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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Approaching Winter and the "Singing" Pole Lines

Date: 11/19/16 20:08
Approaching Winter and the "Singing" Pole Lines
Author: rrman6

Here in Western Kansas the weather for this past October and now November have been remarkable record makers with many warm days, when in years past we'd be seeing snow by now.  These memories bring back some first signs of winter, when freezing rain would first approach, followed by a larger snow fall and blizzard that would bring out the wedge plows or Jordan spreaders.  

Here's my seasonal memories of the railroads (Rock Island, Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific, Union Pacific, etc.) communications pole lines that were the subjects of the initial light coating of frosty-ice buffeted by the icy Kansas wind that turned the lines into dancing and humming musical instruments with their majestic harmonics phenomena.  This musical performance was like watching a Broadway dance line.  As the moisture continued to collect on the wires the ice briefly glistened with the sun from miniscule breaks in the heavy snow clouds, as the ice built heavier with time.  By now, the wires were dancing rhythmically, more fiercly with the winds, until at some point some wires began breaking, ceasing phone, telegraph, and signal circuits.

God Bless the poor linemen and signalmen who later would have to arrive by truck and motor car (speeder- long before HyRail vehicles) bringing new poles, wire, insulators, cross arms, etc. for repairs.  Only after attaching their climbing gaffs to their legs and tool/supply bags at their wastes, did these linemen make it to a point between wires at the cross arms to restring or attach new wires and tension them before tying to the insulators.  Tough work thats now mostly history as signal circuits through the rail and cable, and radio and wireless communications have replaced the old pole line of multiple wires.

Each winter, I do miss the harmonic music of these wires, but I know those who worked these jobs are much safer and may enjoy their work moreso in the current age, traveling the rails in a HyRail vehicle outfitted for a specific job, traveling the rail parallel to a property line that once was home to this very necessary pole line.

Hope some here may share their experiences dealing with these pole lines and that all here may enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends while others await the dreadful Black Friday experience I'm not a fan of.  Commercialization of the season seems to have nearly wiped Thanksgiving Day from the calendar if it wasn't for the grocers pedaling their dinner items.  Anyway, enjoy the day and be thankful to God for our "Freedom" in this Great U.S.A.!!  

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/19/16 20:09 by rrman6.

Date: 11/20/16 10:54
Re: Approaching Winter and the "Singing" Pole Lines
Author: spnudge

With open wire, that is how you sagged it in between poles. Slap & Time. You would hit the wire and time how long it took to come back. Didn't "sing" but on long spans, it was an art.


Date: 11/20/16 15:41
Re: Approaching Winter and the "Singing" Pole Lines
Author: wa4umr

Obviously, the telephone companies had the same problems.  I retired from one of the local companies 14 years ago. 
The East Coast blizzard of 1888 was massive.  It shut down just about everything between New York and Boston.  Twenty inches of snow became fifty foot drifts in the 45 MPH winds.  Nothing was moving.  There was a fire in New York City and the fire department a block away couldn’t get to it and the building burned down.  Trains were stopped, wires were down, families remained where ever they could gather and shelter.  The storm lasted for four days. 

A 23-year old telephone man, Angus McDonald was responsible for a part of the long-distance telephone lines in the area.   For days, Angus walked the route in show shoes, repairing downed and broke wires and maintaining or restoring service through the storm.  Other employees did the same but he was immortalized in a company painting that was used in company advertisements of the time.  (Here’s the train connection to this story.)  Notice in the background of the picture that there is a train.  Angus is credited with bringing supplies to the stranded train that was near his route.

The “Telephone Pioneers of America” is a community and service organization of Bell System employees.   The “Spirit of Service” painting is one of the logo of that organization.
I’m sure that there are others in just about any industry that are heroes of their day.  Like most businesses that have been around for a hundred years or more, service commitments of the companies fall far short of the commitments of yesteryear.  Individuals today, while committed to doing a good job, find it hard to go that extra mile for a company that is only looking at the bottom line.  Those that must work out in the awful weather deserve a little extra, whether it be on the polls, cutting cars, fighting fire, or whatever.


Date: 11/20/16 17:45
Re: Approaching Winter and the "Singing" Pole Lines
Author: PHall

Yeah, it's kinda hard to even get a "good job" these days from the Managers at AT&T.
Today, it's the numbers and share holder return that counts. Costomers are looked upon as a "problem".

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