Simulated Telegraph Wire in "HO"

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by George, Jan 9, 2001.

  1. George

    George Member

    Here's one for you all to chew on....

    Bald RIX, Atlas and Bachmann telephone poles and insulators. Everyone's tired of them. Some have tried stringing them and given up, most have probably never tried. Let's hear what YOU tried and where it went wrong, and let's hear from those who have had success....

    First, let's start with painting the insulators. Never thought of that? These days I bet we have some among us who don't remember seeing telegraph poles along the ROW at all. There's six types that come to my mind, depending on your road. White ceramic. Want that look? Paint it white! There was green tinted glass, blue tinted glass, green in ceramic, dark brown ceramic and clear glass insulators adorned most cross-arms along the rails, no matter which side of the pond you're on. Pick a type and get going with a brush.

    Even if you don't go any farther, the painted insulators look better than the brown stubs on the poles from the factory.

    Now the hard part. In another lifetime, I used thread during a winter vacation. I ran about thirty feet of black thread tightly around each insulator. WOW! Did that ever look impressive! I didn't have any kind of natural droop like the prototype, but it didn't matter as the look was short lived.

    Summer came and the humidity took it's toll, causing the thread to droop almost all the way to the benchwork! Heartbroken, I cut the thread off, and restrung the entire run with a pale olive colour thread to simulate the familiar look of exposed copper which was common at that time. In sunlight, it looked just like the real thing, and I left a bit of a droop in anticipation of dry winter conditions. NOT. The thread pulled too tightly, puling the end poles at sharp angles as if there had been an ice storm or a gale! I cut it again and shelved the idea.

    Years passed. School, getting life started. Next pike I didn't even consider simulating wire on poles as I had acquired a cat!

    Two cats later, this one's now 14. I'm going to try it again. One relative suggested using acrylic thread. Anyone know anything about it? I'm bending toward the suggestion from a 1972 Model Railroader article where a man used 44 gauge wire on Atlas telephone poles with slick results. Needless to say, there wasn't a droop in the lines between the poles, but it looked as if he'd licked humidity and temperature. I also found that thread catches a lot of dust, and wire might be easier to clean with a vacuum.

    Let's all hear your experience with this subject, and see what you can come up with.

    George.
  2. Peirce

    Peirce Member

    I believe I saw something in a more recent Model Railroader, within the last few months, where someone used spandex thread. I haven't tried it, but is seems to me it just might work.

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    My photo albums:
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    Peirce
    Southbury, CT

    [This message has been edited by Peirce (edited 01-09-2001).]
  3. There is a very fine spandex thread sold exactly for this purpose. The white thread is about $8 a spool and the dyed copper green or rust brown is about $11. MR says it will take a hit and stretch over 100 percent, preventing sheared off poles if the ol' 0-5-0 gets too close.
  4. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    For what it's worth, I've read (but not tried) that some use very fine nylon fishing line, avoiding any shrink or stretch. I believe they used a tiny drop of glue at each connector, applied with a toothpick. I don't know how small fishing line comes, but if it's available small enough it might be a reasonable approach.

    The look of actual lines is pretty cool, as evidenced by the photos Shamus posted! And the poles are pretty inexpensive, so this could be a bargain reality look.
  5. George

    George Member

    Guys,

    I remember seeing that blurb about the spandex line specifically made for this purpose.

    If my memory's correct, the article didn't mention the manufacturer. Does anyone know who makes or carries this product?

    A fellow model railroader of note who's pretty handy at this kind of thing told me about the spandex, and how it bends and returns to original form. Though he only saw a demonstration of it at a show, he's never used it. His story made me wonder if the demonstration poles were made of metal, as all I see is the plastic poles snapping off at the base, or glued crossarms coming apart. Then again, we're not talking about installing a trampoline!

    I have always avoided soldering, as I usually end up with a good fishing weight for my effort! I don't like gluing anything to the insulators, as it gets messy and you can see it. In my two past failed attempts, I tightly wrapped the thread around the insulator base which looked just great. This would probably work just as well, however the ends must be anchored carefully. Maybe running the line ends down an umbillical for an underground connection and tieing it off around a small nail under the benchwork would be viable?

    Keep the grey matter churning.

    George.
  6. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    ...or run the end under the table and hang one of those fishing weights from it to keep it taut...

    Bob
  7. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    That fishing line is called MONOFILAMENT. it comes in many colors.
  8. Railery

    Railery Member

    i painted my conductors, i remember them as a child out at the farm, and i remember they made good target practice for some. i use regular black thread and a little hoop around each insulator. Dick Elwell of the Hoosac Valley Railroad did a masterful job for his power lines, yet he worked on power lines for a living. He even made a special tool for running the line. Cats are terrible with power lines. Even clued they can bring them down. My power crew were always out repairing them [​IMG]
  9. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    I have never tried to use it for power line but it might work. What I am referring to is some VERY fine wire I have found a source for. In the cheap digital watches sold at swap meets etc. ( 2--3 $ if new & working less if old) there is a coil of wire , take it out soak in acetone or lacquer thinner to dissolve the insulating varnish & unravel . This wire will be any where from 1/2 thousands to 3 thousands in dia., & should look great as telegraph wires. I have used it for bell cords& wiring on scratch built locomotives. It's small enough that I tied it at the bell attachment, the tiny knot is most impressive.

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    L V Dave
  10. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    You could also use the very fine wire which is wrapped around an old motor armature
  11. George

    George Member

    The idea of using wire appeals to me more than acrylic thread or nylon. From what we're hearing from the gallery it's the logical direction on the topic.

    It's not only more durable and immune to humidity changes, but you have better control over selection of thickness to achieve that desired "scale" look.

    Dave H, how difficult is it working with wire that fine, and how would one tint the wire to look like it has gone some shade of green?

    George.
  12. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hey George, I heard of a guy who used shearing elastic for telephone cables, and also beeswaxed it first. The reason behind this was to enable him to lift the wires to clean the track. Hmmm
  13. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    George, It's not that difficult to work with after you unroll it. It will break if too much tension is applied, but being copper, is very ductile.I would think that all you would have to do to patina it is leave it out side about 20 years as it is the same stuff that real lines are made of. Oh, That doesn't appeal to you. I'm sure that there is some chemical that would turn it the color you need, think at one time I knew what it was , can't remember now. A craft store like Michaels most likely has something to do it. Hope somebody tries it and lets us know how it works.

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    L V Dave
  14. Railery

    Railery Member

    i'm not being crazy, but wire soaked in Coke or Pepsi will turn a dark color after a few days, i think.
  15. George

    George Member

    Hello Dave H.!

    I bet it wouldn't take 20 years to turn green. Actually that's a great idea to let it go au naturelle as through your lifetime you could watch it green like the real thing.

    Hey Railery! I don't know about in Alberta, but in Quebec we used Coke to flush auto radiators and Pepsi to clean chrome to a high lustre! Each beverage was used specifically for those two tasks! Perhaps it's the Coke that will discolour the metal??

    Hey Shamus! S P R O I N G !!!! Interesting concept. I'd love to see the cat tangled up in it! [​IMG]
  16. JeffGerow

    JeffGerow Member

    I separated out individual strands of multi-strand hook-up wire to use for powerlines. By using wire I was able to create an authentic looking catenary (droop) and have had no troubles with breakage (but I must be careful in that area -- I have had to reglue some poles after some misplaced hands pushed a bit too hard). I paint the wires black and insulators green and actually use them to power pole mounted lamps (+ on one wire, - on the other).
  17. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    Jeff, you are missing a great chance for prototype realism if those powered power line aren't 110 AC with a pole mounted transformer! On top of that you would have no problem with the cat. Well, only once.

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    L V Dave
  18. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    What? Was it sumthin I said? This thread stopped just when it got interesting. I'm sorry--- Honest. ---Dave

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    L V Dave
  19. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Dave, Fried cat,- don't let our CATT here hear you speak like that, you will get his fur up. Purrrfectly.

    Virginian, What 'disappearing nail' trick was that, tell me more.
  20. George

    George Member

    Guys,

    Using the telegraph poles to string live wire is certainly a touch of realism. I thought of it in the past but never did anything about it.

    How widespread a practice is this?

    George.

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