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Saturday 16 December

Telegraph Pole Project Update


The middle two weekends of November saw further progress made with our telegraph pole project. Our objective is to reinstate the lineside telegraph pole route, initially between Havenstreet and Wootton. When this section has been finished we will consider the extent to which we can reinstate the pole run towards Smallbrook Junction.

During the first weekend’s work on 12 & 13 November and using the Wickham motor trolley as transport, we removed five redundant poles from the Up side of the line between Havenstreet station and Guilford Farm crossing, plus one from the Down side adjacent to the Goosefield Headshunt buffer stop. We also removed a pole located in the children’s play area at Havenstreet station which was showing early signs of decay at ground level. Finally, in a change of plan, two short poles which had been planted last year either side of Packsfield crossing were also removed.

Without access to mechanical plant during the first weekend, the poles were removed using hand-operated jacks approved specifically for the purpose. The poles were left temporarily alongside the holes from which they had been removed. Where we were certain that they wouldn’t be required again, the holes were backfilled. Others were left open in case they needed to be reused. These were marked by cones although the hole in the children’s play area was also encircled by a protective barrier.

For the work during the second weekend on 19 and 20 November we hired an excavator with an auger attachment, similar to the plant used in January 2015. Once again, long-standing member Martyn Budd kindly volunteered to travel from his home in Parracombe, Devon to operate the digger. Our works train for the weekend comprised BR Class 05 D2554 ‘Nuclear Fred’, the SR 20T Well B61056 and LSWR 10T Goods Brake Van 56046. This was, without doubt, the first occasion in very many years that ‘Fred’ had both provided motive power for a works train and reached Wootton.

Work on the Saturday focused initially on establishing the precise pole route between Havenstreet station and Guildford Farm crossing. We had concluded previously that this length would be on the Up side of the line, meaning that at Guildford Farm crossing the wires will cross beneath the line before continuing to Wootton on the Down side. It is important that poles don’t obstruct the sighting of fixed signals, from the perspective of both drivers and signalmen. In order to maintain these sightlines some of the poles needed to be placed at some distance from the track, at locations which could not be reached by the digger working from the train. With the route decided Martyn started work on drilling holes and then planting five new poles. The poles were ‘dressed’ prior to being lifted into position. Dressing involves the attachment of an inverted ‘V’-shaped ‘tin hat’ at the top (to prevent the ingress of rainwater), two cross-arms with insulators and four or five foot-steps.

While on the subject of insulators, it is appropriate here to offer thanks to various people who have contacted us and donated ceramic insulators, some in response to an appeal placed on the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society website (yes, it really does exist - the address is www.telegraphpoleappreciationsociety.org). We are especially grateful to Ian Bristow from Alford, Lincolnshire, who has kindly donated over 300 insulators for the project. Ian can be seen in the accompanying photograph, climbing his very own telegraph pole located in his front garden.

By 4.30 on Saturday afternoon, in the gathering gloom and with first named storm of the winter starting to discharge heavy rain, we had completed three poles, and with a replacement pole not required in the children’s play area that hole had also been filled and the surface made good.

Storm Angus arrived a little ahead of forecast and by 7.30, our Sunday morning start time, it had stopped raining and the wind (at least of the meteorological variety) had abated. However, we quickly regretted not covering the holes drilled the previous afternoon. In a scene reminiscent of an Ealing comedy, the author found himself using a bucket tied to a length of rope and bailing water out from the holes. “I thought it was only at Carisbrooke Castle where donkeys are used to draw water from wells” was, quite frankly, an unnecessary comment from one member of the gang (whose identity I will protect – but he knows who he is), although it did generate much mirth!

With the five poles completed at this location the works train journeyed to Packsfield crossing. Originally, we had intended taking the line wire beneath the road and so we planted a short pole on either side of the crossing. However, it was felt subsequently that the two short poles didn’t offer an authentic appearance and so we have decided to continue with the overhead route, meaning that the two short poles were replaced by a single tall one, giving sufficient overhead clearance for vehicular traffic using the crossing.

With our objectives for the weekend having been achieved, we returned to Havenstreet, ensuring that all redundant poles were recovered from the lineside and returned to the yard for disposal. Before unloading the digger, we also removed a stack of poles from alongside Griffin’s Curve.

We are now almost ready to start attaching wires to the insulators. The task of stringing the wires is expected to start during the second half of February. A mobile elevating work platform, more commonly known as a ‘cherry-picker’, will be hired to facilitate this work.

Ian Bristow

Ian Bristow,who has donated over 300 ceramic insulators for our project.   StuartDuddy

Robin Tagart using a jack

Robin Tagart using a jack to lift a redundant pole from the ground.  StuartDuddy

Pole and hole...

With the pole almost, but not quite fully clear of its hole it can be lowered safely down to the ground, the direction being guided by ropes.  Stuart Duddy

Steve Smart
Steve Smart tests a pole for signs of internal decay. Stuart Duddy
A fully dressed pole

A fully dressed pole is lifted into position.Stuart Duddy

Bailing water picture 1
Stuart Duddy bailing out water from one of the holes.  RobinTagart
Still bailing water...
And, more water...
Drilling a hole for the upper cross-arm...

Drilling the hole for the upper cross-arm. From left, Ian Corney, Steve Smart, Chris Parish and Martyn Budd. Stuart Duddy

The final pole being lifted into place

The final pole being lifted into place at Packsfield crossing, near Wootton.  Stuart Duddy

The short works train

The short works train, powered by BR Class 05 D2554 ‘Nuclear Fred’ is seen just outside Havenstreet Station, with a newly planted pole behind. Stuart Duddy






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