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1864 "Old Growth" Redwood CPRR of CAL. Original Construction Telegraph Pole

Original Construction Old Growth Redwood Telegraph Pole, Central Pacific Railroad, 1864

The telegraph lines built along the CPRR grade through California and over the Sierras were carried over much of that distance on 24 foot (18' above ground) redwood poles. Hewn from "old growth" redwood native to California, these magnificent poles were eight inches square at the base and tapered to six inches square at the top. The telegraph wires were attached to insulators mounted in blocks spiked to the pole at and just below the top. Seen above is the top two feet cut from such a now extremely rare — if not all but unique — surviving original construction CPRR telegraph pole which had been erected during the winter of 1864-65 just uphill from the original CPRR grade near NewCastle, California, some 32 miles East of Sacramento.

Over the next fifty years these original poles were either removed (by cutting them off near ground level) or abandoned. Those near NewCastle were taken out of service during the time of the Hood relocation of the original grade between 1904 and 1908. In June, 2002, while exploring the now heavily overgrown steep hillside above the original CPRR grade near old MP32, G.J. "Chris" Graves and Charles "Chuck" Sweet came across — to their great surprise and delight — a 12 1/2 foot section of one of these poles which had remarkably survived for almost 140 years. The specimen illustrated above is from that pole.

The background image seen in the above illustration is a period view of the CPRR grade at NewCastle (Hart #5) taken very near where this pole was found. Standing next to the track in the lower right corner is an identical redwood telegraph pole. The double red arrow indicates that pole's insulator block as well as to the spike holes left in the surviving pole section where a similar block was attached.

Although just six inches wide, some 190 tree growth rings are visible in a cross section of the pole (see below). At a minimum this would mean that some of the wood it is made from of grew not later than the 1670's. Depending on how deep in the massive redwood log from which the pole was cut, however, it is quite probable that the wood is actually many hundreds of years older! -BCC

> Lawrence K. Hersh reports that he found the spacing of the CPRR telegraph poles to be 30 poles per mile (176 ft span) in Nevada.

Tree Rings of an Original Construction Old Growth Redwood Telegraph Pole, Central Pacific Railroad, 1864

Courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.

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