This month's pylon comes to you from the M5 motorway. It follows in the fine tradition of pylon photos taken whilst travelling, with the earliest example (from July 2009) being this one on the M6 motorway. The fan of the website who submitted this month's photo said:
This was photographed from the M5 whilst coming home on Friday evening. I can't quite remember where it is but my best guess was somewhere between Gloucester and Birmingham. I was actually trying some arty shots of the sunset, but the pylon sort of strayed into my shot.
So a serendipitous photo rather than a planned pylon photo shoot, but Pylon of the Month is more than happy to accept any submissions whether deliberate or accidental. As the M5 has cropped up I feel that a bit more information is called for and I'll start with some construction history. It is a rather messy story, but it starts in 1962 with the construction of a two lane motorway in Worcestshire and in the same year a section near Filton in Bristol was also opened. This latter section of the M5 began addressing the traffic problems in Bristol dating back to the 1930s. More details of the construction history and a rather splendid photograph of the first cars (led by the Lord Mayor of Bristol in his Daimler) precessing down the new Bristol section of the motorway via flickr and brizzle born and bred.
In other pylon news this month, the bad weather in Scotland led to sheets of snow and ice damaging eight pylons in Argyll as reported by the BBC and many areas were without electricity for days. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of pylons, you miss them if they meet the fate of the one below and your electricity supply is cut off as a result!
There is plenty more that I could report but I'll leave it there this month. You can after all get too much of a good thing, or as the saying (via Mary Poppins) goes in our house "enough is as good as a feast". If you want to hear Mary Poppins say it herself then you can hear all four seconds of it here.
Happy New Year to Pylon of the Month fans everywhere. After a busy festive season, January slipped away and so here is the first offering of 2013. The picture was sent in by a fan of the website and I could hardly refuse to feature it when the email had this to say:
This tower's days are severely numbered, it is one of the Tees crossing towers and is due to be dismantled in the new year. It is over 120m tall and over 50 years old. The pair of crossing towers will be replaced by even bigger versions, carrying a modern high performance conductor.
It looks to me as if this planning application is the one that deals with the replacement of the pylon over the River Tees, a river about which I knew nothing before writing this article. As always, however, I learn something every day and so know I know that it rises in the North Pennines (near Cross Fell) and flows Eastwards for 85 miles to reach the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar. The new crossing pylons will be 145m high and so according to this article they will be the tallest in the UK. They are part of a £50 million pound project to upgrade and replace overhead power lines in the Middlesborough area which involves dismantling and replacing 14 pylons mainly between March and October 2013. So if you are looking for bit more pylon action in your life this year then it looks as if Teeside is the place to be.
If you can't make it to the North East then you can at least keep up with the latest thinking on pylon design from the National Grid. You might remember the competition that took place in 2011 which was won by the T pylon, but further design work has ben ongoing and it looks as if the 'Flying T' has won out. Read all about it here, but remember that you read about it first on Pylon of the Month.
Sometimes, a month passes so quickly that I never get around to posting a new pylon. As a result I often get e-mails reminding me to update the blog (really I do; you know who you are.....). Looking back through the archives, however, I was shocked to see that there has never been a December pylon of the month and I was determined to put that right. With recent fans offering me pylon pictures from the Grand Canyon, Maryland and other exotic locations, I was tempted to head abroad again, but instead I am returning to the roots of this website with an ordinary British pylon. I'm also heading up North back to my roots because it is a picture taken looking out from the A50 near Warrington towards the North East and I lived in nearby Leigh for a short time and in the North Manchester area for all of my childhood. The A50 runs from Warrington to Leicester and the most exciting thing that I could find out about it was that a section of it between Stoke and Derby was originaly meant to be a new motorway, the M64, but the project was cancelled in the 1976 and so no such motorway exists. Warrington itself has quite a lot to offer if you are in the area. It has been a crossing point on the River Mersey since ancient times (and the river features in the picture above) and was also the site of the last Royalist victory of the English civil war on the 13th August 1651.
The quality of the pictures on Pylon of the Month is quite variable, but this one is a real gem and well worth double clicking to appreciate in all its glory. I'll use it as an excuse to link back to the most popular post on Pylon of the Month about Stephen Spender's poetry, because the Guardian article that described it was headlined "The gaunt, skeletal beauty of Pylons". All over the world people seem to get set essays on Spender and his pylon poem and when you google 'Stephen Spender Pylon' out comes Pylon of the Month as the top hit. At least it did when I wrote this post and long may it continue. Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere.
This month, I thought it only appropriate to choose an Olympic pylon in recognition of the London Olympics. If you are looking at the picture and wondering what makes this an Olympic pylon then you need to know where it is located in order to make the link. The photo is taken over the River Lea (or Lee) near Clapton in East London, with Hackney marshes to the left and Lea Bridge road to the right. So it is located in the area of London where the Olympic park is located and it was the regenaration of this area of London that formed such an important part of the bid to host the games. As with all regeneration projects, some of the past history of the area is lost and this River Lea website has a fascinating history of the area and the following paragraph caught my eye. If the modern electronics industry began in this area, it seems an even more appropriate choice for Pylon of the Month.
"The Lea Valley was for years the industrial centre of London and home to many inventions. Here was the first monorail (horse-drawn), the driving power behind the motorcycle industry, the great railway works, buses, guns, gunpowder, chemicals, shipbuilding and much more. In the first half of the 20th century this was the UK's 'silicon valley''. The modern electronics revolution began with the invention of the diode by Ambrose Fleming at Ediswan in Ponders End in 1904, and companies including Thorn, MK, Belling, Ferguson (and much later, Amstrad) set up factories here."
The corporate sponshorship of the olympics is a subject of some controversy at the moment, but I will avoid getting involved in that debate and just point out that EDF are the official electricity suppliers to the Olympics and if this makes you keen to know more then you can visit their pavillion in the Olympic park.
So enjoy the Olympics and come back next month when it will be time for my holiday pylon (Greece again this year) and more pylon related news, views and information.
I have a backlog of pylon pictures sent in by fans from all over the world. I try to mix them up with pylon pictures from the UK so that the blog doesn't lose touch with its roots, but as soon as this image arrived in my inbox I knew it had to be the June 2012 pylon. Why? Because the three bright dots in the sky above the pylon are the moon, Saturn and Jupiter. This month sees the last transit of Venus until December 2117 and so an astronomical themed pylon seemed very appropriate. I think (not knowing exactly when the photo was taken) that Venus is the lower of the two planets (pretty much alongside the moon) and it really is worth clicking on the image to enlarge it and see it in all its glory. For more on the transit (and if you are a keen follower of astronomy you have probably had enough by now) then this Cocktail Party Physics blog post is a good place to start. I got up at sunrise (0450ish) on the 6th June and the clouds cleared at about 0530 and so I saw the last 20 minutes which was made the early start well worth it.
But now to more pylon focused matters. This month's picture was taken in Ballyfermot, a suburb of Dublin. If you look carefully you will see that some of the arms of the pylon don't have wires attached because they were still under construction as the photo was taken. I'm not sure what the pylons are being built for, but it gives me an opportunity to talk about the plans to link up the Irish and British electricity grids. Britain is an importer of electricity from numerous sources. One of these sources is Northern Ireland via the Moyle Interconnector, although that was broken last year and is still not up and running again as far as I can see. There are also links to the Netherlands and France and if you have an ipad or ipod you can see live data via this app about where the electricity is being generated at any given moment. But the new link under construction is to run from Rush North Beach in County Dublin to Barkby Beach in North Wales and is known as the East-West interconnector. For the benefits of the project as seen by the company building it, look here. Interestingly, the Guardian last year had an article about the possibility of wind farms on the West coast of Ireland being linked to the UK by another interconnector but given the impact of large numbers of wind turbines on the beatiful coast of Dingle and Kerry, whether this project goes any further is very much open to debate.
So from astronomy to the West coast of Ireland via the UK's imported electricity supply. Another month where Pylon of the Month provides information on subjects that you probably had no idea could be linked together. Come back next month for more!
I've been meaning to feature a pylon like this one ever since reading Alan de Botton's splendid book 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work'. It has a chapter on electricity transmission and pylons and in it, he has this to say about pylons:
"In different species, I noted varieties of modesty or arrogance, honesty or shiftiness, and in one 150-kilovolt type in ubiquitous use in southern Finland I even detected a coquettish sexuality in the way the central mast held out a delicate hand to its conductor wire"
Judging by the interview in the Independent from where I grabbed this quote, I wasn't the only person to be rather surprised by the use of the word coquettish in relation to pylons. In the dictionary, "coquettish" is defined as flirtatious or sexy and these are not the first words which spring to mind when thinking of pylons. But then again (and at the risk of sounding a lot weirder than I actualy am), I can kind of see what he means when I look at this month's pylon with its rather provocative lack of symmetry.
On a more prosaic note, the picture was taken from the car park of Millets Farm near Abingdon-on-Thames (Britain's oldest continuously occupied town) in Oxfordshire. So it is easy to visit and you can do a bit of food shopping and visit the garden centre at the same time. So if you are looking for a fun day out for all the family now that summer now icumen in you know where to go.
This month's pylon comes from Afganistan and at a height of around 3800m above sea level, I'm pretty certain that the pylon in the background of the picture is the highest pylon to feature on Pylon of the Month. Are there any higher pylons anywhere in the world? Answers in an e-mail to Pylon of the Month please. It is located along the Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul transmission line, where it runs over the Salang pass which links Northern Afghanistan to Southern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also along this line is the Chimtala substation. There is lots of information about this substation here, but a direct quote may fill in a few details for those without the time to read more deeply:
A terminal link of Afghanistan's North East Power System (NEPS), the Chimtala substation is an infrastructure project funded by India as part of its assistance package to the Afghanistan Government. Located near Afghanistan's capital Kabul, the substation imports power from Uzbekistan to Kabul.
From my perspective as a physicist, there are more exciting details about how the electricity is transmitted using a Double Circuit transmission line. They use the acronym DC for this, but as this also stands for Direct Current (as opposed to Alternating Current or AC), I can see scope for confusion here. I'll put it on my list of things I need to understand more deeply. So here is the quote:
The 220/110/20kV substation supplies additional power from the 220kV Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul double circuit (DC) transmission line. Passing over the Salang Range at an altitude of 3,800m, the transmission line is 202km long.
So this month, Pylon of the Month has brought you some beautiful mountain scenery, a dash of advanced electrical theory and story of things getting better in a troubled part of the world. How am I going to top that next month?