Thursday, July 17, 2008

Historic redwood telegraph poles

From: "Doyle Rowntree"

Regarding your article on the 1864 redwood telegraph pole. Working for the Southern Pacific in West Texas in the 1970's I noticed a few old poles along the right of way (some were still in service) that appeared cut in a very similar manner to the one pictured. These poles were quite aged looking, had a tapered rectangular cut and not a rounded taper as you would now expect a pole to have. In fact the information put out back then is that they were redwood and dated to construction of the line in that part of Texas (1880's). Most of those remaining poles that I noticed were west of the Pecos River which would make sense as the Pecos River area was where the Southern Pacific construction crews working east met the GH&SA (Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio) line advancing to the west.

As information, most people assume that the "H" in GH&SA stands for Houston. Harrisburg is now a forgotten suburb of Houston. However, in the 1850's when construction commenced (it took this line 30 years to progress to West Texas), this line originated at Harrisburg, completely bypassing Houston. Only later was a connection built to Houston.


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


... I'm wondering ... how Chris Graves determined with certainty that the section of square telegraph pole he found dates to 1864.

Square former-telegraph poles are still quite numerous along the Union Pacific (ex-SP) main line north of Bakersfield. The poles are now being used for the signal line. It seems unlikely that any of them could be older than 1905 since the July 7, 1905 Morning Echo (Bakersfield) reported that new standard telegraph poles were being installed between Bakersfield and Fresno. So, it seems likely that square telegraph poles were installed along SP rail lines at least several years into the 20th century.

By the way, the museum in Tehachapi has a section of a square Western Union telegraph pole complete with crossarms and insulators.

—John Sweetser

7/18/2008 11:28 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Doyle Rowntree"

Interesting point, regarding the signal line. In Texas (Southern Pacific, the 1970's, west of San Antonio) the signal pole line (voltage) was on the north side of the right of way. The telephone and teletype lines were on the south side, including the old Morse circuits (not in use then, but wires were still there). This practice existed for 600 or so miles with very few exceptions.

I do not know if the old redwood looking poles may have dated to construction of the line (1880's) or were added later. The block signals were installed just prior to or about the time of World War I (Harriman Type Style "B" Lower Quadrant Semaphores). This would make an interesting twist to try and determine when the redwood type poles were installed.

Too many years ago, I do not recall if I saw the few remaining poles of this type on the north or south sides of the right of way.

7/19/2008 2:11 PM  
Blogger Kaster06 said...

We are a small sawmill in oregon as we haw a stack of old growth redwood square tapered poles about 6’-10’ long they have they have the same look and the same looking holes, but they run all the way up the pole. we were told that is from spikes when they climbed up i believe. Do you have any info on price or know someone that would want them to save?

1/25/2022 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kaster06,

We can make inquiry if you will provide an e-mail address.

1/26/2022 8:25 AM  

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