Isle of Wight Telegraph Pole Project.

A line of telegraph poles along a heritage railway on the Isle of WightRegular readers of these fair pages may remember our insulator appeal on behalf of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Well, we’ve had the following letter from Stuart Duddy telling us of their progress:

Hi Martin

I thought you might be interested to see how our project to reinstate the telegraph route along our railway line is progressing. The following link summarises the activities which took place during a couple of weekends in November: <Telegraph Pole Project Summary>
As a result of the appeal which you kindly placed on your website on our behalf, a couple of your members contacted us regarding insulators.  A young chap named Jake Rideout (from Somerset, I believe) visited us back in August with a tray of approximately 50 ceramic insulators and we were recently contacted by another of your members, Ian Bristow who lives in Lincolnshire, and he seems very confident that he can also assist, possibly with about 200 insulators, which is most encouraging.
With kind regards

Just goes to show what wonderful people telegraph pole appreciators are – well done to Jake & Ian.

West Somerset Railway

Highly irregular regular correspondent to these most fair pages, Willie Montgomery Stack writes and and encloses photographs…

Members of the TPAS East Dorset (2015) branch – not to be confused with any previous grouping or organisation bearing the same name – paid a visit to the West Somerset Railway on June 4th, cameras at the ready.
   One member was flashing away furiously for the entire 75 minute journey on the old Great Western branch from Bishop’s Lydeard to Minehead. The rest of us were just happy to take photographs.
   And look what we saw when the prints came back from Boots this morning – some very unusual finials on the top of several of the track-side poles, eight-sided and with the poles themselves apparently tapered to make them fit. (Photos 1 and 2 below).
   Have you ever seen the like? We would appreciate it it you could bring this to the attention of the wider society – nay, perhaps even to society in general!

A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway. A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway.
A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway. A very old pole trackside of the West Somerset Railway.

Lovely pole – but when was it?

Ok, folks. This photo is from Conway Road, Llandudno Junction, North Wales.An old photo from Conway Road, Llandudno Junction with an interesting old telegraph pole

Catherine Penrose has written in saying she hopes we can date it and if we have anything else of interest we might add.
Well for starters, and arguably diametrically opposite from “interesting” is that I have spent many an arduous hour – which incidentally, I will never get back – waiting for the London train at Llandudno Jn, and which has, on occasion, been known to arrive.
But what about the pole? she asks. When do we think this was? I told her I would make up a date if none were forthcoming

A note from Here’s Johnny on facebook reckons 9th April.  Thanks for that Here’s but the tree is in leaf, and pre-global warming, unlikely in April.  And Nick Barber reckons 1900-1914.  And my made-up guess date is 1902. Any advance on that?

OTY Telegraph Pole Appreciators.


B eing given the gift of membership to our most august society can be so life-enhancing.  This was the case for John Cranston (#0620) from Norfolk.  The photos that accompany this post are his and his own words, which follow, succinctly tell his story…

A tall telegraph pole at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
A metal plaque upon a telegraph pole at Wells-next-the-Sea, with the words "Exchange PRS" Notches in a telegraph pole saying NTC 09

Dear Number One,

I was going to send you some old shots of Mull*1, but they can wait because today, in my very first outing as an ambassador for the TPAS (ooh, I’m so excited) I came across this beauty (though sadly without the cross arms I assume it used to have) in Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk.

“Can I help you?” asked a bloke in a bobble hat who was looking at me looking at the pole. “I’m a BT engineer.”

“Actually, I’m a member of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society. I’m looking for the date.”

“They don’t have dates,” says BT man.

“I think you’ll find they do,” I replied in my best anorak, train-spotter tone.

And there was one. It was round the back. And it seems to be from the National Telephone Company, 1909.  

(But this is the odd thing: there was no record of a telephone service in Wells till about 1914. And the National Telephone Company never reached anywhere near that part of Norfolk. Perhaps the GPO simply inherited it from the NTC’s stores when it took over in 1912?)

And I love the old label still attached to the front. It must be original. It looks and feels like lead.

In case anyone’s ever arranging a Stunning Telegraph Poles of the Norfolk Coast Sightseeing Tour, it’s in The Buttlands in Wells, next to the Crown Hotel. Click the link for the Google Street view:

Lots of love,

Number 0620

A few things I like about this letter:  Being addressed as “Number One” for a start – I could get used to that – though this amply describes my membership number within TPAS, my actual number, because I am not a free man at all is 76,735,969,742.  Please see sister website for confirmation of this.
Secondly, he went out on our behalf to the wider community and performed admirably his telegraph pole appreciation duties, unstintingly and reported back here.
Thirdly, he finished his letter with some love.  And there’s just not enough of that stuff going around.

*1 We have his shots from Mull btw – what a treat.

A vintage pole run

Enough of all the forerunning festive frivolity.  A new year, so new earnestness in our telegraph pole appreciating.  And in light of that, I’ve been saving this next item for weeks now…

Robin Hughes wrote in to tell us that the lane near his house was once a significant highway but is now just called Blackhurst Lane.  Up until 1912 this road was the demarcation line between National Telephone Company’s area of Tunbridge Wells and the GPO’s “Trunk Area”.
There remains a run of telegraph poles still in use today and incredibly six of them have GPO 1910 clearly notched into them.
Oldest in Kent perhaps? he asks.

At the time these poles were erected Blackurst Lane was, for many, the ride of shame as the Tonbridge Union Workhouse stood at the Northern end. When they built the Pembury bypass the lane was dissected and these poles now sit in a quiet no through road. No doubt assisting in their preservation.
What really made me smile was the fact that in that part of the lane the only pole displaying an A1024 warning notice (pole needs replacing) was a comparative youngster “only” dating back to 1960!
Best Regards

Apologies Robin, for holding on to these photos for so long. For me it was worth it though, as it sets a benchmark for telegraph pole watching in 2015.

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Significant treasure trove unearthed in Lancashire

Funny how I could have missed this story on News at Ten…

A group of railway restorers clearing a disused line in Lancashire dug up a rather thin telegraph pole from the undergrowth. To said pole were attached a pair of iron foot rests and also the conical metal finial you see in the picture below. The discovery was made at the disused station of Burn Naze – currently undergoing some restorative work by way of opening the old line to Fleetwood by the Poulton and Wyre Railway Society.  It was their member, John Davies-Allen, who contacted the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society to ask about finials but also to broadcast news of this discovery to the wider world.   I will now stand to face the general direction of Poulton-le-Fylde and applaud the efforts of these fine people in putting right some of Mr Beeching’s (and his successors) wrongs.

That Reuters or ITN didn’t pick up on all this, though, is a mystery to me.  Seems there’s one rule for buried Viking gold treasure and another for rusting LNWR telegraph pole finials. 

Anyway, whilst the Victorians are often credited with the idea of topping their poles with finials – they had more money in those days after all – wooden finials were fitted well into the 1930s and metal ones are reported to have been in use later still.

A rusting telegraph pole finial found at Burn Naze, Lancashire

Black & white photo of  Burn Naze station showing finial atop a telegraph pole

Burn Naze station in its heyday

Finally this week.  We received a lovely email from Lol from Gmail.  Lol tells us:

LOL…. I thought you would like to know that I have zero appreciation for telegraph poles.

Thanks for that information Lol. We will keep your letter on file and should a need arise for someone who doesn’t appreciate telegraph poles we’ll be sure to get back to you.

Along ye olde Barmouth Railwaye

Old telegraph poles along disused railway

My mate Pete Greenrod sent me this photo so I’m including it nice and large to encourage him to take more (click it to make it larger). Firstly, I’ll tell you that it’s along the disused railway line that runs between Penmaenpool and the south side of the Mawddach estuary opposite Barmouth.  This is now a popular cycling, walking and dog-fouliing route.  There’s such a lot about this photo that pleases me.  The disappearing perspective of the old iron poles and their rusting air of melancholia.  There’s the dusty road from infinity with persons unknown distantly visible inviting curiousity.  Then there’s the magnificent backdrop.  I know I am not alone in my opinion that the Mawddach Estuary is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  To stand mid-point along the wooden railway bridge – still in use – and marvel eastwards with a tide in full flow beneath you is invigoration itself.

The header from Walking Almaty blog

Dennis Keen is a man after our own hearts.  Dennis lives in Almaty which is the largest city, though not the capital, of Kazhakstan.  We have been in communication with Dennis before as he has sent us some telephone pole photos with an, as yet, unanswered conundrum.

As far as I can tell Dennis is living there to study the Kazakh tongue and walks many miles daily between his digs and his university classroom.  He takes a different route each day, and as you will see, has an exceedingly keen eye for detail.  He has produced a blog called Walking Almaty which describes his walks through this amazing city – one that is completely alien to so many of us westerners – and photographs and logs the minutae of their world.  The word “blog” does not do what Dennis has created any justice and I must insist you give it a look.  As well as pages on the shops, doorways, televison aerials, the birdlife, the grafitti, he also has a whole page on their telephone poles, which is where the link to us comes full circle.

Forlorn of Shrewsbury

for·lorn (fər-lôrn′, fôr-) adjective
a. Appearing sad or lonely because deserted or abandoned.
b. Forsaken or deprived: forlorn of all hope.
c. miserable, wretched, or cheerless; desolate
Wretched or pitiful in appearance or condition: forlorn roadside shacks.

See the true definition just off platform 7a at Shrewsbury station.

forlorn telegraph pole at Shrewsbury station

As defined by

The Kev Currie Appreciation Society

Firstly, my humble apologies for the wretched amount of time between this post and the previous.  Due to circumstances beyond my control I have had to contend myself with glimpses of roadside poles as I hurried about the country in vague panic during some familial distress.  Alas, I could not find the time to  blather on about them to our eager readership.

This post, though, I could put off no longer.  You see, we at the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society have always enjoyed our regular correspondence with Scottish Borders representative, Lord of the Northern Poles, aka Kev Currie. He is an adroit connoisseur, cataloguer and photographer of vintage telegraph poles and his images are among the finest.  This month the photos he has sent us almost made me weep with a sort of nostalgic joy.  It was either that or the wince-making bank statement I came home to.  You decide… In Kev’s own words :

Lord of the Northern Poles checking in with some nice photos from my latest foray down into deepest darkest Norfolk!
We came across these awesome poles with fancy hats on top! and the insulators look like the pole is wearing a crown – all very majestic – Also your members may also like to know that on my return journey we took a diversion over the A68 to get back into Scotland trying to avoid the customs post, and what a treat that was and should be included in your next book – Incredible Pole spotting routes in the UK vol 2
The A68 from the A1 takes a very scenic route over the hills and up into Scotland, but the best part of all is that there is a plethora of weird and wonderful telegraph poles to drool over from metal ones in various colours and stages of deterioration to wooden ones with hats on! and some with cross bars, some with street lights attached! it was like well it was amazing! sadly i had to drive this section so no photos, but I will return to take many many photos!

Seasons greetings to you and yours

Kev – Lord of the Northern Poles

A ceramically insulated beauty photo by Kev Currie Photo by Kev Currie

With its finial and sceptred crown that last pole is one of the finest I have ever set eyes upon. And when I get a moment from my immediate mayhem I shall invest it as such on these very pages.

Actually, you may also like to know, and I hope that I’m not breaking a confidence here, but Kev’s missus is actually called Lady of the Northern Poles.  You couldn’t make it up.

British Columbian Poles

The aesthetic appeal of telegraph poles is universal it would seem.  This week I received an interestingly attachment- adorned email from Canadian Society member Paul Fisher (#0546).  And you can just tell from his words that Paul “gets” telegraph poles.

…I am glad to know that this society exists – I am not alone with my admiration for old telegraph poles.

   I have been driving back and forth from Vancouver BC to the interior of BC to visit an old log cabin for summer fun. Along the way I drive past many kilometres of railroad track, much of it still with the original telegraph poles running alongside.  Most of the wires from the poles are missing or just dangling along the ground. There are many different coloured glass insulators across the crossbars of the poles (clear glass, blue glass, brown glass, ceramic, etc..).

   I have attached two photos… The first one I think is a great look – there are missing insulators, cut wires and broken crossbars, but the pole still holds strong.

   The second photo has an interesting red box along the lower crossmember. I was told by the person who was taking care of this site that this was the pole that the train engineer would stop at, and connect his telegraph (using the big black cable you can see coming down from the pole). From here he would signal back to the train controller to update them of their position and receive further instructions.

   Both photos were taken at a historic location in BC where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific railway was driven –

There were no markings on either of the old poles. I would guess that they were installed at the time that the railway was installed, so late 1800s.

I hope you like them.

Telegraph Pole in British ColumbiaPole in B.C. alongside Canadian Pacific railway

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