This week in telegraph pole land

My week started when Charlie from out of the internet blue wrote to me.   I was a little confused by his punctuation but ultimately he told me that I am the best, that God blesses me, and that I should keep preaching the pole gospel.  He signed it with thanks from friends in Los Angeles.  Goodness me !  Alright then Charlie, thank you.  I will.

There were the usual letters with questions about telegraph poles:  how high, how long, how big a gap between etc.  Then there was another question about a fault that had been reported to a phone line in Yorkshire – to which my answer is always “Yep, we’re right on to it”.  And I would expect no less gittish an answer had I rang the Keighley Valley & Worth Steam Railway and asked them if there is a buffet trolley on the 9:30 Arriva Trains service from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury.  Maybe the distinction between appreciation society and directory inquiries is not so clear cut as I imagined.

Then, of course, there was that brilliant video John Brunsden sent us – see our facebook presence for that particular gem.

And finally, a succint email from Jamie, also from the internet, who asks “Do you accept members from Australia?”  Do boys play football in the park I thought to myself.  We accept anything from anyone from anywhere (at any time)  is probably the best way to answer that question.  Anyway, Jamie sent us the lovely power pole photo you see below together with the caption “High Wycombe, Perth, Western Australia”.  Well, High Wycombe is in Buckinghamshire actually Jamie, so you got that wrong.  And High Wycombe, being in British Buckinghamshire, almost never experiences blue skies like that.  So someone’s got their lines crossed I think.  Speaking of crossed-lines – I counted no fewer than 30 parallelograms created from those bisecting power lines.  So well done me.

Pulchritudinous Perthshire Poles

Praise be for thesauruses (thesaurusii?) - for helping me find the pompous splendiferosity that is the word "pulchritudinous".  Definitely not part of my everyday lexicon, nor indeed anyone that moves in my immediate circle and I suspect that Thomas Hardy was probably the last person ever to make use of it without sounding a pretentious twot.  And I bet he wasn't describing such telegraph poles of pulchritude as these sent in by Openreach Engineer Daniel Ferrier who correctly guesses that they would be to our liking.  

"They are situated outside Meigle Village in rural Perthshire opposite the Belmont Arms (PH12 8TJ) along what used to be the old railway line. There are at least 5/6 that i could see but I believe there are more further along. All of which are cross arm poles many of which still have the original insulators and wire connected along the route."

And there I was feeling really clever because I snapped a brilliant pole in South Wales that I was going to post today only to be completely blown away by these from Daniel.  My one can wait.  Time to check out the ale pumps at the Belmont Arms I think.  Appreciate away folks...

The Telegraph Poler’s Brain

The amygdala is a small but important region within the frontal temporal lobe of the human brain. This dense bundle of nerve tissue is thought to be part of the limbic system, responsible for our emotional responses, memory and survival instincts. What is less well known is the role it plays in the proper appreciation of telegraph poles. A double-blind study by Scientists at University of Port Vale-Nil discovered that subjects with a strong emotional attachment to redundant telecommunications equipment experienced a surge in activity within the β-adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors when exposed to images of telegraph poles or ceramic insulators. Subjects who had previously declared indifference to such things demonstrated no such activity.

So if you were to cut out a lid from the top of Aaron Bailey's head, plunge your hand into the warm, moist interior and rummage around in all the jelly and stuff for two distinctly almond-shaped pieces of brain you would be holding an organ positively fizzing with love for all things telegraphpoleic.

This thought passed through my own frontal lobe when Aaron, from Hull, wrote in to tell us about his recent insulator hunt along the disused Hull and Barnsley railway line. For here he discovered various olde telegraph poles both standing and grounded and in various stages of decay. Pictures below. Aaron has previously reported on HCT (Hull Corporation Telephone) poles but could find no markings or dates on these but did notice that they were thick as well as short. I should point out here that it was Aaron and not me who mentioned that this was also how the ladies of Hull preferred their menfolk.

Aaron also recommended the pole you see in the last two pics as possible POTM. This slim, moss-covered pole in a relaxed position is on the Hull to Withernsea line. Complete with two crossarms, a pothead insulator and, until recently, two perfect 1940 GPO double-groovers. These by strong coincidence are now to be found in a jug of vinegar in Aaron's workshop. From here they will likely spend eternity surging activity in Aaron's glucocorticoids.

Anyway, sadly, our rules disqualify this pole from the Pole of the Month competition. Rule 7a[i, iii, iv] states that a pole must be tall, wooden, sticky-uppy and wires all coming out the top. This pole clearly fails on the first count insomuch as due to it's low lying position it would be described as wide rather than tall. Bad luck Aaron.

Cruel Cuts

This post has rather jumped our highly regulated in-house publication queue due to its intense ambrosial delectability.

These photos were sent in to us by Telegraph Pole top-tabler, member #666 Dave Bennett who was on his way to deliver some artwork to the National Truss at Avebury when he spotted this at Great Wishford, Wiltshire. No I’ve never heard of it either.

Evidently this pole has been neglected for decades – long enough for a good covering of ivy to grow – maybe due to cruel funding cuts. The essential pole info had been covered so the ivy has been chopped off ( much in the manner of the good old ‘basin-cut’ haircuts I suffered in the ’50’s – more cruel cuts!) but funds didn’t extend to trimming the rest of the pole thus leaving it in this caterpillar-like state. They’ll need a tree surgeon to climb this one.

Thanks Dave, that is a corker.

Now I also know this for a fact – Dave’s girlfriend Sally’s mate Trudy gave her husband a copy of Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners (Key Stages 1-4) for Christmas and he said it was “the best Christmas present ever”.  Just saying…

Nude bee keeping

This week I have had an extended discourse and exchange of photographs with Geoff Hood.  Geoff keeps bees, and likes to tend to them wearing just his battered, wrinkly and ageing set of Emperor’s new clothes.  Like swimming in the arctic ocean, I imagine meithering a load of bees whilst wearing the sheerest of invisible fabrics can make one feel fully alive.  We are similar, Geoff and I, in our pursuit of naturist activities.  I have been known to remove all my clothing shortly before taking a bath.  I also have a penchant for nude arc-welding.

Anyway, our exchange was in three parts :

1. Geoff is a fan of LPTB Trollybus poles.  Of the 1938 variety.  And he found us through his research into sticky-uppy things – there we are with the naturism again!*1  He tells me there are only two left – in Ferry Lane, Tottenham.  These poles meet all our appreciating criteria in that they are tall, sticky-uppy and wooden, except that they carry no wires.  But 3 out of 4 is good enough for me, and the fact that there’re only these two left means they need appreciating all the more.

A trolly bus pole in TottenhamAnother trolly bus poleA street view of a trolly bus pole

Here we have different views of the same two poles.  Geoff says they were used up until 1960 as 600A DC, later 240V DC trolleybus poles.  He points out the light shield for train drivers in the 3rd photo. Apologies to that famous, non tax-paying search engine company whose photos we have purloined for educational purposes. 

And so to next part of our exchange:

2. A collection of photos of various track-side poles in Sri Lanka.  Now some of these are a bit out of focus.  This is either because Geoff was in a fast-moving train at the time, or because his hands were shaking following an extended session of bee-keeping whilst nude.  You decide. In no particular order of telegraphic scrumminess.  Enjoy.


3.  Our final exchange was a set of photos with a question: “What’s the purpose of the finials on the older poles like the one I am talking to you now? Did they hold cables for the old ceramic pots see photo or just rain protection? It is an quite old GPO pole 1950 36ft but still has a green climeable inspection plate 2013, the rest of the street were replaced in 2000.”

Well, as far as I know, wooden finials were a 1930s fashion thing – from a time when form actually over-ruled function.  The good old days, I think they’re often referred to.  But this being a 1950 pole, our readers may know different.


*1  ba-doom…tish!

Radials in New Cross Gate

Please forgive my absence from these pages of late.  Running a major international Telegraph Pole Appreciating organisation such as ours can take me away from my desk for lengthy periods.  However, I’m back now and have tales to tell and photos of poles telegraph to share.

I might also add that we’ve been on the radio a bit just lately.  First on BBC Radio 5 Live who were doing a feature on “dull” pastimes.  I don’t know why they thought to contact us.  Anyway, the BBC’s politically correct remit required them to tick the female demographic checkbox and so they insisted on speaking to my wife, aka Mrs TPAS. She put them straight on a few things, especially the fact that, until then, they may have bracketed us as dull.  Our second radio appearance was on the breakfast show of Heart FM.  I have no idea when that went out as it was pre-recorded, and getting up in time for breakfast is something which happens to other people.  Anyway, apologies for not letting our readers know in advance either by twitter, this website or our facebook page. But hearing my recorded voice makes me cringe, so goodness knows what it must do to anyone else.

Anyway, back to the telegraph poles.  Chris Furby wrote to us recently enclosing these two photos.  They are, he says, the best of three in the New Cross Gate area of London.  Radial Distribution at its very best.  Thank you Chris. Hearing from Chris Furby however, reminded me that my daughter once had a mechanical battery powered talking teddy bear toy called a Furby.  It was a sort of animatronic thing which once first out of the box slowly learned to speak English.  Anyway, I came home one day to find that her elder brother, Tom, had skinned the thing alive and it was sitting there shivering in its metal skeleton.  But it’s language had come on leaps and bounds… “Shut the sodding door” it said as I came in, “it’s bloody freezing in here”.

A telegraph pole in New Cross Gate, London A telegraph pole in New Cross Gate, London

An enthusiastic professor of telegraphpoleology

Jake Rideout can be considered a true connoisseur of the telegraph pole.  If this were a learned establishment then he would surely be revered as a professor.  Alas, whilst we are just as esteemed as the highest academic institution, we have no sort of hierarchy whatsoever.  So hard luck there Jake.  Anyway, I have sat on these photos of his in my publication queue for long enough.   It’s a rare thing for me to receive photos of interesting poles and then also to get such high quality information about them too.  Please read all about Jake’s insulator collecting exploits by visiting his website


1: Small crossarm pole near the A362 at Frome. Has still in place two porcelain No.1 ‘cordeaux’ and a saltglazed No.3 insulator. The bracing span on the right have came loose as it is supposed to be supporting the top crossarm on the left hand side. The pole as been replaced.

2: ‘Ring’ pole in Frome next to a low voltage power pole with ABC cabling. The ring pole has 8 (One behind the pole) No.16 ‘screwtop’ insulators, one missing it’s lid. This pole has also been replaced and the telephone cables tied onto the power pole.

3: High voltage (33kv) electricity pole with six powerlines and a total of 38 insulators. This is a pole on one of two high voltage routes which terminate at the small sub station in Frome. (Extra info: On the right hand side, the top two cables are supported by brown multipart insulators after connecting to the suspension insulators. This is done so that the lines don’t hang down onto the guy wire which can be seen. This is standard action on all poles which change direction.)

4: Ring pole on Locks Hill (Frome) with composite No.16 screwtop insulators, the two on the left in use with the original bare cables.

5:  Abandoned pole next to the original trackbed of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&D) just outside of Bath. This pole contains a small variety of insulators including some rarer Midland Railway ‘corrugated’ insulators.

6: Low voltage electricity pole near Radstock. This shows what would have been an older installation. The ABC cable on the right has replaced 5 un-insulated cables which would have been tied to the horizontal row of insulators, and then continue as 5 un-insulated cables tied to vertical insulators like on the left side. I don’t know whether this is correct, but the horizontal cables are not so common and I believe are used over main roads. I had a week’s work experience with an electrical engineering company and was told that the cables have to be over 5 meters above the road as not to foul high vehicles. I believe this set-up was used to raise the height of the lines.

Telegraph Poles and Autism

It is no real surprise to me that telegraph poles may be a source of endless fascination to those who find themselves anywhere along the autism spectrum.  The miles of connected poles, their intriguing symmetry and the shape they make in the landscape as they vanish into perspective infinty across endless hedges and distant treelines.

To one of our members - who we shall call agent #0650 – they are as a line of dancers holding hands across the fields.  Agent #0650 only recently found our website – "a pig in mud", his mum said as she told me that the two of them have spent many a happy hour following the lines of poles "dancing" across the countryside, pausing to gaze up into their dizzying towering form, quickly noting the credentials and off to the next one. So,not just me then...

#0650 is also well known to his local council as he regularly reports faults and damage and even tries to influence their placement in new planning applications.  You’ve come to the right place, #0650; what took you so long?

A true appreciator of telegraph poles will totally get the aesthetic qualities of poles as they protrude like tall flowers from the landscape.  The real connoisseur would be able to take great photos of said poles.  This is so true of agent #0650 and I’ve included a selection of his photos in the gallery*1 that you see below.  They are a bit random in size and orientation, and if any of them appear a bit out of focus then it’s your eyes I'm afraid.  It is power transmission poles that he seems to find most satisfying, or maybe most nearby, but a pole is a pole and we will not tolerate any telegraph pole snobbery on this website.

D.P. Assailants

Telegraph pole being attacked by green woodpeckers


Regular and favoured correspondent, John Penny (member #0307) from Sherborne in Dorset sent us this picture of the DP outside his house being attacked by woodpeckers.

Some facts about John Penny :

As of 25th August 2009, he has spent 40 years climbing telegraph poles.

He is writing the third in a trilogy of four books.  This one entitled “Telegraph Poles I have known and loved”.   In his own words…

“The first book being ‘Great Poles I Have Climbed’  featuring the infamous ‘DP3’ in Wine Street Yeovil, sadly only a shadow of its former self since having a goodly portion lopped off – this was a three-part spliced pole of some 85 feet, and an ‘extra stout’!  I also lament the passing of the DP behind Yeovil Hospital, which was a 65 foot stout.  R.I.P.”

John’s first attempt to email us this photo resulted in his disk drive slot being gummed up with photo paper.

He has since submitted further telegraph pole related pictures (coming soon).

Finally, on Google earth, you can see his red Peugeot Estate on his drive – I know, I’ve looked.

More to come from John. 

Click the photo to enlarge.

1 2 3