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Date: 01/23/23 07:29
Telegraph poles
Author: RailDawg

As far as the eye can see along the old CPRR and WP routes across Nevada stretch old telegraph poles. 

Most still decorated with insulators and holding wire off the ground. Signs say "High Voltage" and even though many wires are cut and on the ground I still hesitate to touch them out of long-ingrained instinct. 

As our messages these days fly through the air or through fiber-optics I have to wonder the future of these stalwarts of railroading.  

Any of you know what will become of the old telegraph lines? 

Chuck

 



Date: 01/23/23 07:49
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: tomstp

Amazing the wire has not been stolen.



Date: 01/23/23 07:53
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: zr190

Probably not solid copper wire (either steel or copper clad) which isn't worth the effort to
the scrappers.  If the signs are saying high voltage, they are no doubt signal circuits.
zr190



Date: 01/23/23 08:00
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: BAB

There were lines across the Cascades heading for Seattle that were still activated and still stolen.  Takes real guts to cut down live wire.



Date: 01/23/23 08:46
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: timz

> If the signs are saying high voltage,
> they are no doubt signal circuits.

Are/were 2300-volt signal wires bare metal -- no insulation?



Date: 01/23/23 08:57
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: railstiesballast

On some segments of the SP there was a pair of AC power wires.  IIRC about 550 volts.
It was used to power battery chargers and convenience outlets at signal houses and in some cases mobile housing (camp cars or Univan trailers).



Date: 01/23/23 11:13
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: webmaster

Did any of the railroads ever get into the electrical utility business? Seems like a good business to go into back when electrical transmission technology came onto the scene and the railroads already had right-of-ways.

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



Date: 01/23/23 11:20
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: sf1010

webmaster Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Did any of the railroads ever get into the
> electrical utility business? Seems like a good
> business to go into back when electrical
> transmission technology came onto the scene and
> the railroads already had right-of-ways.

Don't know if any got into electric utility biz, but Sprint grew out of SP's fiber network.



Date: 01/23/23 12:02
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: WAF

Milw made a bundle to Montana Power off of their substations



Date: 01/23/23 12:08
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: NDHolmes

I don't have a picture of such a pole offhand, but many of the western roads would have high voltage power circuit somewhere on the pole.  "High voltage" in this sense is relative.  Roads that had relatively available commercial power tended to run lower voltages on the outer pins of one of the crossarms (generally a lower one) and typically marked with different insulators.  Often this was 440V nominal, but I've seen regular old 120 and 240 as well as 880, so it was really what the road and application called for.  These sorts of voltages could be brought into the signal box and transformed there.  Other western roads without commercial power usually ran higher voltages - 2300 and 4400 being common - that would be transformed on the pole just like commercial power.  UP generally ran 4400V AC on the top arm as a power line to feed the signal boxes.  All bare wire, or if there was insulation, it definitely wasn't going to protect anybody against those voltages.

There's an old saying - if it's not grounded, it's not dead. (And by "grounded" I don't just mean lying on the ground - I mean actually electrically bonded to a neutral conductor and an appropriate permanent earth ground.)  Stray induction currents just from running parallel to the high voltage lines far enough can be more than enough to knock you on the rear or worse.  Plus, unless you can inspect the entire length of the "dead" wire, you don't know if it might have broken and crossed with an energized circuit somewhere up the line.  If you can see both ends of the cut wire and it's just draped over the arm and not touching anything, it's not going to hurt you.  Otherwise, be safe and avoid them.  99 times out of 100 it's probably no big deal, but even 440V can mess you up pretty bad.  I've seen poles come over on signal systems (ex-RI in eastern Iowa) that had been dead for over a decade, and there was still live 440 on the power pair because two miles away it was feeding a grade crossing. 

The lines that are still in the air are almost entirely signal circuits (typically relatively low voltage, ignoring induced currents) or the power circuit.  Any telegraph or dedicated telephone use of those wires is long gone with maybe a couple of tiny exceptions.  That's not to say telegraph and telephone may not have been on those same poles at one time, but they're long disused at this point.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/23 13:51 by NDHolmes.



Date: 01/23/23 12:25
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: NDHolmes

WAF Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Milw made a bundle to Montana Power off of their substations

Good point, I'd forgotten about that one.  The 100kV power line that parallelled the MILW across Montana was sold to Montana Power after the abandonment and used to move power across the state.  Still is.  There's still a lot of the Milwaukee construction and I make an effort to photograph what's left every time I get up there, but there's also spots where NorthWestern Energy (successor to MPC) has been doing upgrades and the line now rides on modern towers and insulators.  

Actually realized from the same trip I do have a UP pole as an example at McCammon, ID.  The power conductors are easy to pick out.  (The top-most wire may be a lightning shield / ground conductor or may be something else, but is part of the power system.)  Note that the bottom is labeled "probably signal circuits" - without the engineering diagrams, you have no way to be sure what these are carrying.  They may be using a pair or two to move lower voltage power from the transformer off the top lines between signal boxes.

 






Date: 01/23/23 13:16
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: TAW

NDHolmes Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> There's an old saying - if it's grounded, it's not
> dead.

Isn't that if it's NOT grounded...?

TAW



Date: 01/23/23 13:52
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: NDHolmes

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Isn't that if it's NOT grounded...?
 
D'oh!  That's what I get for trying to write/edit a reply while on a conference call.
 



Date: 01/23/23 14:32
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: sf1010

NDHolmes Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> TAW Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Isn't that if it's NOT grounded...?
>  
> D'oh!  That's what I get for trying to write/edit
> a reply while on a conference call.
>  

I hope you didn't say anything inappropriate on the conference call...



Date: 01/23/23 14:47
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: Jimbo

A nice discussion.  

Some railroads had separate signal and communication pole lines, on opposite sides of the track.  The communication pole line usually had glass insulators.

Jim



Date: 01/23/23 15:26
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: PHall

zr190 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Probably not solid copper wire (either steel or
> copper clad) which isn't worth the effort to
> the scrappers.  If the signs are saying high
> voltage, they are no doubt signal circuits.
> zr190

Most of the wire used on railroad open wire circuits was steel wire with a copper cladding. Not a lot of scrap value as many a metal thief has discovered the hard way.
Scrap value of copper is pretty good, steel wire not so much.
Telephone and telegraph circuits have 48 volts DC on them. Signal circuits, depending on what kind it is can be higher as in up to 186 volts.
The top crossarm is where the "dangerous" power lives and can be anywhere from 230 volts AC all the way up to 3300 volts AC.
The AC power runs stuff like battery chargers for signals and signal equipment is the equipment cabinets. 



Date: 01/23/23 16:23
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: Alco251

Well into the 1980s I spotted poles along ATSF and SP in California with Western Union markings on them. This one was near Woodford in Tehachapi. Never really got an exoplanation as to why the oles were marked for WUT--some sort of joint facility?




Date: 01/23/23 18:13
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: sf1010

Western Union probably set the poles.  Many of the utility poles near me in North Idaho are marked GTE, because that is who originally set them.  Power (Northern Lights Co-op) runs on them too.



Date: 01/23/23 18:27
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: Paniolo_man

On the Ogden Sub they have been installing Solar Panels near a handful of the signals in areas that seem like a hassle to maintain the wires. The first set was installed several years ago in the Bear River Canyon and was almost immediately shot to pieces by local hooligans. They just got around to replacing those panels back in October, hopefully these ones last longer. The biggest issue with these panel installations is that these numb-brained rural folk see red whenever they see anything they deem to be environmentally friendly. UP is doing this to save money, the planet has nothing to do with it.

As far as the glass insulators go, I picked up a few that fell on the ground along a stretch of track where they burried their power and signal cables just outside Green River Utah.






Date: 01/23/23 23:15
Re: Telegraph poles
Author: djscrizzle

In my experience in Colorado, a contractor will respond to a bid request that gets put out by the railroad involved, they negotiate, and seal a deal. Then the poles fall, and everything gets cleaned up by the work crew.
Whole poles usually get left with farmers & other interests along the ROW or hauled off to a landfill. Scrap metal such as wire and pole hardware gets recycled. Those pole line removal jobs provided some good finds as an insulator collector goes.

In December of 2020, BNSF had a guy I know clear off the stretch between MP605 and NA Junction on the BNSF Pueblo Sub. The crew took about a week to clear off about 15 miles of pole-line. I was able to get some of the ex MOP wire line, insulators and crossarms donated to the Rock Island Depot restoration project in Calhan, where a chunk of the former CRI&P pole line has been returned to service.
This pole-line had #4 covered ACSR feeding power to everything, and the signal ckts were #10 copperweld. In a few spots, there were short spans of #6 HD Copper, but this was the exception.
I also found some decently collectable insulators while recovering material for the project in Calhan. They included various HGCo, OVGCo, and Hawley beehives in aqua and even a couple lime green ones.
The interesting thing to note, is this line had 2 brown or white Illinois no. 119 porcelain beehives on the 550v power pair, along with occasional Hemingray-660s and Pyrex 62s mixed in. This went on for well over 150 miles, out towards Scott City, KS back when Colorado Pacific RR still had their poles up. This part of the pole line between about Ordway and Towner, CO came down some time in 2020, leaving whatever's standing along the K&O part of the old MOP main.



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