Pylon of the Month

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.

 

 


Pylon of the Month - February 2019

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February's Pylon of the Month comes courtesy of Physics students at The Angmering School in West Sussex.  As a Physics teacher myself, how could I resist a picture that came about as a result of learning about electricity transmission? In fact, as some readers will know, Pylon of the Month in its current incarnation came about because of a website of the same name that I used when teaching electricity.  When it stopped working back in 2008, I decided to do something about it and the rest is history.  At this point, being in teacher mode, I'll link again to the excellent and informative article from Drax power station about the history of the pylon

It is thanks to these students that I have now heard of Angmering and a bit of time on Wikipedia quickly led me to the fact that Stanley Holloway spent the final years of his life there.  Stanley and I have a bit of history - his monologue 'Albert & the Lion' is one I remember from childhood and having grown up in and around Ramsbottom, the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsbottom are the parents of Albert makes it all the more memorable.  If I'm honest, I'd always assumed that Stanley Holloway was a northerner but now discover that he was born in Essex and lived all of his life down South.  That's what I like about writing Pylon of the Month - I learn something new and interesting every month.

Don't forget that my 'The Secret Life of Pylons' book with Unbound needs all the help it can get it it is ever to become a reality!




Pylon of the Month January 2019

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January's Pylon of the Month comes from a fan of the website who was driving through Scotland when a perfect pylon moment occurred.  The email that came with the photo captures that moment perfectly:

Scotland, Tuesday, 1st January 2019, New Year’s Day, driving home from Wester Ross to East Lothian southwards down the A9 (mercifully quiet). It was early afternoon, on a stretch of that great road that is wonderfully rugged and remote, just before the turn off for Dalwhinnie. The giant pylons which run along above the A9 seem to add to the drama of the landscape, but at this moment, the sunlight caught the cables, and lit them like strands of gossamer. It was like a mystical fairground on those hills. Fortunately, Lay-by 90 cropped up and I was able to draw off and get out to capture them before the moment moved on and the spectacle was gone.

The email continued with sentiments that pylon fans everywhere will endorse:

You either love these giants, or hate them. Personally, I think they enhance the sheer rugged grandeur of this landscape. They stride along above the road; they are all giant, but there are the really tall ones, but also the shorter ones; ones with all legs the same height, others with two short legs, fitting into the uneven terrain. An amazing feat of engineering. 

Pylon fans who want to check them out will also be able to visit the famous Dalwhinnie distillery for a wee dram or two of their 'Winter's Gold' - An indulgent, honeyed Dalwhinnie that is comforting, rich and sweet, with notes of heather and peat and a spicy warmth. Who could ask for anything more at this time of year? On that thought, I'll leave it there for now.  As always, @pylonofthemonth on Twitter has more regular pylon action for those who can't wait until February.


Pylon of the Month - December 2018

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November was another pylonless month and with December rushing by, I decided that action had to be taken to ensure that two fallow months in succession didn't come to pass.  A recent email inspired this month's post:

Hello,

I wrote a poem about a pylon and was wondering if you would like to feature it on your blog? I live in Manchester, and the poem was inspired by a specific pylon in Sale Water Park.
 
The pylon that acted as the poetic muse is the one above courtesy of Geograph which has this to say about it:
 
One of the dominant features of the square is the high voltage power line which crosses Sale Water Park. This pylon is near the south eastern end of the lake. A footpath runs beneath the legs. There is a second pylon in the square on the northern shore of the lake.
 
That's enough background - let's get to the poem itself written by Annie Muir, an award winning and published poet based in Manchester.  To find out more visit her blog https://time41poem.wordpress.com/

 

Pylon

She stands by the lake
like the ribcage of a dinosaur.

A spider’s web for catching clouds
with six arms like a god or six legs like a bug.

She is pear-shaped,
the capital A at the start of the alphabet,

caged in her steel corset dress
and barbed wire socks. A puppeteer of seagulls

managing the ducks that sprinkle her lake
like hundreds and thousands on a 99

but also a puppet herself, held up by wires
like lines indicating movement –

she is the shed skin of a moment in your life. A monument
to the here and now

like a photo of you with a different haircut
or a pair of old shoes

tied to your new ones by the laces
but trailing behind, covered in mud.

 

Regular readers of this blog will already know about the pylon poets, of whom the most famous is Stephen Spender featured on the blog back in May 2009. I'm also a big fan of the forgotten pylon poet Stanley Snaith who featured on the blog more recently in August 2017.  

Merry Christmas to pylon fans everywhere.


Pylon of the Month - October 2018

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September flashed by without a pylon and October was in danger of doing the same until I was reminded by my eldest son of a promise I had made about a pylon picture he took recently on his travels in the USA.  You can see it above in all its watery glory, but if you want to see it in real life then a trip to New Orleans will be required.  When you get there, grab a boat tour of the Louisiana swamps and there is a fair chance that as well as spotting some alligators you will get lucky and spot a pylon.  They are sited on top of platforms and I'd like to know more about the underwater engineering that goes into keeping them above water and perpendicular.  

Whilst you are in Louisiana, head to the pylons at Lake Pontchartrain and whilst en route keep an eye out for telegraph poles that look like Jesus, as reported in this Daily Telegraph article.  Once you arrive at your destination, if you read this article from metabunk, you'll understand how to prove that the earth is curved rather than flat.

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I like the sound of Metabunk, run by @MickWest (author of 'Escaping the Rabbit Hole')

Metabunk.org is dedicated to the art and pastime of honest, polite, scientific investigating and debunking. It is primarily a discussion forum, however the focus is on providing concise useful resources, and attempting to avoid repetitive debate and arguments.

I also like the thought of pylons serving a purpose other than their essential role in electricity transmission. 


Pylon of the Month - August 2018

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August's Pylon of the Month is another first because it features a temporary pylon.  By the time you read this, it might already be too late to see it in real life but rest assured that if reports of any other temporary pylons come into Pylon HQ, I'll be sure to get the news out on Twitter @pylonofthemonth. The picture arrived via email with a comment that:
 
The installation of a temporary pylon to allow repair of the main one is new to me but probably old hat to a pylon aficionado.
 
Actually, it was the first time I've seen a temporary pylon in action and so I'm very grateful for the picture.  You can clearly see where the wires have come off the main pylon leaving just the ceramic insulator discs hanging on.  The reason for that is explained on a National Grid information sheet
 
 
The refurbishment is carried out as two separate periods of work. This is because overhead lines have two circuits, one on each side of the pylon, so work is carried out on one side only, in order that the other side can be kept ‘live’. Once all the work has been completed on one side of the overhead line, the circuit is re-energised, and the opposite side is switched off so that the work can be carried out on that side.
 
The same information sheet reveals that "pylons will last for about 80 years, whereas the conductors, insulators and fittings normally last for about 40 years. Therefore each overhead line will usually go through at least one refurbishment during its lifespan".
 
The temporary pylon is (or perhaps was) in Pembrokeshire on the northern of the two runs from Pembroke power station, the largest gas-fired power station in Europe which opened in 2012.  If you do want to rack it down, then the Grid reference is SN 16483 10847 and you can use this website to get a good view of the pylons.
 

 


Pylon of the Month - July 2018

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Summer is here and so a picture of a pylon with blue skies and sea featuring prominently would always have stood a chance of making it onto the website.  Having the Golden Gate bridge in the background made it a shoo-in. The picture was sent in by a young electrical engineer on secondment from Australia to California Independent System Operator, which according to Bloomberg is a nonprofit public benefit corporation, [which] operates long-distance and high-voltage power lines.  The suggestion in the email was that the power lines are 6.6kV (6600 Volts for the less electrically aware readers of this blog if such readers exist.....), and I'm certainly not going to argue with this analysis.

Power supply in California is an interesting topic. Bloomberg again:

California just mandated that nearly all new homes have solar, starting in less than two years. Now, it’s going to have to figure out what to do with all of that extra energy.

The San Francisco Chronicle has this headline on an article from May 2018.

California’s power grid is changing fast, and ‘we don’t have a plan’

The main aim of the changes is to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, which is to be applauded but chasing down the implications of this decision and making it work will be a job for the often unsung heroes of the modern world, electrical engineers.  That's all for this month - as always @pylonofthemonth is on Twitter for those in need of more regular pylon action.

For those looking for pylons in coffee table form then you really need to pledge here

https://unbound.com/books/pylons/

 

 


Pylon of the Month - June 2018

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June's Pylon of the Month comes from the island of Formentera in Spain, which seems entirely appropriate for an early summer pylon. I hope that it's a bit less controversial than April's Pylon which attracted this comment:

I was rather dissatisfied with this months pylon and i am considering if I really wish to renew my subscription. I suggest you get your act together and start finding some proper awe inspiring pylons or I shall give you a slap

Strong words, to which I responded very reasonably, not wanting to initiate a pylon flame war:

Oh well - I aim to please, but if this month's pylon doesn't do it for you then it might be that you are beyond help. Keep reading the blog to see if things improve!

May's Pylon of the Month wasn't even a real pylon as one commenter on Twitter noted, so back to Formentera..................

Formentera, the smallest and least developed of the four main Balearic has fine beaches (and beach clubs) and mud baths, great walking and cycling trails, as well as secluded coves and sleepy fishing villages. It is much less lively than its hedonistic sister, Ibiza, and its peace-loving, beach-lounging devotees wouldn't have it any other way

The pylon enthusiast who provided the picture said that 'It appears to be a 30kV line', an immediate sign that there was technical knowledge behind the lens when the picture was taken.  A quick Google on '30kV lines Formentera' (perhaps the first ever such internet search?) revealed that "Red Eléctrica de España has installed a total of 420 bird-flight diverters on the 30 kV overland stretch of electricity line on the island of Formentera, which forms part of the electricity interconnection with the Ibiza. The diverters have been installed along the 2,100-metre the overhead line running between the coastal arrival point of the electricity interconnection and the Formentera substation". 

Bird flight diverters - how have I not heard of these before? A whole new world of pylon information has just opened up before me.  A bird diverter is:

a device that is attached to a power line or any type of wire suspended in the air to distract and divert birds away from the line, avoiding accidents and fatalities. These are particularly useful for power and communication lines that cross lakes or rivers, where bird tend to flock together

Here is an example of one installed to try and reduce the number of swans flying into power lines across the Fens in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk (from an article in the Eastern Daily Press).

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I'll end with a link to Operation Jimmy, an organisation dedicated to preventing future incidents of bird electrocution following the death of Jimmy, an osprey. Their desire is to see a world in which Ospreys, other birds & electricity to co-exit harmoniously so that 'Jimmy did not die in vain'. Amen to that until next month.