Towering Topsham Telegraph Pole

There was a touch of synchronicity about a couple of emails which crossed my desk here at Telegraph Pole Towers this last week or so*1. The first from Mike Shephard from Devon;

"Do you have this surviving "big stick" on record?  The telephone exchange used to be in the main street of TOPSHAM near EXETER, from 1912 to 1949. First, as a manual exchange, then, later from the 1930s, as an auto DSR exchange in the Exeter numbering group. The automatic exchange moved to a new site in the town around 1949. It is still there.

The D.P. 1 stout pole has no date marking that can be seen. The local museum thinks it may date from WW1 era, because a relative of someone who is still alive was involved in the pole's installation. The pole was once even taller than today. The top part of the pole was cut off where 8-way arms once stood. Other 8-way arms were set below them at right-angles. The cut-out positions of the lower 8-way arms can still be seen intact.

Noteworthy are the terminal blocks, which are accessible at ladder height, without the need to scale the whole pole. Good thinking. The pole was last tested in 2013, and is marked "D" Defective.  A giant of a bygone age, towering over the rooftops. And still standing proud after maybe a century ?"

Then, in the exact same geological era came this from Mike Trout, also of Devon;

"I have always understood that my Grandfather Walter Finlay Wilson installed a very tall telegraph pole in Trees Court, a tiny yard behind the then Telephone exchange in Topsham. Dia about 17" & over 60 ft tall. People have wondered ever since how it was got into the courtyard, as it is surrounded by 3 storey shop & houses and when. It has a red metal plate on it about 5ft up it with no 3, no 13 & IJK all punched out of it. Below that there is a small sign saying DP1 and small round metal disk with D on it. Can you give us any ideas about when it was installed?"

Surely these two emails are, mutually, self-answering and so I don't need to? But to answer Mike Shephard's first question, yes, we did have it on record already - agent  Brunsden, John, #0469, shaken, not stirred, sent us this excited video with his interpretive comments:

"An unmarked 'D' stout pole...look at all those steps !!! I don't know how they managed to get it up in that location all those years ago, and I would not like to have to renew it! The video does not really do justice to the length and girth of this old pole!!"

*1Loosest, most exaggerated, definition of "last week or so" - it was July actually.

In search of the holy grail

I’ve categorized this post under vintage.  You see, it’s about our Honorary Technical Adviser Sir Keith S**** H.T.A. T.P.A.S (Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 prohibits me from printing his real name).  But anyway, what we do know about this mysterious Rochdale-based former pole inspector is that he used to be a pole inspector and is from Rochdale.  By pole inspector we don’t mean the jolly BT chap who knocks the base with a hammer to see if it’s rotten or not – no, Sir Keith, before retirement, travelled the northern hemisphere inspecting entire forests in sub-arctic arboreal landscapes in order to select timber suitable for making into telegraph poles.
These trees once harvested and cut to length had the initials of the inspector chiselled into the butt of the, by now, preserved pole.
And so Keith wrote this week to tell us of his eternal quest to find just one such retired telegraph pole somewhere that has his initials on the butt.  For it his plan to take off a slice and make into a display for his not inconsiderable mantlepiece.  He has scoured the internet, and wrote to Kilgraney (it wouldn’t send) and so appeals to us to send out an SOS appeal to all BT & telegraph pole contractors to check their stack of recovered poles for one bearing the initials K.S.  To help you identify a pole butt with KS here is an artists impression of a pole with KS on it, yesterday.  Come on pole gangs, let’s make his day.
The butt of a telegraph pole bearing the initials KS

Existential Angst

Until very recently Gary Straiton thought he was alone.  Completely alone.  But let me assure you of this Gary, you are born alone, and you will die alone but in between there is The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society.  You have found us new member #0829 and you are among friends.  Weird friends, but friends nonetheless.

"Anyway," Gary tells us "One of my things is proper railway lines with telegraph poles."  (Ours too Gary)  He sent us the following photos of the poles remaining on the closed (1967) main line between Perth and Kinnaber Junction.   He also told us that when permission was granted to close the line by Barbara Castle one of the conditions was that infrastructure was to remain in case of reopening (insert ho ho ho's here).  The line was shut in September 67 but a section remained open for goods only until June 1982.  It's important to know this formed part of the West Coast Main Line, hence the pole route wasn’t lightweight.

Gary continued "Probably all the remaining TP’s on the Strathmore line are west of Forfar, the section of the line to Perth remaining open until 1982. It would appear that the poles weren’t part of the deal when the scrap men moved in."

   "I have been trying to locate some of the old S&T linesmen who worked the pole routes but finding that difficult. I would really like to know what the wires did at each location and was it by local knowledge or was there are record kept?"

Gary sent us links to his Flickr feeds with some brillilant photo collections that I highly recommend you take a look at.  I'm rather pleased with myself that I've worked out this clever way of shortening the links.  That's what we're here for.  Anyway, the pics are brilliant, thanks Gary.

Kirkinch level crossing

Ardler Station Junction

Mike Mather's Adler Jn pic

 

Pole of the Month – March 2018

We seem to have missed out February's Pole of the Month.  It's only a short month, and my attention span is such that entire years can pass me by so a tiddly little month like February is nothing.

Anyway, we were traversing the dark underbelly of Wales from Brecon back to Aberystwyth via Llandovery and Lampeter and the badlands in-between.  And just where the A482 leaves the A40 is Llanwrda - and March's P.O.T.M.  Glorious it is too.  Had the effect of causing a screech of brakes, a burnt rubber smell and the utterance "for Christ's sake" from Mrs TPAS.  You don't need to have a near fatal accident in order to view it - simply go on a popular internet street view application and have a look for yourself.  A worthy winner.  I couldn't find anybody there to congratulate them, so if you're going that way do please tell them.

Click an image to see it in glorious bigness.

Kentish Beach find

Stephen Poole from New Romney asked us to help identify the lump of wood you see below. Found on a beach on the south Kent coast and he thought it might be a ship’s mast. There were two support timbers linked with a metal bar that went through the pole. The markings are three crown symbols, the number 26 and a capital letter H. Somebody told him that it might be a telegraph pole.

Anyway, no point in having an Honorary Technical Adviser unless you’re going to bombard him with questions. And I happen to know that our H.T.A. T.P.A.S. Keith S**** is also on an eternal quest to find a pole butt with his initials on. And because he is likely every bit as old as the pole you see here, we just knew he’d have the answer:

This is a 26ft stout pole, the growth rings very tight, certainly imported from Finland, British pines do not grow this slow,(the tighter the rings the slower has been the growth) species is Pinus Sylvestris ie. Scots Pine. Light poles had one crown, medium poles 2 crowns and stout poles had 3 crowns , a little unusual to find a stout ie. larger girth pole at this shorter length.

Some poles were imported from Russia but that was at about the time of the revolution and I have seen in the old GPO archives a report from a poles inspector, out there to buy poles, which describes violence in the streets,” I hied myself to a doorway for safety ” he reports.

The letter H is interesting – there would usually be the 2 initials of the inspector who accepted the pole,so probably before the time of even my older colleagues. I can go back to 1969. A shame that we cannot see the scribing at the ten foot mark which would give us a date. It looks free from rot but would be better preserved in the sea than in situ and in contact with the ground, so my guess (educated, but still a guess) would be sometime in the 50s.

Thank you for that Sir Keith.  Anyway, speaking of beach finds, some time ago I was out jogging on a beach, probably on the south coast, and a wooden treasure chest stuffed with gold and jewels of immeasurable beauty and worth fell out of my pocket.  So if any detectorists down there (or indeed anywhere) come across any or all of this fabulous fortune – it’s mine, all mine I tell you.  And I can easily identify it – it’s shiny and has immeasurable beauty and worth.

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.

The Great North Road

BBC online have been doing a bit of a feature, of late, about the A1(M) which runs from London, north and into Scotland. Well this paragon of tarmac tedium was preceded by an altogether more romantic route called the Great North Road. Littered with coaching Inns, quaint villages, hand-pumped petrol stations and myriad telegraph poles this road took rather more of a meander to get to the same place.  Until, that is, the demands of the motorist widened it and took all the bends out.

Secretary of Norwich and East District TPAS, John Cranston (#0620), alerted us to the existence of the delightful film you see below. Shot in 16mm by Colonel Lionel Paten in 1939 who was expecting the imminent war to make a bit of a mess of the old place so set out to capture it as it was.  “…The poles just get more scrumptious as the cameraman gets further from London”, said John, “Watch as he eventually decides to set up his camera in front of his parked car and not behind the bloody thing every time.  A few minutes of silent heaven.”  And this it truly is.  I promise you will gasp, your spectacles will turn a rosy hue and your eyes will mist… or you’ll reach for the off switch.

This youTube representation also holds the world record for the quickest descent into racist bigotry within its comments section.  From the very first, those emboldened by recent political upheavals were at it like rabid bull terriers with their trolling hatred, xenophobia and bile.  As a species we deserve everything we get.  Mr Cranston was rather less sanguine about the levels of vile acerbity and I’m still wiping his metaphorical spittle from my lug-holes!

(Twiddle all you like, you’ll get no sound out of this video)

 

 

The Fabled Lost Pole of Bala Leisure Centre

We’ve had a fabled lost tape-measure in this house for many years now – last seen when putting some shelves up under the stairs. Apparently, it’s right where I left it according to Mrs TPAS.

Anyway another futile hunt for same earlier put me in mind of a conversation I once had with Ged McCarthy the old pole prospector from them thar Mersey hills. We were sat around his camp fire in a layby on the B5105 late one night, eating beans from a tin and retelling tales about poles of yore, stay wires, double grooves and all that when he started to scratch out a map in the dirt on the back of his van and proceeded to mark an X.

“Ooh aar!”, he said, “Arr!”, he insisted, “Arr! here be found the remains of the fabulously fabled five-armed pole of Bala Leisure Centre.” {further oohs and arrs omitted for brevity} “Lost for many a year in the undergrowth it be, and nobody that has set eyes upon it has ever lived longer than a lifespan.” he warned. My spine chilled – Ged’s mate Deggsie had spilled Special Brew all down my back.

So magnificent is this pole that back in the 1920s they used to run bus trips to see it. People came from as far away as Norwich to gaze upon its tall wooden sticky-uppy grandeur. Slowly, though, fashions changed, fibre broadband arrived and BT Openreach came along and stuck a ‘D’ plate on it and its fabledness became lost to mankind.

Not any longer, because now you can light up the walls in your office/lounge/kitchen/bedroom/massage parlour with our reproduction of the original art-deco unoriginal fabled tour poster of the day. These come in A2 size (420 x 594 mm), unframed, satin finish all posted in a lovely refreshing cardboard tube. Just what your Christmas pressie idea head-scratching was looking for and only £8.99 plus p&p. And while you’re doing your Crimbo shopping you really ought to stock up on our diamond-encrusted*1 Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners book. Key Stages 1-4 will delight, amuse, educate and something else your appreciative gift recipient – and they might just buy you something much nicer in return.
And if you enter the code IAMSKINT during checkout you’ll get 10% off everything – yes, everything: posters, memberships, mugs, books, everything. So just buy everything. What are you waiting for?The fabled lost pole of bala leisure centre
*1 We use only the finest homeopathic diamonds to encrust our books.

Edwardian poles in Berkshire

posted in: Vintage | 0

Great news from Berkshire this week – the RG5 postcode to be moderately specific. RG5 6LN to be more specific and the naugahyde chair by the writing desk in the corner of the front bedroom at No. 67 Kensall Rise, RG5 6LN would be about as specific as anyone could ever ask for and likely more than our readers need. But I made up the bit of the postcode after RG5 anyway – so Reading-ish. My dad always said to me “Son, when you’re in a hole – keep digging.”John Smith* from RG5 couldn’t tell us about this great news though until after his good wife Jane had woken from her nap. To cut a short story really long it seems they found a run of 1904 poles and sent us the pictures you see below. They can be found at Turville, near the Cobstone windmill. The poles, not John & Jane – see sentence #1.

Now, 1904 seems to be something of a lower limit for dated telegraph poles. It is NOT absolute though – see footnote. The telegraph as a system of communication would have been at its height in 1904 and whilst amplitude modulation for voice and music were demonstrated in 1900, radio was a long way from obviating the need for the telegraph – and its poles. 1904 was the heady Edwardian era and a time when the world was having to come to terms with the idea of Doncaster Rovers failure to be re-elected to the football league. This was also the year that the United States of America paid Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, $14 million for the entire territory that is New Mexico. It was only when they got home and checked that they discovered that they already owned it.

Footnote #1: I have it on good authority that these are NOT the oldest poles out there. More on this in due course. Meanwhile, enjoy John & Jane’s fine Berkshire telegraph poles – they’re in Buckinghamshire it turns out after all. (click to enlarge)

Footnote #2: I had a really funny joke for this post but my wife made me take it out. So just imagine something really funny and laugh along anyway if you want.

Footnote #3:  Names changed to protect the innocent (until proven guilty)

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Either the start of the walk or one of the poles. And one of the poles – serving suggestion, finger not included.

5970d73b385be IMG 0991 a 1904 pole at Turville, Bucks.

Look carefully – double D plates. Fear the worst for this one. And again, helpful pointer to the 1904 date.

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