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Telegraph Pole Project - Spring 2017 Update

Further good progress has been made with the project to restore the telegraph pole run between Havenstreet and Wootton during the second half of February. Once again, we hired a mobile elevating work platform, more commonly known as a ‘cherry picker’, to facilitate the work. 

The intention for the two consecutive weekends was to complete the overhead work in attaching cables to the insulators along the entire length of line between Havenstreet and Wootton, and by 17.00 on Sunday 26 February our objective had been achieved.

The cherry picker arrived quite early on Friday 17 February and was lifted onto 
SR 20T Well B61056 and secured using nylon ratchet straps. During the afternoon a works train was formed, with the SR Well wagon sandwiched between two engineers’ dropside wagons and BR 20T Ballast Plough Brake Van ‘Shark’ DB993853, into which a working coal-fired stove had recently been installed. Motive power for the train was provided by BR Class 03 D2059.
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The works train, with the cherry picker mounted on the Well Wagon is seen close to Havenstreet Station on the morning of Saturday, 18th February.
During the preceding week, a significant number of trees along the lineside had been felled at ground level and so when a large gang mustered on a bright, sunny Saturday 18 February, we were able to split into two teams – one focusing on the telegraph project and the other in disposing copious quantities of brash.

Work to install the cable started at Havenstreet, at the pole planted alongside the Down Starting signals last November. Each pole has been equipped with six insulators – four on the upper cross-tree and two on the lower.  However, it has been decided that, for the time being, we will run just two cables between Havenstreet and Wootton but, for effect, the length on the Up (north) side of the line between Havenstreet station and Guildford Farm crossing should be equipped with four.
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Steve Smart (left) and Jim Dunlop attaching cables along the length between Havenstreet station and Guildford Farm crossing.
Historically, copper alloy open wire would have been attached to the insulators. However, the cable, part-drums of which have been generously donated to our project by BT and which would otherwise have been scrapped, is insulated and actually contains four pairs of wires. Therefore, by running two cables, we will have capacity for eight circuits.  

In fine, early-spring weather rapid progress was made. Well before lunchtime we had attached four cables to the five poles between Havenstreet and Guildford Farm crossing, at which point the cables will pass beneath both the line and the crossing before continuing overhead on the Down (south) side of the line. From this point onwards, just two cables were attached, using the insulators closest to the pole on the upper cross-tree. By the end of the first day we had surprised ourselves by reaching Briddlesford Forest crossing although, on the downside, we discovered that the cabled-stayed pole immediately on the Havenstreet side of Bridge 12 had decayed considerably since its last inspection and would require imminent replacement.
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Whilst the pole work continues a separate gang prepares material for burning. The 'Bonfire Boys' are (from left) Peter Keeling, Ian Corney, Matt Evans and Steve Castle.
Knowing that the cherry picker would be used during the following week to remove some of the larger boughs overhanging the pole route, we decided to switch our attention away from the wooded section through Briddlesford Copses and so the Sunday saw us focus on the length between the Wootton Down Distant signal and Wootton station. This section, known as the ‘Long Curve’, runs through open countryside and can be bleak during inclement weather. 

We started at the distant signal, where the existing cross-arm attached to the lattice signal post was levelled before attaching two ceramic insulators. Less favourable weather resulted in slower progress compared to the previous day but by the end of Sunday we had reached the Up end of the platform at Wootton.

During the run back to Havenstreet we stopped at several locations to load into the dropside wagons some of the larger tree limbs which had been cut into manageable lengths. These were later off-loaded into the barn field, ready for collection by staff and volunteers wanting fuel for their wood-burning stoves.
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Some time was spent levelling the cross-tree attached to the Wootton Down Distant signal and attaching ceramic insulators. Graham Deegan is seated on the signal platform whilst Steve Castle (left) and Steve Smart work from the cherry picker basket.
The first job on the following weekend was to jack out the decayed pole adjacent to Briddlesford bridge. Unsurprisingly, the process of jacking out the pole caused it to snap just above ground level meaning that removal of the stump proved quite challenging. Nevertheless, it eventually succumbed and became fuel for one of several lineside fires that day.

Work then recommenced at Briddlesford Forest crossing where we had stopped seven days earlier and progress continued as far as Woodhouse crossing where, once again, the wires will take a short underground route using armoured cable.
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Steve Castle (left) and Steve Smart secure the line wire close to Woodhouse Crossing during the second weekend of work.
The final day started with a replacement pole being ‘walked’ into the hole vacated by its predecessor 24 hours earlier, after which our attention turned to the final overhead stretch between MP 6½ and Woodhouse crossing. Where possible, we also cleated cables to those poles where there will be joints.

The remaining work can be completed largely from the ground or safely from a ladder. This will comprise installing junction boxes (ideally on the side of the pole furthest from the line so that they cannot be seen from passing trains) and also the underground lengths, of which there will be four: Havenstreet signal box to the Down Starting signals, beneath both Guildford Farm and Woodhouse crossings and a length of about 200 yards where a two pairs of 33kV lines cross the line near MP 6½. The connection to Wootton signal cabin remains outstanding and we also need to run the cables through Bridge 12 but, mindful of its structural condition, we’ll probably have to forego the traditional means by which telegraph wires passed through bridges and simply pass the cables through two eye bolts already secured to the abutments. It may also be necessary to install cable-stays to a couple of poles. It is hoped that much of this work can be completed in better weather during the coming months.
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Using a length of binding wire, the cables are secured to the insulators using the same method that would have been employed for open wires.
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The works train near Woodshouse Crossing on Saturday 25th February.  Further burning of lineside debris is also in progress.







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