Jeremy Boot has a keen eye and an interest in vintage townscapes. He wrote to us of the largely forgotten practice of putting telegraph poles at rooftop levels in large cities. At some point this ceased, he told us, presumably as more and more cables were laid underground. Here's a couple of examples he pointed us to. Credits to Nottingham Archaelogy twitter feed for the first and to flashbak.com for the Picadilly Circus photo. You have to squint to see the pole in either pic.
Hull, the city, not the underneath part of a boat – is unique in telephone lore insomuch as it has its own independent telephone network. This came about largely due to endless patent and rights squabbling and the attempted breakup of the NTC (National Telephone Company) monopoly. I would only be summarising someone else’s history work were I to publish it here – and I’d also have to work that bit harder too – so I’ll just give you the link <here>
Anyway, Hullovian Aaron Bailey sent us in these photos of this 30ft Medium telegraph pole he has acquired (as you do) and answers his own question in identifying the HTC lettering as Hull City Telephone. He also asks about the insulators and what they’re made of. So off I went on a little surf. HTC took me to Hull City Transport and the many complaints about them – what’s public transport for if it’s not for complaining about. Whereas Hull City took me to a fascinating page about becoming a mascot for the forthcoming Hull vs Stoke City game – sounds fantastic and my application is in the post.
An extended week-long surf later I think I have the answer. I think it is a proprietary resin called “Telenduron” which sounds like something that would stop eggs sticking to your frying pan – little known or remembered it fell out of favour with telegraph pole types as it became degraded and pitted.
Aaron worked on the power lines for 7 years and managed to collect a few pole signs over this time and the last photo shows us his rather nifty display pole. I can’t help but feel that to be truly authentic though he should have left room for a missing cat poster.
Aaron wrote back to tell us that all the more recent poles in Hull now have KC or KCL (Kingston Communications) cut into them instead of HCT. He says he tried to sell the pole on eBay hoping for some interest in the insulators – someone sent him a message asking if the pole was the one removed from a street in Hull. Sure enough, Aaron searched on Google maps and there it was. I think it is this fact – that someone recognised this very pole – that has impressed me more than anything anywhere in the world so far this year.
Special thanks to (#0620) John Cranston for this wonderfully atmospheric shot. With a backdrop of 152 searchlights, it was taken 80 years ago this month and the light is coming from a live gig at the Nuremberg Stadium featuring the top act of 1936, Hitler and the Nazis.
The ghoulish may wish to see more at http://mashable.com/2016/09/18/nuremberg-rallies/#OVuv1IMYMaqs
IMAGE: ULLSTEIN BILD/ULLSTEIN BILD VIA GETTY IMAGES
Reader Willi Montgomery Stack, brother-in-law to Doreen Bracegirdle, (she of the Norwich TPAS sect) has submitted a small essay on the subject of telegraph pole appreciation. Mr Stack began preparing said essay some years ago whilst chair of the East Dorset TPAS – an unhappy time he says, given the police enquiry and all those wasteful and inconclusive proesecutions. Nontheless said essay aims to examine the origins of appreciating, some of the leading figures in the field, its growing importance in both scientific and artistic terms and its gradual evolution right up to the formation of TPAS itself.
Clicking the read more button will take you to Mr Stack’s opening paragraphs. He threatens more in the fullness of time, and by publication here we could be seen to be encouraging its production. However, despite the occasional robust terminology, it does make an interesting read.
That said, I normally like to punctuate my posts on here with a picture of a telegraph pole. So the one on the right is a sister pole to our very own TPAS pole. This one is from the midlands of Ireland somewhere, possibly Co. Cavan. We were running late and I had the words “What the hell are you doing stopping to take a picture of a bloody telegraph pole for we’ll miss our boat” ringing in my ears.
Warm congratulations to the good readers of Current Archaeology magazine who recently unearthed us during an excavation of page 50 of their January issue #298. Did you see what I did there? It’s that kind of clever stuff that wins awards and stuff. I think. Anyway, now you’re all here…
It may be a surprise to some but there is something of a cross-over between those erudite readers of Current Archaeology and the perusers of our own sage pages. We regularly feature people who dig stuff up. Look at the Poulton & Fylde railway lot for example. Or Claire Pendrous and her Openreach telegraph pole graveyard rummagings.
Ours is an interest that has it’s feet firmly in the past anyway – the telegraph, as a means of communication blossomed out of Victoriana through the 20th century to slide over the dying edge of a bell-curve into the internet era. We appreciators of telegraph pole aesthetics are surely closet harkers to a bygone age. Does that not sound like an archaeologist anyway? Ok, they do get to find the odd priceless treasure trove during their digs, whereas the most we might find is a cracked LNER Cordeaux worth precisely zero. But at least we don’t get cursed by Tutankhamun all that often.
Anyway, welcome to the whole lot of you. But in particular to C.A. reader Vicky Norman. She tells us that she was travelling on the “Rocky Mountaineer” from Jasper to Vancouver in 2012 and she noticed that the telegraph poles alongside the railway were in a great state of dilapidation which prompted her to write the following poem. For this we are grateful. Alas the photo accompaniment is somewhat out of focus but it does have a telegraph pole in it, and does set the scene nicely.
Communication years ago relied on wire and glass.
The sentinels of yesteryear look sad as they collapse
with leaning bodies, broken arms and wires askew and snapped.
Overgrown with woodland green and snow in winter’s grip
They disappear from human gaze like ancient monoliths.
The poles being wood have had their day but as they fall and die
Return to earth which nurtured them as spruce and stalwart pine
Theres no room left for brave old posts which helped the country grow
and now the fibre optic wires are carried down below.
Australians are rightly very proud of their Overland Telegraph Line (OTL). This was a 3,200 kilometre line that connected Darwin with Port Augusta in South Australia. Completed in 1872 the OTL allowed fast communication between Australia and the rest of the world.
Initally, the line was supported by Cypress poles, but these swiftly succumbed to termites and bush fires. Oppenheimer poles, were galvanised iron structures, imported into the UK from Germany and from there shipped to the antipodes. Therein they were placed with an 80 metre spacing and with a repeater station every 250 km.
Many of these Oppenheimer poles are still standing and are much cherished by the Aussie telegraph enthusiast community. I know all this because I have been in communication with Mike Patterson (VK4MIK) of Tableland Radio Group who recently erected their own Oppenheimer pole at the Mareeba Heritage Centre, Queensland, top right hand corner of Australia.
I previously reported on a request by Norma Warren for any information on the 14 iron poles made by Buller Ltd UK which still stand locally to Esperance, Western Australia. These, she tells us were the original poles used to link Adelaide to Albany via Ceduna, Eucla and Esperance. Bullers Ltd were based at Joiners Square Works, Hanley, Stoke-on–Trent by the way.
The photos alongside were provided by Mike Patterson. The first is taken at Cooktown in 1900 showing the Oppenheimer pole beside the Cooktown to Laura railway with the tree that Lt James Cook RN tied HMS Endeavour to whilst undergoing repairs after hitting a coral reef in 1770. The second shows an ‘o” pole still sitting where it was erected in 1876 on the Palmerville to Maytown telegraph line – this photo taken only recently.
Finally, for those interested in reading further the fascinating history of Australia’s overland telegraph…
1. Celebrating 140 years of the Overland Telegraph Line
2. Wikipedia entry
3. The Overland Telegraph by Ron McMullen. (Document disappeared from original web location – I saved it before it went)
Regular correspondent with this society, Adrian Trainsett Esq, has transmitted to us his latest magic lantern images. First, of a lovely pole opposite Haworth Station on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. He also, kindly, included two parts of a scan from the pages of that sage tome “British Transport Commission, (British Railways Division) Code of Practice for Pole Line Construction 1957“. This, we hope, would be of interest to our readers.
Adrian apologises firstly for the low quality of his photograph – this being due, he assures, to his inferior image capturing apparatus – and secondly for his recent lack of communication.
Well, in return I feel an obligation to apologise for our blatant breach of copyright in including said pages without recourse to B.R.C. for their permission. And secondly, to Mr Trainsett himself for sitting on his communique for the last 8 months. Contrary to the impressions we give out, our channels of communication are not quite a black-hole and stuff does eventually shuffle to the top of the pile on my desk.
As usual, click the image to enlarge.
Ranchers, farming the vast expanses of rural mid-west America were largely overlooked by the booming telephone age that came at the end of the 19th century. Resources were poured into connecting up urban areas but the distances were just too great to wire up the sparsely populated wilderness.
Human capacity for ingenuity knows no bounds, however, and a few enterprising ranchers realised they didn’t need to erect telegraph poles and hundreds of miles of cable to use the telephone. They already had thousands of miles of largely contiguous barbed-wire used as stock fencing.
A simple system evolved – hook up a telephone and a DC battery with a cranked magneto to power the ringer and off you go. No need for a central exchange. On this system every phone rings – you just answer the call that uses the code for your farm.
Rain induced short-circuits were a problem as were eavesdroppers reducing signal strength, but this system provided a vital rural link allowing remote families to keep in touch.
This post is an extract from New Scientist’s Christmas & New Year issue, and with the correct password you can read the whole article at “The Wired Wild West“.
Yes, ’tis “All Saints” day here on sunny earth. And if things as diverse as “stiff necks” can have a patron saint and also “stamp collectors” and “car parking spaces” then why not Telegraph Poles I asked myself as I awoke this morning. So once I’d despatched the just-right porridge that Mrs Telegraph Pole had put out for me, it was off to consult my old mate Google.
The nearest I could get to was “Saint Clare of Assisi” – that’s a photograph of her on the left. And look, if you squint your eyes a bit that could be a single cross-arm Telegraph Pole she’s carrying there – bristling with mediaeval ceramic insulators it is too. Anyway, apparently, when she was too ill to attend mass an image of the the service would be displayed on the wall of her cell, somehow. That’s how she came to be patron saint of television. Which is not a million miles away from telegraph poles if you were to ask me.
H aving been asked a question about when telegraph poles first appeared I decided to do some research. And for the want of a good book, I trawled the world wide interweb…
I went right back to the birth of the telegraph as a form of communication, in fact to the first use of the term telegraph from the Latin tele meaning distant, and graphos, writing. I read about the earliest static electricity transmission experiments by Francis Ronalds and how the technologies improved and matured through the patents of messrs Cooke and Wheatstone to the first poles appearing alongside railway lines ca. 1843 – before then, telegraph cables had been bundles of cotton and tar coated wires contained within iron tube conduits and either buried or suspended just above the ground alongside railway tracks.
Why am I telling you all this – it is all to be found on one amazing website – a sort of eBook called “Distant Writing” by Steven Roberts. This is a fantastic and detailed history of the telegraph and associated apparatus – including telegraph poles. Go there and read it now.