English telegraphs use Varley insulators on railway routes

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Scientific American

New York, NY, United States
vol. 30, no. 18, p. 280, col. 1-2





The construction of the English telegraph lines is uniformly excellent, and reflects great credit upon the Engineering Staff, in whose hands it is placed.

The timber used for poles is generally larch treated with sulphate of copper, or red fir creosoted.

The creosoting is accomplished by the Bethel process. The poles are placed in an iron receiver and the air exhausted from them, after which boiling creosote oil is forced into them by pressure. This process greatly increases the durability of the wood, pine and spruce being thus rendered as lasting as cedar. The odor of creosoted poles is some places is said to be offensive, but no objection is raised against them in England on this account.

The poles are never creosoted until they have been stacked a sufficient length of time to be thoroughly dry.

The cost of creosoting includes a certain margin for loading into trucks, or on board a ship, which is always stipulated for when the contracts are made.

It sometimes happens that a parcel of poles are exceptionally dry, in which case they are given an extra two pounds of oil per cubic foot, costing from six pence to eight pence per pole additional.

When poles are used, which are neither prepared with sulphate of copper nor creosote, they are well seasoned, and then painted, the butt ends being slightly charred from the bottom to a foot above the ground line, and tarred.

The cross-arms are made of English oak, two inches thich and twenty-four and thirty-three inches in length, and are placed alternately on either side of the pole. A twenty-four inch cross arm is placed on the front of the pole a foot from the top, and then a foot lower down a thirty-three inch cross arm is placed on the back of the pole, and so on. In some cases as many as seventeen wires are carried upon a single line of poles of twenty-five feet in length, and no cross arm carries more than two wires, except on the double pole lines, where seven feet cross arms are employed, and four wires are supported upon each cross arm.

All the poles are provided with earth wires, or contact conductors for carrying the wet weather escape directly to the earth, instead of permitting it to leak into the neighboring wires. The earth wire consists a piece of No. 8 galvanized iron wire, extending from the top of the pole to the bottom, and terminating in a flat coil attached to the foot of the pole, so as to expose as large a surface as possible to the earth. From the thick earth wire, branches, composed of No. 10 galvanized iron wire, are carried in saw grooves sunk in the cross arms, and soldered to the insulator bolts. The work is performed at the factory before the cross arms are carried out on the line. The earth wires sometimes project above the top of the poles, and serve an excellent purpose as lightning arresters.

Great care is taken to keep the poles in a rigidly upright position; and in addition to placing them well in the ground and tamping the earth thoroughly around them, they are well supported with stays made of wire ropes attached to iron rods, which run into the ground about four feet. On straight lines and slight curves, where exposed to the winds, double stays are employed.




The insulators on the railway routes are uniformly of the Varley double cone brown ware pattern, and those upon the canals and highways of the single cone white ware, or porcelain. The Varley insulator is regarded as the best, but its greater cost has prevented its exclusive use.




The conductors employed upon the English lines are composed of zinc-coated iron wires of Nos. 4, 8, and 11 gage. The No. 8 gage - 0.170 inch diameter - is the size in general use; the No. 4 gage - 0.240 inch diameter - being employed upon a few of the long circuits between the more important points, while No. 11 - 0.125 inch diameter - is used for binding.




Great care is observed in the jointing of the wires, which is invariably performed upon the line, no joints by the wire makers being permitted. The joint exclusively adopted is that known as the Britannia joint. This is made by slightly bending the ends of the two wires and placing them side by side for a distance of three inches, and binding them thoroughly. All joints are required to be soldered, whether the wire be old or new, galvanized or plain. The leading-in wires at the offices are insulated with gutta percha, covered with linen tape and varnished with a preparation made of linseed oil and Stockholm tar. These wires are re-tarred from time to time to prevent decay.




The over house wires are erected in spans, supported by iron poles attached to cast iron saddles, which are fitted at the ridge of the roof. The poles are light and well stayed by wire ropes. In London, cables containing 50 insulated wires are suspended by hooks from No. 8 iron wires, carried in the manner described above. The conductors in these cables consist of No. 22 copper wire.

At Newcastle-on-Tyne, a strand composed of seven steel wires, of No. 16 gage and 454 yards long, is suspended over the Tyne, and supports a cable containing fifteen conductors.

The cables rest upon ebonite chairs attached to the rope by means of rings placed at distances of 12 feet apart.

The over house wires are used principally for lines which are leased by the Post Office Department to private firms or individuals for the transmission of messages on their own special business between offices, factories, etc., and which make a system of nearly, 5,000 miles. Journal of the Telegraph.


Keywords:Varley : Foreign
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Elton Gish
Date completed:August 28, 2009 by: Elton Gish;