nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Thu Dec 16 22:55:24 EST 2004

To: "N&W Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at> 
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 21:24:26 -0500 
From: nw-mailing-list at
Subject:  White Insulators 

N&W used two white insulators on its lineside poles. 
I believe these insulators were used on the lines
(wires) that allowed communication with the dispatcher
and station agents along the right-of-way.  In an
emergency, the train crews could attach a portable
handset to these lines in order to communicate with
other personnel.
My question involves the location/placement of the
white insulators.  I believe they were always on the
lowest arm of the lineside pole, and were the two
insulators closest to the track.  I've looked through
numerous books but can't seem to verify this.
I believe all other insulators were green in color,
but I'm not certain about this.
Anyone have a better insight into this interesting
Jim Brewer
Glenwood MD

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 22:55:48 -0500 
To: "N&W Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at> 
From: nw-mailing-list at 
Subject: Re: White Insulators 


After a recent post on this subject I have been
looking out for the white insulators. On the Pumpkin
Vine near Starkey, VA they are located on the lowest
arm, nearest the track. At one time they may have
existed on all poles, but now most --but not every--
pole has two white insulators.  When they are not
white they are usually clear.

The other insulators on the pole are a mixture of
clear and green.

I have not spotted any white insulators on the Main
Line through Vinton, VA. Just a mixture of clear and
green. Did this line ever have white insulators? Or
were they only specific to certain divisions?

Ron Davis

December 16, 2004

Hello, all:

I do not think train crews had portable telephone sets
to tap into the dispatcher lines.  Also, they would
have to climb a pole to reach the wires.  It's my
belief that signals and communications were the only
people who made temporary connections, but might have
done this under emergency conditions such as at a
wreck site.

The other color insulator used consistently on N&W
lines was brown-glazed porcelain.  These were for the
440-volt conductors on the top crossarm.

By the way, along the Hagerstown District, the white
insulators remain.  However, even though other wires
remain on the pole line, the wires have been removed
from the dispatcher line and an adjoining message line
(I think).  This suggests to me that dispatcher and
message communications were removed from the pole line
well before the signal code lines on upper crossarms
were deactivated.  Does anyone know this to be a fact,
or when the wire removal took place?  Is the same lack
of wires attached to white insulators evident
elsewhere on the N&W?

By the way, I understand the contractor removal crew
reached Elkton from Roanoke, but there is no
currently-active code line removal in progress.  Ben,
has worked resumed on the Bristol code line removal?

Happy holidays,

Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons 
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723 
117 East Main Street 
Boyce  VA  22620-9639

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