TPAS Annual Telegraph Pole Expedition

Outer Hebrides, Barra to Butt of Lewis (April/May 2019)

Yes, you all missed the chance to burgle my house while I was away.  And the key was under the mat the whole time.  Not just me but the entirety of Telegraph Pole Towers took the high road to the top left hand corner of Great Britain.  In order to avoid the M6, we drove first overnight to Holyhead for an early ferry to Dublin.  Drove to Donegal just for a laugh and because I was promised a pint of something special.  Then caught a ferry Larne to Cairnryan.  Drove north to Oban.  Camped the night in Taynuilt station car park.  5 hour ferry to Castlebay, Barra for week #1 in a cottage next the airport beach.  Then ferry from Northbay, Barra to Eriskay and week #2 cottage on South Uist.  Thence ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh (Harris) and drive north for week #3 at Tolstachaolais, Lewis.  All finished off with a stinking campervan meander homewards via the B roads of Scotland over 3 days with a dash along the nasty and unavoidable M6 bit.

Herewith telegraph pole encounters of our trip.  Click images to enlarge and see captions.

Treasure Trove in ‘Ull

Regulars to these pages will, by now, know that Aaron Bailey (who has dropped the H from Hull*) is a regular rummager along deceased and non-deceased railway lines for telegraphular artefacts.  Indeed, he has a Pole of the Month (May 2018) to his credit.  There follows the photos from his latest jaunt - one in which his particular interest was poles that are attached to the side of railway bridges,

The round pole is on the side of a Hull and Barnsley railway bridge. He confesses to taking this photo from the queue at a drive through McDonalds (for goodness' sake)
The square pole is on the side of a viaduct on the Settle and Carlisle Railway whereupon he also found some insulators incl the LMS fatty you see here.
I really do envy urban dwellers this access to railway heritage.  I live so far from civilization that even the roads have petered out long before they get here. Denizens of these rural depths have been known to cross themselves whenever they see an aeroplane pass overhead and gasp excitedly when someone switches on one of these new electric light things.  Still, we keep being reminded that the 19th century is just around the corner.

* Must be a dialect thing

Telegraph Poles as Navigation Aids

Well, I’ve been banging on about this for years. Fact or fiction, that telegraph poles are aligned to have their insulators face towards London. There was evening a major film with Stoddart E. Schmelhausen in the title role of The Pole Liner you may recall. But really, always, without some real documentary evidence.

Until NOW that is. Thanks to the magic that is telegraph pole enthusiast Rick Howell. He tells us he was reading The Light Car Manual – published in 1914 when he came upon the nugget you see below.
We have feebly covered the topic on here before <here> and <here> and also within the weighty, sage tome Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners which we absolutely insist you buy <here> because it is only £5.99 after all, and if you root around on this website you’ll find a further 10% discount code called IAMSKINT to use at the checkout. Thanks Rick for this epic find.

Oban wan Kenobi*

If we had an annual awards ceremony (we don’t) and were to dish out prizes (we don’t) for telegraphic excellence then this wonderful example of post-retirement appropriation would undoubtedly win our prestigious Golden Pole Award (it didn’t, there’s no such thing).

Kenny McLennan, presumably from Oban, noticed contractors replacing his local (GPO 1940) DP1 and so he retrieved it (read purloined) and modified it as bird feeder for his rockery.  This is just fantastic Kenny.  We at TPAS HQ are inspired.  And the Tom Tits of Oban won’t know they’re born. Mind you that little scamp of a white doggie on the right there looks like he’s just left you something in your plant pot.

*Oban wan Kenobi.  I really thought that by the time I clicked the Publish button on this I would have come up with a witty headline.  As you can see I failed.

A former telegraph pole now rerouted as a bird feeder.
This year I will be passing through Oban twice.  #1 mid April, via the ferry terminal and heading for Barra, then north to Stornoway for my 3 week long expedition checking out poles of the Outer Hebrides (watch this space)  then #2 the Glenforsa Fly-in on on Mull, 24th & 25th May.  Refuelling at Oban probably.  If we make it that far that is, in a 1962 vintage Rallye Cub.  I’m telling you all this to give you all time to organise street parties and bunting and stuff.

The Great Inbox Tidy up, 2018.

You know that drawer you have in your kitchen cabinet? - we've all got them - the one with a bit of everything in it:  a long-run out biro; some postage stamps torn off and saved you said you were going to send to the guide-dogs; an old ticket to a show you mistakenly believe is a souvenir; a ball of used blue-tac wrapped in a bit of greaseproof paper; 4 lengths of different coloured string; a collection of rubber bands the postie dropped on your path; a plastic chip fork; a calculator with a missing #4 key; long since expired raffle ticket to win a meat voucher; a plastic bag containing half-burned birthday candles; an old pre-usb phone connector cable; a blisterpack of paracetamol with just one left in it; some saved paperclips; a sachet of some liquid could be a sauce from a takeaway, or oil for your sewing machine.  Either way it's leaked and gummed all the aforementioned items together.  Yes, that drawer.

Well this post is a bit like that.  I've collected together loads of bits of emails and letters from our avid readers that I didn't know what to do with before - and the senders thereof probably thinking they sent it into a black hole.  So if something you sent us in the last few months isn't somewhere in this post, then it probably did end up in a black hole.  When you see the miscellaneous nature of some of these or the quality of some (not all) of the photos you'll understand why I wondered what to do with them.

Many thanks to all, as ever, for your kind submissions.  It might take us an epoch or two but we get them posted in the end.

Carey Smith

A leaning telegraph pole underneath an azure skyWas out on a morning walk with the dogs that we are looking after and walked that little bit further than usual... What a treat!
( I was then looking up whether 'telegraph pole' was the correct term...and found your website...and scrolled down to find a picture taken on the railway near Williton in Somerset...where I grew up!)
...I don't suppose you have a sister site appreciating manhole covers do you??...they are my other penchant!!

Well the email subject says Poles of Le Marche Italy.  The words Le and Marche are French.  The sky is blue, so it's not Wales.  Carey is from Yahoo if that narrows it down a bit. Carey says it was taken yesterday if that is any help.

To answer your question re Manhole Appreciation...  We're a bunch of feminists here at TPAS - my wife says so - and may well be starting a personhole appreciation society any day now.

David Reynolds

A telegraph pole dated 1885 in SmethwickI know for a fact David Reynolds is wondering what the hell happened to the email he sent back in August.  David, of weather-forecasting fame and avid insulatorist and pole connoisseur attached this photo of a telegraph pole in Smethwick, dated 1885. Now, he took this photo in 2001 so I would say it's 50/50 whether or not it's still there.  It would be the record holder if it is - as the oldest pole we at TPAS Towers have on record is dated 1893 (p109 Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners, Arenig Press, £5.99)

So if you're from Smethwick, or are passing through, do check this one out.  It should be easy to find - it's got a brick wall behind it and some green stuff, looks like leaves of some sort.

Edward Jones

 

A pole on the side of a barn or something

The caption with this photo said simply "Bottomless pole a farmer decided to airlift this pole"

I'm going to try to value add a little to this tiny photo.  Er... nope, can't think of anything else to say, sorry.

Edward Jones #2

 

A 62 pole in a field somewhere.

Actually, right at the bottom of my inbox, and stuck to an elastoplast where some of the backing paper has come off, I find this photo also sent in by Edward Jones.  The email is simply titled Old Pole with the caption "I came across this line pole feed from orrell ete*".  (??) In another photo from the same email, I see a '62 date.  So, ahem, I was born before then, so it can't be old.  It CAN'T be old !!

*  Erratum:  It's Orrell ATE (Automatic Telephone Exchange - ie there are no ladies plugging wires into circuit boards)

Gary Straiton

A sign at the entrance to Miley Urban Wildlife Reserve, ScotlandGary, member #0829, has a penchant for old railway lines.  Especially ones with poles extant. Might be of interest, he says.  Yes, Gary, definitely.
The  remaining section of the Dundee (Ninewells Junction) to Ardler / Alyth Junction finally closed in 1967. Part of the route in Dundee is now a pathway and known as the “Miley”.
Of particular gratification ( to me anyway) is that some effort has been made to explain the railway artifacts still to be found. Including telegraph poles. However I didn’t see any “erectus” with a few lying on the ground.
Ahem! We'll overlook the use of the term erectus just this once.  Scotland seems to have all the best bits of disused railways.  I demand a referendum or something.

Mr Red

A placard nailed to a telegraph pole saying UTEC PATROLLEDWe'll catalogue this email from Mr Red under Fringe.  Mr Red likes to hunt for OS Bench Marks - those little up-turned crows feet things my prison uniform used to have all over it.   Mr Red also likes the use of post scriptum. Three in this particular email.  Anyway, re his UTEC placard - I've seen these before but can't remember where.  It's nailed to a telegraph pole so it's in as far as I'm concerned:

I too found 3 of these cast iron markers in Gloucester, whilst hunting OS Bench Marks. Doubtless there are others.  What I have seen a lot of is concrete posts, usually with the same OS style arrow bearing lead characters in a John Bull printing set "style". ft & in - IMNSHO, would suggest something up or along by that dimension Maybe you would know better than my guess. But up would indicate overhead wires in my imagination. The cast iron variety have the same ft & in thingy and one lurking behind a modern lamppost is definitely Elizabethan (II of this era). Cnr Alvin St & London Rd.

I have seen a website based on Brighton where the webmeister has assumed OSBMs. http://www.buildingopinions.com/2014/12/02/ordnance-survey-bench-marks/
But yes I would like chapter and as many verses on these too. What have you found?

Mr Red
http://benchmarks.mister.red

PS might this JPG show something spurious and unfathomable or something significant?
PPS we have redundant poles along the Stroudwater, one marked dating from 1902 - or what's left of it.
PPPS Howard Beard, local photo collector, has an image that may date from the installation of poles in Stroud. Wires not visible and maybe not there at the time. He dates it to the opening of the telephone exchange in Russell St.

A quick google of UTEC says "UTEC is a dynamic, forward-thinking and fast-growing organization.  It is one of the world’s largest independent survey companies"  So there.

Gary G7SLL

Telegraph Pole DP317G7SLL might sound like it's a Gloucestershire postcode but it is, in fact a radio ham callsign.  And a quick rummage on a well known internet search engine tells us that Gary Peach, G7SLL is a rocket scientist and the inventor of a type of slide rule for measuring the temperature on the moon.  I kid you not.  This goes some way to explaining the rather eccentric manner of our semi-recent communication which started with him asking if I knew where DP317 was.

[TPAS] No idea where DP317 is. Possibly not too far from DP316, but that's just a guess.
[G7SLL] now there’s a guess with a high probability of success.  But I’ll not put any of my money on it. The GPO were a law unto themselves, thus the “YIT”, ( Youth In Training), may have maid a mistake.
[G7SLL] I could show you a good picture of a Pole, if you can wait for her to come out of goal. Instead I’ll show you a pole instead. Wince I telegraphed that one, “BLUSH” and it is almost outside of my House in Newbury, West Berks, RG14 5NR

{This bit about Nancy Mitford's knickers censored because Mrs TPAS reads this too}

[G7SLL] Once upon a time the person in the closest house was England’s first champion Lady Jockey, “Betty Richards” daughter of Cliff R, ( not the pop star), niece of Sir Gordon Richards, England’s Champion Jockey, a LOT. What a lovely lady was Betty…. RIP
A line coming directly from DP 317 into this URL 😊
Now, why would they label this pole twice; (SEE picture)?
It is plane to see this pole has the sheiks.
Wooden tit make a chump laugh? so don’t monkey with me.
Gary, G7SLL, wins the 2018 prize for the most bonkers email received this year.  For all time, actually.

 

John Brunsden (#0469H)

Regular correspondent, and alpine pole climber, John sent us these two pics from his archives:

#1 A display of blocks pole in an exchange somewhere and #2 us (ie his crew) and the Devon boys working with Western Power in sunny Beaford last year.

A telegraph pole block display in a telephone exchange.View from atop a telegraph pole of BT Openreach workers in Beaford, Devon.

 

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.

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