Monday, November 7, 2011

Insulators in the Wild

The  purpose of my motorcycle ride on Sunday was actually to stop and take photographs of this line of telegraph poles I spotted a few months ago from the local Wall Mart parking lot.  The line runs in the middle of a railroad yard tucked out of the way explaining it's existence still today in 2011.  A few aqua colored pieces are still in place but most of the insulators are clear glass dating to the 1930's and 40's.  All the wires have been snipped except for a pair of lines tied to porcelain power insulators visible in the photos.

In this photograph a pair of unusual looking bracketed insulators are mounted on the top cross arm just to the right of the pole.  Those two really have my interest piqued.  

Using the zoom lens of my little Cannon quickly degrades the quality of the image so I try to get as close to the poles as possible while minimizing use of the digital zoom.  Ideally I should be using my wife's SLR but that would be impractical to drag alone on the bikes.  The insulators are best observed by clicking and viewing the original images.

The intent of my "Insulators in the Wild" project is to find and photographically document the few telegraph lines that still exist in my home state of Ohio.  Hopefully these relics will be around for many more years to be enjoyed by those with the inclination to look.  It's apparent in many of my pictures that the ravages of time and exposure to the elements are slowly deconstructing the last evidence of the telegraph era.  In the last three years as an insulator collector my little sub-hobby of line hunting has become a rewarding pursuit in it's own respect.


  1. Looking at these pictures makes me sick. We used to have tons of these all along our tracks. Then they cut the lines. A few years later when the lines looked like this, a railroad crew came along the tracks took chainsaws and cut down the poles smashing most of the perfect insulators. I wish I had rented a ladder and rescued them before they were destroyed.

    1. I've searched around my house town in Massachusetts along the railroad there. Sadly, the glass is long gone. The best I found were about 15 stumps of poles, 7 remains of poles, 3 plastic insulators, and a rubber one. Very disheartening. Now I'm searching for all the insulators I can, the closer the better. I haven't had to go too far but sadly the result is I mostly just find downed poles with broken ones around them, and it's quite a bit of work not always yielding the finest results. In rare cases, a pole falls in a manir which does not injure the insulators. Also, if you are up for it, get all the pieces you can from one insulator, and glue them together. I did this with one I found in Maine, and discovered I was missing far more than I thought.

  2. recumbent conspiracy theoristNovember 8, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Yes, sad story Nate. And all too common. I've heard stories of crews taking down a line piling the poles, cross arms and insulators all in a big pile and buring it all. The only thing left was blobs of melted glass only recogizable by the blue color.

  3. I live near an abandoned l&n line in southern Illinois and I always hunt insulators there however I have come back with nothing yet.