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Insulators in Action 2006

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Pole Route Observations, October 2006
termination pole

This once busy pole demonstrates how a signal box connected to the main railway telegraph / telephone network and also to the various signals under its control.

The wires exit the box (out of shot to the left) over the railway lines and on to this termination pole. Each spindle originally had a Pothead on where the actual wire join was made. On the side facing the signal box there are provision for 64 insulators plus a pair on the pole top and a further 22 on the back side!

If you look carefully, you can actually see a fat wire bundle heading down the pole from the Potheads into the concrete trunking which would serve various boxes / switches and other signalling components within the station area. Originally these would have a used a shorter, local area network of poles.

The local main line pole route used a pole / spar capacity of 24 lines reducing to 12 within several miles. Of note is the top spar of the 24 line capacity poles, is offset and they are 6 insulators wide suggesting that the extra 2 top insulators may have contained 110v power lines with, possibly, red insulators.

These next 3 images are part of the above mentioned local network and were noted on the various station buildings

The first image is a fine Shackle array and probably carried power wires to the original platform lighting with possibly 6 supply lines and a common return, the bottom shackle.

The middle image shows a Large Pothead situated on an island building. The lead off wire remains, it has been overpainted and, unfortunately the lid has gone.

The third shows Wade Potheads, 1 stamped W.S.3721, sited on the opposite side of the building to the shackles and judging by the angle / direction in which they face, supplied telephone connections to the nearby goods / warehousing buildings.

shackle insulators large pothead potheads insulators

The image below shows one of the 24 wire capacity poles mentioned earlier and visible near the top right, if you look carefully, is the offset extended spar, capable of taking 6 insulators in a 4 + 2 configuration. The extra outer 2 fixing points usually hold 110v lines on, if you are lucky, Red Cordeau insulators, or more likely, in areas outside the midland region by white variants possibly stamped, if they are from late 30s and made by Bullers, with a 'P' along with the usual Bullers logo, date etc.

telegraph pole

This particular pole has already had these 2 extra insulators removed and the remaining insulators were standard Bullers, dated 1964 and some Wade variants stamped with the letter code 'D'.

Further down the line, pole tops with 3 spars and 12 insulators were found, these insulators also dated 1964 intermixed with older Bullers 1933 and 1939 LNER stamped medium Terminators, Bullers Ltd standard Cordeaus and Bullers 1946 Potheads.

The predominence of 1964 insulators suggest the line may have been upgraded or substantially repaired in or soon after this date.

Not exactly in use
Smashed Insulators

This pile represents a 2sq meter dig at an old insulator dump. Nothing intact was recovered this time except for a nearly complete BULLER, JOBSON & CO LD DUDLEY, ENGLAND shackle because of its good marking

The pile consists of only early Shackles, Langdons (mainly treble sheds), Varley's No.8s and Zs

I recovered a large pile of brown Varley pieces, some stamped, JOHNSON & NEPHEW, MANCHESTER, VARLEYS No8, something JOBSON (Howard or Edward) and some nicely stamped white Bullers Z's

Blackpool - August 2006

This style of insulator is used all along the Blackpool Tram overhead catenary


I'm not sure what to call this insulator. Its main purpose appears to provide separation between the overhead catenary support wires and the actual power line

They could be classed as a standoff yet they are inexplicably double shedded. The top wire, the support wire, is clamped between two plates and fastened by a domed nut, probably in brass or copper

I was unable to find any makers mark on them or any form of identification. If you know more about them please email me.

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You can hide but you can't run, August 2006

Hidden away in the roof structure of Carlisle station sits many an overpainted insulator, wireless and forgotten, oh, and covered in Pigeon poo!

Terminator Insulator Terminator Insulator

I was a bit cautious taking the right hand photo as the Shackles are situated directly above the Transport Police office so a quick trip up onto the foot bridge to hide behind a pillar seemed less suspicious, (well it did at the time). The mesh above the shackles is used to keep pigeons at bay.

Pothead Insulator

These Taylor Tunnicliff Potheads were noted high up on abuilding side Carlisle town center.

Also noted at the time were the lack of obvious poles and insulators, most telephone wires appear to be underground or out of site at the rear of buildings

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2542s in use and in colour! June 2006

Whilst passing through a small village north of Tewkesbury I noticed this rather busy power pole

As can be seen in the accompanying image the main supply wires appear to be fixed to 2542 insulators in White, Brown and Green variants

My only concern about labelling them 2542s is their relative size to the shackles on the opposite side of the pole. If they are of conventional size i.e. relatively small, then the 2542s must also be a smaller variant, or the 2542s are 2542s and the shackles are larger than normal but I plump for the former choice in which case they are small 2542s!

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Make do and mend, May 2006

Old colliery sites are, for me, fast becoming good hunting grounds. A recent trip to a local valley top revealed an old interchange siding site connecting a colliery to the railway.

Yard lighting, or rather the power supply for the yard lighting used a short run of poles, supporting a good mix of interesting insulators.

Of note are the cast pole tops, typical of LNWR and MR lines but not the GWR, however this line, in the middle of a Great Western Railway area, was originally LNWR and these have probably been reused after the line north of this point was closed in the 1950s


Pole number 1 in the sequence at the start of the yard contains both shackles and medium terminators


Pole number 2 contains the NEW Bullers 2542 top grooved fat line insulator.


Pole 3 consists of 4 black Telenduron (still looking for info on this material) shackles and as on the previous poles, empty spindles.


Pole 4 uses a right mix of white and brown shackles and medium terminators to complete the power supply on this side of the yard before turning 2 wires 90 degrees across the yard to one final pole

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An Eclectic Electric Collection

Further along from the previous colliery exchange sidings are two high voltage power line poles complete with their insulators but devoid of power wires.

These may also have served the local colliery and due to the inconsistent makeup of the pole route was possibly a colliery owned power line. No two adjacent poles contain the same arrangement of insulators or spars, a right mish mash


The first photo demonstrates this make up perfectly. Rolled steel channel spars set well below the top of the pole and provision for 2 + 4 wires, not your regular 3 wire power line.

Note the weather worn pin, it can get quite rough up on this mountain top, and what about those unusual (though in this case broken) power transmission insulators? insulator

The next pole along consist of complete trio of probably P5065 insulators on what appears to a makeshift framework (note provision only for 3 wires this time?) situated as you would expect near and around the pole top.

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Out of Service, April 2006

Near the site of the now cleared South Celynen Colliery there is a flight of steps from the road down the bank to a disused platform on the Newport to Ebbw Vale line.


At each end of these step stands a pole with a group of shackles, their purpose to transfer power from the road street lighting down to the platform lighting.

The power conduit leading down to the light can be seen complete with its cranked neck, designed to keep moisture out and its flared opening to avoid wire chaffing.

Each pole had an attractive enamel 'DANGER live wires' sign, sadly all had suffered from the pellet gun and only 1 was worth saving.

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Out of Service Part 2

On the other side of the valley, an access road for the colliery sits abandoned amongst the trees, demolition rubble and a semi filled in canal

So much rough landscaping has been done around this area that the road now starts nowhere, goes nowhere and even an offshoot over the river to the colliery site has been cut short with the removal of river bridge

Other than the physical road surface the only other clues to its uses are sequence of 4 street lighting poles. Each has a single power supply shackle and lamp head except for the pole at the road T junction which has 2 shackles, 1 for the offshoot over the bridge and beyond and the other to continue the run along the road.

Out of Service Part 3
insulators insulators

I found this pole top at what I assume is the start of the street light run. It contains two brown terminators impressed J&P LTD.

They are comparable in size to a standard shackle except for the obvious top hat section

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A 1978 Pothead ? - April 2006
pothead insulator

This lovely Bullers Pothead sits on a factory gatehouse in Lydney. It's worthy of note just for the dated Bullers stamp, 1978!

I'm surprised to find that Bullers where still producing the No.16 in 1978, 1975 being my previous newest example.

This raises the question as to when production stopped of this pattern and infact at what point did demand dry up for telephone insulators?

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What no pole?

At Purton (West side of the Severn), the railway squeezes between the The Severn Estuary and the cliffs on a narrow ledge.

This leaves very little room for Telegraph poles so to overcome this, the railway had bolted a framework to a retaining wall and inturn bolted spars on to this structure. In total seven spars, coincidence, seven spars for a railway running along the river Severn!

The remaining insulators appear to be standard Cordeau with the bottom spar using 2 shackles.

Altogether there are 18 insulators remaining per framework and, in this section, 2 frameworks.

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Leyburn Shackles - March 2006

A quick glance at any railway building from past often reveals left overs from previous installations and at Leyburn on the Wensleydale line the goods shed is no exception.

At one end of the building these two shackle remain pointing down towards the goods yard, probably for a yard light.

An empty shackle bracket points up towards the apex of the roof where a vertical pole supports a further two shackles, probably the point at which power reached this end of the building from the station area.

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Sanquhar Shackles - March 2006

The derelict Brocks Fireworks factory at Sanquhar in Scotland provided a good hunting ground for low voltage electrical insulators.

At one end of a disused structure a cluster of shackles divided power to the varying lights in and around the buildings. The left hand group of three sent power out to the yard lighting via three small brown shackles.

The corresponding yard light trio lay on the floor still attached to the pole top and were easy pickings. Once cleaned up they proclaimed their origin as E.O.A, The Electrical and Ordnance Accessories Co Ltd, Birmingham, a testament to the sites last use as a military pyrotechnics factory in 1988.

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High Voltage Variations, February 2006

This busy power transmission pole contains a total of 21 insulators, 3 circuit breakers and some substantial bracketry.

The vertical rod leading up between the left and middle row of insulators is the circuit breaker actuator and is controlled by a simple latch further down the pole, padlocked of course.

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glass insulators
Glass Treble Sheds

I have noticed several pole routes in the North of England use glass treble shedded insulators on their 3 wire pole routes.

I have been unable to obtain an example and photographic evidence has not revealed the maker. If any one can shed any information (no pun intended) on these or offer an example for the collection, I would be most grateful

Update July 2006 - Graeme, Australia

I quote from Graeme's email...

I may be wrong but the large multi part on the top appears to be a CD-370 Armourlight Copper Top (see attached photo) and the 3 discs look the same as some used in Australia and marked by sand blasting ARMOURLIGHT on them.

The CD-370 is also used in the Eastern States of Australia while the CD-344.2 (see attached photo) copper top is widely used in Western Australia and I am lucky enough to have approx 500 of them in a 20km radius of my home but all have 30,000 volts hooked up to them, DAMN!!!.

I believe this is quite possible as ARMOURLIGHT is a BRITISH company. Hope this is of some help.

glass insulators
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Large Potheads, February 2006

A recent exploration across the country has revealed that the large Pothead is few and far between and generally unobtainable.

large pothead large pothead
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A Sad End? February 2006
insulator dump

There seems to be no logic as to demolition of a pole route.

In some instances the poles are removed wholesale, complete with insulators, anchors and wires.

On other occasions the poles are simply cut down, sent down the bank and left.

In this picture the usuable part of the pole has been retrieved for re-use by a farmer and the pole tops simply piled together and an attempt was made to burn them

A Sad End? Well not for some of these insulators, I managed to save a bagful of LMS stamped examples

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Sometimes You Can't See The Wood For The Trees, February 2006
telegraph pole

This lovely termination pole still stands in the garden of the station masters house at Haltwhistle

All the wires have been cut off but the Potheads remain intact, most with Telenduron lids. Closer inspection reveals the Potheads are fitted to double u, UU, brackets and are on the east facing arm of the U. No insulators remain on the west facing arm.

Extra brackets are visible on the end of the spars, these once being used to hold extra spars, turning the wires through 90 degrees before they cross over the line and enter the signal box

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Curiosities on the doorstep, January 2006

Pattern Number / maker unknown


It's true you know. You don't have to travel far to see some of the more unusual insulators used in this country.

I found these a mere 2 miles from home, on building next to a car park I have used practically weekly for the past 20 years!

They appear to be power supply single fixing Shackles with a built in Pothead and a mix of Terminator for good measure, white porcelain with a gloss brown glaze, multi ridged and I expect, screw threaded onto the spindle

Remnants of the power line can be seen hanging from the bottom insulator and loop from a wire anchor point can be discerned at the base of the top spindle.

A major redevelopment of the carpark and surrounding area is due, so I need to keep a keen eye on these beauties if I am to add them to the collection

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Large lids on show, January 2006

The Heads of the Valley, A465 is undergoing a major transformation from 3 lanes to 4 and as a consequence much clearance work has been undertaken and many previously unobserved things have come to light.

One of these is a pole situated near a roundabout which is to be completely remodelled. A quick photo stop revealed this to have 4 double groove Potheads with large lids.

insulator photo

The white Potheads have the Bullers Trademark logo on the side but I was unable to see the date, but more interestingly, the black Pothead appears to be shiny and is either a relatively new Telenduron example, as yet, unaffected by weathering or more interestingly a gloss black glazed variant!

All four are unused and in mint condition

This looks like another pole to keep a close eye on

PS Has anyone ever seen a gloss black Pothead or other insulator?

Update, February 2006

Another look at the above pole reveals the gloss black insulator to be a normal faded(?) Telenduron example. The original camera shot still shows what is a shiny Pothead, it wasn't raining or anything daft, very odd!

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A gaggle of Wades (probably), January 2006
wade insulators

The fine collection of Potheads and small Terminators is by no means the biggest display seen but it's one those poles you take for granted, driving by it every day, never taking any notice until ....

So, this time I stopped and took a photo. It was then that I realised there use to be a lovely blue enamel 'TELEPHONE' sign affixed halfway up the pole, directing people to a nearby phonebox but now it's no more, probably gracing a Telephone Engineers house somewhere

Anyway, back to the insulators, there appears to be 4 Wade double groove potheads each with their own ceramic lid and 2 bright white small Terminators