Pylon of the Month - July 2020

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July's pylon of the month is a splendid model made by a pylon fan who had this to say:

The structure of the pylons is a very interesting design to me and I have recently made an “organic pylon” out of twigs and branches which were gathered whilst out walking my dogs......I am not sure if there will be a demand for this as an artistic statement, but it is something I enjoyed building even though it took longer than I initially thought!

The shadow cast by this month's pylon is also a thing of beauty and the level of attention to detail is quite something.

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The vast majority of pylons that feature on the blog are real life pylons that can be visited, but over the years there have been a few models or other artistic offerings. There was a pylon tattoo back in October 2012, followed in December 2013 by a Meccano pylon as well as others that have the 'Art' tag attached to the post.  

Now for a bit more technical detail about the use of wood in real life rather than in model pylons. Wooden poles in the UK are used for lower voltage lines (33 kV and 11 kV) and you see them alongside paths and near residential areas where the voltage has been stepped down from the main transmission network.  For pictures and details of the different types of power lines, this website is a good and fairly straightforward guide.

That's all for this month. More pylon action here next month or if you need more frequent pylon action in your life then go to Twitter and Instagram @pylonofthemonth.


Pylon of the Month - May 2020

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After a pylonless April, I decided that May should be a pylon picture that I had taken myself rather than one of the many sent in regularly by fans of the website.  Near where I live a few miles south of Oxford is part of the National Cycle Route 5.  A mile or so north along the (newly improved) route from Sandford Lock you pass within a few metres of the beauty in the foreground of the photograph acting as a frame for the next two pylons in the line.  You can pause and admire the size and scale of it from up close (and underneath for that matter) before you continue alongside the River Thames to Oxford.  Look more carefully at the picture however and you will see that there are four pylons and this whole area is a pylon rich environment because of the proximity of Didcot Power Station.  If it's a hot day and you decide to cool off in the river as part of your day out, be careful about taking a dip without being aware of a nearby hazard.

Sandford Lasher, or weir, is on the left bank well upstream of Sandford Lock. The pool below the weir has been notorious since the 19th century because of the number of individuals who have drowned there.

Despite having lived there for 16 years, I'd never heard of it before but it's famous enough for the J. Paul Getty Museum to have a photograph from 1872 in their collection.

I'm not as good at identifying the different pylon designs as I should be, but I think these are L6 pylons but I would be delighted to be corrected if I'm wrong.  This page from Flash Bristow's website is a good place to start if you want to know more about the different kinds of pylons. A quick check confirms that it is on a 400 kV line as shown on the open infrastructure map, another excellent source of information about the electricity transmission network in the UK.  At the nearby Cowley sub-station, the 400 kV line gets stepped down to a number of 132 kV lines and another rich source of information about sub-stations in the UK is the Wikipedia page on High Voltage substations in the United Kingdom.  So there you have it for another month; local history, a dash of culture courtesy of a Los Angeles museum and arcane technical information about pylons and electricity transmission networks.  Come back for more next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pylon of the Month - March 2020

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March was slipping away, but like an awful lot of people, I find myself spending more time at home and so there really is no excuse not to get writing.  Normal life may be suspended for a lot of us at the moment, but the people working at power stations are vital and so their work goes on as, I'm sure, does the work of anyone working on the electricity distribution system.  They deserve our grateful thanks.
 
March's pylon was sent in by a fan of the website earlier this month after he was distracted on an early morning run near the River Tyne.  The pylon above is on the south side of the river, but there was also a picture of the pylon on the north bank which I've included at the foot of this post.  They are wonderfully atmospheric images and I'm afraid that I can't resist the urge to include a link to Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne, the English folk rock band from Newcastle Upon Tyne.
 
The email that I received also included the revelation that: 
 
.....as a former electricity network company (Northern Powergrid) employee and long-term energy networks geek, I have only recently discovered your pylon of the month page, and am disappointed that I have been missing out for so long!
 
I'm delighted to welcome another pylon fan into the fold.  The email went on to say that "This is not far from the Stella North and Stella South GSPs". For those not in the electricity distribution game (me included - thank you Google), GSP is an acronym for Grid Supply Point and is a "Systems Connection Point at which the Transmission System is connected to a Distribution System". I'm not sure that I'm too much the wiser as a result of having looked it up, but as a result of doing so I did discover that Stella North and Stella South were two power stations that have now been demolished.   Stella South, a coal-fired 300 MW power station, was built on the site of the famous Blaydon races which gives me an excuse for another musical interlude.  It has been replaced by a housing estate.
 
That's all for now, although with only a week of March left, you won't have to wait too long for another pylon.  Until then, stay safe.
 
 
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Pylon of the Month - February 2020

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After a dry January on the pylon front (but not on the alcohol front....), February's pylon is a cracker. As with so many of the pictures on the blog, it was provided by a fan of the website and the email that accompanied the picture is an inspiration to pylon fans everywhere.
 
We've always had a fascination with pylons, living on a farm as kids we'd often walk out into the fields and stand under them and marvel. 
 
The picture was taken near the village of Claxton in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.  My only visit to that area was nearly 25 years ago and a bit of Googling led me to the place I stayed; The White Swan in Pickering.  It was easy to track down because just about the only thing I remembered about the stay was the great selection of St. Emillion wines.  It's good to see that nothing has changed in the intervening years on the wine front!
 
Anyway back to the pylons and to the information provided by the photographer.
 
Two high voltage power lines cross paths, and in order to allow one to pass under the other a large pylon has been constructed for one power line, while the other power line has been split into two smaller pylons that pass under the higher power line. 
 
Then there is a lyrical passage that will surely elicit nods of recognition from readers of this blog.
 
I think there is a beauty to this structure. Firstly in a mathematical sense, the symmetry of this arrangement of the pylons and the geometric shapes constructing the individual objects. But also in the sense of how these gentle giants contrast so heavily with their natural surroundings but managed to blend in so unnoticed by so many as if they were simply trees that had always been there. There's also the fact that these objects hold such importance to everyday life, and that hours upon hours of thought will of gone into the placement and design of this structure at the hands of engineers - only for them to peacefully blend away to the countryside: noticed by only a few.
 
Prompted by the mention of the word symmetry above, I'll finish for this month with a hiveminer generated collection of beautiful symmetrical pylon images.  
 
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Pylon of the Month - December 2019

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December's pylon of the month is another first for the blog as the observant amongst you will already have spotted.  It is an absence of pylon or a pylon of the imagination, at least in the picture above.  I spotted it on Twitter recently where it was posted by @geospacedman with the following description:

Contrails? No, electricity cables backlit by building works lights over the hill. I think there's a pylon in this shot but invisible.

For those who are not satisfied with the power of their imagination and want to see it in real life, you need to head to the cycle path from Lancaster University into Lancaster.  It's the transmission line through the middle of this map below looking west towards the pylon just over the railway line.  
 
According to Susan Hill in this Guardian article, ghost stories fulfil a basic human need and as the author of the very scary Woman in Black, she should know.  I'm looking at this picture and already thinking of long demolished pylons that reappear on certain nights when strange happen in the local vicinity.  I'm thinking of a quiet misty night, walking home alone when the buzzing noise that you get from pylon lines in damp weatheris heard as a warning of approaching death; a kind of electrical banshee.  Need I go on?  Perhaps you are already looking at the picture above, feeling a shiver run down your spine and swearing never to walk alone near pylon lines in the dark.  Then again perhaps not.  
 
Merry Christmas to Pylon fans everywhere and see you again in 2020.  If you can't wait until then, you could always invest in one of these lovely Christmas tree decorations.
 
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1.  That sound has a name, according to BC Hydro specialist engineer Mazana Armstrong.  Corona, Latin for crown, is the name for the luminous "crown" of tiny sparks that can, very rarely, be visible around equipment such as power lines and insulators. It's this crown that causes the occasional buzzing and crackling that you can hear....."Water droplets like rain, snow, or even fog and mist, help speed the electrical breakdown of the air particles, making the corona louder and easier to hear," she says.

Pylon of the Month - November 2019

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October slipped by without a pylon and November was in grave danger of going the same way until two things happened.  One was a comment on the blog asking when the next pylon was going to be posted and the other was a visit to Geneva where I saw this beauty.  But it wasn't just Geneva, this pylon is actually inside the cathedral of physics that is the 'Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire' or CERN as it is know all over the world.  As a Physics teacher this is about as good as it gets and so how could I possibly resist.

CERN uses quite a lot of electricity when it is up and running:

At peak consumption, usually from May to mid-December, CERN uses about 200 megawatts of power, which is about a third of the amount of energy used to feed the nearby city of Geneva in Switzerland.

The annual electricity bill is about €60 million but about 90% of this is linked to the operation of the accelerators and at the moment, the Large Hadron Collider, is shut down for maintenance and upgrade work so there whoever has the job of feeding coins into the electricity meter must be having an easy life.

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This second long shutdown (LS2) is due to be completed by early summer 2020.  Until about March visiting CERN is definitely worth the effort as you can get underground and look around in a wat that just isn't possible when everything is up and running.  Get there whilst you can!


Pylon of the Month - September 2019

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This month's pylon is from Italy and will be particularly appreciated by pylon fans of a bibulous disposition. It was sent in by a fan of the website and was taken in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy.  In particular,  the vineyards of Barbaresco, and according to wine-searcher:

Barbaresco is one of the great wines of the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. Historically it was called Nebbiolo di Barbaresco (Nebbiolo being the grape it's made from) and was used by the Austrian General Melas to celebrate his victory over the French in 1799.

Such is the beauty and distinctiveness of this part of the world, that in 2014 it was recognised as a World Heritage Site because '......the Piedmont vineyards provide outstanding living testimony to winegrowing and winemaking traditions that stem from a long history, and that have been continuously improved and adapted up to the present day'.

So pylon fans heading for this part of the world can tick off the rather splendid asymmetric pylons in the vineyard before retiring to a bar to sample the local wine.  In doing so, it would be wise to ensure that the difference between the two local wines Barolo and Barbaresco is properly appreciated.  

The main difference in Barolo and Barbaresco is in the soils. The soil in Barbaresco is richer in nutrients and, because of this, the vines don’t produce as much tannin as found in the wines of Barolo. Both wines smell of roses, perfume and cherry sauce — and they both have a very long finish. The difference is in the taste on the mid-palate; the tannin won’t hit you quite as hard in the Barbaresco.

The quote above is from wine folly and with plenty of wine recommendations to try out, oenophile pylon fans will be in heaven.


Pylon of the Month - July 2019

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July's pylon is another Wiltshire pylon and the red sky and clouds provide a beautiful backdrop to its lovely silhouette.  There is definitely something here for the cloud spotters and the photographers, but you can pick out the Stockbridge dampers and two sets of ceramic insulator discs so there is also something there for hardcore pylon spotters.  It was sent in by a fan of the website and is on the A350 in Chippenham, near the Premier Inn.  Pylon fans seeking an excuse for a road trip could do worse than heading down the M4 to Chippenham, which :

....enjoys a reputation as a flourishing and lively market town, with a compact centre and thriving commercial life, it has been granted Purple Flag Status for its nightlife.

Never heard of the Purple Flag Scheme? No, me neither so let's educate ourselves via the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) website:

The Purple Flag standard, launched in 2012, is an accreditation process similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. It allows members of the public to quickly identify town & city centres that offer an entertaining, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.  

Once you've ticked the pylon off your to do list and perhaps enjoyed a night out in Chippenham there  are plenty of places to visit because:

The great houses and art treasures of Longleat, Bowood, Corsham Court, Lacock Abbey and Dyrham Park are within easy reach, as is Castle Combe Racing Circuit.

That's all folks - more pylon action next month or if you really can't wait then go to @pylonofthemonth on Twitter.


Pylon of the Month - June 2019

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June's Pylon of the Month is an absolute cracker that I first came across on Twitter courtesy of @CPF_Photography who then kindly gave permission for me to use it.  It was taken in Birmingham near one of the city's many canals and for more wonderful Birmingham photographs look on the CPF photography website.  Let's deal with Birmingham and canals before we get into the pylons themselves.  A quick google search will reveal claims that Birmingham has more canals than Venice with 35 miles of waterways compared to Venice's 26 miles.  It turns out to be true but as the National Community Boats Association points out:

It’s at the heart of England’s canal network and has 35 miles of waterways so it does technically have more than the 26 miles of navigations you’ll find in Venice. But Birmingham is much bigger than Venice, so the density of canals there makes them a much more prominent feature of the city. Also, the canals of Venice are wide, whereas Birmingham’s waterways are narrow.

My elder son is at university in Birmingham and so I've been there quite a few times in the last couple of years, but the canals have yet to feature on my trip itinerary.  That clearly needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

Now to more pylon related issues.  The first thing that struck me when looking at the photograph is the wonderful reflection in the canal of the pylon in the foreground.  More careful inspection revealed that this foreground pylon is a terminator pylon - the end of the line where the cables go down to finish at a sub-station rather than continuing to another pylon. This was quickly followed by noticing that the next two pylons further back look different with two 'ears' rather than a single apex.  The two pylons further back are, however, a different line and I must confess at this point that I'm not entirely clear why they have two 'ears'.  I do know that the thin wire running through the top of more standard pylons is an earth wire designed to protect the pylons from lightning strikes but why two?  I look forward to learning more so that I can cross it off my 'things I still need to know about pylons' list.  Despite all the time I've spent writing about pylons over the years and the fact that I'm a Physics teacher this is still quite a long list. Let me know if you can help to shorten it a little.....

 


Pylon of the Month - April 2019

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Having missed March and with April nearly half gone, I was determined to get a new pylon on the blog and so this month's pylon is another one sent in by a fan.  It comes freighted with historical significance as the excerpt from the email that accompanied the picture shows.

Walking down Holywell Lane through Lighmoor, Telford. 

Beside a path followed by Cinderloo protesters 200 years ago stands a sturdy oak.
 
A witness to the anger of the colliers and the retribution wreaked on them by the local yeomanry. 
 
The oak looks shocked, its limbs jolted by the electrical waves transmitted by the pylon. 
 
Perhaps waking from a nightmare, reminded of a vision of poverty and despair that it observed in February 1821.
 
Coming originally from Manchester, I'd heard of Peterloo, but Cinderloo was new to me. A quick Google search leads to https://cinderloo.com where you learn that 
 

The Cinderloo Uprising was a relatively unknown early 19th century industrial dispute
centred around the small East Shropshire town of Dawley. While the dispute started with only 500 miners a crowd of over 3,000 eventually massed on a pit mound located at Old Park.

Three miners lost their lives, including Thomas Palin who was hanged for 'felonious riot'. On that rather sombre note, I'll leave it there for this month. As always, go to @pylonofthemonth on Twitter for more regular pylon action.