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Insulator hunting: How do I do it?

Screwtop

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2018
666
43
Carter County Kentucky
My area is rich in railroad history - meaning there were a lot of insulators here. Driving down the road next to the tracks today one can still see Hemingray beehive insulators on top of the crossbars. In recent years, a good number of the poles have been removed to who knows where. I like the look of insulators, and I want to start a collection, but I do not
want to buy any. They are just too common for me to pay for one. I would like to find them out in "the wild" however. How would I go about doing that? I don't want to break any laws, so climbing on top of the poles is out of question. Where do I look?

Btw, I don't have my drivers license yet, so I can't drive all over creation.
 

CanadianBottles

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2014
2,449
63
I once read up on insulator digging before deciding that it looked far too boring for me to ever get into it. Basically the technique is that you try to find where the poles were located and then once you find the spacing between two you can roughly pace out the rest. But to find the first one you have to do a bunch of random digging on the side of the rail bed which can go for hours without hitting anything.
Though that's the way to find the really good, old 19th century insulators. The newer ones you might be able to find just by walking alongside the rail beds, they aren't that rare to find on the ground.
 

WesternPA-collector

Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2018
596
43
Connellsville, PA
If some poles have been removed, you will find remaining insulators on the ground from when they cut the poles down. Just be prepared for some heartbreak. When poles fall down, insulators break. Railroad doesn't care what happens to them when cutting poles down. And not all insulators are equal. Some rare ones are worth paying for, or you'll never find one.
 

nhpharm

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2007
2,026
63
I've always had good luck walking railroad beds running along rivers. Seems like they tried to throw a lot of the insulators into the river and some of them didn't make it (or some are in shallow water). Look for areas as well that have eroded a bit as that may expose some insulators. If you have a cheap metal detector, I used to use that to find them as well...most of them still have the tie wire on and are easy to find that way. Keep an eye out for locks as well...I have a collection of early railroad locks that I found walking railroad beds. In some cases you'll find poles still standing but crossarms down and that may be a good area to look as well, though most of the super obvious insulators have been grabbed already. Good luck! I loved searching for insulators when I was a kid and I still have a number of them.
 

Screwtop

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2018
666
43
Carter County Kentucky
We have a track that has been abandoned for sometime. It follows the road for a long time, and most of the poles are falling over and covered in green insulators. Some of the cross arms are within arms reach, but are next to a busy highway. I have four insulators that were found by accident. I'll post them up later.
 

nhpharm

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2007
2,026
63
If the track is abandoned and the poles are falling over, I am certain no one will be concerned if you pluck a few accessible insulators from the crossarms. I would hope that the locals would have better things to do than to harass someone for rescuing some insulators. I'm sure plenty of people are shooting them off the poles.
 

RCO

Well-Known Member
May 17, 2012
3,273
63
Ontario , Canada
I've never really specifically looked for insulators but have found some when searching for bottles , most modern or more recent ones were simply found near train tracks or hydro poles .

a couple older ones were found in other ways , one was in a small dump at a farm which contained old whiskey bottles and such , just randomly contained 1 really old insulator . also found one when swimming near some docks at an old ferry site
 

Screwtop

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2018
666
43
Carter County Kentucky
If the track is abandoned and the poles are falling over, I am certain no one will be concerned if you pluck a few accessible insulators from the crossarms. I would hope that the locals would have better things to do than to harass someone for rescuing some insulators. I'm sure plenty of people are shooting them off the poles.
You would be surprised. Folks down here have no problem taking potshots at trespassers, or calling the cops if they see suspicious activity.
 

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