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Posted By: Walter F. Mathers on: 05/28/2002 09:06:06 CDT
Subject: Climbing Irons Still Being Made!

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Welcome to the world of obscure knowledge. The basic style of telegraph lineman climbers has not changed since the time of the Late Unpleseantness. The exception being that metal of choice has switched from iron to steel. The up-grading has taken place in the leathers and buckle arrangements.

When choosing a pair of climbers one should determine what they will be used for. Trimmed poles would cause a lineman to prefer the short side spikes while a line erected with poles larger than saplings might be climb'd with the longer spike variety, since the spikes would have to dig deeper in order to pass through the bark and into the firmer flesh.

Pole climbers are oft times taken to re-enactments for display purposes. Personally, other than an event occuring in the early 1990's where a mile poles were errected in Baltimore for an 1863 era event, I've only had the pleasure of conducting temporary field lines and thus our saplings are barely thick enough to allow a man up the pole (we try to leave some foot-stobbs when cutting off the limbs from our on-site poles.

The best advice I can give for obtaining your own set of irons is to talk to a tree removal speciallist, or telephone or cable lineman at his roadside jobsite to see where the closest supply company may be. Regardless of what length of spike you settle for the basic straping for insertion through the two iron side loops ought to be harness leather supported by steel (iron) or brass roller buckles. Period knee lenght boots (with rough leather outters) should also be part of your long range purchase plan should you not have the irons leathers (somewhat serving the same purpose of saddle sweatleathers between the irons and your inside leg calf should also be considered. The two pair I have acquired came from two different people's basements. In both instances, we were observed stringing wire at events when approached.

As to safety, a healthy respect for climbing ought to be acquired for a linemen's operation. Safety belts and a lot of practice will be required prior to conducting "active field service" at re-enactment / living history presentations. Start out with three or four pole steps (or digs) a day and increase your assent as your physical/medical condition and age have adjusted for.

Mis-handled climbing irons will work equally well in wood or flesh. When not actually involved in line construction or an interpretive session, keep all of your working (or demonstration) equipment well out of the reach of inquisitive spectators and fellow re-enactors. I've never consider'd these types of implements as around-the-room items.

Thanks for posting here at the Signal Corps Association Re-enactors' Division forum and allowing us to share what we love to see going on at events across the country and around the world. Can't resist the pun, "Things are looking UP!" Please come back so that, collectively, we all may grow this site as a true clearing house of information for mid-nineteenth century communication researcher and emulators.

Walt Mathers

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Signal Corps Association (1860-1865)
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