Purpose of Numbers/Letters on Telegraph Poles

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A question for the useless information file: What was the purpose of numbering telegraph poles paralleling right-of-ways? Along the ex-ACL in Ravenel, SC I've observed that the few remaining "old" telegraph poles are numbered sequentially (in the 500's). These numbers consist of 1" stamped metal numbers tacked to the poles on the side opposite of the tracks about 7 feet above groundlevel. On the trackside of one telegraph pole, I noted a 2"-3" F with the number 59 (same size) located beneath. I've been looking at these things for years and always wondered about their purpose. I've observed the same practice of numbering poles on the ex-SAL mainline south of Baldwin FL. Thanks in advance for any answers.

-- Buddy Hill (palmettoLTD@hotmail.com), February 20, 2001


The trackside numbers were used to identify the pole for purposes of maintenance and repair as well as for identification as to where it was. Most roads used a combination of line code, mile post and pole number between the mileposts. The numbers on the pole facing away from the tracks were usually Western Union numbers as most railroad pole lines were also used by Western Union.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak @MNR.org), February 21, 2001.

Buddy-I can't venture a guess as to what the numbers on the pole on the blind side of the track represent. B&O used their pole line to identify mile post locations. In addition to mile markers, B&O placed one ring around the pole at the 1/4-mile point, two at the half-mile point, three at the 3/4 mile point. In a train order reading, for instance, "Reduce speed to 20 MPH at Mile Post 540.5", the engineer knew to look for the pole with two circles as the point to be down to 20 MPH. In addition, B&O quoted many of its permanent speed restrictions by mile post and pole number. Maybe ACL had a similar arrangement of identifying poles.

-- Harry Bundy (Y6B@aol.com), February 20, 2001.

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