1994 >> December >> In Search of Insulators Family Style  

In Search of Insulators - Family Style
by Bob and Phoebe Adams

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", December 1994, page 7

25 Years of Collecting

The insulator collecting bug carne to the Adams household nearly twenty five years ago when our daughter, Roberta, brought home several insulators from a flea market near a summer camp at Mentone, Alabama. These were to be used as paperweights on her parent's desk, however, our son, Tim, took one look at the Hemingray 40 "paperweights" and remembered seeing something similar near his work location. That evening, the collection grew to include two clear Armstrong DP1s to go with the Hemingray 40s. As all of you know, when you have two of anything that's a collection and opens the way for gathering more and more and MORE! 

Near our home in Miami, Florida, opportunities for seeking additional insulators were extremely limited, however, as the family began to observe railroad tracks, electric lines, telephone poles, etc., the possibilities became more evident. After it became evident that most insulators are not at ground level, a step ladder became standard equipment in the back of the station wagon.

Sunday drives began to have only one goal in mind... find insulators and with mother driving, dad reading maps and sharp eyed children on the look out, we were ready. On a trip north on the Sunshine State Parkway, we crossed over State Road 710 west of Palm Beach. All of us could see at a glance that this was a very straight two-lane road closely paralleling a railroad track complete with poles and crossarms with insulators and NO wires. The following weekend found the station wagon and its excited crew departing the Turnpike and proceeding northwest on SR 710 with all eyes (including the driver) spotting insulators that might be available. Many were spotted and interest mounted quickly, however, there were several problems namely, the poles were all in clear view of drivers on the road and the second problem, they were on 18 to 20 foot poles. This was a problem for which a six foot step ladder was not going to be of much help. Thus ended that early weekend of insulator collecting with the collection still at four.

On the way home, discussions were held between passengers in the front seat and back seat as to possible solutions such as, climb the poles, find shorter poles or cut the poles down! Fortunately, a different alternative occurred during the week at the school where I taught. The classroom flag poles were jointed and when joined together formed a sturdy twelve foot pole and when unconnected formed two 6 foot poles which fit easily into the back of the wagon. This pole was soon improved with the addition of a rubber crutch tip at one end and a rubber bicycle handlebar grip at the other end -- we were in the insulator collecting business -- or were we? There was still the problem of being in full view of a fairly heavily traveled road. 

The next weekend found the station wagon venturing further northwest on SR 71 0 and hallelujah, the tracks disappeared behind some trees and there was a turn off to a railroad signal house. Of course, the station wagon pulled through and parked behind the signal house, counting on the fact that only the Adams family were working on Sunday. The jointed pole was quickly assembled and was soon put into action as the children ran ahead and scouted good hunting territory and soon a number of dark blue Hemingray 42s found their way back to the box in the rear of the station wagon. Soon the 42s were joined by a few WHITALL TATUM DP1s in a lovely (we thought) ice blue color. Several poles down this line, strange looking dome shaped insulators made by somebody named BROOKFIELD made their appearance and soon joined the collection in the box.

Upon hearing a noise on the other side of an embankment along the railroad right-of-way, we cautiously climbed the rise only to come face to face with a six foot Florida alligator who had cautiously climbed the other side of the rise to see what was going on at the railroad tracks. Instant panic for all of you and fortunately all of you head off in opposite directions! 

Somebody suggested driving on further northwest on SR 710 since all of the insulators appeared to be the same in this location and that was done until another access road was reached and provided entrance to the railroad tracks and poles. The collecting crew, with jointed pole got out ready for action. Even though these globs of glass looked the same as the earlier ones, the kids insisted they were of a different color and when several of them fell down into their eager hands, it was discovered that LYNCHBURG-44s were now becoming a part of the growing collection. Putting these carefully into the box (now overflowing) the gang moved on to a couple of more poles where they quickly added a GAYNER-44 to the collection. 

After one more move further north around a big curve to the next access road, a tired gang went walking one more time and added several more GAYNER-44s and a new one, GAYNER 48-400. That ended the excursion for the day and on the way back home, the wagon was overtaken by a passenger train doing something over75 mph and all of us agreed that we had stopped collecting just in time. 

Safe at home, the collected insulators were cleaned and along with their buddies already at home, they were carefully labeled with date and place of recovery. A practice that lasted for the first twenty five insulators in the collection. At last count, there are over 2000 different insulators scattered about the old homestead.

The Adams family learned:

  1. A portable potty is needed along the railroad tracks.
  2. Murphy's Law - when two or more insulators are dropped and crash together, the most expensive one will break.
  3. Neighborhood dogs think it is their duty to protect all railroad property near their house.
  4. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
  5. Passenger trains go very fast. 
  6. Collecting insulators is great fun and a good family hobby.


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