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