wayside line poles

greenspun.com : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

In searching the questions I'vve not seen this asked anywhere and I'm probably the only fool who cares but anyway... How can one find answers these days to questions like 1. Why did the Augusta - Florence line have poles with only one crossarm while the Florence-Wilmington line (both dark territory) had three crossarm poles? 2. The Augusta-Florence line (as did a number of other ACL lines) had 4-6 crossarm poles further away from the track than the regular poles, which I'm told were Western Union poles. Are there existing records of when these poles on various lines were taken down? Why did some lines have Western Union lines on the same poles as RR communication and others have separate poles? I've written to the Association of American Railroads and others w/o success. Needless to say all of this has fascinated me from youth. Who's the best contacts!

-- Capers Bull (eurekaairline@yahoo.com), January 07, 2002


Thanks to both of you for this question and answer. It was a question I have always wanted to ask, and it certainly got a great answer. In my business I must make last minute trips and sometimes don't get to take the reference materials I need to track which railorads or their traffic. I always looked to the lineside poles and crossarms to indicate the amount of traffic on the line. It was depressing to see multiple line poles along an abondend line and now seeing them sawed down along the lines I know. Yes, this is a great forum.

-- Tommy Arthur (tommy@arthurtransport.com), January 12, 2002.

In response to Mr. Capers Bull's comment that he may be "the only fool who cares...." NO FOOL AT ALL, SIR!! All of these details about railroading that we share in this forum is very important. To truly appreciate and understand where railroading has come from and where it is going, one must understand and know at least something about everything; ROW's, depots and all railroad structures, trackage (including the rails, ties, and the spikes), the rolling stock, MOW equipment, locomotives, types of freight and passenger service provided, and yes, the telegraph poles!! I love this site!! I have said that before and will again and again!! I know, some of the sites and forums of other groups while in some cases are pretty good, you would think that railroading begins and ends with the locomotives. They will have a "field day" giving reports on EVERY locomotive and/or train they saw "at the fuel rack in Hamlet (for example)" but will say nothing about how many cars the train had. You will see picture after picture of locomotive after locomotive but will rarely (unless they accidently got into the picture of the locomotives) will you see any of the train or facilities in the area. Well, maybe that's why we are a historical group. I tell you what, the only stupid question is the one not asked. I check this site, post questions, and answer questions constantly because it is the best of all sites. So, no, you are not the only "fool" that cares. Post that question and in most cases sooner or later you will get an answer, or 2, or 3.

We're great, folks! Raymond Smith

-- Raymond Smith (aclrr7@hotmail.com), January 12, 2002.

Mr. Denmark, thank you so much for your detailed response to my question and I apologize for just now responding. I learned much! Re: your comments on "typical pole line wires were configured with WU lines at top, then ACL lines, then ACL signal lines, in that order" - I assume you meant this for a 3 crossarm pole. Can you comment on the set-up if a pole was only one or two crossarms - or if the case was 4, 5 or more crossrarms? As I mentioned, the ACL line in my town was dark territory, no signal lines I feel sure. It had a set of one crossarm poles right next to the mainline(old, bleached,(decayed?) poles while a 4-5 crossarm set was much farther away from the track (creosoted, very "straight", newer poles). Also, as an aside, on the poles next to the mainlines (whether 1, 2, or 3 crossarms) I have always noticed on any ACL line the insulator arrangment may be 3 - 4 insulator/pins spaced fairly far apart while on the poles far away from the track ("well-maintained lines") without fail there were *5* insulator/pins, sometimes using "tranpostion" brackets extending from the crossarms; (on the FEW remaining poles these days I ALMOST NEVER SEE TRANSPOSITION brackets; why?). Thanks again so much for your insight; it is EXTREMELY difficult to find anyone with much knowledge on these topics. Best wishes to you and yours. Cordially, Capers Bull

-- Capers Bull (eurekaairline@yahoo.com), January 12, 2002.

Excellent information! This is the kind of important data that will 'disappear' over time unless good folks like Curtis are able to relate their 'real life' experiences as told above. I smell a LINES SOUTH article in the making.

-- Greg Hodges (ghodges@smpsfa.com), January 12, 2002.

Fascinating Curtis!!!!! I have been wondering for 30 years why some old insulators have the little spikes! Never figured out that it was for rain to drip off!

Curtis-can you contact me at Savchak@mnr.org. I would like to E-mail you a rough draft of an article for your comments.

-- Mike Savchak (Savchak@mnr.org), January 09, 2002.

Nice little bit of history.Thanks Curtis.

-- Joseph Oates (jlosal@mindspring.com), January 08, 2002.

When I worked for the ACL signal department in 1960, the Western Union was still operating on railroad property. At that time the days of the Western Union Telegraph Company along the railroad right of way were numbered.

I certainly am not a historian on this matter but can contribute some answers to your question.

I think the ACL had the following arrangement with Western Union.

The ACL furnished the right of way and freight shipments for Western Union in exchange for joint use of the Western Union pole line. In addition, Western Union furnished and maintained the ACL telegraph system and apparatus. This included the depot clocks that tied into the Naval Observatory time. Just before noon each day the mainline sounders fell into a rhythm of "clacking" and at precisely noon, the depot official clock corrected itself (if needed) to 12 noon.

For example; there were Western Union maintainers that used their own motorcars to maintain the telegraph wires, sounders, and batteries within the ACL depots. Western Union also had their own construction gangs that lived in outfit (camp) cars. Shipment of poles, material, passage of WU employees, and outfit cars was done at no charge (Deadhead).

The typical pole line wires were configured with WU at the top, then ACL telephone lines, and ACL signal wires in that order. WU wires were bare galvanized steel. ACL telephone wires were bare copperweld steel (copper plated steel). Signal wires were rubber insulated copper with the code line being rubber insulated copperweld. The ACL signal A.C. power lines (240 volt) were rubber insulated copper.

A quick identification of the WU owned wires can be determined by two peculiarities. First the WU glass insulators had few grooves on the petticoat. The telegraph voltage was raw direct current and did not need the multiple groove petticoat insulators such as the telephone or signal circuits used.

ACL telephone and signal insulators needed a longer path of electrical resistance and more sophisticated insulator design to minimize electrial leakage to ground from rain or dew. The real low leakage designs used a series of little points molded into the glass around the bottom rim of the petticoat. This provided a drip point for dew or rain.

Another item was the placement of cross arm braces. WU cross arm braces were bolted on the face of the cross arm and bent down to the pole where a lag bolt was driven into the pole. ACL cross arm braces were bolted to the back of the cross arm and then fastened to the pole with a lag bolt. The ACL cross arm braces were never bent.

The WU also had their own circuits on the pole line and these pulled off the trackside pole line somewhere downtown, thence to the local WU office along alleys and streets. This was for WU revenue service.

As an aside, the railroad families also had very nice sturdy clothes lines courtesy of waste WU galvanized wire.

It is a bit difficult to condense an operation such as WU into a relative small posting. If you have some specific questions still not answered, please ask. Also be mindful that I am not a historian, and do suffer from a few gaps in memory due to age.

-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (curtisd@northarkansas.net), January 07, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ