

GB1561291, GB2006317, GB2121080: All relate to the clever system of connecting up subscribers at ground level, though the last refers to using stayed fibreglass, which I am not sure were used.

GB2221935: Neat BT way of changing pole without interrupting service.

GB770918: Early method for rot-proofing pole.

GB2327057 Clever wrench for turning pole without raising splinters.

GB191024483, GB342786: Early pole incising machines.

GB1310781, GB1410879: later incisers.

US1573143, US1621963, US1992057, US2563758, US3515184, US3709271: A few incising machines from the States – They are keen on this treatment, presumably because of the conditions.

English vs Irish poles

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A Telegraph Pole in Wales A Telegraph Pole in Ireland which doesn't reach the ground

We had an email from Jo from Hotmail.  I can’t say “recently” as it was ages ago – we move in geological timescales here at Telegraph Pole Towers.  Anyway, she asks :


Can you tell me are there any differences between Irish telegrah poles and English ones?
Your assistance would be greatly appreciated, photos also would be fab.
Many thanks

Always happy to oblige Jo, but I can’t demonstrate with an English pole as I haven’t been abroad for years, so I’ll use a very similar Welsh pole instead. 

The telegraph pole*1 on the left is from a field in Denbighshire, North Wales, near England. Whilst the one on the right is from the middle of nowhere,  near Castleblayney in Eire.

As you can see, telegraph poles perform a similiar wire-levitating function in both countries so it’s perhaps no surprise that they are identical in every way.  With one tiny exception though. Our poles tend to reach right down to ground level whereas the Irish ones don’t.

I do hope that helps.


*1 Yes, I know it’s actually an electricity transmission pole – please see disclaimer

Around and about

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DP Gubbins A telegraph pole, near Meifod,yesterday

Wales is a lovely place you know, and I go for a walk somewhere within its borders every day. And I always take my camera.  This particular morning because I was interested in photographing the technical gubbins*1 atop a nearby electricity transmission pole (photo left).  That accomplished I then went on to snap a sad looking category ‘D’ pole (right) along Glyndwr’s Way near Meifod in Powys.  My route took me o’er hill and dale and then began to get weird.

Firstly, I stumbled across the residence of a a family who might want to consider leaving onions out of their diet.  And also baked-beans maybe.  And sprouts. And wine gums. Definitely wine gums. Their letterbox a witty dislexing of Pont y Ffatri which means Factory Bridge in Welsh.  And 99% of the population of Wales has long since stopped giggling at place names starting with “Pant” anyway.  That still leaves 1% of course.

I was meandering my way the last couple of miles home along the banks of the river Vyrnwy when my eyes were then drawn to the rather buxom oak tree you see below.  Had my wife been with me I would no doubt have got into trouble for lingering as long as I did.


*1 Gubbins [n] [coll.] – something unspecified whose name is either forgotten or not known

The weekend retreat of the Fartpants family of Fulchester A well endowed lady tree, along the banks of the Afon Vyrnwy
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