Ceramic Swag and a fabled pole

Telegraph pole swagBeing the important person that I am (in the world of telegraph poles), I occasionally get visits from passing royalty. Such was the case last Tuesday when the contractors (and their lorry) from Carillion dropped in for a cup of finest Welsh tea and a slice of my wife’s exquisite coffee and walnut cake.  Agent X* and Agent Y* were on a skiving mission before meandering their way back to their depot somewhere over the border in the badlands of England.  

Anyway, as well as the scrumptious bag of ceramic booty (see right) that they handed over as payment for said tea and cake, they also told me of the fabled lost pole of Bala Leisure Centre.  A pole so laden with cross-spars and so bristling with an enormous double-sided bounty of ceramic insulators it must surely rank as the Jason’s Golden Fleece of the telegraph pole enthusiasts world.

It is said that those (enthusiasts) who gaze upon its glory are smitten for all time and spend the remainder of their days wearing fur-edged outdoor coats whilst wandering the lanes trying to re-capture the moment of that first glance. I pressed my telegraphic friends for more information but they were more insterested in Everton football club and an ashtray for their fags. These men had seen this pole and yet were somehow emotionally unperturbed.

As soon as I had waved them off and watched their telegraph pole truck disappear over the horizon I dashed into the house for my ordnance survey map of Bala and also for my trusted copy of the Gazetteers field guide to the telegraph poles of Great Britain and Ireland. Oh where is Anneka Rice when you need her? Watch this space….


*Not their real names

What do we want? Information…

Cynghordy viaduct on the Heart of Wales line Unusual telegraph pole near Cynghordy, Carmarthenshire

It would be nice if this were a website about railway architecture, but it isn’t. If it was I could wax lyrical about the amazing railway viaduct on the “Heart of Wales” railway line near Cynghordy, Carmarthenshire. This truly is a masterpiece of Victorian railway engineering. Or I could prattle on about the fantastic line itself which meanders through some of Wales’ finest scenery on it’s four hour journey from Shrewsbury to Swansea.  There’s another on the line at Knucklas near Knighton.

I was actually there on a dual hill-walk/house hunting mission when I saw this unusual arms-wood-less telegraph pole which I thought I would share with you dear listener.

It’s been a while since I updated the site and the postbox is full.  I’ll deal with the most recent first.  Philip wrote from mwosb.co.uk with those questions we all want answers to :

1.  Did anyone ever answer the question about the lifespan of a telegraph pole?
2.  Is there a legal requirement to replace them after a certain number of years
3.  Are they required to be inspected / tested annually (or at another period)?
4.  Does anyone know the breakdown of the codes affixed to a pole? 

Technical Advisor Keith S**** yesterdayWe put these questions to our Honorary Technical Advisor Keith S**** at his secret lair somewhere in the UK.  And as always, despite his being Britain’s top telegraph pole spook, he went above and beyond the call of duty to answer a needy listener.

The life span of a properly creosoted pole is infinite, if it were kept in ideal conditions it would last forever, however, when ‘planted’ it is subject to the rigours of the environment. Rot (decay) is the only enemy of the pole apart from impact from heavy objects (like cars). Rot in timber requires three factors, oxygen, moisture and the spores of a fungus. These are, in poles, usually only found at the ground line and it is here a pole will decay.

There is not to my knowledge any statutory requirement to replace poles at a specified time. Poles are,or were in my time, tested on a regular basis by engineers dedicated to this task who would take a sample boring from the pole at a point remote from the ground line, (there was a scurrilous rumour at one time that they just whacked them with a heavy hammer) ie a pointless exercise. Occasionly one would come across a pole with decay at the tip caused by the pooling of water there.

As to the codes on poles, telephone poles that is, (not electricity poles ) typically there would be length in feet (early poles) or in metres after metrication and class of pole. eg:

30L (30ft light)
30M (30ft medium)
8L (8 metre light)
9M (9 metre medium)

Light and Medium (and stout of which there were very few) referred to the diameter of the pole. Heavier poles were needed to carry more wires. Also ‘cut in’ was the year of processing eg 79 would be 1979. Other marks (Cutting in) on the pole varied  at different times.

Not for nothing is Keith our (H.T.A.) (T.P.A.S.)

Telegraph Pole Hieroglyphics

 Okay, so what do all these engravings, plaques and embossed badges mean? 

Thanks to John Willis of Dagenham, who was a GPO telephone engineer back in 1964, we can now let our telegraph pole inner sanctum members know the truth…

* DP = Distribution Point DP numbers

* S = suspected of decay.

* red D = decayed.
* green C = not planted deep enough, shallow, climbable. 

* The punch hole sign is a testing cycle sign (post 1964)

* The cuts in the pole are measurements to do with depth in the ground, also they tell you the size of pole ie 32 m is 32 feet long medium size pole as there was light L or heavy H sizes, 60 H would have been 60 feet long Heavy, thick pole. All to do with loading.

* The numbers at the bottom are date of manufacture 86 = 1986. They use meters as measurement now.

And apologies to John for taking well over a year to putting this info on the site.

Thanks to Sean Kern for this next bit of information :

The doby mark or the 3 metre mark (details branded into the pole including pole owner BT, date of manufacture & pole size) is 3 metres from the bottom of the pole. A pole should be planted approx 1.8 metres in the ground which would then put the 3 metre mark at aheight of 1.2 metres from ground level.

New poles do not need “testing for the first 12 years and hence after require testing by a “pole tester” every 10 years.
If a pole is “out of test date” then you are not allowed to climb it and must use a platform elevating.

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