A view from the line #11 getting close to the wire..the telegraph wire

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.

The wires are there really…click images to enlarge to get a better view

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.

Trying to achieve the classic effect of the lineside telegraph wires

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.

The closer spacing of these two poles is due to the change in direction occurring

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.

3 thoughts on “A view from the line #11 getting close to the wire..the telegraph wire

  1. Phone lines have always been a problem but I’ve adopted a technique I use in the construction of wooden ship models which is to draw the cotton through a block of beeswax. Once done, using one’s fingers, squeeze along the length to remove excess and when you’re done, the thread will hold its shape better than before. It also has the benefit of reducing the tendency of dust to be attracted. The only thing you have to be careful about is leaving the tiny part of the thread that is to be glued/attached to the pole free from wax for obvious reasons.

  2. One of my earliest memories of train travel is watching the telegraph wires go up and down on a journey from Ashford to New Romney. Sherlock Homes used to work out the speed of the train by using his stopwatch to see how long it took a train to pass two telegraph poles.

  3. Very nicely modelled those wires Graham. I was thinking of the stuff that is sold on T Gauge.co.uk ..for OHL…but I think this thread you are using is finer.

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