Line Pole Insulators - Differences in Color/Make-Up?

Discussion in 'Right of Way' started by yardmaster, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Folks -
    This past year, my father handed off several old line pole insulators that, over the years, had been discarded adjacent to the River Division mainline on the extreme northern edge of the Chaffee Subdivision. For him, they were a hazard for mowing/bushhogging. For me, they're a nice adornment to the workshop/layout room.

    I am curious as to their differences:
    • One is a clear glass insulator.
    • Another is a blue glass insulator.
    • The final one is a ceramic-looking insulator (I know this from a chip in it) with a glossy brown enamel-like coating.

    I figure there has to be a good reason for the different make-up and colors?

    I'll try to get a photo at some point if I manage to bring the camera downstairs.

    Best Regards,
  2. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    The two most common insulators found are the Hemingray #42. Most of the #42s I have seen are clear glass or green-blue glass. I had quite a collection of insulators at one time, including Hemingray 16, 12-62, 40, 45, 9, 72, Brookfield, Petticoat, and a few that only had patent dates like 1893, 1907, etc. There were a lot of old ones along the old StLIM&S tracks between Jackson and Dutchtown.

    The aqua-green color was due to the insulators being made primarily from glass cullet, the left over broken pieces or scrap from the glass-making process. The ones made from cullet probably would have been somewhat cheaper than the clear glass ones.

    I had no pictures of mine but here are some examples of some that I had.

    Attached Files:

  3. I have several of those old insulators. The Blue/green and white seem to be common. I have also seen a few of the gloss brown ceramic ones in antique stores. I've never seen them along the tracks though.
    I have also collected a bright pink insulator. I found it also the ex-Mopac in Morrillton, AR when chasing trains last summer. Not sure why it is pink, but I have heard it is pretty rare. It has the company name REN on the side.

    There are also several along the old Frisco Central Division. They are mostly up in the Boston mountains, but there is a complete pole, with all the insulators sitting in the middle of downtown Ft. Smith.
  4. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Thanks, Keith - the 1907 Hemingway definitely matches a couple that I have, plus one of the Hemingway #42 clear. I'm still not sure what to make of the "ceramic" one with the brown, gloss glaze on the exterior.

    Best Regards,
  5. paul slavens

    paul slavens Member

    When BNSF took out the telegraph poles about 5 years ago between Tulsa and Sapulpa I searched and gathered several varieties. Greenish glass ones, clear glass ones, clear plastic ones, some black hard rubber ones, and the brown ceramic ones. There were several different variations by shape and manufacturer in the clear and green glass ones. I did not find any pink or red ones and I have heard that they are pretty rare. Some I found were very old and some were probably as late as the 1960s, I dont think any differences in them meant anything operational, but just were whatever was available at the time of install or maintenance.
  6. April

    April Member

    Old glass insulators make great door stops.


  7. Guys:
    SLSF used many brands of glass insulators and ceramics. The ceramics were usually used on signal lines that carried higher voltage and also were delineators. Probably The most common brand of glass insulator was Hemingway followed by Brookfields. The Brookfields were the beehive shape and were quite common. Hemingway shapes varied widely with model numbers which were/are embossed into the glass. Model 40s and 42s were very common, both aqua colored. Newer insulators were clear glass model 45s. Both the early Hemingway and Brookfield insulators were blue green (aqua) colored but shades varied. A deep blue color was very rare and was called cobalt blue. More common on power lines than on phone or telegraph for some reason. Didn’t mention that Hemingway’s quite commonly carried an 1893 patent date for drip points. Drip points on Brookfields were much less common.
    I collected insulators for years and have a fairly extensive collection. At 81, I don’t use my spurs and climb poles now but then, there are few poles to climb! Might add I only “collected” extra insulators (no wire) or took them off abandoned pole lines. I knew a guy in Kansas who worked on pole line maintenance for ATSF. He had a really extensive collection. I asked him where he got a special model and he described the line. I said isn’t that the signal line? He said yes. I ask what the voltage was. He said, Oh it’s only 440 but just slap the wire with the back your hand and if voltage knocks it away it’s too hot!
    If anyone is interested I would be happy to post some pictures of those insulators more common to railroad usage.
    Best regards
    Larry Nurphy
  9. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    In my experiences with insulators on the railroad, they made great targets. We looked forward to the machines going in to clear for a train. The spike flinging contest began. Several a great insulator lost its life, when the machines left. One guy was really good he could generally smack 2 or more rabbits with a spike for supper. A insulator was not much of a shot for him. It became, how far was the pole. Most of us got really good at throwing spikes. We had all kinds of games, shovel sticking was a good one. You stand on one end of a tie, throw your shovel and stick it in the other end. Three dogging a spike in a tie. (Just means 3 people driving the same spike.) The ties had paint dots, for the ones to be removed. You put a train kill possum on that tie and see how long the operator can stay on the machine after he cuts it in two. YES, kinda like bull riding, but machines. Silly things we kids used to do for fun.
  10. Bill you never disappoint! HAHAHA
    Like usual the rail gang life and the heavy construction life are about the same. You can make a nice horseshoe set from rebar. Swords from grade stakes. Shoot any critter with a nail gun. Pitch so many quarters that only leaners count. Etc......
    Of course my favorite is breaking in rookies aka torture. LOL I was hazed by old timers and try to pass it on even in our PC world. We sure cant have the fun we used to.
    My favorite ever was a very young kid we got that was typical paid on Friday broke on Monday guy. He liked to make bets but rarely won. When he couldn't pay for his lunch one day I offered to in exchange for all his cigarettes. I don't smoke and he knew it.:D I proceeded to smoke them like I was headed to the electric chair in front of him. He could not take it and said he would do anything for them back. I offered to return them if he would wear his boots on the wrong feet the rest of the day. I don't know what steel toed boots on the wrong feet in the summer might feel like but I am guessing not good. HA Well he did it, he probably still has blisters years later. I may go to hell someday but it was worth it!
  11. Back on topic. I have some old Frisco insulators too but all green ones. My grandma had a purple insulator. That's the only one I ever saw.
    gjslsffan likes this.
  12. patrick flory

    patrick flory Member

    Great photos. I collected insulators as a kid, had a couple hundred. All the telephone and electric linemen in town knew who I was and saved the extras for me. The bonanza was when Hurricane Hilda in 1964 took down the Bell Telephone long distance pole line along the SP, 6 or 7 cross arms per pole. They were all down on the ground and I stripped the few I could get to since I didn’t drive yet. I lost interest and gave them all to another kid who said he was interested. What he was actually interested in was pistol targets .

    Anyone have one of the four insulator brackets that crossed the wires over each other? My brother had been a lineman once and said they were periodically installed to break up inductive magnetic fields around the wires. I have a couple at home and will photograph when I get back.

    Pole lines with these glass insulators. They were particularly beautiful sparkling in the sun after a rain. Railroads just don’t look right without them. I mourn them just like I did everything else steam era that has passed. There was nothing quite like the solitude out along the heat waves in the distance main line, creosote strong in the air, waiting for a train in silence except for the birds and the wind in those green copper wires.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
    William Jackson likes this.
  13. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    Larry, would you please post photos of your insulators collection? I know that I would enjoy seeing them and I'm sure others would like to also.

  14. patrick flory

    patrick flory Member

    Hemingray had a competitor called Whithall-Tatum. I have several that are like the Hemingray 42. The little ones like the Hemingray 16 and 17, I’ve heard them called “ponies.”

    Awhile back Rix made neat HO scale crossarms/insulators out of clear plastic and green translucent plastic. You’d paint the wood crossarm and leave the insulators unpainted. The effect was stunning. I bought a few clears but never could find the greens, though I saw them in photos in MR. Then the clears went away too. I called up Rix to see what the deal was. He told me that the green/clear plastics had issues in his molds and he was losing so many of them he had to quit. Now you have to buy the brown ones and paint the insulators. I wish the translucent ones would come back.
    Ozarktraveler likes this.
  15. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Yes we would
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  16. patrick flory

    patrick flory Member

  17. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I remember seeing a bunch of those at a show years ago, perhaps Collinsville around Thanksgiving. I wish I'd bought them then. I think they would have been much more realistic looking.

    Best Regards,
    Ozarktraveler likes this.

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