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Telegraph Pole Project - 2015 Summary

The project to reinstate the telegraph pole route alongside our railway line has taken another significant step forward recently. Over two weekends in November the poles which were planted along the Havenstreet - Wootton section back in November 2014 and January 2015 were cut to the correct height and ‘dressed’. Dressing involves attaching to each pole a shaped metal ‘hat’ to prevent the ingress of rainwater, two cross-arms with insulators and three or four foot-steps.

On both weekends our works train was powered by Hunslet ‘Austerity’ WD192 'Waggoner'. We believe that this was the first time in several years that a steam locomotive has been used for an engineers’ train (other than for photographic charters). In addition to 'Waggoner', the train included two open wagons from the infrastructure fleet and three historic wagons, namely the SR 20T Well B61056 onto which a hired mobile elevating work platform, commonly known as a ‘cherry-picker’, had been loaded, LBSCR 10T Road Vehicle Truck 60579 and LSWR 10T Goods Brake Van 56046. The latter is the only brake van in our operational fleet to be fitted with a working stove and good use was made of this facility, as testified by the smoke curling from the chimney seen in the photographs.
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The steam powered works train, with the Cherry Picker in action, near the Forest crossing in Briddlesford Copse.
The initial focus for the first weekend was to shorten the over-height poles. Ideally, all would be the same height but a few were already a little on short side and so there was nothing which could be done about these. Operating the chain saw from the cherry-picker basket was Pete Corby who had kindly volunteered to assist on a rest- day. We are also grateful to Jim Dunlop who works for BT alongside our own Steve Smart. Having travelled from his home on the mainland Jim joined us on both days during the first weekend.

After cutting the over-height poles to the agreed length, the tops were shaped so that the hats could be nailed into place. We didn’t have quite enough in stock but the shortfall was made up using a sheet of galvanised metal and an angle grinder.
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With Jim Dunlop looking on, Pete Corby saws the top of a pole so that the shaped metal ‘hat’ can be attached later. The new dormouse Bridge can been seen in the distance, above Briddlesford bridge.
Whilst Pete and Jim worked in the basket, the remainder of the small gang prepared the cross-arms by screwing on the insulators. Where possible, we cleaned and reused the original insulator spindles but having exhausted our supply of originals we resorted to using threaded bar (which has been largely concealed by a short length of copper sleeve which will become dull over time) and a few winds of insulation tape to secure the insulator.

In order to not compromise the timber preservative applied to the poles, it is desirable to affix the cross-arms without chiselling out notches. We were therefore grateful to our engineering workshop colleagues who, using a specially fabricated jig, made a large quantity of curved brackets. With a bracket screwed to each arm the curved face fits neatly against the pole and prevents the arm from moving, despite it being held by a single bolt.

The weather was especially unpleasant on the first Saturday and we were all appreciative of the little coal-fired stove which had been lit in the brake van and which produces a remarkable degree of heat for its size. The bacon rolls, with rashers ably cooked in the locomotive firebox on all four days by the duty fireman, were also very popular.
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In the absence of a conventional oven, Fireman Chris Parish improvises by cooking bacon for lunch in the firebox of Hunslet ‘Austerity’ WD192 'Waggoner'.
In more clement weather, the Sunday was spent fixing arms to the poles and good progress was made. Two arms are being fixed to each pole, the upper arm having four insulators and the lower arm two. 

During the following week, the works train was used by the rail infrastructure team to undertake some surgery on those trees overhanging the pole run and along the lineside in general. 

The Saturday of the second weekend saw efforts concentrated on completing the job of fixing of the cross-arms and then our attention turned to ‘stepping’ the poles, a job which continued throughout the Sunday. Although there are a few exceptions, mainly at locations where the line is in a cutting, we have fixed to each pole two ‘working steps’, which are placed opposite each other near the top, and two ‘climbing’ steps below.

During the second weekend and utilising a couple of spare gang-members we also started burning some of the vegetation which had been sawn down during the preceding week.
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Steve Smart (left) and Jim Dunlop fixing cross-arms to a pole.
Before we can commence the task of wiring the route between Havenstreet and Wootton, we still have approximately eight poles which require attention, all on the Up (Havenstreet) side of Guildford Farm crossing. However, we have encountered a problem which was not entirely unexpected, and that is one of sourcing the ceramic pin insulators. We are very grateful to Jake Rideout who read our appeal for insulators on The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society website and who travelled to the Island back in August to donate over 50 from his collection.

 If anyone knows the whereabouts of a supply of suitable telephone insulators, please contact either Steve Smart or myself (Stuart Duddy) c/o the Railway.  With six insulators required for every pole, another 40-50 will be sufficient to complete the Wootton section, but if we are to continue the project along the longer length between Havenstreet and Smallbrook Junction we will need to source 600-700!
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A long line of telegraph poles stretching from MP6 to MP6½, all with cross-arms but awaiting the attachment of foot-steps and the fixing of wires.

Join The Team...

The telegraph pole project is a volunteer initiative, we are always on the lookout for new members to join the enthusiastic team that keeps the railway's wheels in motion!  If you would like to join us, visit the Volunteering Information page for more information.

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