Guest Book Below . . .
But As An Aside, A Great Irony . . . first
A great irony accompanies this photograph of the final days for an open wire lead near Council Grove, Kansas. This 2004 photograph illustrates some of the former Council Grove Telephone Company aerial cable and open wire construction design which was seen around the Morris County areas for many years.
Around 2005, Tri-County Telephone Association, Inc., an REA-financed cooperative telephone company, finalized its merger (essentially buy-out) of the former Council Grove Telephone Company. By 2006-2007, the old aerial facilities of CGTCo were being dismantled in favor of new buried fiber systems.
The Tri-County organization began its history with the consolidation of many small farmer mutual telephone companies using exclusively, open wire construction in and around the Morris County, Kansas area where they operated. In 1963, the Tri-County Telephone Association had been formally created and began its activities as a telephone utility. Council Grove Telephone Company operated within Council Grove, Kansas and some nearby outlying rural areas. The two organizations largely coexisted until 2005 when the purchase of CGTCo occurred and slowly the Council Grove Company was merged into the larger Tri-County Association. Council Grove had embarked on a common battery (non-magneto) phone network long before other companies in the state had–in 1936. CGTCo also entered the softswitch technology of electronic switching in the 1990s, so it was not laggardly. However, it still maintained open wire carrier in some rural sections of Morris County, Kansas and was the last open wire still seen in the state.
Where the great irony exists is here: Tri-County removed the old aerial wire of the predecessor farmer mutual companies it bought out, replacing this with an all new buried copper cable system–at the advent of the mid-1960s. This was at a time when most other companies (the Big Guys–including Bell and GT&E) were still maintaining and constructing open wire and aerial cable lines. As a close in-city rival, Council Grove Telephone Company maintained aerial open wire and cable lines with carrier systems all the way up until the take-over by Tri-County Telephone Association. TCT was one of the first phone companies in the state of Kansas to embark on FTTP, or Fiber-to-the-Premises in the late 1990s, thereby replacing the all-buried copper cable network installed by the late 1960s.
TCT’s system today is completely fiber to the home and business with POTS, Internet services and IpTV. As an extremely up-to-date company practicing the communications art at the height of telecom know-how, TCT leads Kansas Independent telephony. However, by purchasing Council Grove Telephone assets (and subscribers) and by bringing these into the Association fold, it now became owner of the last open wire lines operating in Kansas; therefore, the profound irony. The communications company with the most state-of-the-art technically deployed system in the state, was now removing the last vestiges of the open wire era in Kansas!
Please leave a comment at “Contact Us.”
We appreciate hearing from you! Below are numerous communications from our readers and fans!
Over the years, The Electric Orphanage has had the privilege of working with a wide range of interesting communications personnel. Many have been from railroads, such as at the Communications Department of the Union Pacific in Council Bluffs, Iowa or Burlington-Northern Santa Fe’s former office in Kansas City, Kansas and now in Ft. Worth, Texas. Others have been people at Independents, the GTE territories, Contel, Centel, United Telephone (Sprint), AT&T, RBOCs and significant persons generously have donated equipment or shared information about their careers.
We’d like to hear from you! This website will attempt to be as objective as possible in portraying the open wire era. Help us to cover both Bell, Independent and railway communications impartially. Contributions from those who worked in these companies will definitely be sought, published and maintained, so we can cover the broad expanse of open wire history. If you wish to remain anonymous or to communicate with the Webmaster privately, please preface your comments so we can honor your request. Otherwise, please offer your thoughts and memories!
Tell us a little about yourself and then provide any narrative you feel will offer a glimpse of this astonishing technology. Everyone should be heard. Typically, to preserve confidentiality, I publish only the first name and initial of last name.
Hank H., Monday, June 27, 2011, 8:39 am EDT
“I like open wire lines and have since I was a small child in the early 1960s.”
Mike J., Monday, June 4, 2012, 2:48 pm EDT
“Wow! What a great site to learn the history of open wire. It’s great to have web sites like these so we can keep the history alive. Thanks to everyone who had a part of this . . .”
Bart (Richard) M., Tuesday, July 26, 2012, 10:08 am PDT
“Hello, Doug! Bart (Richard) Magoffin here again. Really enjoying your site!! Very well done. Wish I knew in 1989 when the Transcon lead was wrecked. I took many pictures of that line and loved it dearly.”
Larry of Yucca Valley, Tuesday, July 26, 2012, 11:38 am PDT
“As to it being haphazard, I would speculate that in its later days, there were probably fewer old guyz around who knew what they were doing, or the supervisors who knew the stuff were gone and so if the linemen took shortcuts there was no one to yell at them. I’m extrapolating from my own experience; as the Chevron microwave slowly went away, they tended to let techs work on it who didn’t really know what they were doing, and the engineering support dried up. Sad times.
According to this buddy of mine, this was AT&T line that had to do with some sort of government mandate to provide phone service to remote desert areas. Originally, this service was provided out of an AT&T office at ‘Whitewater,’ near Palm Springs. <htt://goo.gl/maps/3LWo>
The lines ran through the Morongo Basin (Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Twenty-Nine Palms) and then headed north, providing phone service to places in the proverbial middle-of-nowhere like Amboy <http://goo.gl/maps/Yhro>, and the famous Mojave phone booth.
I remember seeing the open wire in visits to the area back in the ’80s, running thru Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley (where I now live). As I recall, there were multiple crossarms through that area, but can’t recall how many. Anyway, at some point in time, the Whitewater office went away (it was smack in the middle of GTE territory, sort of an odd duck). At which point, if I have this right, they fed service to the line from AT&T microwave in the pass where Kelbacker Road runs through the Granite Mtns. <http://gooo/gl/maps/VLI7>
As to whether or not any of it’s still in service, it can’t be doing anything at Kelso or north, because the drops there are flopping on the ground and the poles going north are gone. The Mojave phone booth was removed in May 2000. Could be there is something active south of Kelso, but I don’t know what? I don’t think Amboy is on the wire anymore.”
Dennis K., Thursday, August 30, 2012, 3:35 pm EDT
“Marvelous site, lots of good information.”
John P. L., Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 3:42 pm EST
“I went to work for Southwestern Bell in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My first job was cutting Phantoms on Transpositions on a 3-arm lead; transposing 1 to 4, 7 to 10 and 21 to 24 from Tulsa to Enid, Oklahoma, in 1947.”
John P. L., Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 3:51 pm EST
“I went to work for Southwestern Bell in 1947 at Tulsa, Oklahoma cutting Phantoms & transpositions on toll line 23 from Tulsa to Enid, Oklahoma on 1 to 4, 7 to 10 and 21 to 24. Cutting them hot using a 5A switch box.”
Chuck D., Monday, January 28, 2013, 3:48 pm EST
“Love the site. I have linked it to my Telco Road Warriors site. www.telcoroadwarriors.com.”
Richard (Dickie) H., Monday, February 4, 2013 5:33 pm EST
Just retired after 40 yrs. Found your site. Love it. Looking for anyone out of the gangs that was back in the ’70-’80s east of the Miss. River.”
George B., Sunday, February 10, 2013 1:47 pm EST
“Never did work open wire but I was a Central Office Repairman for Carolina Telephone and Telegraph Co. in Rocky Mount, NC. We had the North and South Toll line that ran from Weldon, NC to Maxton, NC about 150 miles. Then we had one that ran East to West from Raleigh, NC to Williamston, NC, about 100 miles that both used O carriers. These were removed in the late ’70s. Changed to N carriers then to T carriers. There also was the P and D Toll line that ran from Petersburg, VA to Denmark, SC. This line was removed in the early 1960s. This toll line had a repeater station in Rocky Mount, NC. It ran along the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Time changes, they really were high maintenance.”
Thomas F., Wednesday, March 6, 2013 2:25 pm EST
“You are doing great work! I especially liked the page with the line wrecking on the transcontinental line in Nevada. Great information! Wishing you all the best, Tom.”
Paul A., Wednesday, March 6, 2013 2:30 pm EST
“During my 33 years [of communications work] in San Diego, CA, I only remember one encounter with open wire. I dispatched on a repair in a remote rugged mountain area on Wildcat Canyon Rd. out of the Lakeside area. After a long search, I still had not found the house. Eventually, I climbed a pole I thought held my terminal. Finding the circuit there, I followed the drop to where it connected to open wire that crossed the road and disappeared over a rugged chaparral covered hill. Following a winding trail through the tall brush, I reached the top where I vied a small cabin in the next valley. After another long search, I found a dirt road in a nearby Indian reservation that lead to this cabin. After all that, the problem was from a rodent chewed wire in the basement of that little cabin. I suspect that old open wire had been working for over 50 years.”
Don L. M., (M. J. K.), Monday, June 17, 2013 1:13 pm EDT
“. . . but mention ‘transposition bracket’ on a news group and somebody responded with the URL of your website.
I have long prided myself on the fact that by age 21, I had mastered two trades that were essentially obsolete by the time I was 31: the first was as a printer, with actual type, from age 14 until graduation from high school. The second was as an open wire telephone lineman in the U. S. Army Alaskan Communication System (ACS) from 1956-59. My ‘initiation’ to real line work in Alaska was to climb a pole that had been struck by a car and broken off at the ground level. It was a corner, held in the air by the tension of the wires opposed to that of the guy. I had to jump to get on it and ride it down as my weight pulled it that way; that stabilized the pole enough for me to get the crossarms off so a new pole could take them. I suspect I was sent up that one to see whether the new kid could hack it.
I loved the work and the people I worked with. I have often said that if the Army had a regimental system, where you train and remain in the same unit, I would have made a career of it. But the constant threat of individual transfer to someplace else to work with somebody else, along with the general attitude in the service during the days of the draft (get in, do the hitch, get out), I took the discharge.
In those years, I worked in the Anchorage area, then went on a crew from the Salcha River (where Billy Mitchell, then a lieutenant, spliced the line that brought Fairbanks in communication with the rest of the world in, 11RC, 1908) to Fairbanks, then on a crew sent to Canada to repaid a contractor’s work on the line along the White Pass and Yukon Railroad (WP&Y) from Skagway to Whitehorse. I worked the northern section based in Bennett, BC, and Carcross, YT. (In 2008, I took a cruise to SE Alaska, and went on a WP&Y excursion to White Pass, where I saw some poles that I had probably climbed half a century before, a sad, gray, shriveled ghost line without wires.) Following Canada, I went back to Anchorage, then out on a crew south of Tok. I ended up on light maintenance in Tok with classmate Barry Phifer, installing the first dial system that community had ever had (they didn’t like it) and teaching myself telephone repair. Barry had been sent away to learn telephone installation, but the Army, in its infinite wisdom, neglected to check his records: he had red/green color blindness; no matter–it takes two to put in a phone line anyway, and he taught me when he got back.
I can still do an Alcan tie, if anyone is interested in seeing it done.
Best wishes, Don Martin, Don L. Martin”
Paul W., (President, TCI), Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:35 pm EDT
“We received your request to add a link to your site to the Telephone Collectors International links page. We plan to put it under the Historical Information category. A link to the main TCI webpage would also be appreciated (www.telephonecollectors.org). Thanks.”
Ronald C., Friday, August 23, 2013 11:15 pm EDT
“Great site! Brings back good memories. Miss my work buddies. Were good times, 1970-2000. Worked in Anderson & Muncie, Indiana area. Carl Nolton was our CWA president. Great guy to work with. Passed away in 2009.”
Erik, Saturday, August 24, 2013 3:14 pm EDT
“Hello, I’m Erik. I’m a fan of telegraphique lines since I was born LOL! I love your great site . . . there is a lot of precious information! Also you have a lot of stunning images in open wire section. I search these images in more bigger sizes. Have you these beautiful pictures or some references to give me to find great pictures? Thanks in advance!! I had some great one images and for fun, I restored some image because I’m became to tired to see often the ruins. LOL! I did this picture from ruins and I restored it with care. The lines are green because they are in copper and with the time . . . Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
Greetings, Erik in Quebec, Canada
P. S. English it’s not my first language so excuse me for some errors.”
Ronald, Sunday, August 25, 2013 2:30 pm EDT
The gentleman (Carl Nolton) is our formal union president in the Anderson area. One of my friends, Bill Brobston interviewed him in the hospital shortly before he passed away in 2009 on YouTube. It’s about 27 minutes. You might want to view it and decide if you want to post it on anything. I would send it to you myself but I’m not in the mechanics of those kinds of things. Ha! I may give it a shot after I’m done here. One of Carl’s mottos was: “Eight hours work for eight hours pay.” Fight like hell if they try to take that away.
In the video, he was in the hospital with a broken hip and looked awful frail but in life as a ‘telephone man,’ he was big and husky. Intimidating, but gentle and shrewd as a fox. You had to be in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, or management would walk all over you. His interview reflects some of this but says union tactics wouldn’t work in today’s environment. He says both parties today need to have common ground to work with. I hope you find the video and take the time to see it and maybe put in your archives as a tribute to him and maybe others might enjoy it, too. Thanks for answering. Ronald in Anderson, IN.” See:
Paul W., August 25, 2013 8:04 pm EDT
“I’m sure that our members will be interested in what you write. Remember many of our members are interested in many different aspects of telephone history and there are a number who are specifically interested in open wire plant. A few members either built their own plant or maintain private facilities for campgrounds and similar organizations. I always say there is no ‘typical’ telephone collector. There are people who specialize in, literally, every part of the industry. Of course, that results in many ‘expanded horizons’ in our membership.”
Alan (BIG Al) R., Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:02 pm EDT
“Retired Lineman and Foreman for Pacific Telephone, Circa 1964 to 1991 . . . Worked the wire in the high and low deserts throughout my career and supervised the last known addition of open wire in the Pacific Company in 1973 (Goffs to Needles). This addition of wire was a temporary fix until Microwave could take its place . . . The wire was ultimately removed from service and wrecked in the mid-’80s . . . I am very proud of my service with the Pacific company and I have many fond memories of WORKING the WIRE throughout my career.”
Mike M., Thursday, September 26, 2013 1:45 pm EDT
“I came across this website a few weeks ago while researching railroad line poles for a modeling project, and I have to say that I’ve been reading it non-stop lately. What a fascinating collection of material you’ve put together. Much thanks for the work and putting it all out there for the world to learn from.
It really is a fascinating technology.
I’ve been a model railroader my whole life but in the last 10 years I’ve gotten into it again but this time from a much more fine scale perspective. I model the White Pass and Yukon Routes. I’m doing it a year after the shutdown so its 1983 and CTC has come to the Yukon. It gives me some creative license so thus the line poles carrying much more than just telegraph and telephone. The Rix poles are good, yes, but I, like you, only could take them as a starting point. I’m sure that I haven’t added all the details that I should but I try to get things to be a much more realistic representation of reality than most model railroaders.
In real life, I’m a locomotive engineer for Amtrak. I spend a good deal of time watching the decrepit line poles go by the window trying to decipher all the correct details and practices. Like I said, this website has been fascinating.
I also think there really needs to be a song. Song of the Open Wire. It absolutely is poetic.
Nate, Wednesday, October 23, 2013 2:35 pm EDT
“I have a 1930 Model A Ford Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Installers truck. It has been in the family for a long time. On the back, there is a steel box with a ‘boss’ on top, meant to be used for a pay-out reel. I have pictures of what it looks like (see Utility Vehicles of the Open Wire Era), although I have never seen a physical example. Have you ever come across one of these ‘pay-out reels’? It would be nice to replicate one or find one! I’d like to find someone who has one of these. Too bad I can’t purchase a new one today! Note the price. I have more pics of 1930 era vehicles and equipment.”
Fred M. Cain, Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:05 pm EDT
“FINALLY! There is a website devoted to open-wire! I actually considered doing that myself but I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough interest.
Fred M. Cain”
Fred M. Cain, Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:07 pm EDT
“Thanks for your fast response! I tried posting a message right on your website but I wasn’t sure if it was taking it or not? The system where I work has an old version of Microsoft Explorer that doesn’t always mesh well with some sites.
Anyhow, I thought maybe you might have heard of me before. A number of years ago, I wrote a two-part story about open-wire lines that was published in the ‘Singing Wires’ telephone newsletter. I still have it saved on my computer if you want me to send you a copy of it.
I dreamed about starting a website and perhaps an e-group on the subject but wasn’t sure if enough people are really interested in this. I also dreamed of someday writing a book on the subject but it is harder than heck to find good pictures of older open-wire lines as you have no doubt discovered. I could kick myself over and over for not taking more pictures while I could. I can tell you that when I was a kid back in the ’60s, you could leave any American city and go out into the surrounding countryside and open wire lines were literally everywhere. But like so many things in life, it’s easy to take something mundane like that for granted until you wake up one day to realize that they’re gone. Too bad.
Jeff Syrop, Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:12 pm EDT
I’m an archeologist for University of Hawaii. I came across these insulators in the field, and am wondering if you can possibly give me any info on them.
Thanks a lot, Doug. You area a big help. Interesting!
Cathy, Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:15 pm EDT
“Thanks for sending all this information! I will pass it on to my husband who has been trying for weeks to get some insight into this. Thank you again!!!
Bob T., Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:17 pm EDT
“My name is Bob Tally and I spent almost 38 years with the Bell System. I was hired in 1952 as a ‘grunt’ on a Long Lines non-located construction crew and spent over 8 years on outside construction before transferring to the Phoenix Toll Central Office where I spent the rest of my career. I retired in December 1989.
Attached is an article I would like to share with you that I found in a scrapbook from my old line gang days. It is an article published in the Lines West newsletter in late 1952. Lines West was published for Plant employees of the old Long Lines Western Area. The article is a report on the last major wire stringing job in the Western Area. This project added a whopping 12 more long distance circuits on the old Salt Lake City-Helena open wire line. I was 18 years old at the time this article was written and I was the ‘block monkey’ pictured in the article.
I hope you find pleasure in this article.
Bob T., Wednesday, October 30, 2013 11:38 am EDT
First let me say a great big ‘Thank You’ for the fantastic job you are doing on your ‘Song of the Open Wire’ website. Having worked on AT&T Long Lines open wire lines in the Western Area for the first eight years of my Bell System career from June 1952 until I was transferred to the Phoenix, AZ toll central office in 1961, many of your articles brings a lump to my throat.
As for my comments, yes, you most certainly may use my material or my comments and narrations in any way you see fit. I am proud that I was able to be a participant in the era of open wire and with the help of your website, has given me many good memories. Also, I would be happy to share anything I can recall about my years with the Bell System.
As I wrote earlier, the article I emailed to you was first published in a Long Lines Western Area newsletter called Lines West. This newsletter contained articles mostly about inside plant and traffic (operators) events such as company schools, service anniversaries, promotions and such.
Our gang was in Pocatello, Idaho around the middle of September of 1952 when the company sent out a female reporter/photographer to do the story about the my last major open wire addition in the Bell System and since we were the only gang actively stringing wire at the time, we were featured in her article. The first morning she met us at the storeroom to take a few pictures she was dressed in the usual office attire of the time–a skirt and high heels. Our supervising foreman, ‘Red’ Matson then took her out to the job site in his company car. Imagine her surprise when she discovered that she had to walk about a quarter mile through the sage brush in the hills above Pocatello to get where we were working. When she met us at the storeroom the next morning, she had obviously purchased some jeans and work boots so she could follow us on the job. Needless to say, there were more than a few comments among the crew about her attire.
When the newsletter was published the next month, I tore out the story about our wire stringing and mailed it to my folks in Denver. I knew my dad would be proud of my work as he was a lineman for Western Union at one time. In the years since then, I had forgotten all about that article. However, about a year ago, I was browsing through some old photo albums that I had acquired from my Mom when she passed away and lo and behold, here was that old article folded and tucked away just as I had sent it to them. It now resides in sheet protectors in a scrapbook. I hope this clears up any doubt as to the origins of the article.
I continued working on the line gangs from 1952 to 1956 when I was called to serve 2 years in the U. S. Army. When I returned to AT&T after my military duty, I continued to work on the gangs until early 1961, when I got transferred to the Phoenix, AZ toll central office, where I remained until I retired in 1989.
AT&T Long Lines was the only job I knew, so I guess you can say that the blood in my veins is still Bell System green even today.
Joe H., Tuesday, November 5, 2013 1:44 pm EST
“Am enjoying your extensive web site. Under the heading ‘Communications Museums Featuring Open Wire,’ the museum in Phoenix, AZ has moved from 20 East Thomas to 3640 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, AZ.
Since we are located in a C. O. building, they will not let us keep the door open. Tours must be pre-arranged.
An active collector of insulator glass is currently going thru our boxes of glass to create a display that shows many types and styles. When he is finished [we] will send you some pictures. The attached flyer is what we are using for advertising. We plan to link our web site to yours. If you would like any further info, please let me know.
Thanks for your work.
Joe Hersey, Telephone Museum, (602) 377-5852″
Pete M., Tuesday, December 10, 2013 3:55 pm EST
“I started with Northwestern Bell in Omaha, NE October 11, 1971 as a Stockman (after arguing with my dad for a year that working for the phone company wasn’t exciting enough). My second boss was Ray Shannon. He got me transferred to Ken Syas’s line crew in Bellevue after six months with the company. After about a year, I moved to cable splicing (big mistake for a left hander) that was the worst two years of my now going on 43 year career. I finally got the chance to return to Smokey Jensen’s line crew and stayed a lineman for 12 and half more years.
After a couple of years, I got the chance to transfer to Fritz Shannon’s (Ray’s brother) which was closer to home. The top hook on the crew was Whitey Wrightson and that’s where I really became a lineman thanks to Whitey (at my dad’s request).
Easter weekend 1975, I got my introduction to open wire in Fort Dodge, IA. They had a major early spring snow storm a heck of a way to learn that part of line crew work. We worked 16 hour days for a couple of weeks. Later that May, that spring Omaha had a major tornado and it was back to 16 hour days again.
In 1976, I got the chance transfer to Fremont to work on Joe Toelle’s cfrew. The crew spent most of its time on the road which was kind of hard on my wife with two sons, Andy, who was almost three, and his brother, Tonly, not quite one yet. Mert Perry was the top hook and of course he needed to test the new city boy. We were replacing a lead cable lead and were placing the new strand ‘sag the strand and build the dead-end’. When I had finished he looked at the third member of the crew and told him, ‘Guess you’re still the grunt.’
For the next couple of winters, we wrecked open wire miles and miles of it. That’s what started my collecting insulators. During the time I was in Fremont, I made three road trips out our area. The first to Mobile, AL, after Hurricane Frederick in 1979. The crew members were Rick Kerrigan (foreman), Bill Schelley (Norfolk, NE), Don Lott, Don Taylor, John Blair and Mark Hinton (all of Omaha), and myself.
The next trip was in 1980-1981 to Lake Charles and Lafayette, LA. The crew members were Rick Kerrigan, Bob Walker, Dan Phillips, Dave Steinkraus, Don Taylor, John Blair (all of Omaha), and myself. I was top hook on both trips because I was the only who would tell Rick to find us our next job and let us do this one.
In late 1983, Don Taylor, John Blair, Whitey Wrightson and myself came to Arizona mainly to help place anchors for cable TV. Don and John ended up in Flagstaff and me and Whitey got Sedona. It was not too long after that the Fremont crew was disbanded and I went to work for Dale Jensen (Smokey’s brother) in Omaha on what was to be my last line crew. This was the underground crew and we placed the first fiber optics rings in Omaha.
Because of a ruptured disk in my neck, I moved back to splicing for the next year or so, as a splicer on a dedicated T1 crew. We never missed a due date. Well, the powers-to-be decided that construction splicing could also handle this (Wrong!). The company had other plans for us; we were the original central office installation crew in Nebraska. I was part of the group for 16 years. First in Nebraska and then Arizona. While still in Omaha, they had a major tornado in Council Bluffs, IA (1988). Since my crew had outside plant experience, we were going to get to replace aerial drops. I never did like doing this and asked to work with the line crew and they were more than happy to get me. So, I got to work one more time with my road trip buddies.
In 1998, I transferred to Phoenix as a central office installer (mostly DC power installation). I then took a CSPEC power engineering position. Thought that would be the position I would retire from, but I got another opportunity for another career challenge, as the inside plant quality auditor for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
It’s been a pretty exciting career. Glad my dad didn’t give up. With four members of my immediate family, uncles and cousins, we have over 300 years of service with the companies that have become CenturyLink. Now, my son Tony is working for one of our vendors in the DC power part of the Industry. I presently am a volunteer at the Pioneer Museum in Phoenix helping with their insulator collection. As Joe promised a picture of that collection will be coming soon.
Pete M., Friday, December 20, 2013 11:10 am EST
“I love the site! I’m not retired working on 43 years. I do have pictures of the Fremont crew removing the last working open wire lead in eastern Nebraska. It was in Lyons, Nebraska: a bracket pair that served the local Combination tech’s uncle. This was a coupl e of years after the deadline to have all working service off open wire.
George Osborn was the tech’s name. I asked why he didn’t point this out before? He told me, because it was working okay. It was starting to be a problem, so he called to have it buried to the house, which we did. I don’t understand . . . because the can was placed by the driveway and the cable had been there for two years.
George passed away early this year. He was a a good telephone man and Pioneer. I’ll get something together next week. Do you want me to just send it to you?
Ted L., Sunday, January 12, 2014 1:42 pm EST
“I drove a shovel one summer during college, used some of this equipment.
Is there any chance you know where I could get the dimensions of a ’40s – ’50s installer body, such as in the next photo? I would like to build one for my model railroad. >http://www.mustangclubofstl.com/i/main.php?g2_itemId=14713
Ted R. Larson”
Model Railroader Dan, Friday, February 14, 2014 2:38 pm EST
“Informative article! Just what I was looking for.”
Pat L., Thursday, February 20, 2014, 12:49 pm EST
“When I moved into my home in Floriday in 2001, my phone service was via an open [wire] pair. Because DSL was not yet available to this area, I had Verizon drop an ISDN line so that I could access the Internet.
Sometime in 2002, Verizon agreed to try DSL out here and I was able to get DSL and dropped ISDN.
In 2005, we had four hurricanes, the eyes of three of them passed over my house. These did a lot of damage to the old poles and required some maintenance.
The linemen were salvaging some of the old insulators from the open pairs and dropped some of the old 10-gauge wire. This wire looked like copper, but was very hard and was attracted to a magnet.
Do you happen to know what the composition of this old open pair wire was? It obviously had some copper in it because it turned green and when you pounded it flat, it looked like copper all the way thru.
There are still some of the cross bars and wire standing out here.
Bridgid, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 2:50 pm EDT
I am so grateful I found your website! I really found you by error while looking for something else. Regardless, I am here now and would just like to say, thanks a lot for the fantastic post and an all-around interesting blog (I also love the theme/design). I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment, but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time, I will be back to read a lot more! Please keep up the superb work!”
Tom H., Thursday, March 27, 2014 4:59 pm EDT
Don’t know if you know about this or not, but I noticed what looks like an open wire phone line still in service near Shoshone, CA, near the entrance to Death Valley NP. I was out to DV last week on a visit.
What caught my eye was the NEW pole and the generally good reapir that the line is kept in.
I didn’t have much time to look at the line, other than to take these 2 photos. From what I can tell on Google Earth, the line runs between Shoshone and Death Valley Junction, about 27 miles to the north on CA route 127.
And thanks for your great website! Open wire is my friend and I’ve spent many hours studying transmission line characteristics of open wire (Oliver Heaviside is my other friend . . .).
Tom Hagen, Rochester, MI”
Russ C., Wednesday, May 14, 2014 12:43 pm EDT
“Found this site by accident while looking for some pics of an old sleeve roller. It’s nice in this digital age that the days of open wire toll lines can still be referenced. I was an un-located lineman for Southwestern Bell for many years and not only placed it, cut transpositions in and out, but wrecked a lot of it. It was good work and I always enjoyed it. Thanks for the site.”
Russ C., Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:45 pm EDT
“Great site: I worked eight years as an un-located lineman before locating for Southwestern Bell. We worked in Mo, Ks, Okla. & Tx during those years. We considered ourselves boomers because sometimes we would move to another job before the one we were working on was finished.
Worked a lot of open wire. Spent twelve hours in the freezing rain on a 40′ pole bridling out three sets of double buck arms. But the most frustrating had to be cutting phantoms in or out on working toll circuits. Four sets of blocks set up depending on the type just right, an old 5A switch box with its leads and jumpers at the outside of all of that to keep it working. Well, one time, (with the sleeves in my mouth), the boss dropped the flag and when I cut that wire those blocks flipped around and like to beat me to death, the ends flipped up and hit those sleeves. And, believe me, I tasted copper for about two weeks. Didn’t do that again.
Guess the last wire (other than wrecking it all over the place) we worked on was down the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where we added two circuits, re-transposed two more and replaced poles to regrade the line from McAllen to Roma. There was nothing prettier than seeing that new copper wire shining in the sun when the work was finally done”
Grant W., Monday, August 25, 2014 8:27 pm EDT
“I am a retired employee of Bell Canada in Ontario who worked as an Installation Repair man Class 2 from 1966 to 1971 before deciding I could not keep doing this job in the cold of winter for the next twenty-five years and managed a transfer inside until retirement.
We still had rural routes with open wire and I can remember climbing them with spurs and a belt, getting shocks in my armpit from reaching over the wires when ringing on the line started and trying not to fall off the pole.
I’ve pulled up broken wires with jacks, replacing insulators shot by hunters, and working an ice storm back in ’69 near Lake Erie. I’ll see if I have pictures. I can remember being stung by wasps after I disturbed them in a hole on a pole and jumping off the pole to escape.
There was a route that crossed over a railway line at an overpass and the poles must have been sixty feet high. So, when I went up there, my arms could barely fit around half the bottom of the pole and my belt was too short, until I got up higher. Those were the scariest climbs other than hanging up there an seeing a wrought iron fence below. I cut out a few times, but only one spur and I’m sure the spur that held, seemed to be right at my face level. For a young guy, it was a great job in the summer and really enjoyed it. But come winter, it was a different story. When I see all the ladder climbers today, I laugh and think back to open wire, spurs and wide open spaces.
Grant W., Monday, August 25, 2014 8:29 pm EDT
“How can I buy a copy of the picture, ‘Heyday of the Crossarm,’ please? I can relate as some winters up here in Canada I would have to place my ladder up against the snow bank and climb up it and then walk across the snow to end up standing on the open wire in the snow to try and isolate the trouble I was trying to fix.
Tony M., September 11, 2014 11:32 PDT
“Attached is a photograph looking out into Vancover harbor. This close to the Cruise ship terminal here. I spoke to the fellow we talked about here in Vancouver. He indicated he would check out the website and may have some things to contribute.
For myself, I am in the process of creating a presentation package to planners here . . . I hope to be able to include some early design images to indicate that pole line design goes a long way back. Sometimes, it is important to look at the past in order to see the future.
It was interesting to see the early 1900’s concrete pole experiments for telegraph and how current concrete poles being used for power are being replaced due to corroding bolts and energy transfers causing failures.
So, if you are able to release some photos or early images of some pole design or guy wire design, that would be extremely helpful for my presentation.
Mike B, October 19, 2014 9:56 pm EDT
I am a railroad signal enthusist and came across your site on open wire telephone systems while researching analog carrier system. I just wanted to alert you to a large number of photos I have taken of various railroad signaling pole lines that survive (or recently survived) on the east coast. Mose were taken on the Baltimore & Ohio Main Line in WV and MD as well as the former Chesapeake & Ohio Washington, D. C. route in Virginia.
https://www.acm.jhu.edu//~sthurmovik/Railpics/09-06-12_ PITTSBURGH INFRASTRUCTURE/-Thumbnails.html
Many of the other folders are here https://www.acm.jhu.edu//~Railpics/ have pole line pictures taken from the rear of Amtrak trains, but they lack the details of the above photos (look for sets taken in the month of June from 2009 until the present).
I also discuss pole line signaling on my signaling blog here: http://position-light.blogspot.com/search/label/pole%20line.
Let me know if any of this is useful to you.”
Jeremy L., October 20, 2014 8:39 pm EDT
From South Africa: https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.lansman/’media_set?set=a.10202658657852415.1073741831.1377137713787&type=1
I could not believe how many were in such good condition. I will post some more as time permits.
What I wonder is what atten is like at 1 MHz?”
Mike B, October 21, 2014, 11:51 pm EDT
“Re railroad lines, in addition to voice circuits, a lot of the wires transmit signal state between block boundaries. You basically need two bits of information about the state of the next two signals. Line breaks would force the local signal to Stop or Stop and Proceed.
In addition to signal wires you had two wires for pole line power. This was typically, 440 AC. Each signal location was supplied by a transformer on the pole and then would rectify it to 12V DC.
Finally there was something known as a ‘code line’ which was used to remote control switches and signals as well as tell a remote operator track occupancy status. Here is the sort of machine that used the code line.
Jeremy L., October 22, 2014, 1:25 pm EDT
OK . . . here was my estimate of the distance one might expect for ADSL2+ on open wire.
http://www.insulators.info/articles/openwire has 140 kc data
.27 dB 104 mil wet 1t 70 kHz
.401 dB 104 mil wet at 150
ok… <.8 dB wet lets say… so lets say 35/.8 43.75 miles
I think that is conservative. When I saw so much old outside plant in pristine condition in rural SA and Namibia, it got wondering. Now that I have a preliminary number, I really wonder if the cost of using these lines, and fixing the few bad sections, might be less than use of satellite.
My Facebook posting was in a group called, ‘I Take Pictures of Transmitter Sites,’ which is mostly broadcast radio stuff. A lot of engineers are found there. Under the heading, Free Air Versus Twisted Pair, I ask how fare ADSL might go, but no response to that question, not yet.
I will send you a few raw pictures. Next email.”
Jeremy L., October 22, 2014, 1:37 pm EDT
“This page has a chart that indicates loss can be 36 dB at 300 KHz for 12 Mb/s.
In rural Africa, probably there is little RF interference. I know where I was there is virtually no AM radio or long wave.
Of course, loss varies with wire diameter and other factors . . .
By the way, finding your Song site was wonderful. Not much tech stuff there, but great pictures.
Your opinion on my DSL idea?”
Mike B, October 24, 2014, 2:54 pm EDT
“So while I know a fair amount on railway signaling and signaling theory, I have a huge gap when it comes to the nuts and bolts of how both railway and telecom pole lines work. The reason I was offering up all my photo links was because I was hoping someone on your end would recognize something and be able to use the fairly recent photos to illustrate it. At some point, I am sure, I will write something up on railway pole line infrastructure, but I can’t really do much more than describe the different types of hardware and talk about the power supplies.
How about you let me know what you find interesting in the photos I linked (whenever you have time) and we can see where the needs are.”
Jeremy L., October 25, 2014, 4:07 pm EDT
“Doug, Thank you for your complements. First, yes. You have my permission to use my photographs. I have a couple of others taken on a Nikon that I am just learning to use. They are quite possibly off topic for your site, but you may find them of interest . . .
Tom H., December 5, 2014, 6:12 pm EDT
” . . . Have you thought any more about the group that would tour facilities and so on?
There’s a SARA conference in California again in March and I’m taking extra time to have a closer look at that open wire in Shoshone. I looked some online to see if I could identify the local phone company that maintains it, but didn’t have much luck. Would you have any ideas on how to figure out who the local phone company is in that town?
Alan R., December 7, 2014 11:37 pm EDT
“Hello Doug . . . Glad you saw my comments. I think you are on to something . . . I am currently working with Alan Drew, V.P. of Operations at the Lineman’s College in Meridian, Idaho wrigint a book about the ‘HISTORY of the LINEMAN’ including Telegraph, Telephone and Power telling their story. I have given him as much info as I could about the Telephone Lineman and their place in the history of Lineman. *I have also painted a picture which is currently being shown on ICON (Insulators.info) for sale to history buffs and collectors of glass . . . 32 prints have been purchased from all parts of the US and one in Canada so far and I am extremely proud that these folks wanted to add my work to their collections . . . Keep me posted on your future plans . . . I AM interested! . . . Sincerely, Alan Riegler.”
Peter M., December 22, 2014 12:02 pm EDT
“I’m at the museum today and have pictures of the CD120 that I told you about. My son Tony found it. The CD120 was the very first insulator that I had in my collection years ago. I found it while we were wrecking a lead near Fremont, Nebraska. I’m pretty sure this one was produced very early in 1872. The embossing is some of the best I’ve seen on the CD120 insulators. As you can see, it is a very crude cast that leans and the pin hole is off center so more than likely done on a hand press.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”
Jeremy L., January 6, 2015 4:48 am EDT
“We lost Telkom service at 11:34 AM last Sunday. It is now more than 48 hours from that time, and you have yet to post a fault report identification number to our problem. And even if you had, I would doubt that your company can repair it without an elaborate bureaucratic process. Why? You may have to first assign a technician to inspect the problem, an inspection which inspection I already have made. Then you would have to evaluate the extent of the damage and determine if TelKom would replace the missing (yes it was stolen in broad daylight) cable. Then you would have to purchase replacement cable, which I doubt you keep in stock here in Grabouw, then you would issue an order to hire contractors to install the cable. Finally, people would need to splice all pairs, even if most are not in use.
I note that on your fault reporting page you suggest the customer perform self-help. I am hereby responding to that suggestion. See:
‘Want to fix the problem yourself?’ It might help saving you time and uncessary charges!’
The problem is continuing copper theft. I have a self help plan to prevent this theft. In essence the plan is to revert to 1950s technology and use open wire. My plan is to first identify the cable colour codes representing our own pair. Then to identify each pole that used to support the multi-pair cable. Then to install cross bar or pole mounted insulators supporting open steel wire to replace our own copper pair, and then to splice into your multi conductor cable at the first point where it runs down the pole to go underground. Then if practical, to extend the work to other sections that are aerial.
Material can be had from nearly abandoned open wire. Cross bar, insulatos and steel wire are all there for the taking. It is clear that thieves do not take open wire.
Please note: Not sending a response to this email constitutes permission to plan, then begin construciton of a system supporting one open wire pair from our property near Grabouw, to your switch in central Crabouw.
You may respond via email, or call me on the Western Cape number below. Thank you.
On 04/01/2015 14:59, Telkom Internet Technical Support via RT wrote:
Thank you for your email dated Sun Jan 04 14:59:44 2015 with subject: Telkom Down – More Information Requested
You can reply to this mail at any time, but in any communication regarding this issue, please be sure to retain the subject as:
You can do this simply by replying to this mail, or other replies you receive regarding this issue.
Telkom Internet Technical Support
Steve H., March 11, 2015 11:37 pm EDT
“Hello, My name is Steve Hart and I have some detailed pictures of some open lead, location and even know some of the folks that worked on and built it here in Southern California.
May we please plan a telephone call soon. I would like to meet you ‘on the telephone’ as I would enjoy that. I will tell you more about things when we speak. Best Regards, Steve Hart”
Steve H., March 11, 2015 4:57 pm EDT
“Hello Doug, thank you for your email. This is going to be great. I have a lot of material that I think you’re going to enjoy and be quite interested in.
I’m not sure if I can call you tonight, but I’ll try. Otherwise thank you for providing your number to me and I will definitely be talking to you on the next day or two.
Funny you mention railroad open wire, as we are taking a couple of private road cars up to San Luis Obispo this weekend and there is an abandoned stretch left in the Hollister area but I will be photographing.
I clearly have a lot more to discuss with you so I’ll save that for a phone call. Please have a look at the attached pictures if you like.
Very best regards, Steve Hart”
Steve H., March 13, 2015 1:11 pm EDT
“What in the elaborate and thoroughly detailed communication you just sent me. Thank you. I can’t possibly give you the level of detail you just gave me, sadly. I did want to get back to you right away.
The next step is I would like you to meet [a friend] and has extremely similar interests and is actually setting up working open wire.
As our relationship evolves, which it will, I will tell you all about my background and ‘what not.’
. . . . Thank you again for your reciprocation in friendship and you can be sure that we will go forward enjoying a great relationship enjoying open wire and related technologies and infrastructure.
Your friend, Steve Hart.”
Steve H., March 16, 2015 10:57 pm EDT
“Good morning gentlemen, Over the weekend we had were on a ‘back-and-forth to San Luis Obispo.’ On the way there, I spotted some extremely intact, decommissioned railroad signaling wires. This is the old Southern Pacific coastal right-of-way.
Also, I apologize, but you can summarize where we left this thing off. I am talking about the conference. I got extremely busy last week with that charter and sort of lost track of our last conversation. I would like to proceed with a conference call and moving ahead. Please advise.
Steve H., March 16, 2015 9:04 pm EDT
I want to thank you for your many hours of work creating the wonderful website ‘Song of the Open Wire.’ It is the best resource I know of anywhere for technical research and for preserving the disappearing technology of open wire and it is particularly important to preserve this information for future generations for research and enjoyment. I have shared your link with many interested parties.”
Mike W., March 16, 2015 9:04 pm EDT
“Doug, I have enjoyed talking to Steve Hart online about our telecom hobby and I appreciate him arranging a contact between all of us.”
Bob G., March 28 12:44 pm EDT
“Open wire, What a great web page. I worked for AT&T Long Lines in Laramie, Wyoming in the late 1960’s. We didn’t have much open wire left, but some. Some K-carrier and ON over K. The big effort was maintaining TD-2 and TH microwave.
I think you have the wrong picture or the wrong description on the page below. There is a picture labeled ‘Osciliscope for carrier system requirements, Hewlett-Packard, c. 1970’s.
The picture is most likely a Hewlett Packard 200CD wide range oscillator. http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/hp_audio_oscillator_200cd.html.
The link below is from HP and it mentions the use in carrier telephone systems in the last paragraph.
Thank you for the memories.
Bob G., March 30, 2015 1:39 pm EDT
“Doug, I am new at this web page business myself. Recently moved to go-daddy. Below is my feeble attempt to document things that I haven’t been able to get much help on line. Mostly old radios with busted parts.
Your site is much more detailed and complex, good job.
I won’t be able to attend any organizational meetings, but I certainly will check your website from time to time, it is interesting.
Bob G., March 31, 2015 12:01 pm EDT
“Doug, Sorry I can’t help you with the Philcom Microwave. Long Lines used all Western Electric microwave in the 70’s I did some work on Farinon, but it was all solid state.
Here is as close as I can come to open wire . . . The ringer works. It needs a couple of No. 6 Blue Bells and a pair to the outside world and all would be right with the world.
Tom H., April 3, 2015 8:50 am EDT
Looking forward to seeing the new site when you finish it.
Also, I was out to Shoshone CA last week and had another look at the open wire phone line there, but alas, it’s out of service. Where the lines go through Shoshone, they look well maintained, but 5 or 6 miles to the north, the line ends where the wires have been cut. They’re cut a few miles to the south of town too.
So, I don’t know of any operating open wire phone lines left in the USA, do you?
Jean, July 27, 2015, 3:05 pm EDT
“Bonjour, je possede un appareil western electric type 107 a&b test set jaimerais savoir combien sa peut valoir et si il y a des acheteur pour ca et qui sont les gens interesser jespere avoir de vos nouvelles merci a lavance.
Fred C., August 18, 2015 11:41 pm EDT
“Doug, I was wondering if the use of open-wire has been banned. Is this the case? If not, would it be possible for someone to build their own line out in the country and have it hooked up to the phone system? Has anyone looked into that?
Regards, Fred M. Cain”
Fred C., September 1, 2015 1:09 pm EDT
“Doug, Thanks so much for your excellent e-mail response to my question on whether or not open-wire (OW) was banned. . .
Your explanation about the Texas R.R. Commission banning all open-wire (OW) with a 1999 deadline confirmed my suspicion. If this was done in Texas, it could well have been done in other states as well. Indeed, could the Commission’s edict have been merely a response to some kind of a federal mandate? I almost have to wonder since OW has so completely disappeared Nationwide.
I don’t understand the economic wisdom of wrecking small OW bracket leads which are in otherwise good condition UNLESS there was a mandate.
But why would there be a mandate in the first place? I have a couple of questions about the Commission’s mandate and their rationale or justification for it that ‘Internet service be made available to all.’
What is the difference between a pair of fine copper wires imbedded in a rubber or vinyl and a pair of larger diameter wires supported on glass insulators? Isn’t a circuit a circuit? Or am I completely missing something here?
Let’s take a look at a purely hypothetical possibility here. Imagine we have a couple of farmers at the end of a long lane, one fourth to one half mile off the road. These long-term POTS subscribers would like to add Internet. They are connected to the main highway by a one-arm, two pair OW lead. The line is old but still in very good condition. So, we’re gonna move in and wreck out the line and replace it with two of those rubber or vinyl coated ‘drop lines.’ So, what is it about the drop lines that can deliver reliable Internet service whereas the OW cannot?
You stated that OW makes an excellent ‘antenna.’ Alas, I know this is true. In fact, I have been told that OW lines often had a distressing tendency to pick up 60 cycle ‘hum’ during periods of damp weather.
This brings me to my next question. In this age of fantastic and nearly unimaginable high technology, is there nothing that can be done to address this making short OW farm leads possible again? I wonder. Course, I realize that service providers would have no desire or incentive to even look into this. But if it COULD be done, would such an installation be able to obtain a ‘waiver’ from the banned OW mandate? I know, I know, difficult questions. Very difficult indeed since they have almost certainly never been asked before.
Getting back to the mandate, was it REALLY necessary? Sometimes I wonder if the government might not impose mandates on businesses of which they actually know little about. I have seen this happen in the railroad industry. Could it happen in telephony, too?
Here’s my idea: If we could somehow get a service provider to install a couple of OW farm leads, this might get them to take a second look at OW. I would have to acquire the hardware for them to install. The open wire that existed in 1958 is hopelessly obsolete. But technology might make some kind of a new application both possible and desirable.
Memories, memories, memories. Yes, I have a lot of them! I’m not sure how old you are but I can tell you that back in the 1960’s, you could go well outside the city limits of just about any American city and there were open wire lines everywhere. By the ’60s they had already started taking them down but they were still there to be seen. Growing up, our family traveled quite a bit and as a child I spent many hours looking out the back seat window of our family car at the OW lines along the older two-lane highways of that era. I enjoyed watching them ‘dance’ alongside the road, their beautiful ‘jewels’ sparkling in the sunshine. Today I see them still but only in my dreams 🙁
Regards, Fred M. Cain”
Fred C., September 18, 2015 4:11 pm EDT
“Doug, Another great e-mail! I will print this off and try to get you a more complete response next week.
By the way, do you have a physical address for U. S. Mail? [Yes, see our landing page] Perhaps I could write you a letter some time.
Fred M. Cain”
Rich W., October 6, 2015 9:13 am EDT
Over the past year I have made a map of legacy AT&T carrier routes and facilities (J/K/L carrier and Microwave). Due to pole removal it has been difficult to find the exact routes and buildings associated with J carrier and early open wire technologies. Are there any engineering documents showing the exact routes for the transcontinental or other open wire routes? Also I was wondering if you could identify the purpose of this ‘AT&T Switching Station’ in Fort Scott, Kansas:
(see third and forth photo)
It’s on Highway 69 exactly 7.2 miles south of Highway 54/Fort Scott. It looks much different (and much older) than the hundreds of other facilities I’ve come across. What I found odd is that it is literally ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ Perhaps it was a major crossing of N/S and E/W toll circuits.
Rich W., Sherman Oaks, CA”
Rich W., October 8, 2015 3:48 pm EDT
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. After a few more hours of searching I was able to find out a little more on the Ft. Scott building. Apparently it was a ‘VF’ open wire repeater station and later in life became a K-carrier repeater.
I have a huge map of old telco carrier routes that I have found and have added some found by others. Microwave and L3/4/5 was rather easy though quite time consuming. L1 and K-carrier were a little harder to find due to being older. J-Carrier and other openwire technologies are by far the hardest and someday I hope to have them better documented.
Now in the course of all this I came across an old J-carrier hut in Ravensdale Calif (south of Alturas on US395). It’s quite a ways off the road so my best views were limited to grainy aerial photos. What was really exciting is that the pole line was clearly visible and appeared intact from June 2014 aerial photos. The pole line crosses US 395 about a mile south fo the hut at this lat/lon: 40.7713-120.3423 and the street-level photos from 2007 show the crossarms and wires! They may very well still be there. While I realize finding old J-carrie isn’t as earth-shattering as finding C-carrier, it’s still a surprising find.
Speaking of history preservation I don’t know if you heard about John LaRue’s museum burning down. If not, please read:
Anyhow when I get home I will send you photos of the Ravensdale wires as you are far more qualified than I am to tell exactly what they are. I will also send you my huge telco route map, it’s a Google Earth KMZ file.
Lastly, if you are not already there, please check out:
There are a handful of people on coldwarcomms who are familiar with older carrier facilities/routes/equipment.
Rich Williamson, October 8, 2015 7:54 pm EDT
“Attached is the photo from Ravendal. Not the greatest resolution but appears to be perhaps 16 wires? Doubt I’ll be up that way anytime soon but if I am I’ll certainly take better photos and provide a report.
Rich W., October 9, 2015 4:28 pm EDT
I’ve attached a couple of photos to show you what it looks like. The first is the huts along the K-carrier route from Oklahoma City to Kansas City. The second is a zoom-in detail on the K-hut at Catoosa (which is still there). – Rich”
Rich W., October 9, 2015 4:37 pm EDT
I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of understanding the operation of equipment as compared to using it for what I call ‘nostalgic eye candy.’ In fact, I have a friend with an operational AE step switch in his shed. It turns out there are a handful of people with functional step and crossbar systems, and they have used the Internet as an analog tandem to trunk them together. It’s very cool in that I can dial into these old switches from my home phone. If you haven’t already been there the website for these folks is:
The information I have on the building in Fort Scott is very limited. One person apparently poked his head in there and said the building is empty, covered with mold from a leaking roof, and the inside is littered with trash (and worse) by transients living there. Guess all it’s good for is outside photos and cobbling together some information on what purpose it served and the type of equipment involved.
Good luck with your trip. From my kmz file I have attached a picture of my microwave information for one of these sites? My microwave info certainly isn’t complete as I focused on Long Lines sites and only included partial information on local exchange carrier/non-Bell microwave sites. – Rich”
Richard M., November 6, 2015 12:53 pm EDT
Hope you are doing well. I am retired now as of late September. Took this pict earlier this week in Doyle California, feel free to use it on your great website. Don’t think you’ll find much 3-arm open wire standing anywhere [in] the US.
Let me know if you are down California way anytime.
Take care, Bart”
Rich W., January 26, 2016 9:46 am EDT
I have been working on mapping the Defense Backbone Route. So far I have found the repeater stations at Ravendale, Luning, Tonopah, Desert Rock,and an unknown-named station north of Desert Rock. Would you happen to know where any other repeater/terminal stations are located or what path the route takes? – Rich”
Rich W., January 26, 2016 4:56 pm EDT
I have found a pole line about 10 miles long with about 125-foot spacing headed NE of what I believe is the Danby hut. They appear to be telco polks with a single crossarm and no wires. These may be original DBR poles that had crossarms removed when the wires were wrecked out.
Further north I found an intact line along rail ROW however I haven’t pieced enough of this route together to know whether it belongs to DBR. Usually I don’t find telco along rail but due to the haste in which the DBR was built perhaps the rail ROW comes into play on this one.
There is another 10+ mile stretch of intact poles/crossarms/wires along hwy 395 north of Susanville going to what appears to be a J-Hut at Ravendale.
While I believe some of the DBR may be J-carrier I know it goes over part of the transcontinental route. For this segment I don’t know if it is overlapping routes or if the DBR used channels on the existing transcon route. If it did I don’t know the timeline to say whether it was earlier VF or later K-carrier. Adding more fun to the mix apparently O-carrier was used on this route as well.
Roughly it appears the route is Yakima to Danby. I assume the Yakima end is at the CO where the AUTOVON switch and Seattle L-cable termination was. From there its aerial south to The Dalles OR then along existing ROW to Klamath Falls OR. South from there to Reno, Vegas, and then to Danby. All I’ve found in Danby is a hut that now has a PacBell microwave dish but no further info to verify where (and why) it terminates in Danby. Along the route I know there must be more repeaters than the ones I’ve found but without having more clues to the route I’ve hit a dead end on this. – Rich”
Kevin, January 27, 2016 6:03 pm EDT
“I couldn’t find any recent dates on your site. Are you still actively running it? Kevin Sheffield (retired Mountain Bell/US West out of Salt Lake)”
Rich W., January 28, 2016 12:26 pm EDT
“Thanks for the reply Doug.
I found the likely fate of the DBR wires near Danby and the reason for the PacTel microwave hut. Please read:
Also, you may already be aware of this, but here is an excellent Long Lines story circa 1950’s-1960’s:
If time permitted, I would certainly volunteer. . . . The reality is I’m probably waiting for retirement to chase down the hobbies I enjoy. – Rich”
Ellie F., February 8, 2016 10:14 am EDT
“I noticed while exploring your page that you were seeking stories. While I am from a generation past that of the open wire lines, and past most of the great finds and rarities discoveries, I still search the lines around western Massachusetts and southern Vermont in search of anything I can find. Most everything out in western mass is either gone, or nothing but polycarbonate H.K.Porter Co.’s and Armstrong DP2’s. Up in Vermont, Whittall Tatum Co. No. 1’s in light blue/aqua are dominant, with occasional CD 155s marked for either WT, or in one case, a Hemingray 45, the only one I have been able to find. Also, many behives marked with a B, either front only or front and back, and apart from four shop number 00 ones in the most deep Aqua, each one has been unique.
I have grown deeply fond of them as a result, since I never know what I’m getting, and they seem so much simpler and older for it. I have tall and slim ones, ones somewhere in the middle, and one that is short and squat enough that it looks like a cross between a Canadian beehive and a Brookfield ‘B’ beehive like I normally find, in light blue-Aqua.
My adventures have led me scrounging along ex-Central Vermont & Boston & Maine tracks in my area, searching for a pole that yields something, anything. Even an Armstrong DP1 looks better to me than a polycarbonate H. K. Porter Co.! But what started it all?
I’ve been into trains since I was two. Once I was visiting the site of the old station grounds in my town. The station was torn down in the ’50s, and all that remains to give any suggestion of its presence is a large open area, and an old siding. In recent times it was cut back to be at best only 500 feet in length. It used to go quite a ways. I was walking to the end of the clearing with a family friend who took me. On Wednesdays, we would go out on ‘adventures,’ and look for trains. By the end of the clearing, there was some old blue engine, or gearbox, or something, and there was what he explained to me was a Glass Insulator. I didn’t have any real interest in it I’m pretty sure, and it was brought home and given to my mom.
It still to this very day sits by our kitchen sink. A deep Aqua Hemingray 42. Nobody normally gives a hoot for these, but in my town, although I didn’t know it yet, even this is almost too good to be true. Later on in time, I was walking down the line, and climbed up the side of a cutting, upon which the highest point there was an outcropping which I thought would make a great filming spot to catch a train. When I got there, I found a plastic insulator, with a copper wire tie on it. Just a polycarbonate H. K. Porter. I brought it back home, curious if it was valuable, and ready to give it to my brother for craft purposes. Well, I kept it in a cabinet, but I’ve lost track of it.
The third time I met up with insulators, I was in Vermont, looking for trains, and I looked up a pole and saw some insulators. ‘Oh, those are glass insulators!’ I stated, though in some other set of words which didn’t sound so cheap and mechanical. Yes, they were glass insulators. And, I suddenly realized I wanted to get them down. I couldn’t access these ones, but at a later date I managed to take home four. My insulator collecting was only just beginning. From there, my collection has grown to over 50 glass, somewhere around 10 rubber, and perhaps 15 pin-type porcelain ones. Some time I’ll send a more detailed story on an experience, but I thought I should mention this because like all hobbies, this one is not as popular anymore. It’s a lot harder to find anything ‘really cool,’ and most people my age have no idea what they are when I bring one to school to show a friend, teacher, etc. and to think I am in high school, and while most teachers know right away what it is, the students just ask me ‘why are you carrying that jar around,’ ‘what is that,’ and whenever I bring in a less-than-pristine example, ‘oh no, you broke it!’ It really disheartens me sometimes. Still I continue to look for not just insulators, but all the various hardware used to secure them. I am still finding new variations, and currently, I have noted that insulator pins I have are not just unmarked, but also ones marked ‘J N Y,’ and two others one of which is on a transposition bracket. – Ellie F.”
Ellie F., February 8, 2016 2:46 pm EDT
“Thank you for the prompt, and kindly response! I would be most happy to write more for you, and by all means you may share what I have already written . . . And as for photos . . .
I have, shall we say . . . Many!
Ellie F., February 8, 2016 4:53 pm EDT
I agree about hardware–it’s shockig for me that hardly anybody collects anything beyond the typical pin, and the 45 degree angle sidepin. As you said, while the insulators themselves re a hot point of interest, hardly anyone collects the hardware. Well, I can say for myself that if I see some cool telegraph pole hardware, if it’s something I haven’t seen before, something I can access, something that catches my eye–I’m going for it! Most of the insulators from my area are gone, certainly all the best ones. But hardware seems to have hardly disappeared if that. A particular pole in Miller’s Falls, Mass, has my interest. Why? Well, first I got a porcelain spool insulator off of it, unlike anything I had. It was badly banged up around the top, but it has a very unique shape. Next, I fetched a strain insulator, the last one remaining. The rest were either snatched up, or broken off. I think the latter, as I found a shard of one, which I took home. But that’s not all. Because there are some great metal brackets on it, like the ones I saw in your page. They’re lacking the wooden cobs, but I can always find more to replace them. That’s assuming I can even get them off. Well, I got one nut undone to get the strain & bracket off, so maybe there’s still fair chance. Around the places I’ve hunted, the only hardware I’ve encountered are sidepins, metal braces & crossarm bolts, dead end spools & brackets, ‘add on’ metal brackets, transposition brackets, the previously mentioned brackets, a broken off metal pin for a utility pole, typical wooden cob/metal pins, and solid wooden cob pins.
I love the insulators, but for me, they aren’t nearly as cool if you don’t have the actual equipment used to mount them. I am going to donate what few artifacts I managed to scrounge up in my home town to the local historical society. They have no telegraph artifacts save a Whitall Tatum co. No 3 transposition, of which there was no information on. They had no idea if it orginated from a line in that town, or anything. – Ellie”
Ellie F., February 8, 2016 7:39 pm EDT
“Funny you should mention chestnut . . . My town for some time used to export chestnut railroad ties at the depot. I wonder if they made any telephone/telegraph poles?” – Ellie
Steve H., February 11, 2016 8:01 pm EDT
Thank you for that great email! I’ll definitely put that [Book: The American Lineman by Alan Drew (2015)]in my immediate list of ‘things to purchase.’ I really thank you for going out of your way and drop me a note as I will completely enjoy this book.
Very much, your friend,
Grant W., February 12, 2016 7:22 am EDT
“Thanks Doug. It must have been a great thrill to work on this new book. I’ll check it out. Keep in touch and thanks again. – Grant Wissler”
Grant W., February 12, 2016 5:54 pm EDT
“Your next project [a book on the history of open wire telecom] sounds very exciting indeed! We in Canada who belong to the Telephone Pioneers of America feel very close to you gusy in America an throughout my career in Bell I was lucky enough to be on loan to Bell Canada International (BCI) and Nortel and worked in such places as Raleigh NC, Richardson TX, a week in Las Vegas with Centel plus Auckland New Zealand with Clear Communications, Tokyo and Toyama Japan with Intec and later with Nortel in England, Germany, France, and a couple of weeks in Russia working for and with the greatest guy as my agent, from Kentucky, JC Osborne, who was way ahead of his time starting from a Mom and Pop phone company he said all the way to half way around the world. Unfortunately he is no longer with us. He was a character. Never saw him without his cowboy boots on and never in shorts.
Anyway I belong to a retirement Bell Canada group called BCP who I am sure would be excellent subjects for you to get the Canadian telephone perspective on the history of telecommunications up here in Canada.
There are some amazing guys and ladies who meet throughout the year and have a wealth of knowledge regarding the old days of telecommunications.
Take Care Doug,
Grant W., February 13, 2016 9:31 pm EDT
Exciting project. Good stuff. I also had a friend who was working in Iran during those times and he got calls later when he was back in Canada to see if he had any ides on how to remotely access the equipment over there and sabotage it I suspect.
We’ll keep in touch. Cheers, Grant”
Tom H., February 17, 2016 12:32 pm EDT
“Good to hear from you again, Doug. I wish I could get to the Dallas conference, but have made all my travel plans for this year. Have a SARA conference in Prescott, AZ next month and the annual conference in Green Bank WV in July.
Have been reading lately a little about how landlines are being phased out. Verizon isn’t replacing cables flooded out by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Maybe you’ll have to add a special twisted wire pair section to Song?
And I purchased the book, too. Haven’t received it yet, but can’t wait to get it.
Jim T., February 19, 2016 3:30 am EDT
“. . . . I’d love to see your collection sometime. I forget where in the country you are . . . give me a heads up. If I’m within a few hundred miles I’d be glad to make a side trip! 🙂 -Thanks, Jim”
Richard M., March 1, 2016 12:36 am EDT
“Hello Doug, hope you are well. I am wondering what the larger square unit is on the arm [photo attached – see Song’s ‘Mystery Item?’ elsewhere on this site]? The unit is sealed, colored wire leads enter thru one hole. Post to your site if you like, would really like to know. Thanks Doug. – Bart M.”
Fred C., March 18, 2016 10:32 am EDT
“Hi Doug, How have you been? There is something I need to ask you. I subscribe to a newsletter known as the Telephone Collectors International. A number of years ago, I wrote an article on my memories of ‘open wire’. [I think I may have e-mailed you a copy of it.]
Anyhow, T.C.I. has contacted me asking if I’d be interested in doing another piece on open-wire. I’d LOVE to! [Busy] So, I thought of you. Is that something you might be interested in doing? You actually have more knowledge than me and best of all you have PICTURES! Regards, Fred”
Fred C, March 18, 2016 4:16 pm EDT
Thanks for writing back! I was kind of hoping I’d hear from you before I have to go home!
I also came up with a new idea that I wanted to share with you.
We had some discussion last fall about the possibility of a person building his (or her) own open-wire telecom line and getting it successfully hooked up to the land line telephone grid. I think that I might’ve figured out a way to do that.
If land line telecom service were to be provided by digital fiber optics, forgive me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t the fib er optics signal (FOS) need to be converted back into an electronic signal so that the mouth and ear pieces on the phone would work? At some point wouldn’t a modem be used to convert this either in the phone device or near the phone?
If so, here’s my idea: Who says the modem to convert the FOS back into analog (or whatever it is) has to be in the house? If the house were at the end of a long, long lane, why not put that modem in a phone shack out by the main road? We could even tell the phone company that the shack is for a phone if they wanted to know. (Hundreds of Amish folks in my area have their phones out in a shack–not in their houses).
So, one could put the modem in a shack out by the road and have the telephone closer to the house at the end of a long lane, connecting the two with open-wire. I imagine a ten pair, single arm line, complete with ‘transpo’ brackets. One pair for telephone, one pair for an independent fax line and perhaps three ‘open’ circuits for ‘future need.’
I seriously believe this could be made to work. I know a guy who lives at the end of a VERY long lane probably one-quarter to one half mile long. If I lived where he did, I know what I’d do!
Course, someone would be need to be found who could string the wires. The landline service provider wouldn’t do it; that’s for sure! They wouldn’t even know how anymore!
If I were to do it, I’d bring you in as a service adviser! 🙂 Although, realistically, I have no immediate plans to do anything like this in the near future. Someday someone might, though, and if they do, I’d love to see it!
Fred C., March 19, 2016 8:44 am EDT
Yesterday I stumbled across a video I’d never seen before on the T.C.I. Yahoo! e-group.
Have you seen this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rw00oTferM4&feature=youtu.be
Or if that doesn’t work maybe this: https://youtu.be/Rw00oTferM4
The open wire scenes start around 9:30 minutes. Pretty cool!
I ordered Alan Drew’s book yesterday on Amazon.
Regards, Fred M. Cain”
Fred C., March 19, 2016 2:51 pm EDT
Sounds to me like a great idea [T&D, Open Wire and Lighting Museum/Training Center Project by The Electric Orphanage]!
Another think I’ve thought of is a railway museum. Railway museums are linear by their very nature and some of them might be willing to accomodate a telephone line display.
One of these days I simply have to get to the Illinois Railway Museum. They have some great stuff. You are probably already aware that they have a lot of electric stuff. But far as I know, there are no multi-arm telephone lines. Yet.
Regards, Fred M. Cain”
Fred C., March 19, 2016 2:56 pm EDT
I hope you can open it! It’s pretty cool. It was a film that was evidently done by the AFL-CIO on the American worker in the 1950’s. This particular episode was done on communications workers. If you can fast forward it, the open wire stuff starts around 9:30.
There are a number of shots of multi-arm lines that were destroyed in storms and scenes of workers trying to fix them.
I think you should try and edit it and put it on your website!
Fred M. Cain”
Fred C., March 20, 2016 8:58 am EDT
There has been some discussion the last couple of days about open-wire on the ‘Singing Wires’ Yahoo! e-group that I’m on. You might want to join the group sometime if you haven’t already. The focus is on all things that are telephone related although much of the interest seems to be on antique phones and switching equipment–not on telephone lines–but the subject does, in fact, come up from time to time. Here is a link to their title page:
The last couple of days there was some discussion on the ‘Defense Back-up Route (DBR) –one of if not THE last open-wire carrier lead to survive. Most of the line through Nevada and northeastern California was not taken out of service until around the year 2000 ( I don’t know the exact date). Now I’ve come to find out that a few sections of it in N. E. Calif. are still standing and might still be in local use in a few areas! Seems like you might wanna take a trip out there!
Attached are a couple of nice shots of the line that were sent to me by Richard ‘Bart’ MaGoffin. I asked him if I could forward them to you and he said that’d be O.K.
Best of luck to you!
Keep the faith!
Regards, Fred M. Cain”
Ellie F., March 20, 2016 6:32 pm EDT
“I’m proud to announce that since our last conversation, I have acquired numerous insulator mounting brackets, and now I have two steel with lead thread pins designed in two pieces which are bolted together and tightened around the crossarm, a two pin bracket that was missing its wooden cobs, which I’m uncertain of the practicality of, and just today, a lovely transposition bracket with lead threads, designed for ordinary pin type insulators, not dinky little spools, something that I have been desiring for a very long time.
Howard, March 28, 2016 11:55 pm EDT
This appears to be a functional open-wire line near Desert Center, California. I took this picture in June 2015, and there is evidence of one crossarm being replaced fairly recently, and there is what looks to be one good pair for as far as I can see. I have a few more pictures of this line if you are interested.
Thanks for putting together your site, it is really a valuable resource!
Grant W., August 8, 2016 6:40 pm EDT
What a terrific surprise awaited me today when I went to the post office to find your parcel! Thank you so much for . . . sending me the beautiful print, Snow Job. I will be having it professionally framed and it will hang with distinction in the study of our new partially completed home.
Snow Job brings back the memories of those long ago winter repair jobs in rural Southern Ontario where the snow was piled so high along the roads, I had to use my ladder to climb up to the top of the snow banks and work on the open wire which was under my feet! One of my all time favorite experiences working on the open wire.
I will be purchasing immediately The [book] American Lineman [by Alan Drew], as I feel a connection to the men and women who worked on the open wire. . . . I can remember you saying you were asked to work on the new book and you were very excited and how it is completed. The time has just rushed by especially when we get older. Very glad you got to finish it and feel the rewards of doing it. That is something very special. You would appear t get it done kind of guy–Doug.
It has been wonderful to talk with you online . . . and maybe someday we can, as you say, converse personally about our Telecom experiences. It has been a joy for me also to hear from you, too!”
Fred C., September 5, 2016 12:54 PM
Yeah, I hope you do a book on O-W. You obviously know more about the technical stuff . . . I was mostly just trying to relate personal experiences in my article [See Fred M. Cain’s ‘Memories of the Open Wire’ elsewhere on this site.].
One thing I would like to recommend is lots of pictures. It will have to be thoroughly good, high-quality photos to show future generations what the lines looked like. How can we describe in words and text something that people have never seen? That’s where pictures would come in handy. But how can we ever find them? There are a number of telephone and telegraph museums around the country that might have some.
Fred M. Cain”
Kevin, September 20, 2016 3:29 PM EDT
“If you are looking for working open wire lines, try this one in Wyoming. . . This single circuit on 10-pin arms is in good repair. It appears to serve a ‘ranch/farm’ on the . . . Indian Reservation. I was on my bike and did not follow the rough dirt road across the reservation to the end of the line to verify if it is still in service. There are a couple of road crossings before it heads cross-country giving interested parties a chance to see it up close. In one area it goes buried through a quarry but then resumes. Enjoy the hunt!”
Allison B., October 10, 2016 12:51 PM EDT
I was recently hiking in Eastern Ohio on old family ground and found an old wooden pole. The pole has metal brackets which have glass insulators. I have attached an unfortunately poor quality picture. I was wondering if you had any information regarding this style or could guide me toward further information.
Ellie F., October 6, 2016 2:10 PM EDT
“Thank you so much for all you have sent me! I have received 2 boxes, the first containing 6 carrier style insulators, one spiral groove CD 147, an Armstrong transposition insulator I can’t be bothered to check the name of right now, and a carrier transposition bracket, plus a delightful Electric Orphanage/Northwest Lineman’s College folder, presumably from an Event in Dallas, Texas I believe (it says something about it on one of the slips).
The second box contains four Hemingray TS Insulators, for the bracket. . . All in all I’m very delighted by what you have sent me. A few I admire so much they will have to stay inside, but everything else is going out there. Even the transposition bracket.”
Allison B., October 10, 2016
Hello, I was recently hiking in Eastern Ohio on old family ground and found an old wooden pole. The pole has metal brackets which have glass insulators. I have attached an unfortunately poor quality picture. I was wondering if you had any information regarding this style or could guide me toward further information. Thank you, Allison
Mark R., November 15, 2016
Hi – My father-in-law, Arnold S, was an engineer who worked at Bell Labs for many decades. He passed away in 2003, and we’re now sorting through the things his wife kept (we’re currently moving her to a skilled nursing facility). I attached three images from a device we found that’s stamped with Western Electric. I did a Google image search, and came across your Electric Orphanage page that shows a couple of images of a Biased Relay that looks similar (but clearly not the same model). I also attached a PDF of the page where I found your Biased Relay. Could you please identify the object we have, and let me know if you have any interest in obtaining it? Please feel welcome to call me anytime between 10 am and midnight. Thanks!
Russ C., November 30, 2018, 4:46 pm
Hi, Doug! You’ve sure done a lot of work on the website. Looks good! I was digging thru some old specs and found BSP 623-200-011, Issue 1; dated Dec. 1933. This one covers our Transpositions in general and contains illustrations of not only the horizontal but the very old vertical types of Phantoms as well. I have Section 623-400-211, Issue 1; dated March 1931, which covers and illustrates Catenary Long Span Construction in detail. Drop me a line if you feel any of this would be of benefit. Glad to see ole Gene in the transposition section! Merry Christmas to you and yours, Russ C.
Peter M., December 5, 2016, 2:04 pm
I retired last Friday from CenturyLink after a 45 year career. I am now employed by Communications Power Solutions here. CenturyLink stopped funding the Pioneer museum. We found another place that is also the Pioneer museum north of Phoenix. Let your readers know this. Peter
Richard M., December 21st, 2016, 8:06 pm
Hello, been awhile. I was looking at your great website again, reading guest book. Noticed a man named Rich W., who seemed to have any interest in the DBR, route and repeaters. I consider myself somewhat of a SME on the DBR, have many pictures, artifacts, repeater locations and places the line still is intact. If you could put me in contact with Rich, that would be great or anyone else interested. Id’ be happy to assist. Hear you are working on a book? I’ve been thinking about a DBR article/story for a long time, and/or just basic J Carrier. Haven’t had the gumption to do it yet, who knows? Thanks Doug, hope all is well. GREAT WEBSITE!
Rich W., January 11, 2017, 2:05 pm
Hi Doug, Between two jobs and two small kids I currently don’t have the time to get out of the house for these pursuits. For what little time I can squeeze in, I devote it to working on documenting open wire/VF/J/K/L/Microwave long-line routes often times looking at a 50 year-old nationwide paper map, then pinpointing the facilities lat/lon on a modern satellite map.
The DBR is especially challenging due to its uniqueness, age and scarcity of information. Rich.
Richard M., January 11, 2017, 4:27 pm
. . . there are folks like you and me, who may even be past telco employees, who understand the significance of open wire construction in our history, the under-rated role it played in the growth of the network we have today, and just the “beauty” and ICON such pole lines have, and will always have, to those who appreciated wire communication.
Your wonderful website has done more to promote and share this interest with all those who love it, and especially those who may know of it, but never gave it the thought or the attention it deserves. For all you have done, Doug . . . Thank You!
As for going forward, I’m not sure what the best path could be–you seem to have a good handle on how to get folks together, and I will help you as much and in any way I am able. I know amongst the insulator-collecting collecting crowd there are those who appreciate open wire, but it’s a much smaller subset who set aside extinct telephone company open wire as special, as I do. . . .
If you do happen to come down this way, please let me know. It would be fun to meet, talk and maybe take a day trip to see that DBR is still standing there! Thanks again Doug.
Bart M., January 14, 2017, 12:08 PM PD
Always nice to converse with anyone who appreciates open wire telephone, the role it played in our network history, its beauty, and the documentation of the technology. During my years at Sacramento Toll test board, I came in contact with several older employees who had worked/tested/maintained the open wire routes that fanned out from SCRM-01, none of which was still in operation (1982). I did myself maintain an L-Carrier (coax) that went north to Redding. The old K-Carrier room was there, abandoned in place. Wish I had saved the tubes and other equipment in that room. . . (See DBR chapter for additional commentary from Bart.)
I’m hoping to make a few trips this summer to check on what remains, one possibly to [the] southwestern U. S. where bits of toll OW remain.
Ellie F., January 22, 2017, 3:54 pm EDT
Thanks so much Doug . . . I have exciting news!!! Remember how I mentioned a barn on our cousin’s property with a toe wire telephone line mounted to the back? Well, sadly the previous owners hadn’t treated it kindly, and tore out most of the wire and stuff, but I found some wires and followed it into the woods. It’s a line running along post-like structures, with basic screw in insulators that replaced 45-degree pins with glass pin types. The line went further than I thought I was allowed to be pulling wires out of the dirt for. I hope I( can work with the historical society to somehow get this line acknowledged, as well as seeing whether the neighbors would let me trace it further?
Bart M. January 23, 2017, 8:26 pm PST
. . . You mention J Carrier, I assumed this line was all J Carrier from the get-go, it was just developed in the late 1930s, and the other toll routes were being retrofitted from C to J well before the DBR was built. [See more on the carrier for the DBR on this chapter elsewhere on this site].
Ellie F., January 24, 2017, 3:59 pm EST
. . . Based on the condition of the line, and the part of a pole I found, I believe that there were originally proper telephone poles carrying glass “pony” style insulators. But later, the line was changed over to the screw-in porcelain ones, and the updating used what odds and ends were about. The poles were not changed, and so by the line’s retirement, most were so far gone that, after toppling and what not, they decomposed rather quickly.
Based on my findings along Central Vermont also in the vicinity, under similar altitude and proximity to wetlands here, this hypothesis is quite fair to hold as a starting point. Although I have no artifacts off-site, there is enough left to suggest further investigations could yield lucrative results. Only time may tell for sure.
. . . . I will look for more pole evidence in the area, my hope is that there is more to be discovered. I will also contact someone in the Historical Society about the subject, and all my current discoveries.
Ellie F., January 26, 2017, 4:28 pm EST
. . . . You don’ happen to know of anyone who might have knowledge on my local lines, do you? I’ll have to check in with my friend, she saw me carrying an insulator (I often will have one along with me in case I meet someone else into the stuff) and she told me her husband used to be a lineman for NET&T. I think she might have said he had passed, but I will inquire. She has kept the few insulators he took home, and says she likes them a lot. We had a nice chat for sure!
Fred C., February 13, 2017, 11:23 am EST
Group, Does anybody know if there was ever some kind of a federal mandate that forced telecom companies to completely get rid of open-wire? I have been told by someone who knows that there WAS a STATE mandate in Texas. Did other states do this too, and if so, was it a response to some kind of federal mandate? . . . . But, I have not been able to uncover any evidence that open-wire could not carry Internet signals. Does anybody know for sure?
Steve C., February 13, 2017, 12:04 pm PST
Obviously there was never a mandate since open wire continues in service, to this day. Of course, for economic reasons and to meet service indexes, its usage continues to shrink as it is replaced, typically by u. g. cable. I’ll see if I can find photos of o.w. that continues to service residences and a California Department of Forestry Helicopter Attack base on rural Highway 25. And yes, DSL signals can be transmitted on ow., per the catalogue entry that I posed a couple of years ago on this list.
Keith C., February 13, 2017, 2:05 pm CST
Transport-wise, OW should be a superior transport for DSL owing to reduced loss and less capacitance effects to the complexly encoded data stream.
OW multiplex (Carrier) systems with bandwidth requirements from 5khZ to 350khZ had repeater spacing in tens of miles while cable was 1-5 miles depending on guage and methodology (PCM vs. analog). Some impedance matching to the nominal 130Z of OW and I suspect transits from and lightning itself might raise hell with reliable though!
Dennis H., February 13, 2017, 2:33 pm EST
To my knowledge no such mandate existed in Michigan but I may have missed something. Here where I live in SE corner of SE Michigan, there was only two open wire laterals and one 6-pin arm lead for three or four spans still in existence as the Internet played up in the late ’90s early ‘2000s. I used to drive around a lot on the back roads and knew or had seen most of the places in my area. All the rest was long gone by then. Probably more a matter of economics and material availability along with knowledge base to support.
Bill, February 13, 2017, 2:39 pm EST
. . . Usually, DSL won’t be installed unless the destination is within a few thousand feet of a C.O. I know–I’ve tried to get DSL to my cottage in Maine (about 5 miles from a C. O.), and Fairpoint won’t take DSL more than 3 miles. As for reduced capacitance, I am not sure that is a reason to expect better performance. An open wire pair is a transmission line, and series inductance is just as important as shunt capacitance. In order to maintain the impedance of a transmission line pair, some kind of equalizer may be required, to control losses. Beyond that, the fact that individual wires can sway unequally in the wind (closer or farther to each other and to others wires) or sag under ice loading makes for a varying impedance along the run. And varying impedance becomes more and more of a problem as frequencies go up. Twisted pair is another example of a transmission line, but the fact that the conductors are physically constrained results in a more stable impedance. I guess my conclusion was that if DSL won’t propagate reliably over three miles of twisted pair, it is not going to go much further on an open wire line. But the, I am far from an expect in this stuff. Bill.
Steph K., February 13, 2017, 2:54 pm EST
. . .Took Amtrak from NYC up the Hudson to Rhinecliff, N. Y., in August 2012, and the wire along the tracks, even the cable, was in deplorable condition, literally falling off the poles. In 1992, I explored the Amtrak ROW on foot in the area of Riverdale, N.Y., just above Spuyten Duyvil, where the high speed derailment occurred a few years ago, 20+ years later. Even in 1992, the cable and open wire were in extreme disrepair and OW almost non-existent. There was a V1 vacuum tube repeater hut near the track side which was open to the elements and all equipment badly rusted, although not so much that I could not identify it.
I think that OW would have excellent BW for transmission of DSL due to low mutual capacitance. The earliest trunk carrier systems operated over OW. OTOH OW spans intended purely for voice might not have sufficient numbers of transpositions to have good cross-talk isolation between circuits. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with?
Keith C., February 13, 2017, 5:24 pm CST
3 Miles of 22 ga cable has a loop resistance of 506 ohm while a 104 (.104 dia) copper wire pair is 31.2 ohms. Since resistance and cap are the principal attenuation factors OW wins my miles!!
18 kf 22 ga = 576 ohms OW = 35 ohms
Jack R., February 13, 2017, 7:05 pm CST
It seems to be an odd place for government to be sticking its finger. If a government formed a policy of universal access one would think the policy would be stated as such. Making a technical directive as an indirect method of achieving a policy end suggests that the government in question has a rather high opinion of its own technical competence.
I don’t see why open wire (assuming metallic) would not carry an ADSL signal. However, if the telephony service required that the line be loaded, ADSL would not be supported. Also, by the time ADSL was about there is a good chance that remaining open wire line used some sort of carrier technology which would also preclude ADSL. I would like to see the evidence of any mandates.
Wayne A., February 21, 2017, 8:04 CST
Doug, Thanks for your response. I’ve been on Google for an hour trying to find the photo I mentioned to you. Perhaps it is not one of yours but I thought it was. It is a photo of a telephone lineman on a pole on a rural road and the lineman named in the photo. It is a color photo. I believe and was [taken] maybe in Kansas. Will keep looking.
. . . I was with Ma Bell from 1966 to 1994. I stared inside in a toll office but after three years, I wanted to be a ‘real’ phoneman and climb poles. I stared out in midwinter up on Lake Champlain pulling slack out of open wire lines. I worked as an installer/ repairman both installing everything from residential to business but if there was a storm, especially an ice storm, I was out on open wire. We were really rural in Vermont until about 1977-78, and finally started seeing more cable installed in the out-lying areas. One of my fondest memories of open wire was being up a pole in the winter, cold as you know what and taking what we called a ‘Fargo’, the connector that hooked the bridle wire to the open wire and putting a very cold one out of my pouch and holding it in my lips so I wouldn’t drop it. Needless to say, I learned quite quickly not to do that ever again, as I tore a piece of my lip off when taking the Fargo out of my mouth. Also loved climbing poles that would freeze on the back side, so you couldn’t really get a grip while trying to climb.
I am an insulator collector now and once had a nice collection but had to sell when I built a house. Am slowly building the collection up again from glass I buy on eBay. I went to two National Insulator shows, one in Marlboro, MA and one in Saratoga, NY, many years ago. I want to find some wooden pins and make a crossarm to display some of them. Still have my belt and hooks and some other memorabilia as well as a couple wooden wall phones, candlesticks and 202s. It’s in my blood and you certainly understand that.
If you think of the photo I might have seen, please steer me in the right direction. I appreciate any and all help. Thanks, Wayne from NH.
Wayne A., February 21, 2017, 12:38 pm EDT
“I am a retired Installer-Repairman for the defunct New England Telephone Company, and worked out of White River Junction, Vermont from 1966 to 1994. Have climbed many a pole, pulled the slack out of many old open wires (we called them “iron wire” and got zapped many a day, when was wet and [we] were trimming through the woods). I would like to purchase a copy of your excellent lineman photo on the rural road, your best shot? How do I go about that? Thank you. Wayne.”
Big Creek Antique, March 17, 2017 12:39 PM PDT
“Glad to be of help. Love your website! 21 years on poles, platforms and underground with SWBT, this old splicer is in the rocking chair reminiscing stage now. . .
I hired on in December of ’70 as an exchange repairman in Lawton, OK. Got called out the first day on the job to go on an open wire toll line ice break between Fredrick and Tipton. Worked all night, went home for six hours and back again . . . I was really wondering what I had gotten myself into! Was one of the first two guys hired right into exchange repair after a couple of older gents got fired for marked payphone change, no one else would bid on their jobs so they hired us off the street. The crew always resented us so got out first chance and into cable splicing and never looked back. Great memories. Sure glad they didn’t have GPS in the trucks back then! LOL.”
Ellie F., March 31, 2017, 3:44 pm EST
Hey Doug! Very bad news. A crew of tree-removers working along the Connecticut River line in Deerfield are taking down the telegraph poles. I’m not sure what to do, but those poles, at least a bunch, have got to be saved. I was hoping to get a bunch, but I have no idea how, and Pan Am isn’t the kind of railroad that would be very helpful in this regard, assuming they have anything much to do with this. I’m not even sure if it’s too late to save anything! I didn’t get a good look. Ellie F.
Ellie F., April 2, 2018, 8:01 pm EST
Thanks, Doug! I’ll try my best. If there’s still some trucks next time I’m out there, I’ll look for a number and do what I can. My goal would be to save as many poles as possible–not to encroach on out property, my main hope was to save some for putting up on my property, and perhaps any poles I can’t use, I would seek about a new owner for. As far as I know, new telegraph poles, complete with cross arms, aren’t being made anymore, so assuming I can, I’d probably put them ‘out back’–there’s a place further back in my property that would be best, fi I could get the poles back there.
Just one concern–the railroad company that is most likely contracting through the crew who are removing brush mostly, then they probably weren’t even going to ask for the poles to be moved.
Ellie F., April 3, 2017, 4:24 pm EST
I will, no matter what, post photos of what I can find. Next time I’m out there, I’ll snap some photos.
Ellie F., April 18, 2017, 5:29 pm EST
My family visited MASS MoCA today, and on our way back, I saw a familiar figure whizz past my window; twice! I begged my mom to stop the car, and I ran back to get photographs of the two structures. Hope you enjoy!
Isobel D., April 24, 2017, 2:21 pm EST
Good afternoon, Electric Orphanage,
I was please wondering about the crossarms used on railroad signal/telegraph poles–what was the standard size for these poeces of wood (e.g. 2″x4″ x12″)? Was there also a standard size for those used on the larger “H” poles? Thank you very much!
Fred C., May 23, 2017, 10:48 pm EST
How have you been? It looks like I might have access to a computer again for a time. I think you have made impressive strides on your site. Looks great! I see you posted my article on there. I think I like your pictures better than my own! Finding good picturers of open wire is almost impossible.
Fred M., February 23, 2017, 1:40 pm EST
Thanks, Doug! As you know, I participate on the “Singing Wires” Yahoo e-group. A couple of things have come to my attention recently. There is a short section of the “DBR” left standing in N. E. California. Also, another guy posted that he got a response from Century Link stating that there are about 70 miles of open wire in the state of Montana. That might be worth looking into for pictures before the stuff is forever gone. Also, I have acquired some maps showing AT&T open-wire toll lines in the far west CA 1958. Do you have those? Regards, Fred
Fred M., February 24, 2017, 7:33 am EST
Doug, Have you seen this picture before? Someone posted it on the “Singing Wires” group, but I don’t know who nor do I know where or when it was shot. It’s typical of so many open-wire photos. Someone had only intended to shoot some guys working on a highway and got the telephone line in the picture by pure happenstance. Quite an impressive line to say the least!
Fred M., May 26, 2017, 8:10 am EST
Doug, Yeah, some of my experiences as a kid were similar. I’d often see some of the most impressive lines while traveling in the back seat of the family car. Back then, the pace of life was already getting faster. Usually my Dad was too much in a hurry to stop and let me get out and take a picture. He had a much better camera than me, but sensed that he thought my interest in open-wire line was just a bit silly. Why stop and take a picture of that when there were so many more interesting sights to see?
I have found a couple of pieces of new information. . . I had this distant, childhood memory of the line crossing the All American Canal in extreme southeastern California a few mile west of Yuma along Old U. S. 80. I remembered the line crossing the canal on a most unusual piece of open wire construction involving suspension cables and mid-span crossarms. Turns out, this is what some lineman referred to as a ‘catenary.”
Well, imagine my amazement when I found an online photo of this! Although I’d just LOVE to find a better photo, this at least documents its existence.
In my article that you so graciously posted on your site, you might remember my mention of a mystery line that I remembered in Connecticut. I may have at least partly solved that mystery as well. I am also attaching a map from 1952 that shows AT&T’s “Long Lines.” The skinny lines on the map tagged as “other lines” were presumably open-wire.
Well, the map showed an open-wire line stretching from southwestern CT from near Long Island Sound northward through western, CT, western Mass and Vermont to Canada. I highlighted it in red using “Paint”. I would like to bet that this was the line I saw in rural Fairfield County, CT in the late 1950s. Fred.
Fred C., May 26, 2017, 9:33 am EST
Doug, I was searching on the Internet for a better picture of the five-arm toll lead crossing the All American Canal. I didn’t find one yet, but I happened to somehow stumble across these photos taken the 1930s in Brawley, California, in what appears to be a back alley in an ImperialValley migrant worker slum.
The photos show an interesting 16-pin local distribution line. I find this especially interesting ’cause I saw some lines like this in the older parts of Tucson, AZ back in the mid to late 1960s. Needless to say, there long gone by today! Regards, Fred.
Fred M., May 28, 2017, 9:57 am EST
Doug, Yes I copied your preservation article from your site, pasted it to a Word and printed it off so I could take it home. It was actually 22 pages (without pictures)! I want to sit down and read this when I get a chance! I’d just love to see more of this done if that’s till possible, Regards, Fred.
Greetings from Calgary, Alberta! May 31, 2018 7:19 pm PDT
“I just wish to thank you for your website and supplying images, information, and experience in an occupation that once really impacted our lives. ‘COMMUNICATIONS.’ When I was a boy growing up in the 1970s I was still fortunate enough to witness telegraph pole communication networks in British Columbia. BCTEL. I was always fascinated by telephone and hydro poles. The number of cross beams, insulators, insulator spacing, guy wires, helper support poles, large river crossings with special hangers to support the wires, also roadside relay bungalows with large monument poles.
I miss that era. With underground cables, the romance of telegraph lineman and poles are gone. I added some images of a road trip I made in 1989 and the final year of BCTEL roadside poles. Due to the mountainous terrain, underground cables were supported on the old telegraph poles instead of trenching through solid rock. Later, the [pole] tops were cut off and only the poles and the cable remained.
It is nice to know that there are more people that enjoy these relics and even worked on them. I am also a model railroader and your images will help me in designing the real telecommunications trackside as well.
Thanks again, Arend G., Calgary, Canada
Fred C., June 8, 2017 1:28 pm EDT
Doug, Do you have a bigger, clearer copy of this attached photo? This shot MIGHT just prove a point.
I mentioned on the “Singing Wires” e-group that I remembered seeing some lines in Arizona where half the pairs had a ‘transpo’ bracket on ever other pole while the other half had a ‘transpo’ bracket on EVERY pole. I kinda’ got poo-pooed. “They would never put a tramp on every pole,” one guy told me. “No reason to ever do that.”
But this photo might just prove what I was talking about! The insulators on the next pole in the photo are a little blurry so it’s hard to tell so I can’t be sure.
The reason I’d brought this up, I have a hunch that some of the very last open-wire lines that were put into service in the arid Southwest might’ve had a carrier system that was more advanced than “O”. But I can’t prove that. Regards, Fred.
Fred C., June 9, 2017 1:17 pm EDT
Doug, Wow! You sure have got a lot of information on open-wire accumulated. I missed this page somehow. I need to spend more time in there!
The attached image looks a lot like the kind I saw in Arizona where they were on every pole. I took it from near the bottom of that section on tramps. So, if there were two pairs of wires, one pair had one of these on every pole and the other pair on every other pole.
I’m quite sure I saw this. I saw this on a couple of lines that were strung around 1970. But, I can’t prove that without a picture and it could very well be that there weren’t any. 🙁 Regards, Fred
Fred C., June 9, 2017 1:44 pm EDT
Doug, Consider that one ton of gold! They are not replaceable. In fact, is there anyone left in the entire world still making telephone and telegraph insulators? Regards, Fred C.
Fred C., June 9, 2017 2:24 pm EDT
Doug, Sounds like a very worthwhile and ambitious project! I didn’t realize you had collected all that stuff in several different states. You might be looking at some serious transportation costs to get it all together! Regards, Fred.
Fred C., June 12, 2017 10:42 pm EDT
Doug, I can tell you one thing: you’ve had a most intresting life’s mission. People who have a goal or a mission like you tend to be happier than other people’cause it gives your life meaning. Kinda’ like, “Why am I here?” Why, indeed, are any of us here? Some people figure this out, others never do.
You know? There might be more people out there with an interst in this. All my life, I assumed that my interest in open-wire telecom lines was just a bit odd and that no one else, absolutely NO ONE had an interest in that. But I can see now that that assumption was wrong. The trick is to find all those people and get ’em on board whether it be open-wire enthusiasts or electric power enthusiasts. . .
Regards, Fred C.
Fred C., June 12, 2017 11:34 am EDT
Doug, One question about open-wire that I have asked myself many times: is open-wire really a ‘technology’ or is it, in fact, merely a transmission medium that has fallen out of favor for purely economic reasons?
You know? There is a phenomenon that some people call the ‘psychology obsolescence.’ . . . . Did the psychology of obsolescence help destroy America’s open-wire telephone lines. . .? Regards, Fred
Fred C., June 13, 2017 6:58 am EDT
Doug, A major driving force behind the ‘psychology of obsolescence’ was that when businesses began to get away from something the parts needed to supply, the thing can no longer be mass produced in the same high quantities as they once were. This drives up unit costs. You mentioned Bell’s accounting philosophy. There is no doubt that this almost certainly played a role there.
Open-wire may have remained a desirable form of transmission in the extremely dry, arid regions of the country. But there just wasn’t enough demand there to maintain formerly high levels of mass production of glass, tramps, wires, etc. So, in the end, it tanked. Remember, this is only my theory, I am not saying it’s a fact. Could be though?
Fred C., June 13, 2017 1:52 pm EDT
Doug, Wow! I have stumbled across a gold mine here! I wish I ‘d found this sooner, I’d put it in my article !!!
I found all this on the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/missouri66/photos/?ref=page_internal
I . . . was still able to view the pictures. I would check this out if I were you. There are more on there, but I’ve probably sent you the best ones now. Fred.
Drumel S. , June 20, 2017, 7:08 am EDT
Hi, Can you inform me about the insulators used by the U. S. [military] lineman during World War II? Regards, Serge
Fred C., June 21, 2017 6:31 am EDT
Doug, Most interesting . Your friend from the Carolinas is helping me confirm some of my suspicions.
Here are some vivid memories: it was in the fall of ’65 and we had just moved to Tucson (for the second time, actually) and settled into a rented house. One of the first orders of business was to get someone from MST&T out to hook up a phone for us. I distinctly remember the repairman as being a really nice guy. It didn’t take me long to start pestering him. He seemed to welcome my interest in the phone business.; Well, naturally being who I am it didn’t take me long to bring the conversation around to open-wire. The guy told me he was more than happy to be working on the inside now but he’d spent a lot of time working on outside plant. He told me he’d help string a number of what he referred to as ‘iron wire’ (probably copper-coated steel) in remote areas. In the mid 1960s believe it or not, they were STILL doing this!
V., July 4, 2017 1:41 am PDT
Subject: Want to maintenance open wire by immigration some part into fiber optical. Message Body: To Whom It May Concern: I need to support my customer since they are using open wire and want to keep and maintenance the existing open wire with some part [and] replace with fiber optical for media. Do you have solution or experience to do? Please recommend? So we can keep them the idea and solution. Best Regards V.
Peter M., July 16, 2017 5:18 pm MDT
Doug: The museum has moved. CenturyLink has decided that they are no longer going to support the Pioneers so we have moved the museum to the Phoenix Living History Museum north of the Valley. We are still in the process of setting up the displays but hope to be ready to go by September. Address: 3300 E. Broadway Road, Lot 282; Mesa, Arizona 85204. Phone number is 480 800 7810.
Peter M., July 16, 2017 6:04 pm MDT
Good to hear from you Doug. As soon as I can I will send new pictures. Look up Alan Riegler. He just donated a print of his painting Restoring Service to the museum. I let him know about your site. Oh, by the way, I retired from CenturyLink in December with 45 years of service. I’m now working ass a trainer for new dc power installers at Communications Power Solutions three days a week. New class starting tomorrow.
Al R., July 17, 2017 8:34 am MDT
Hello, Doug . . . I have an art print that you may or may not be interested in. Pete M. of the Tel Pioneers Museum in Phoenix, Arizona has recently acquired one to be displayed in the museum. I did the artwork in 2012 and I decided to market it using the Insulator website. The painting is entitled “Restoring Service” and it is a large example of Open Wire Art. I do not normally try to solicit sales, but Pete has urged me to contact you so here I am. I am retired Lineman and Construction Foreman having worked for Pacific Telephone in So. Cal for 28 years. I am an avid insulator collector and I love the history of the wire. I was fortunate to have participated in the last large wire build in California. (Goffs to Needles Spur Upgrade in 1973, 33 miles of six circuits) which is now gone. I was also invited by Alan Drew, VP of Operations at the Northwest Lineman’s College in Meridian, Idaho to contribute some of my art and knowledge to his recently completed book, “The American Lineman.” I am happy to know that you and many others around the country are trying to educate the folks about the history of the Wire. Sincerely Alan R.
Nick M., July 20, 2017 6:46 EDT
Dear Electric Orphanage:
It was a pleasure to happen upon your site last night. Let’s just say that I didn’t get much sleep! I’m a fairly newly-minted power systems and SCADA engineer here in Farmington, MN. Most of our business is EPC of collection systems, subsstations, controls, and transmission lines for wind and solar farms. I’m just starting to get my fingers into -tline design. I’ve been fascinated with pole lines–both power and communications–since I was five years old and finally, at 32, I get to have some part in their design and construction!
Since I read “The Victorian Internet” last fall, I have been wondering about pole line construction standards for telegraph and telephone. Similar to the standards that exist for RUS electric line design. I read from your page on railway open wire that the Great Northern was part of the ARA telecommunications committee. Having grown up next to an abandoned GN line with lots of downed structures to climb on, I would like to know more about the specs for GN lines, which are probably ARA specs. You have some illustrations from standards on your ARA page; do you have a PDF of those that you could either post or send to me?
You have a diagram illustrating crossarm spacing on your railway page. Under what circumstances would the various spacings–24″, 18″, and 12″ be used?
Wayne A., August 18, 2017 2:41 pm EDT
Hi Doug: Thanks for the email. I do like the image of the lineman up the pole with the windmill in the background. Looks like rural America, on a dirt road, in the autumn and reminiscent of my days working on iron wire. What would the charge be for an 8″ x 10″ or 10″ x 12″ of that image? It’s the photo on the far right of the three that you sent. Thanks, Wayne.
Wayne A., August 18, 2017 6:12 EDT
Doug, Thank you. I’m an old Wichita Lineman, actually a New England Tel and Tel installer repairman, who spent a lot of time working on open wire, trimming trees and unwrapping crossovers as well as pulling up slack and replacing shot up insulators. This photo is to be displayed in my playroom along with my many old colored insulators that I collect and display. I have an assortment of old phones from wooden wall phones with the crank to candlesticks. I also have my climbers (hooks as we called them) and my old body belt. And so this photo is a reminder for me of my life’s work. Thanks again, Wayne
Wayne A., August 18, 2017 2:41 PM EDT
Hi, Doug! Thanks for the email. I do like the image of the lineman up the pole with the windmill in the background. Looks like rural American, on a dirt road, in the autumn and reminiscent of my days working on wire. What would the charge be for an 8″ x 10″ or 10″ x 12″ of that image? Thanks, Wayne.
Wayne A., September 16, 2017 1:20 PM EDT
Doug: I received the TWO photos today and they were everything I had hoped for. Subject matter, angle and lighting. I love your photo and my only wish that I had taken it. Your story is quite interesting to this old phone man as I not only worked on the outside plant but also spent 16 years working inside our toll test department on special circuits and of course, carrier equipment (long distance. It included ‘O’ carrier, ‘ON’, ‘L’ carrier and then in the digi9tal age, T-carrier. I worked on fiber optics carrier system that carried T3 lines in a 565 megabit bundle and then later in system that was double that. Went to school in Plano, Texas for that system. You’ve heard the name, Rockwell-Collins. Over he yeas, our central office/toll center went from step-by-stem, crossbar tandem, IA to 5E digital. My passion was always outside as an installer/repairman and thus my time working on open wire lines. We were quite rural in farming country in Vermont and NH and I worked on eight-party lines quite often that were fed off from open wire. We also had ‘fire lines’ that were separate from regular phone lines in that they were distributed to all the farm (barns and milk houses) so that if there was a fie all the farmers could respond in the volunteer fire department.
And so I can certainly appreciate and admire your efforts to save that old equipment and plant. Did you know that insulator collectors pay handsome money on eBay for wooden crossarm pins to display their insulators? I’m talking $50.00 or more for ten individual pins. Also wooden ‘brackets,’ the kind that are nailed to a pole and each bracket supports one insulator and one side of the pair. You know what I mean? We also had a few independent phone companies in Vermont and New Hampshire. The Topsham Telephone Company in Vermont was one of them.
Again, Thank You so much for the photographs, one of which will be framed and hung in my playroom and displayed along with my old phones and telephone memorabilia, including my hooks and climbing belt, signs, and etc. Your photo will be the center of attention and will explain immediately what the display is all about. You do great work and I’m sure you get a great deal of joy and satisfaction in doing it. I’m a student of history and I’m pretty conservative. I like the old ways and the old things, just like you!
Wayne A., September 11, 2017 2:44 PM EDT
Doug, I’m thinking I would like an 11″ x 14″ fine art textured . . . is that the same as what you describe as a mat finish? I would also be interested in having it matted (either white or off white) and have you sign the bottom of the mat, as he photographer, rather than sign the photo itself.
Pete M., November 7, 2017 6:11 pm MST
Any idea where I can find the picture of the Indian brave with his ear against a pole listening to the wire sing? I think it’s called “The Singing Wire.” Thanks! Pete
Ed L., November 20, 2017 2:36 pm MST
ABout 1982 Northern Line Layers, from Billings, MT, wrecked from Three Forks, MT to just south of Townesnd, MT, a section of the Beech-Helena to9ll. The poles had 1918 date tags in them and the foreman said they were Tamarack cedars. I climbed many of the poles to remove the arms and all were still solid. The only poles that failed were some DF poles that had been sintalled where the originals had been replaced. I believe there were five 10-pin arms on the lead. . . The older circuits were large soft copper and newer were copper clad steel. The work was done during Mountain Bell’s TIP program in the early to mid-1980s. I stumbled across your website and enjoyed looking at the photos. Regards, Ed L.
Peter J., December 13, 2017 2:08 pm MST
I am the Telecom Specialist for Grand Caynon National Park. Our open-wire lines were installed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) back in 1935 as the Trans-Canyon telephone service. It was added o the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986. Most of the wires are no longer in use. However, we still have one circuit on an open-wire line down to Indian Garden in the canyon. Believe it or not, it is a DSL line. Don’t know for how much longer, because the customer wants better service. Be sure to check it out on your next visit.
Yes, Doug, the “poles” are metal pipes with glass insultors. Most of those are still in palce. Some have been re-purposed .; . the campground at Phantom Ranch uses themn to hang the camper’s backpacks to limit critters getting into them. I try to find some of the photos I have of the line and historic marker. See also NY Times story, December 14, 1986, “Mule handy in repairing canyon phone line.” Regards, Pete J.
Ron S.,December 16, 2017 12:52 pm MST
I love this website! I have been into, since I was a child, anything that pertains to insulator and power/communication distribution. I have a few displays in my background to prove it.
Gloria C., January 10,2018 3:39 pm EST
Hello! First, wonderful website you have! I am interested in the pole piking picture (the one with this description “Piking poles for communications lines, probably early 1880s to 1900s. Illustrator credit unknown.”). I’m wondering if you know where the original came from, and whether it’s under any kind of copyright? I would like to use it in an academic paper about early line building. Any info you can give me would be helpful. Thank you!
Michael W., February 12, 2018 8:18 pm EST
Thank you for your work in maintaing this import resource for open wire enthusiasts. I hope to complete my open wire museum in the next year or so.
Dick L., February 22, 2018 12:04 pm EST
My open wire history: When I was 13, I worked part-time for the Dunlap Mutual Switchboard Association located in Dunlap (now Elkhart), Indiana. It was a magneto central office with open wire termination on five crossarms just outside the office windows. Ice storms were our bane and my earliest job was to disentangle the wires on crossarms that were stuck into the ground as pole lines fell. The Associated Company bought the company in 1945. I went to work for Associated in Goshen in 1950. I was a lineman and worked a five man crew that was also a travel crew. We were used to to shipping out of town on ice-storms, plant imprements and tree trimming. I became a Line Foreman in early 1953. At that time, I was in an Army NG unit and was always loaned to Battalion HQ to work as a wireman. I went into the regular Army and upon return, was moved to Ft. Wayne in the Traffic Department. Later, I became the NE Division (HQ’d in Ft. Wayne) Construction and Splicing Manager.
My last position was Safety Director of GTE North (NE third of U. S.). On my last day I put on my hooks and helped a crew wreck-0t open wire at North Manchester, IN. Saw lots, including electrocutions, low wire, snagging, pulling someone to their death plus the inception of all kinds of different wire and cable.
Had great bosses and a few that were horrible. The worst being a C.O. guy running Construction crews. The best a World War II vet who would jump in and help when we asked for extra pull on a rope or whatever. After being in the Regular Army, I joined the Active Reserve for six years. I was the common instructor for a school for Officers. I made everyone of them learn to climb a pole with gaffs and belt. Got fired twice, but rehired, when they learned the truth. Saw lots of interesting ideas that caused severe accidents when I was the Safety guy. Regards, Dick.
Deechss, April 24, 2018 4:57 pm EDT
First off, your site is amazing. Secondly, I need help with a bracket so I was wondering if you could help me? I attached a pic of the bracket I have. I want to put insulators on it, but the metal screw posts are too small to put an insulator on they are too big to put wooden cob end pins on. What can I do to put insulators on this bracket? Thanks!
Jim D., May 30, 2019 10:18 AM EDT
Hi Douglas! I love your website! I have learned a lot about how telephone systems worked and answered questions I’ve had since a kid.
With regard to ‘carrier systems,’ would it be fair to say that this system or method is nothing more than very low AM radio frequencies being superimposed onto a pair of open wire telephone lines? In the same way that much higher frequencies are superimposed onto CATV coaxial lines?
If the answer is yes, if someone put a radio capable of tuning below 140 KHz next to an open wire telephone line using a carrier system, might one hear a conversation? And suppose if one could dial that radio down in say 4K steps or increments, that each step or channel would tune into a different conversation?
FYI . . . I have a short-wave radio with a ‘long-wave’ band that starts at 150 KHz which would be just above the high end of open wire carrier capabilities assuming sub-long-wave radio and telephone carrier systems are one in the same (except that one is closed circuit wire and the other over the air).
Also, my intuition is that a normal singular voice frequency baseband telephone call at 3 KHz would not be audible on a radio capable of tuning that low (and with the radio positioned next to the hone line) because there is no carrier involved.
Back in the old days, a lot of college radio stations that could not get regular AM or FM radio licenses were ‘carrier current’ where they would broadcast through the university electrical power system by superimposing an AM radio signal at a normal AM radio frequency and could be picked up by an ordinary AM radio. Not sure how far from the power line this would work, but I suspect not far. Anyway, this situation made me wonder telephone carrier systems are similar? Any thoughts or further explanations on this would be great!
Again, neat website! Jim.
Arend G., May 31, 2018 7:19 PM EDT
Greetings from Calgary, Canada!
I just wish to thank you for your website and supplying images, information, and experience in an occupation that once really impacted our lives: “COMMUNICATIONS.” When I was a boy growing up in the 1970s, I was still fortunate enough to witness telegraph pole communications networks in British Columbia. BCTEL. I was always fascinated by telephone and hydro poles. The number of cross beams, insulators, insulator spacing, guy wires, helper support poles, large river crossings with special hangers to support the wires, also roadside relay bungalows with large monument poles. I miss that era. With underground cables, the romance of the telegraph linemen and poles are gone.
I added some images of a road trip I made in 1989, and the final year of BCTEL roadside poles. Due to the mountainous terrain, underground cables were supported on the old telegraph poles instead of trenching through solid rock. Later the tops were cut off and only the poles and cable remained.
It is nice to know that there are more people who enjoy these relics and even worked on them. I am also a model railroader and your images will help me in designing the real telecommunications track side as well. Thanks again, A. G., Calgary Canada.
W. Gregor, June 4, 2018 6:44 PM PDT
Greetings from Canada, Doug. Thank you very much for your reply. It would a pleasure to contribute my images to your site. Also feel free to use any information I provided. I was amused in your letter regarding model railroad telephone pones and crossarms. I had exactly the same problems finding anything that closely resembled the real thing. Atlas HO poles were the closest version I could find, but I am in O scale. I added an image. What do you think? It’s interesting that I found your site as I was at a train show and found a Gentleman in Ontario, Canada who digitally makes crossarms. His were wrong but I just sent him an image of the proper Modified ‘K-B’ Line with eight inch spacing perfect.
Doug, I also managed to locate several different insulators from the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways. As they were dismantling their line track side poles from four cross arms to one. I also managed to stow away three cross arms in a forested area for future pickup. Nobody would ever think of doing this till they are obsolete, then they start looking for them. I also have a unique insulator. It was 2 ceramic pieces wired together and strapped to a tree. Here in Banff and Jasper National Parks, the ranger stations and remote hotel ran two phone lines along the highway using the pine trees as poles. I managed to find one yeas later still strapped to a tree. The wire holding the insulator was already imbedded in the trunk. I snipped the wire and took the two ceramic pieces. Where the treescape ended in a marsh or slide area, a single pole with two side brackets was used. On our family road trips, I always followed these lines through our rugged mountains. Doug, I will send you an image. It is nice to converse with you over this interesting topic. Many people would never understand. Take care!
Arend G, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Wayne A., July 25, 2018 4:35 PM EDT
Hi Doug, That’s quite a wish list you have. Unfortunately, I know of no working systems. Whey I worked for Ma Bell (via New England Telephone Company in White River Junction, Vermont,) I started out in what was ‘toll test’ and was inside for three years before going outside to climb poles and become a ‘real’ telephone man. We had ‘O’ carrier, ‘N’ carrier and ‘ON’ carrier. Also had ‘L’ carrier that was transmitted over microwave towers. There was also an old room downstairs in our building that was the ‘K’ carrier room. Those were the days!!! Now everything is fiber. Even T1 carrier is ancient. D4 channel banks all gone.
Hope all is well with you. Have added a few insulators and a couple phones to my collection. There’s always something I want or need. MY wish list includes a three slot coin Western Electric payphone inside a walnut phone booth.
Fred C., July 30, 2018 6:31 AM EDT
Great to hear from you. By all means, I will check out your updated site. . . .
As for my memory of ‘brackets on every pole,’ this is what I distinctly remember. I am sure what I saw: Suppose we have a four-circuit, one-arm pole line. Let’s call the pairs A, B. C. & D. B & D circuits would have a four-insulator tramp on every other pole while circuits A & C had one on EVERY pole. I believe I saw this in Arizona and perhaps a few other Southwestern states on some of the very last open wire carrier circuits that were strung in the 1960s.
This brings me to another possible related mystery (or perhaps it’s unrelated, I don’t know). A Mountain Bell service man came to our house in Tucson to hook up our phone. He was a really nice guy, and of course, I brought the subject around to open wire. It turned out by chance that this guy had just transferred from outside plant to customer service and had a LOT of experience working on O-W in the desert. I DISTINCTLY remember that he told me that they had begun suing circuits that could carrier 24 (yes, 24) simultaneous phone calls on a single pair.
I asked about this on the ‘Singing Wires’ Yahoo e-group a couple of times and was told there was never such a ting. The biggest was ‘O’ carrier with 16 channels. They did have a carrier system that carried 24 channels on coax but there was never a 24-channel carrier on O-W. Or, was there? Maybe, just maybe, that phone guy back in 1965 knew what he was talking about. If a carrier like that was ever used in Arizona on open wire that might just explain my unusual tramp sightings. Unfortunately, if these things ever existed, they have been gone now for many years, so we cannot go out and look at one. Maybe, just maybe, we might someday find such an example that by pure chance, found its way into someone’s photograph. But, I’m not holding my breath.
Fred C., July 31, 2018 6:28 AM EDT
Doug, another theory I have that this so-called ‘T’ carrier MIGHT have been sued on a few late open wire carrier line in the 1960s — but, of course, I can’t prove this. The people on the ‘Singing Wires’ e-group don’t think so, but this cannot be proven one way or the other, unless we get a hold of someone who worked out there in the ’60s. This will have to be done FAST cause pretty soon there will not be anybody left alive who will remember–if that hasn’t already happened.
Then again, they might’ve laid two different systems on top of each other as you suggested. That’s a good theory, too. But to prove it, we have the same obstacles. Both scenarios seem logical to me, so my incination is that there were a few lines that carrier 24 channels on a pair.
Arend G, December 1, 2018 11:46 PM EDT
Greetings from Calgary, Canada. Hello Doug! Just enjoying another visit to your neat website. Doug, I added three more pictures I took on Highway 5 in 1989, near Merritt, B. C. These lines were dropped just months after I took them. They supplied communications to a small village called Nicola. These were BCTEL and you can see the special spacing of the insulators and transposition brackets. Also: the addition of the cable just below the phone lines and guys, support poles. The terrain there is rugged, so poles are still in place but no crossarms. Sorry about the car aerial but it fits the mood, I guess. the reason I am contacting you is I found a gentleman who has created O-scale 1:48 scale model telegraph and power pole insulators. He works out of a firm called Shape Ways. I just ordered 100 and will scratch build my own poles, crossarms, brackets and add his insulators. I supplied the unique way he produces them. So if you or some of your followers wish to make some model version of classic telephone poles, you now have a source. They are not even that expensive to get produced $16.25 U. S. D. for 100 pieces.
Erik B., May 27, 2019 7:46 AM EDT
I recently returned to a survivor of the destruction of the Chicoutimi telegraph line! I picked some old insulators from one. One is a CD 152 Hemingray from 1916-17 whose color is aqua. I also picked 1926-27 CD 154 Diamond insulators of a peach color that are he ancestors of the Dominion Company in Canada.
I wanted to have insulators of the original date of line to put on the emo that I want to rebuild. This 80 year old pole had a good potential of insulators in good condition. The crossarms were in good condition, too! Happy to have done this and am a little exhausted. I’m proud to have accomplished so much!
All my best,
Jim D., July 9, 2019 2:26 PM EDT
Very sorry to hear about your health issues! I hope you are okay now? Again, your work with this website is phenomenal!
Just to clear a little confusion, I want to restate my question.
So speaking strictly about old telephone carrier systems (i.e. ‘J’), is the methodology the same or different than that of AM broadcast radio? And if it is the same, would that mean a radio (a long-wave or sub-long-wave radio) capable of tuning down below 140 KHz might be able to hear a phone conversation if the radio was close enough to the telephone phone wire?
If you are not sure of the answer (I don’t know how much you know about radio), that’s okay. But if one could say that old telephone carrier systems (such as ‘J’) is basically AM radio broadcast over a wire, that would help me understand this conceptually. Maybe.
Otherwise, I am aware of telephone over power wire, I did actually read already that on your website but that does not pertain to my question. I only mentioned carrier current AM radio in a university context to serve as an analogy to my understanding of how telephone carrier system (such as ‘J’ among others) might work.
One last thought, and hopefully, I do not confuse things . . . so broadcast AM radio modulates a carrier with amplitude modulation over a particular frequency. So, I guess my question really is, do old telephone carrier systems such as ‘J’ modulate the amplitude over the carrier on a particular frequency OR does it instead, modulate something else (whatever that might be) over the carrier on a particular frequency thus making it something different than AM radio? I’ll stop typing now. Thanks for your reply.
Jim D., July 9, 2019 2:46 PM EDT
Bart, I got your email from Doug in response to a question I had reading about open wire and carrier systems on Doug’s website.
So, it ‘seems’ from what I read there and a few other places online, that open wire carrier systems are nothing more than AM radio signals being imposed onto the open wire in the same way cable TV is imposing VHF and UHF signals onto the coaxial cable.
If this understanding of carrier systems is basically true, my hypothetical question is whether one would have been able to use a radio to listen to open wire telephone conversations if the radio would tune low enough? I realize that the radio would have to have the ability to tune very low in frequency since the top end frequency of open wire carrier systems is around 140 KHz. I think the low end of the ‘long wave’ radio is 150 KHz, so the radio would have to tune in to ‘sub’ long wave frequencies in order to capture telephone calls on open wire.
Another question I have has to do with the ability of the early telephone network to route calls through a string of inter-connected local exchanges rather than use
AT&T Long Lines. For example, I found a 1910 map of the Bell System where the Long Lines ended from the East Coast at Denver. But at that time, the map showed there were local exchange lines that circuitously went from Denver all through California. Technically, there already was a transcontinental wire in 1910 via the patchwork of Inter-mountain West local exchange lines. obviously, the lack of repeaters in 1910 would not have permitted a call past Denver from the East Coast. But, could someone in Denver call someone in San Francisco in 1910, if all the local exchanges in-between patched it through? Or, was there a limit as to how many local exchanges could be interconnected before a Long line needed to be used (i.e. too much line resistance or other factors)? Thanks!
Erik B., August 22, 2019 5:06 PM
Wow! What a fantastic surprise! These beautiful gifts with nice writing. I am very happy and lucky to receive them so quickly!