Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Lineside Poles (1)

Lineside poles.   Experimentation

When one thinks about a railway model, maybe one of the last things to be thought about is the lineside poles.  Whilst modern signalling systems and communications, using radio and microwave, has largely superseded the need for all the poles and wires, this was not always the case.

Lineside poles always get in the way of a good picture?  I took this one deliberately June 27, 2018, so as to give an indication of relative sizes.  It shows the Harefield shuttle train heading out of Junee with containers, each of which will get put on a truck bound for the VISY paper mill near Tumut.

In the past, NSW Government railways used the wires beside the tracks for many purposes.  This included staff working, telegraph, and telephones, automatic signals, burglar alarms,  and even clock synchronisation.    The poles and wires after 1934 were controlled by the railway’s “Signal branch”.  Previous to that year, the “electrical branch” were also partially responsible for some of the equipment.  This information comes from the book by James Dargan “Safe Signals”

But, I have been unable to find out any more information, and it appears that the aspect of building, and maintaining the lineside poles, and wires is almost forgotten. 

Finding 1970 period photographs of the mainline, showing the lineside poles has been problematic.   I am sure that the adoption of CTC on the mainline south of Junee in 1983 meant rationalisation, and reduction in the number of wires, and crossarms.    For instance, the number of crossarms on the poles north of Bomen was 5 in the 1970s – whereas today it is just 2.  

Lineside poles on the grade south of Junee. 

Lineside pole near the Junee roundhouse. Note the extra holes in the post which may have indicated positions of former crossarms.  And the three different styles of insulators.  There is also some variation in the thickness of  some of the wire

Wheat train approaching Junee.  Note the pair of lineside poles, and the different design of support brackets for the upper crossarms on the pole partially hidden

Lineside pole at Bomen

A quick check of the prototype around here shows a great variation of design, and number of crossarms seems to vary from 2 to 5 between Junee and Wagga Wagga – which might be a hangover from the CTC work in 1983.  I am unsure if the wires are in use at all, as thieves steal the copper wire, and recent roadworks north of  Bomen have removed all the poles in that area. 

In model form, lineside poles are available from Atlas,  Airfix/Dapol, and RIX  - the latter firm offers 72 crossarms in a USD $6.95 kit as a separate item – bought a quantity on the internet as I had not been able to find any kits on the websites of the local Model Railway shops.

Epping Club layout "Bethungra" has impressive lineside poles, and makes use of the RIX method of crossarm support, which is unusual on the NSW railway southern line.

Model layouts of Bethrungra used RIX brand crossarms, and 5 insulators on each side, which looks wrong, as all the pictures I have seen has only a maximum of 4 insulators on each side.  20 years ago, the Stockinbingal layout also used RIX crossarms, but reduced the crossarms size by one insulator on each side, but did not leave a gap for the upright brace (which they omitted anyway).  

Anyway, I experimented with a variation.

RIX used to sell combined poles and crossarm kits - this one I acquired from Express Station Hobbies in Seattle in 1996. Rix now sells crossarms, and poles separately - which helps as the NSW poles I am making have rail for the posts

Rix crossarm sprue in a raw state

I drilled a number of 0.5mm holes in a piece of Peco N scale rail, and soldered in some brass pins

The RIX crossarms were modified - removing the central insulator, and drilling a hole for the pin.  A number of  0.010 x 0.030 styrene strips were added for the bracing, and glued to the crossarms

Painting brings out the details.  The crossarms though were left in their raw state, although I killed the plastic sheen by painting with raw turpentine.   

The results were OK, certainly looked nice – although doing this by eye is a bit hit-n-miss.  The size  appears to be larger than scale (quite a bit larger) – so that leads me to the need of a diagram.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to measure a fallen pole, and lacking surveying gear, I will have to extrapolate on knowing one of the standard measurements
The length of rail for the pole is 40’ – but how much is in the ground?  However, the hole centers on the fishplate holes is 5” according to Greg Edwards Trackwork manual, and this is my key to draw a  dimensioned diagram.

What I hoped would be a simple fill-in project, has turned into a major exercise, and is adding to my knowledge.  The adventure continues..  Until next time, challenge yourself


  1. One of the advantages of doing this blog, is that one gets to hear about other people's efforts. I am grateful to Bob Stack for supplying some prototype information, and a link to Bylong's post in December 2013, where Ray tackles the subject of Line poles, a little differently from me. Put this link into your browser. Thanks Bob, and Ray

  2. Rob,

    Instead of drilling holes in the web of pole, have you thought about gluing a short thin strip of styrene onto the web. It can lay inside or on the rail head and butt up to the bottom flange. Add sufficient thickness of styrene to build it up level with the bottom flange or, if you like, file back the flange until it is flush with the styrene. The Rix cross arms, suitably adjusted, can then easily be glued to the styrene. Make the length of the styrene long enough to cover the cross bars and the bottom of the brace only. With everything painted, the styrene strip is hardly noticeable.

    I have found this method works well when you are seeking to mass produce the line poles.

    cheers Phil

    1. It is a good suggestion Phil. Drilling the holes with a pin vice was a bit slow, and as I most likely will need around 100 poles, each of 5 crossarms, time is a factor. Thank you.