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HO scale utility poles

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HO scale utility poles
Posted by jammin.madrid on Friday, February 18, 2011 12:46 AM

I am wondering if there is a cheap way to make utility poles?  Are their dowels that can work or would I have to shape them?  Any help will be appreciated.  Thanks!

No I am not from Spain. I live in the good ol US of A.
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Posted by dknelson on Friday, February 18, 2011 8:36 AM

Jeff Wilson went into this in a very useful article that appeared in a special issue of Model Railroader "How to Build Realistic Layouts, Trackside Town and City Scenery."  It came out in 2008 and I have no idea if it is still available from Kalmbach. 

Wilson says that while you can make your own poles and crossbeams, using the commerical models does look better and enables you to spend more of your time on the finer details such as in insulators, the guide wires and other factors that many modelers omit.

Most hardware stores sell wood dowels in a variety of sizes and the smaller ones come close to the right size for HO -- BUT they lack the taper that real poles have.  The same is true for the wood "craft sticks" that you can buy at craft shops that are close to the right size for N scale utility poles.  If you can live without the taper however, a bit of stain and you are ready to tackle the cross beams (which Rix sells separately in HO).

Another possiblity are the wood skewers you can find in the food store.  They actually do have the taper but possibly you get just one correctly tapered utility pole from each wood skewer.  You would want to use a fine toothed saw, dragged along the wood, to give it some texture.  Wilson suggests the same thing with commercial plastic poles.

Rix Products offers a wonderful product -- CLEAR cross arms -- why clear?  Because that way if you paint the "wood" parts the cast on insulators are wonderful looking green or clear "glass" -- an effect otherwise nearly impossible to capture. 

http://www.rixproducts.com/model_railroad_kits.htm

 

Dave Nelson

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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, February 18, 2011 11:03 AM

I agree that tapering is important. It is a noticeable detail to me. For trees and poles a few seconds in the drill with some sandpaper gets that taper. Wear a thick leather glove and eye protection, sometimes they splinter.


 

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, February 20, 2011 7:46 AM

Well there's a prototype for everything!

Here's a square utility pole in Salem, Mass. Note the pole to the left is square at the bottom and is chamfered to a hexagon section on the upper portion. How did they drill a square hole to sink the pole? Laugh

http://www.shorpy.com/node/9979

I like the Walthers utility poles because of the nice detail and the included transformers which can be mounted on the crossarm or on a beam between two poles. Not much more costly than a package of bamboo skewers!

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/933-3101 on sale and in stock today at Walthers.

Rix once made nice poles with clear green tint crossarms. When painted, the insulators looked like real glass insulators! Great for a close-up scene! (Rix; 628-35 crossarm; 628-40 pole) I don't know about the availability of these. I bought them years ago.

(Oops, sorry Dave... I see you mentioned RIX above and gave a link which states that the crossarms are available again)

Have fun, Ed

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Posted by ollevon on Sunday, February 20, 2011 7:45 PM

I model in HO. What works for me is wooden Q-Tips put in a cordless drill, and spun against sandpaper for the taper, then run a razor saw down & all around. I then use 4x4 scale lumber for the cross arms. Paint and weather them. Work it like an assembly line, and you can have a few dozen made in a very short time, and very cheep.

     Sam

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, February 21, 2011 8:06 AM

ollevon

I model in HO. What works for me is wooden Q-Tips put in a cordless drill, and spun against sandpaper for the taper, then run a razor saw down & all around. I then use 4x4 scale lumber for the cross arms. Paint and weather them. Work it like an assembly line, and you can have a few dozen made in a very short time, and very cheep.

     Sam

Until I read your post I never knew there were wooden cotton swabs, but sure enough there are.  Worth investigating.  Along those lines, a cordless screwdriver (you can buy a chuck that fits) might offer a slower speed so you can hold the sandpaper in your hand.  And an additional source might be wood matches -- assuming you can light your candle or fireplace or grill or whatever before too much of the wood is charred.  Now that I think of it certain bottle rocket fireworks also come with a wood stick that might be usable.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by Buckeye Nation on Monday, February 21, 2011 11:06 AM

Jammin,

Are you refering to Power Poles or Telecommunication Pole (Telephone)?

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Posted by builder kim on Saturday, December 24, 2011 7:06 PM

Hi i make hand made telephone poles with insulators radio parts and popcicle sticks.Ho scale easy made.more realistic than most out there.Can supply photo if replyed to.I sent photos to this site but dont see any on here for the masses, to get an easy great cheap tips on makeing stuff from scrap mrkim02@hotmail.com    or ask this site if there is any.

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Posted by VertrynElec on Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:53 AM

There are cheap ways to craft power poles...........that is, if you're not worried about a lot of detail.  I've been crafting them for years and it still takes a lot of effort.  Jewelry beeds are excellent choices for insulators.  A few people have suggested rubbing saw blades on the dowels which is also works.  I must say, tappering is not totally nessesary.  If you look at most power poles............even the older ones, most are not tapered.  Some of the older sub-transmisson poles are tapered.............depending on what region of the country you're in.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31462250@N03/8071875841/in/set-72157626396821291

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=748343655200103&set=a.382366505131155.95502.100000734273120&type=1&theater

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31462250@N03/5833101934/in/set-72157626396821291

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Posted by mlehman on Saturday, March 22, 2014 3:15 PM

I'll agree that YMMV with tapering. But older poles frequently were tapered. I suspect that the rating system for poles has probably seen some changes, limiting use of poles whose taper previously was acceptable.

Tapering isn't hard or even time consuming if you have a table top or larger belt sander. I press the dowel against the moving belt and rotate it. The belt moves away from you, so it's safe so long as yopu take precautions. If they are long, you do do individual poles more easily. If you need short poles tapered, then leave the dowel whole until it's formed, then cut off and repeat as needed.

Here are some of mine, with an attached light standard.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Saturday, March 22, 2014 4:15 PM

The LION may as well put thetwo cents of him in too!

These are 3/16" dowels, I did not bother to taper them. The Lamps are LEDs, the connectors are bent to form the brackets, you can see the resistor on the pole disguized as a transformer. Seed Beads are used as insulators they are held in place by pins with are then cut flush with the pole.

You cannot see it in this photo, but there are conductors going from pole to pole, and the ARE LIVE! At the end of the run of poles the wire comes down disguized as a guy wire with a bit of insulation on it to keep the LPPs from injuruing themselves.

The green lampshades are simply a small lump of modeling clay painted green. These Yard Lights mark where the uncoupler ramps are, so that the LPP crew can see what they are doing, and the 1:1 operator can see where the magnets are.

 The wires are from a length of zip cord. The insulation was stripped off, and single strands used for the wires. If you pinch the wires together they will throw a very prototypical arc.

 

 

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by VertrynElec on Saturday, March 22, 2014 5:21 PM

For modern day themed power poles, I will use jewelry beeds (you can find them at hobby lobby) for the insulators.  I will give my 3/18ths diameter dowels a "creosote" color by using ebony woodstain.  You can use capacitors as transformers:

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Posted by VertrynElec on Saturday, March 22, 2014 5:25 PM

Here's a "voltage regulator" bank that I had crafted back in 2013.  My cross arms are 1.12 inches wide; 8 scaled feet.  The dowels are 5 &1/2 inches tall; 40 SCALED FEET: 

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Posted by VertrynElec on Saturday, March 22, 2014 5:29 PM

Crafted in October of '11.  I have modeled a 1940-1950's era "gang switch".  I have chosen to use an actual tree branch/twig (as I do with most of my vintaged power poles).  For those of you that wish to model your own, I recomend using branches/twigs because most older poles have "knots" and appear to sometimes have slight bend.  Tree limbs are ideal...................if you can find some that are straight enough:

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Posted by VertrynElec on Saturday, March 22, 2014 5:41 PM

I usually use tree limbs (those that I can find are no thicker than 1/4th diameter!) as dowels for my 1940-60's era power poles.  I strip the bark and then rub the sides with saw blades (THAT' NOT MY IDEA!).  After all of that, I'll use woodstain.  Tree limbs are ideal because there's "knots" and "bending"...............what you'll see on many 50, 60 & even 70 year old power poles today:   https://www.facebook.com/VertrynElec

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Posted by bsteel4065 on Sunday, March 23, 2014 5:04 AM

Just some quick info on the Walthers utility poles.......... the replacement part number is 949-4120

However, they are not in stock. I had a hell of a job getting these about a year ago as no-one had them anywhere. I ended up buying them over the internet from a hobby store in Australia. e-bay was no good as someone had put in a 'top everyone's bid by 5 bucks' so stopped chasing when the price became prohibitive. But these from Walthers are very good with good detail.

Sorry this doesn't help with making these yourself but thought you would like to know to save you a wild goose chase if you decided on Walthers. I have Rix and they are pretty good too but not as good as Walthers in my opinion.

Hope you get what you want.

Barry

 

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Posted by zstripe on Sunday, March 23, 2014 5:30 AM

I don't know about where some of you live, but in my 72yrs of driving all over the US and Canada, by truck, I have yet to see a tapered utility, or telephone pole. I have seen tapered metal light poles, and concrete. I have seen the power company install a utility pole, right near the end of my driveway and it was not tapered. Maybe at ground level looking up, it may appear to be tapered.

Just My My 2 Cents

Frank

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Posted by mlehman on Sunday, March 23, 2014 9:37 AM

Frank,

I think you may have just missed the taper. Poles are a natural product. Trees taper as they go up. Various standards refer to allowable taper, but I'm having a hard time getting a good reference online this morning. Try searching using this set of terms in Google: taper utility pole allowable

This was the best link which didn't open for me: www.woodpoles.org/FAQ-America.html

Given they discuss taper in grading and spec-ing poles, it must be there.

As I noted, standards tend to increase in rigor over time and I suspect that's the case with allowable taper. I know there are old telegraph poles in the mountains in Colorado that display quite distinct tapers. Part of that may be weathering, with the softer wood near the top eroding faster over time, but much of it was there when the pole was fresh.

As with many things done to scale, sometimes exxaggeration of a characteristic in scale better conveys the 1:1 aspect of things. Obviously, this can be over done.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by mlehman on Sunday, March 23, 2014 9:55 AM

VertrynElec

Nice work on the poles, transformers, etc.Thumbs Up

Realizing this is an area where opinions differ, do you lay line to wire all your poles? In my case, just too much chance of that getting in the way of operating, but I'm curious what people do decide on this question.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by zstripe on Sunday, March 23, 2014 7:33 PM

Mike,

I do agree that trees taper and some poles around the country taper Some. All the utility poles that I have ever seen that carry 440volts on them, are not tapered. There is one at the end of my drive, diffinitley has no taper. I watched them take it off the truck and put it in. Also the one next to my garage, does not have a taper. I was told it depends on what it is used for. In this case heavy power lines.

Frank

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Sunday, March 23, 2014 7:47 PM

All of the poles I see traveling by truck are tapered. On the truck, it is obvious.

ROAR

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Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by zstripe on Monday, March 24, 2014 1:13 AM

I agree, but, I was told it is dependent on what they are used for. A utility pole has to be a lot more stronger and withstand different types of forces, then a telephone lite pole combo. Some are shaped so there is no taper. Not even the same kind of timber is used in all apps.

http://www.woodpoles.org/FAQ-America.html


 

Just because there is not a taper, I'm quite sure, the Taper Police, will not go after the OP, for not having one.

Frank

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, March 24, 2014 7:20 AM

bsteel4065
Just some quick info on the Walthers utility poles.......... the replacement part number is 949-4120

That's too bad that Walthers is no longer stocking these. I bought a few sets when they first came out and I think they're great. The transformers and crossarm options with this kit are very well done.

For anyone doing high voltage work, Tichy has petticoat style insulators available. http://www.hobbylinc.com/htm/tic/tic8158.htm

Around here almost all the utility poles are tapered. I see replacement ones along the roadway sometimes and I would estimate the bottom diameter at 24" and the top at about 16" this would be on a 60 foot pole.

I have noticed more poles being ACQ treated with the resulting green color as opposed to creosote or other treatments resulting in the dark brown colors.

Here's two poles laying top to bottom:

You can sure see the diameter difference here...

Happy modeling, Ed 

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Posted by mlehman on Monday, March 24, 2014 8:17 AM

Ed,

The Walthers pole set will likely be re-run. Need some myself. Popular sellers with wide application may show out of stocks periodically, but Walthers is pretty good about seeing which side the toast is buttered on with on-going demand for an item like this that is ubiquitous in most any landscape.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, March 24, 2014 9:13 AM

Hi, Mike

That would be good news on the Walthers pole kit. The stock photo does not do justice to what is included in the set.

To answer your question about stringing line, I don't intend to but I "might" string up some of that Berkshire Jct. EZ line stretchy stuff in some out of the way places. Like you, I think it would be a headache to deal with when reaching over the layout, etc.

What I like about the Walthers pole kit is that you can make up rather large transformer setups that would likely be found where the service entrance to a factory or commercial building would have. That makes a nice detail. The plant I work at has 23 KV lines run on wood poles, a bit more than the 440 that Frank mentioned.

I'll try to get a photo of mine posted soon...

Take care, Ed

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Posted by dti406 on Monday, March 24, 2014 9:26 AM

Exscuse, but don't run a razor saw down the side of the pole to give it texture, look at the picture of the real things, they are SMOOTH.  Guys going up the poles with their belt and hooks want a smooth pole without any knots or the hooks will kick out, and believe me they don't like that to happen.

 

Rick J

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Posted by chutton01 on Monday, March 24, 2014 2:08 PM

dti406
Excuse, but don't run a razor saw down the side of the pole to give it texture, look at the picture of the real things, they are SMOOTH.  Guys going up the poles with their belt and hooks want a smooth pole without any knots or the hooks will kick out, and believe me they don't like that to happen.
Rick J


I can see what you mean, as I always thought the grooves made by the razor saw trick (a decades-old trick, IIRC) look way oversized in HO scale - perhaps sanding staight up and down along the lenght of the pole w/ 100 or finer grit sandpaper might be better to get some texture without looking too cartoonish.

BTW, as to skewers - I got a large bag from a dollar-store for the purposes of modeling a flatcar load - however, they looked kind of thin, and measuring them gets a HO scale diameter of 9-10 inches, which is too thin for a utility pole - they would work in N scale, though. I've looked at other bags of skewers here and there, but they all seem about as thin.

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Posted by mlehman on Monday, March 24, 2014 4:41 PM

gmpullman
What I like about the Walthers pole kit is that you can make up rather large transformer setups that would likely be found where the service entrance to a factory or commercial building would have. That makes a nice detail.

Ed,

Yeah, that's a good point. I did that for several of my industries, but until the next run from Walthers, most are lukcy to have a pole line passing by.

What dti406 says about surface texture is a good point also. I could see scratching, then smoothing with sandpaper as a way to get grain without visible splinters. But no one likes to climb an old, splintery pole.

Finally, I do find the wooden skewers useful for old style telegraph/telephone lines. These are often short poles that sometimes leave the wires barely above head level. The poles are smaller diameter vs what you see for utility lines. Skewers can also make goo fence posts, if a little heavy for anything but corner posts.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by dti406 on Monday, March 24, 2014 7:37 PM

By the way, the standard pole used in about 65% of all installations is the 35' pole with about 7' in the ground leaving the height about 28'.  When we bought poles we would get out of 100 poles 65 -35', 10 - 40', 10 - 45' 5 - 50' 5-55' and 5 - 60'.  If we needed taller poles we would special order them or get them from the local utility company.

Rick J

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Posted by DSchmitt on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 5:50 AM

 

Documents on Standards fo utility poles

 

Ths document has a table of allowable taper in in/ft for various materials (trees) Table 2, and  horizontal load and minimum  tip circumference for the various pole classes. Table 3

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf1997/wolfe97b.pdf

 

This is an older document:  Specifies minimum circumference at top of pole, minimum circumference at 6 ft from butt of pole, depth poll is buried in ground (butt to ground line) for various lengths and classes of pole.

http://www3.alcatel-lucent.com/bstj/vol10-1931/articles/bstj10-3-514.pdf

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