Oppenheimer pole

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Telegraph lines on an Oppenheimer pole outside the historic Alice Springs telegraph station on the now disused Australian Overland Telegraph Line

Oppenheimer poles are galvanized iron telegraph poles. They consist of three oval sections that collapse into each other telescope style for transportation. Once extended the joints between the sections are clamped with collars. The pole is fixed to a base for support with a u-bolt.

The poles were used in the construction of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line in 1872, which ran from Darwin in the north to Port Augusta (near Adelaide) in the south. It was initially intended to use Oppenheimer poles in regions where there was no suitable timber, and for poles that needed replacing in service. When it became clear that wooden poles on the northern part of the line were going to be rapidly destroyed by termites, it was decided to construct the line with 3,000 metal poles. Wooden poles are also vulnerable to fire and much the line's route suffers frequent wildfires. Many poles were later replaced with Oppenheimer poles for this reason.[1]

The initial order for 6,000 poles[2] may have been made in Germany by Oppenheimer and Company (it is not certain) but later production took place in England under licence.[3] Many of these poles were carried overland into the Australian interior by camel trains imported from Egypt, complete with their Egyptian drivers.[4] See Australian feral camel.


  1. ^ McMullen, pp. 17-18
  2. ^ McMullen, p.18
  3. ^ Engineers Australia nomination, pp. 11-12
  4. ^ Huurdeman, p. 120


  • Huurdeman, Anton A., The Worldwide History of Telecommunications, John Wiley & Sons, 2003 ISBN 0471205052.
  • McMullen, Ron, "The Overland Telegraph", The Australian Telegraph Office (CD ROM).
  • Nomination for Engineering Heritage Recognition: The Overland Telegraph Line 'Joining Point', Frews Pond, Northern Territory, Engineers Australia, June 2012.

Further reading[edit]

Oppenheimer Poles, The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society