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Telegraph Poles

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Spring 2020

Ray Thorp examines the history of these once ubiquitous towpath structures

People of a certain age will have noticed the telegraph wires running alongside railways, lazily looping from pole to pole in summer but banjo string-tight in the winter. These routes were used for internal systems and signalling in the days of British Rail. In the early days of railways they were also used for public telegraphy, with station offices doubling as telegraph stations. Perhaps because the general public did not come into contact with the canals often, the telegraph trunk routes along them were little observed. However, some remnants of these once ubiquitous structures are still extant, two examples being the ‘A’-stayed pole on the Coventry Canal between bridges 25 and 26 and the short one in High Bridge, No 39, on the Shropshire Union, which, incidentally, is a grade II-listed structure. These trunk routes went from a main telephone exchange called a Group Switching Centre in various towns and cities close to the route. The poles were most probably 40ft or 5…

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