One of the characteristic views from the coach window when travelling on our railways , until the late 1970’s was the continual dipping and rising of the telegraph wires. Telegraph, telephone and signalling block instrument communications were all carried alongside the line suspended from the iconic multi-arm telegraph poles. Whilst the poles themselves are often modelled, there being a number of manufacturers of such in the popular scales, creating the actual wires, especially to scale is somewhat more of a challenge. I have seen fine thread and fine wire used by others but these have always proved to be very delicate and easily damaged.
Traditionally the telegraph poles would be spaced approximately 60 yards apart, which in 4mm scale is some 720mm apart and therefore this distance understandably tends to be shortened in model form. The wires themselves would have been strung with 200lb copper wire (more for mechanical strength than conductivity) which would have course expanded and contracted depending on ambient temperature creating that recognisable ‘sag’ that would be more pronounced on a hot day.
On Fisherton Sarum I have modelled a short stretch of the telegraph poles and wires. I have used suitably painted Ratio telegraph poles, using more greys than browns. The distance between the poles has also been somewhat compressed, although a change in direction of the route has given a reason for the close proximity of a couple of the poles.
For the wires I have used a product called ‘Silk worm – magicians invisible thread’ this is in fact very fine elastic and at the time was available either in clear or black. The clear is exactly what it says on the reel and is pretty much impossible to see so defeated the object for using as telegraph wires somewhat, so I used the black. Even so, using the black, the wires often tend to go unnoticed by many viewers of the layout and also depends on the angle that they are viewing from and the point at which they are trying to focus on.
Using this elastic does have its pros and cons: being elastic, with some ‘give’ it does mean that it withstands being knocked at times, which is easily done, such as when track cleaning; however the elastic property does also of course mean that the wires stay tight and you not get the ‘sag’. Even with fine cotton thread the ‘sag’ does not look right due the thread having no weight, even with fine wire the effect is not that convincing. I have tried to trick the eye slightly by fixing the upper ‘wire on one pole to a lower point on the next pole and visa versa which means that the wires cross in the middle between the two poles but trick the eye into giving an effect of the sag, this tends to trick the eye in actual life better than these photographs show.
Although quite a time consuming and tricky exercise the effect of the adding the wires I feel has been worth it even without the proper sag.