Aerial Wire Toll Lead Obituaries

Rest in Peace 1843 – 2020


Aerial Wire Toll Lead Obituaries


Here we enumerate many of the major and some minor departed . . . aerial wire leads having passed into time invisible. . .  Only photos, a few artifacts and memories can do them partial justice . . . in our recollection of them.  Cable trenches became their graves and . . . the ‘spirit of service’ passed to a new generation of technology.


1920s Dakota Central’s open wire lead

This photo of the Geddes, South Dakota Community Methodist Church dedication in the late 1920s, clearly includes a 12-pin Dakota Central Telephone Company open wire structure in the far right of the photo.  Twelve pin arms were the same length as a 10A or 10B arm.  They essentially utilized a 10B arm and then simply added an additional pole pair pin set.  Arms: 10-foot in length.

While this line did not last beyond the 1940s, Geddes had 12-pin arms on an old lead which extended west out of town to S.D. 50 Highway up until the summer of 1973.

Long Gone: New York City-Boston, Massachusetts AT&T Open Wire Lead 1884-?
Long Gone: New York-Washington AT&T Open Wire Lead, 1885-1951
Long Gone: New York-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Long Gone: New York-Chicago AT&T Open Wire Lead, 1892-1952
Long Gone: Philadelphia-Chicago AT&T Open Wire Toll Lead, 1901-1952
Long Gone: Denver, Colorado-El Paso, Texas-Los Angeles, California AT&T Toll Lead
Northern Transcontinental AT&T Open Wire Lead
Minneapolis, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington


“H-Fixture” from original line still standing.

Fourth Transcontinental AT&T Open Wire Lead
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-Amarillo, Texas-Albuquerque, New Mexico-Los Angeles, California


One of the last remaining southern transcontinental structures in the southwestern desert east of Tucson. The line originally had four arms and 40 wires.

Telephone engineering not only portends to resolving problems of the present but predicting the needs of the future.  After 1937, telephone and other signal traffic on the Central Transcontinental lead was burgeoning to such an extend that planners realized another major toll lead would be necessary in the near future. 

As 1937 approached, open wire lines were yet important investments fulfilling the traffic requirements of the major telecommunications companies.  The Bell System, among them, had flung major cables as far west as Omaha (the A & B Cable), to Kansas City, Missouri, and Oklahoma City as well as Dallas, Texas to the south.  Much thought was put into building this new route.  Planning engineers realized both the geographic challenges as well as the weather extremes in building a new transcontinental route. 

In doing so, the route skirted many areas where sleet and ice was a threat to open wire by deriving a route through desert and semi-arid areas of the American southwest.  This 1200 mile route comprised the length from Oklahoma City to Whitewater, California.  Sixteen telephone circuits (!) were spun on four pairs of wires throughout most of this distance, using C-Carrier.  After completion, the single voice channel and four three-channel carrier phone systems were impressed on these four pairs. 

The Fourth T. C. anticipated a major step in the introduction of high quality, long haul carrier technology and was built for the potential future adoption of “J” Carrier systems. 

During 1938, Bell Laboratories introduced a new carrier system called “Type J.”  This twelve-channel carrier, was capable of twelve channels simultaneously on one pair of wires at 140,000 cycles per second!  Combined with the previous “Type C” carrier system imposed on a pair, twelve individual telephone conversations were possible over an open wire pair! 

Tests of Type J were carried out on specially constructed modifications to open wire lines from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Austin and Houston, Texas, where the bugs were ironed out.  When this preliminary project succeeded beyond expectation, the Type J was added to other projects, namely the DBR, or Defense Backbone Route, the West’s New Telephone Route for World War II communications.

El Paso, Texas – Denver, Colorado Toll Lead (1920s? – 2010)

Eian pens in late March 2014: “I can report that the last of this line came down in 2010, in northern Pueblo County, CO near the Pinon Rest area. The Bulk of the line came down in the mid 1970s. Attached are a few images of the newly felled  poles, to be absorbed into the neighboring ranch for fence posts, & etc.”


Remaining structures of the El Paso-Denver Lead. Photo Courtesy Eian Greene



Remaining structures of the El Paso-Denver Lead. Photo Courtesy Eian Greene

Transcontinental: Chicago – Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska 1915-1936


Early 1906 communications cable suspension designs with steel strand.

While this website is ferverently devoted to open wire, there are occasions where aerial cable needs to be included in any discussion.  This is one important case, where cable rightfully belongs.

As of late 1975, some of the poles from the first transcontinental open wire line were still standing in a field just north of I-80 at Dexter, Iowa.  By the late 1990s, the farmer had cut them down and they were gone.  However, what replaced the open wire lead from Chicago to Council Bluffs, Iowa was the famous “A and B Cable.”

Constructed to take the place of the often storm-damaged open wire lead, with its important special circuits and then only route across the continental U. S., the “A” Cable (later joined by its companion, “B” strung on the same low poles) was a lead cable constructed in 1936.  It weighed 12 lbs. per square foot! 

This cable was the only armored cable of its kind and provided with a lead sheath over a quarter of an inch thick!  To place this cable, special equipment was devised to hoist it into place on 25′ class two poles.  Some poles were higher to account for the terrain it covered over rolling prairie particularly between Des Moines and Council Bluffs.

When the cable was finally retired in the late 1970s, satellite and buried cable having taken its place, wrecking crews found that poles couldn’t be simply “pulled” but had to be sawed and felled like trees, because equipment of the 1970s could not reach the cable hangers and bolts.  A “monster cutter” was used to cut the cables into servicable sections for scrap.  A 1500 foot section had to be fed into the cutter.  1500 feet equals 1800 lbs!

Loading trucks with the segments of cable also presented a dilema: if the 30,000 lbs. of cable on each truck wasn’t sorted properly, then the truck bed would be unbalanced and the axles would be stressed.  There were many times when the cable had to be removed and re-loaded.

Labor costs were basically balanced by the amount of money made possible by salvaging the copper and lead.  In the late 1970s, one truckload of scrap cable was worth more than $45,000.00.  Because the copper market was desirous of the extra commodity, 300 miles of scrap encouraged a quick sale!

Of all the states in the United States, Iowa has the greatest percentage of territory in the state under civilized use.  That also meant this cable had to be wrecked out at times which would not conflict with crop planting, growth–as the path of this line did not follow highway easements–but strut out in a nearly straight line from Des Moines to Council Bluffs.  When fields had been harvested of their corn crops and soybeans, the wrecking crew set to work.  Most of the cable wrecking took place in the late fall/early winter months.  The ground had to be frozen enough to hold the burden of heavy trucks but not so cold the crews froze removing the cable, as some climbing had to be done as well.

Two miles per day of cable wrecking could be accomplished, if the weather was good; that meant pulling poles and dragging cable and strand.  This cable was hung by horseshoe clamps on a strand (in power, we call this the “messenger”).

Not all the cable was removed.  There were some buried and underground segments which were left in place in Nebraska.  Because of the different levels of impedance, capacitance and other electrical peculiarities of the cable, new terminal equipment was installed near Omaha, in order to connect these older armored cables with new cable technology.

By the way, the cable contained 280 pairs of paper-wrapped copper conductors.  Different guages were combined in early cable design.  A section was saved and you may view it below:


“A” Transcontinental Armored Aerial Cable (actual size) as removed near Underwood, Iowa.

Three Survivors: Chicago-Northwestern Railway Signal, Telegraph and Telephone Lead in Council Bluffs, Iowa


Three (former) survivors: Chicago-Northwestern Railway Company, Council Bluffs, Iowa 1920s-1968 period.  As of January 2015, these have been now wrecked out.

This will be a short but important article for several reasons.  I have included the holy trilogy of Chicago-Northwestern Railway Company open wire preservation here.  These Council Bluffs, Iowa natives remain because either someone in the CNW Signal Department loved these old lines and wanted to keep them as a reminder, or the company believed that their lingering presence might serve as an icon of the company’s substantial investment in this technology and service. 

At one time, the Council Bluffs, Iowa rail yards were the fifth largest in the nation; Omaha was, I am told, fourth largest.  Between them, and central to the entire United States, converged an overwhelming number of railroads.  Among them Union Pacific, the Great Northern, Burlington Route, the KATY (in Omaha), Milwaukee Road, Rock Island Railroad, Missouri-Pacific Railroad and Chicago Northwestern Railway, among many others I’m forgetting to include here.  In essence, the number of railroad open wire systems meeting at these two points was pretty amazing.

Rock Island Railroad went through some tough times.  At the time of its bankruptcy, there were many employees in the Iowa area facing unemployment.  While my recall is a bit foggy, I believe that the State of Iowa passed legislation to create the Iowa State Railroad Authority during that troubled time by purchasing the former RI rolling stock, locomotives, engines, easment and track of this company.  This new incarnation exists today and operates successfully as a modern rail company.  One of the major issues with Rock Island’s demise, besides endangering the jobs of Iowa railroaders, was removal of many rail companies’ small town connector branches to small towns.  Removing the rails caused acute problems with agricultural shipping needs and no access to grain elevators.  Essentially, everything was “trucked” in to these smaller locations.  By the 1970s, small towns saw rail connections severed.  Milwaukee Road did this stridently in South Dakota and northern Iowa which impacted agribusiness negatively and severely.  The Iowa legislation to create the new state-owned rail authority saved jobs and connections.  The Rock Island Railroad open wire languished after these years, lingering as deralict reminders of a more successful time, and linewrecked rather recently. Occasionally, a few RI open wire poles with their unique design are distinguished amidst the tall trees on former RI easments. 

I was told by a railroad veteran that “Rock Island did their own thing,” meaning their communications and signal open wire was remarkably different in design than the conventional systems of the other railroads.  “If you saw open wire in the form of something pretty unlikely marching down the easement of a rail line,” my Union Pacific Communications Department tech told me, “it was probably Rock Island.”

I can recall the old Chicago Northwestern Route with its six open wire ten pin arms and cables down 9th Avenue in Council Bluffs, Iowa, past the Golden Spke Monument (built in commemoration of the transcontinental railroad history movie’s release).  These were removed in the early 1970s.  Many of the stout poles do remain and are supporting secondary power drops to warehouses and businesses.

My commentary here must fall short, because after most CNW aerial wire fell victim to linewreckers relatively early (I can remember some big leads going down in the 1967-1970 era), however these veterans remain.  I must salute whomever committed to do this as all three structures are excellent examples of 1915-1920s open wire railway communications art.  Note the WRS iron terminal boxes, double arming techniques, wooden bracket assemblies (double!), lift transposition brackets, strand with horseshoe clamp suspenders for cable, a Double A terminal box with sporting two door entry, an H-fixture with double arms and varying heights on structures, among other things.

Perhaps there is some railroader/retiree in the Southwestern Iowa area whom might communicate concerning this uniquely obvious preservation in Council Bluffs and provide answers.  I recall when these were what little remained all the way back when in High School.  The little trees left between the spans were seedlings and reaching the intact bottom iron wire spans was not possible.  Today, the trees have extended their reach and have severed by tension the connecting spans which were lazily strung between each of the three poles.

Answers, anyone?

In 2015, these poles disappeared upon a visit to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I strongly suspect that my website had something to do with it.  In order to maintain these old stalwarts’ and others like them, from becoming victims of linewreckers, I will from this point not specify exact locations.  Perhaps we can sabotage further destruction of these little memorial structures by railway authorities.


Remaining mid-span pole of Chicago-Northwestern aerial wire preservation project, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Note the open iron WRS terminal enclosure.

Reno, Nevada – Battle Mountain, Nevada AT&T Long Lines (Later Nevada Bell) Central Transcontinental Toll Lead


The 1929 Transcontinental lead from Salt Lake City, Utah to Reno, Nevada was had two striking characteristics: first, it was the more subtantial working streamlined replacement for the 1915 transcontinental line.  This original 1915 period line, built of square redwood supports and a single 10A single arm linking both coasts, could not meet the burgeoning transcontinental communications traffic needs of the North American business and residential population by the mid-1920s.  Its 8-guage BWG copper conductor weighed 870 lbs. a loop mile.  Secondly, subsequent technical achievements had rendered it obsolete, with the advent of carrier systems impressed on wire pairs, low leakage insulator design, better conductors and gradual mechanical improvements throughout open wire construction and maintenance.

While in 1926, carrier systems were applied to the earlier line between Chicago and Sacramento.  This was the advent of “C” carrier or three-channel systems for one pair of wires.

The 1929 replacement was a steadfast, sturdy and highly functional major link between the coasts, built at considerable expense by AT&T Long Lines and engineered to exacting specifications.  While the 1915 line had pioneered the “audion” vacuum tube for signal strength re-generation, additional research was imployed to make the 1929 Central Transcontinental a major link between New York and San Francisco. 

Thanks to Lee DeForest, a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, his early vacuum tube technology extended the–then–early physical limits of communications: New York to Denver.  Previously, a voice frequency call lost one-tenth of its initial energy traversing the first 60 miles of line.  This was “attenuation.”  With such a small fraction of energy remaining, reproduced speech loud enough to be understood, was a major problem.

Early pioneers used loading coils to increase the inductance of the early lead.  In doing so, engineers offset the capacitance of the circuits.  Because the line was open wire–and not cable–with a separation between the conductors either 12, 8 or six inches, attention was less a factor by their use.  With iron cores, loading coils enhanced the induction effect, but only if they were spaced properly.  Early problems with applying loading coils to open wire (and later cable pairs) was the spacing problem.

On the early transcontinental lead, the loading coils were spaced eight miles apart–and this nearly doubled the transmission efficacy–at least for the portion from New York to Denver.  With a higher boost in efficiency brought higher line voltage than a non-loaded line, so new insulators: the “CS” borocilicate glass type was conceived, with low leakage results.

Then the “repeater” technology came to the fore–first a mechanical one patented by Herbert E. Shreeve, used with success in 1904.  The major problem with the early mechanical repeater was “insensitivity” when the incoming voice current was very small and on top of that problem, it could only amplify certain noise pitches.  With a series of these mechanical repeaters, a good voice might degrade into incomprehensible sounds by the length of a longer line.

The mechanical repeater had one incredible drawback for “loaded” open wire lines: it failed completely.  And, interestingly enough, out of the drive to produce a reliable repeater for long distance systems came the nucleus of Bell Laboratories.  During the winter of 1910-1911, the Transmission & Protection Engineer of AT&T, Dr. F. B. Jewett, consolidated a staff of scientific and technical brainpower to convene a concerted attack on the problem.  From this intense reserch came the Mercury Arc Repeater Tube of 1912 developed by H. D. Arnold.  But the idea of electrified molecules in gas gave way to a much more useful option: the 1908 DeForest “vacuum tube” or audion device.  While Edison and Fleming had recognized “one-way conductivity” in such a device, it was Council Bluffs, Iowa native Lee DeForest who contributed a wire grid which furnished a path from filament to grid.  Because the location of the grid could enhance sensitivity in the flow of electrons, it could be applied to telephone technology whereby modulation could be achieved in speech or telegraph signals.  By improving the tube by creating a better vacuum and less noise, this initial transcontinental line with four strands of hard-drawn copper joined with great joy at the Utah-Nevada State Line could never have been operated successfully.

Let us now direct our attention to the remarkable telephone line which Wisconsin University English Professor George Stewart wittingly paid tribute in his fascinating pictorial volume, U. S. 40, while traveling from coast to coast by auto in 1950.

Southern California was develping quite rapidly with half the calls over the continent originated in that region.  New repeaters, filters for noise and network capabilities demonstrated that open wire could be built without loading and bandwidth of non-loaded open wire pairs could be measurably increased.  Furthermore, impedance characteristics allowed higher quality voice and data transmission.  It became clear that a major improvement was necessary and the addition of four major transcontinental routes ought to be added for traffic demands.

According to Nevada Bell officials, the improved 40-wire transcontinental which took the place of the original square redwood posted single ten-pin arm line, was designed and built during 1928-1929.  This line marched along the same easement of the original “T. C.” but offered substantial improvements in its design, construction and operation.

First of all, the 1929 T.C. utilized the “W8” crossarm configuration: a ten foot arm, drilled for CS galvanized steel crossarm pins utilizing the new “CS” and later CSC and CSA tempered clear glass low leakage insulators on non-pole pairs of eight-inch separation.  Pole pairs were “phantomed” or offered “side circuits” using Type B steel pins with wooden cobs for No. 42 Hemingray DP glass insulators of the soda lime variety.

Each pair was rigorously and consistently transposed at every other pole using the “R2-5 Type Transposition” scheme.  This design called for a point type transposition at every other pole using heavy duty break irons.  By staggering the transpositions, every other pole would repeat the process of breaking induction on the pairs and thus remove crosstalk more efficiently.

None of these poles were “joint use” and thus removed the potential condition of bleeding a. c. currents in the neighboring communications wires.

The break irons utilized CB short shank steel pins with CS Corning Pyrex-brand insulators.  By utilizing the “modified horseshoe tie,” the 165 and 128 mil conductors were fastened to each insulator.  Each end of the conductor was placed in a shotgun barrel sleeve and then twisted to offer a very secure mechanical connection to each length of wire.  No pressed sleeve joints or strand vice (conventions of a much later era) were used on original construction.  Occasionally, there were some “quickie” Western Union-style wire joining–but this was presumably due to urgently joining storm damaged circuits.

Upon initial operation, the line offered 20 voice frequency physical circuits, two phantom voice frequency circuits, 48 high quality carrier circuits, 40 D.C. telegraph circuits, and 40 telegraph circuits in carrier format.  Total capacity was 70 telephone and 80 telegraph circuits–and . . . for its time, a great achievement!

Wire spacings and spans were precisely installed.  Thirty-five feet was the limit to which deviations in pole placement could be made.  In this way, the line was stabilized to a preciseness whereby the sags could be adjusted to a fraction of an inch and the quality of conversational tone was unsurpassed.

In 1940, just before World War II started, this nation had 170 circuits (!) available for transcontinental telephone service.

Council Bluffs, Iowa to Kansas City, Missouri AT&T Long Lines Lead


Having driven the toll lead’s route from Kansas City (Platte City) to Council Bluffs, I can assure readers these are the last crosarms intact of the entire 170 miles of line.


Last remaining erect crossarms from the Kansas City-Council Bluffs, Iowa AT&T Long Lines Lead. Note the multiple gains cut into the pole for the other (non-existent) three crossarms.


Only two poles with crossarms remain from this historic regional Long Lines lead wrecked out in the late 1960s.


This is a small pile of debris from the linewrecking of the C. B. – K. C. lead, 1983. Hamburg, Iowa.

Phantom point-type transposition bracket used on the C.B.-K.C. Lead

cache_2845415104f4a7This particular toll lead was probably built by AT&T Long Lines and operated by them between Council Bluffs, Iowa (Omaha) and Kansas City, Missouri from the mid-1920s to its wrecking in 1970.  It’s unique feature was the adoption of phantom-point-type transposition brackets.  The line was heavily adorned with them as well as the use of CS steel pins with CS, CSC and CSA glass.  Point-type 12″ transposition break irons were liberally spaced throughout its length nearly at every other structure.  The poles were particularly stout, the number of arms approximately five per pole (near Sidney, Iowa following U. S. 275) and caried several lead cables intermittantly throughout its length.

The line was heavily guyed and anchored with H-fixtures.  It is possible the span distance was 135 feet or less, owing to the large 165 and 128 mil copper conductor sizes used on the upper three arms.  While the line used CS pins and insulators, the spacing was the traditional 10A type arm, drilled for 1/2″ pins.  The base of each CS steel pin was bonded to the neighboring pin by a length of 109 line wire attached between the pins associated with that pair.  Pole pairs, on wooden pins, were installed so that phantomed construction could be applied to them.

The toll lead heavily intersected many alternating current electric power transmission links as it traveled north and south by crossing the Iowa-Missouri border for approximately 180 miles.  The line defied conditions relative to a very heavy sleet and ice loading district.  Owing to this fact, the toll lead fetured tight design features, such as applying highly repetitive storm-guyed H-fixtures, double arming on most corners and other heavy strength construction techniques. 

As late as 1974, remnants of the original line still stood near Platte City, Missouri, just west of I-29 prior to its intersection with I-35.  By 1985, these remaining poles had disappeared.  Today, just one pole (carrying some aerial cable) exists.  There is a single denuded arm.  Unique, because one carries a phantom bracket with CS type insulators and pins–and  lonely without wires.

In 1979, a pile of old poles, arms and hardware was located just west of Hamburg, Iowa between I-29 and the city.  These were gone by the late 1990s. 


Conventional “P” two-piece phantom transposition bracket


These poles are still in use. Note cable and idenfication tags on them as shown below.


Pole tag says “we’re still in business” with working aerial cable despite ruins overhead.

Omaha, Nebraska to South Sioux City, Nebraska Northwestern Bell Toll Lead, 1926-1977

In February of 1977, the linewrecking by Northwestern Bell of the last remaining open wire toll lead in Nebraska was in full swing.  NWB News, the “Nebraska-North Dakota-South Dakota” edition, published a front page article about the work then being done, entitled: “Memories buried with toll line’s demise.”

This process was accompanied with lots of muscle and motor power, and the remaining links between Ft. Calhoun and Omaha, were ones with which several of the linewreckers themselves had possessed considerable personal working experience when it was an operating lead.

Quoting from the construction supervisor on the job, “Man, am I ever glad to see them go.  I must have climbed every pole between Omaha and Sioux City at least twice while I was a lineman.”

The bittersweet episode of seeing the last of Nebraska’s Bell open wire toll lead come down was not without some regret.  And it was clear the line was putting up quite a fight to relinquish its ground: “It was kind of sad, but it was time for a change.  Those old poles had been in there so long, that they just didn’t want to come out,” remarked Construction Manager John Severin. 

See the full article in NWB News, Volume 7; No. 9, published February 11, 1977.

Omaha, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado AT&T Open Wire Transcontinental Lead 1929
– 1975?

cache_28454150042cbdThis line, which roughly followed re-named I-80S and later I-76, was quite unique.  Not that it employed the traditional 10A arms, conventional phantomed construction and span widths, but its Sterling, Colorado segment where I-76 and Colorado State Highway 71 meet, was nearly completely devoid of glass insulators–dry process brown porcelain DP insulators were installed!  For whatever reason, the line in that particular northeast portion of Colorado, glared back with this unusual crockery bounty.

Defense Backbone Route, Yakima, Washington-Danby, California (1942-2008?)

The “DBR” or Defense Backbone Route was constructed in a “Damned Big Rush,” as many of those who had a close connection to its design could attribute.  The 1,317 miles of copperweld aerial wire was hung on two W6 ten-foot fur treated arms, with eight CS steel insulator pins on each arm, each arm separated by 36 inches instead of 24″ as in conventional spacing.

Poles were typically 30 foot, but terrain dictated variances at canyons and river crossings.  “Type J” carrier was imployed on the open wire pairs and no phantom construction was used.  Tightness and accuracy of stringing wire necessitated the use of a stop watch to time the wire’s oscillations before tying in conductor on CS Pyrex borocilicate clear glass insulators.

Contributing crews to build this new line, which was to serve as a protected and alternative communications route free from Japanese attack on the west coast, included employees of Northwestern Bell, Southwestern Bell, Mountain States, Illinois Bell, and the Long Lines Department of AT&T.

Pacific Bell could spare few men to build this line, so these other companies were called upon to “loan” personnel. 

When it came to construction equipment to build the line, again Northwestern Bell, Mountain States, Wisconcsin, Ohio, Southern Bell and New Jersey Bell Companies offered trucks, pole trailers and other stringing equipment for the DBR job.

This particular line was never attacked by the Japanese, nor did it suffer any undue damage until it was linewrecked a few short years ago.  Today, it lives on in memories of Telephone Pioneers.

Southwestern Bell (Gainesville, TX) to Muenster Telephone Company (Ind.), Muenster, TX Unknown date of origin; Died 1963.cache_2845440404e3c1

View of both tangent and terminal structures, 1999.


These arms still possess the 4-inch point-type transpositions and insulators and remain a monment to the day when the line was dismanted in 1963.

Unfortunately, I have more photos than explanation for this particular lead.  Apparently this line was built back in the 1940s-1950s, then Southwestern Bell spent a considerable amount of money to rehab it in 1962.  I knew one of the people, whose first work for Southwestern Bell was a groundsman on this little project.

Ironically, the next year, the line was taken out of service and dismantled. 

The line was the Southwestern Bell interconnection with Muenster Telephone Company, an independent company operating in the “very” German town of Muenster, Texas.  Gainesville was the county seat of Cooke County, Texas, and this author spent many years working in this area.

The line was discovered by a trip to survey a new buried cable route near Lindsay, Texas (west of Gainesville on U. S. 82).  Returning with field notes, one hot summer day in 1998, one last stop took me to a customer just outside of Lindsay.  It was a little residential development with five or six houses requiring buried services.

Spying a terminal pole (looking for wear and tear, older than sin) with disconnected wires on one side of the country road and across from it, a pole in an agricultural storage yard (yet removed) with the crossarms ascance, I stopped to ask the owner about the history of this line.  He mentioned that the original toll lead had crossed his property and always remembered it as long as he had done business there.  Out of respect for some history and homage to his favorite pole, he convinced the linewreckers to leave a few poles.

Shortly before the month of our conversation together (June 1998), two young culprits entered his property, without permission, desiring to remove and steal the crosarms remaining on this pole, nearest the road.  Shimying up the pole with a wrench and gloves, one atop the pole–with another helping on the ground–had only managed to take braces, lag bolts, but knocked the arms helter skelter.  The ten-pin arms remained stubborn and intact.  No arms, insulators, pins or brackets were taken.  He had noticed the change in the early morning when he came out to feed his cows.  Sometime during the night, they worked rather ineffectually and then were frightened off by lights or cars’ occupants reporting their suspicious nature on his property.  Since most rural residents in Texas are . . . armed . . . it took some real gumption to try this little stunt.

If you followed the little paved road–County Road 438–from Lindsay, Texas, you would find occasional reminders of the old lead back in the 1990s.  Here are some photos taken during 1999, when a weekend trip took me down those roads.


One farmer so loved the line that when the line wrecking commenced, he informed them that the poles, arms, insulators and hardware were to stay on his land–remove only the wires–he’d keep the six or so poles trotting across his feedlot a living memory.


You’ll notice not much left except for one drop bracket on the second set of dead-end arms, a few C-dead-ends remaining and a few strands of bridle wire.  The electronics have been removed, as have the insulators.  There are a couple of CS pins.  The author stopped along a very isolated area of highway and managed to step on something round–which digging around in the grass–revealed a pristine PYREX CS insulator from the line’s dismantling.

Cut Short in Their Tracks . . .

Colman, SD T&R Electric 003Stopped short in their tracks, remains of a farm road six-pin crossarm line, stand resolute as the day they were dismembered when I-29 cut the farm road they traversed from east to west, as well as the telephone lead, in two.  Scene photographed in January 2015, on a very, very cold day, just south of Coleman, South Dakota.

OW Relic N. Minden, NE 4 (1)

This is What Remains of the Old Grand Island-Beatrice, Nebraska  lead.

This reminder of a different time, has been preserved mainly as it was part of a joint-REC support.  For miles along this Nebraska state highway, there are no hints such a three arm lead existed except for this sole survivor.  10B arms decorate the middle point of this rather docile (REA Type B-1 Assembly) pole bringing electric service to a small farmstead.  Here’s a closer look at the hardware, which included 1955-style Type O point transposition brackets.  When I stopped my vehicle, and started taking pictures in the bar ditch, the woman who owned the farm came out and wanted to know what was so important about this pole to take so many photos.  I explained the reason for my stop and gave her my website address.  Up to that time in 2015, she had never considered those empty arms of any significance.

I do not know who owned this former lead.  My suspicion is LT&T, now Altel.  If you are aware of the former owner, please inform this author. 

OW Relic N. Minden, NE 6 (2)

Railroads Intend To “Wreck Out” Their Open Wire By 2020.


This central Kansas former Missouri-Pacific Lines pole stands on what is now a jogging trail.
Former Plattsmouth, Nebraska Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph (now Alltel) Toll Lead: Unk. Origin-1982(?).


Old U. S. 73-75 highway with former LT&T toll lead, 1979.


This lead used drop brackets only for transpositioning; no phantoms or point-type units were ever seen.
Outside Aerial Plant – Tri-County Telephone Association, Council Grove, KS Died: 1938-2006

Council Grove Telephone, the precursor to Tri-County Telephone Association, a well-managed independent east central Kansas telephone organization, retired their open wire carrier a few years before the last of the aerial wire came down.  The Electric Orphanage took possession of the entire open wire physical plant (with the exception of poles) from Tri-County Telephone Association after linewrecking in 2005-2006.


Tri-County had many two wire bracket leads extending from their extensive network of ten-pin single arm poles.  There was also extensive aerial cable which was also removed during the open wire wrecking.  This was part of a very aggressive campaign by the utility to improve customer services.  While this independent was the last in the state to remove their open wire plant, it buried nearly–if not all–their aerial cable and coax facilities, replacing them with remote subscriber terminals and buried/underground optical fiber.


RST3: Rural Subscriber Terminal No. 3, supplied with fiber from the Council Grove Central Office and located a few miles north of town on K-177.  This particular photo will introduce you to Tri-County’s (then) C. O. Manager, Phil Brockmeier, as he opens the access to this ADC-supplied unit.  Note that this illustration portrays three major types of communication media: fiber optic, aerial cable and of course, open wire.



Just north of Council Grove Lake, Kansas.


Burying multi-pair copper to take the place of aerial cable and open wire at Tri-County Telco, autumn of 2006.


300 pair pic cable goes into the ground to serve the future needs of Tri-County Telephone Association and its great people.

During the autumn of 2006, we assembled the crew to have a few photos taken of this event.  The Orphanage Director obtained many excellent photos to utilize for a commemorative 50th anniversary drawing montage.  Naturally, the weather was a contributing major factor to the quality of these illustrations.  We thank Tri-County Telephone for their cooperation of their personnel to have achieved these stunning photos.

AT&T Council Bluffs/Omaha – Sioux City Toll Lead (1925-1973)



Looking south on old U. S. 75 (now Iowa State Highway 183) near Loveland, Iowa.  Line was wrecked out in the summer of 1973.  The aerial cable was maintained until the early 1980s, when it, too, bit the dust and was replaced by buried fiber.  Today, nothing exists here except the highway and empty cornfields.CC3

40-wire toll leads were the most common on this route, however near Missouri Valley and Sioux City, Iowa, one could encounter as many as eight ten-pin 10A arms and several lead cables attached beneath.  When this line was wrecked out in sections during 1971-1973, copper thieves attacked it.  Northwestern Bell alarmed the remaining circuits.  When thieves cut conductors, alarms sounded and the central office personnel could promptly notify authorities.



Dragged and scattered remains of the Council Bluffs-Sioux City, Iowa lead. The Director scavenged items off this farmer’s land (with his permission) in order to save a number of artifacts and to assist the Yankton Territorial Musem in 1983


Double-armed “H” fixture two pole structure from the C. B. – Sioux City lead. Note the Chicago-Northwestern Railway tracks paralleling the Lincoln Highway Extension (old U. S. 75). That CNWRR open wire line was dismantled this year (2011).

Interesting structure as the lead was crossing U. S. 75 and had to make an abrupt turn despite having been assigned to be transposition pole.  Note the phantom or “butterfly” brackets attached to the arms.  Linewreckers picked off the Hemingray No. 42 insulators with the copper conductor.

Tyndall-Wagner/Tyndall-Mitchell, South Dakota Northwestern Bell Toll Lead (1931-1982)


This is a photo of the northbound remains of the Tyndall-Mitchell Toll Lead.  This linewrecking was commenced in 1979, however due to the obstructionist methods undertaken by The Electric Orphanage’s Director, complete demolition did finish until late autumn 1982.

This line was one of two toll leads bi-secting at a terminal/junction pole at the northwest corner of the city limits of Tyndall, South Dakota.  The Orphanage’s Director, with the assistance of many sympathetic Northwestern Bell personnel (behind the scenes), U. S. Congressional representatives, historical collector associations, the Smithsonian Institution, and a host of other local state cultural officials, attempted to nominate several structures in both north and west directions for inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places in situ.  It would have been the first on record to have been nominated.


Terminal/Junction Structure, 1982.


This Terminal/Junction Pole was located where the toll entrance cables commenced to bring their pairs to Tyndall’s Central Office.  The large white boxes are carrier filters, eliminating noise and echo from voice carrier.  Inside them were fuses, which after stormy days, required occasional replacement.  This author met the installer who painfully recalled scampering up and down that particular pole to replace overcurrent protective links which lightning knocked out. 

The smaller gray boxes are 24A Auto-transformers.  They matched the impedance of bridle wire (for emergency restoration of circuits) to the values of the 109 line wire, until new wire could be replaced.

Further down the pole were two NC-25 terminals to transition 16-guage bridle wire to ANTW-50 plastic sheathed cable at the base of the pole.  There, at another compound-filled splice, connected the buried portion of the cable to the central office.


August 1982, looking one mile north of Tyndall, South Dakota


Looking east along South Dakota 50A Highway: Tyndall-Wagner Lead, 1982.


Looking east towards Tyndall.


This highway would shortly lose its companion, appearing much more lonely today.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Omaha-Lincoln-Seward Open Wire Segment, Unk. Origin – Died 2003.


Note variety of 10B (top arm and lowest arm) and 10A arms (middle two). U. S. 6 East towards Greenwood, Nebraska, 1975.


Looking west down Burlington main tracks towards Lincoln, Nebraska, 1979. U. S. 6 is to the left of the photo.


Bird’s eye view of Burlington Northern main line lead between Waverly and Greenwood, Nebraska, 1979.


Remains of BNSF Seward-Lincoln, Nebraska portion of retired open wire, 2003


Burlington Northern lead with point-type Hubbard transposition brackets visible. Note the fiberglass spool insulators on the near pole location top arm bracket.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Ft. Worth-Denver main line tracks, Bowie-Bellevue-Wichita Falls, Texas. WWI period – June 1999.


In Bellevue, Texas city limits, the BNSF main tracks between Ft. Worth and Denver. Leaning non-functional signal circuits with horseshoe clamp strand for cable also visible.


In nearly complete disrepair, this portion was dismantled by 2001.


Many of these artifacts, after linewrecking in 2000, were provided to The Electric Orphanage through BNSF.



Looking east along U. S. 287 South. Bellevue, Texas in background, 1997.


Ruins of the age of aerial wire . . .


Left to die . . .