For years, utility poles were the traditional dark brown color. It seems that this color was used less after 1978 and was discontinued altogether within four years later. During those waning years of the dark brown color, most of the utility poles that were erected were orange (a color of pole that I know of that dates at least as far back as 1972). From the mid-1980's on, most of the utility poles that have been erected are green, although there can still be an occasional orange one going up (usually bearing Mereduc instead of Koppers). The oldest green utility poles that I know of date back to 1982 (one of which I saw on Hope Street in Greenfield, and another of which I saw on Route 116 in Amherst; I eventually found a few other such poles in some other areas as well).
New poles are still brown in the Chicago area.BC
Brown poles are not that uncommon. I lived near a pole yard that manufactures brown poles, and I have seen said brown poles still being used in new construction.klightfo
There are a few old poles that predate the greenish color of the CCA treated poles. These poles date back to 1941 with the name brand of TC (or perhaps IC, according to Robert Winternitz). These are unusual and interesting looking poles, but is unknown what type of treatment that they received. These seem to be mostly located in Greenfield. I've also seen a few in Deerfield, mostly just outside of Greenfield, on Routes 5 and 10. I also saw one in Gill. It is literally a telephone pole, holding only telephone wires. This is proof that it was the telephone company that erected these unusual looking poles.
Certain poles are treated with creosote even to this very day. I saw a couple of such poles (one in Greenfield, and one in Bernardston) that are dated for 2001 (and, incidentally, bearing the Mereduc name). I became curious about looking at the engrave marks because of their dark brown color. One line of the engrave marks read: "SP C 7.5".
In Montague City, there are a couple of brown poles that I know of dated 1979. They were treated by Koppers, although the face type used wasn't the preservation company's then-current usual one. There is also such a pole on G Street in Turners. More recently, I noticed yet three more such poles in Turners (on Montague Street); I believe these have the then-current usual facetype that Koppers used. There is also such a pole at the Montague/Leverett town line near North Leverett Road; this pole (which is among several poles getting replaced in that area) has the engrave mark lettering in the then-usual style. There is also such a pole on Montague City Road in Turners Falls (although the pole has been replaced); this has the same style lettering in its engrave mark as the aforementioned Montague City ones.
I was amazed to find out eventually that there is actually a brown pole from the 1980's located in my area. It is one of the very few such poles that I know of. To be exact for the year, this pole is dated 1980, although the zero is barely readable; only the top of the number is less worn down. It even has the "C" following "SP" in its engrave mark. I also found another dark brown pole (located in Sunderland) dated 1980. Besides the date of this pole, another thing unusual about the engrave marks is that a "P" follows the "SP." Usually, such a pole with this letter would be orange in color. It's possible that the "P" may have been stamped by mistake instead of a "C."
I even found a brown-colored pole dated 1981 (located in Greenfield). Not only that, it even has a "C" following "SP" in its engrave marks, meaning that it was treated with creosote the year before the new (green-looking) CCA treatment began to be used. Perhaps because it is located near a tree, the pole looks almost brand new, which brings me back memories when dark brown poles used to be erected regularly prior to the early 1980's. The ID numbers are newer looking than usual as well.
I also saw a pole, dated 1972 and located in Amherst, which is a usual color for a southern pine pole (in this case, light tan), only that it has flakes of light-purplish white color on it. Where the treatment letter would ordinarily be something like "C" or "A," it bears the letter "G." There is also a second pole with the "G" treatment letter. This pole is located right directly near the aforementioned one. The information on the engrave marks is the same, so is the appearance of the pole.
I've seen a few "G" treated poles on James Street in Greenfield as well, but the poles seem to look the same as the "C" (creosote) ones.
There are also some poles (mostly of brand name Koppers) that have "A" as their treatment letter. I eventually found out that it probably stands for "arsenic." These poles are brown in color, just like the creosote treated poles. These poles seem to date back to the 1960's for the most part.
A current regional general pattern I notice is that the electric company erects the green ones labeled "Koppers," while the telephone company erects the orange ones labeled "Mereduc." However, the pattern has changed regarding the telephone company in 2001: since then, they began to erect dark brown "Mereduc" poles. It's possible that it has to do with Bell Atlantic merging with another phone company to become Verizon. In 2004, the telephone company eventually switched back to erecting orange poles. I saw a brand new orange one on Colrain Road in Greenfield (which is a push brace pole), and one in Hadley on Roosevelt Street. I also saw three on Leyden Road in Greenfield. There have been some other such poles erected since then as well.
I started noticing more reddish colored poles in the area lately (as of 2006). These seem to be getting more common. These are penta-treated poles set by the telephone company. Like the orange-colored ones, many of these seem to be from Mereduc.
It is possible that, as of May 2006, that Verizon may be switching back to erecting dark brown poles. I saw such a brand new one on Colrain Street, where it meets with Elm Street.
However, I found out that the pole actually dates back to 2003. Perhaps Verizon isn't switching back to the creosoted poles after all. One side of the pole is more faded on one side than the other, indicating that it had been laying down wherever the telephone company gets their poles. The engrave marks on the pole also used the squarer-looking fonts.
The Holyoke area has some green poles as well. Looking at the engrave marks, I can see that Koppers isn't the only one that treats green-colored poles. There is such a company with the initials SWP that also does this.
During a New Hampshire trip one day in February 1999, I noticed that many of the poles I saw were orange in color. I saw very few old grayed poles, as well as hardly any green ones. I now of a few old, grayed poles in New Hampshire, however; they are located in Hinsdale on Route 63. Also, traveling on Route 10 in the very south of this state, one can see a few other poles about as old, even though they are not of the old, grayed variety. Later on, I spotted a couple of green utility poles during a January 2003 trip in Keene, New Hampshire; one of these is a push brace pole. I also saw a couple more green poles in New Hampshire. They are both replacing a couple of the aforementioned old, grayed poles in Hinsdale.
Shutesbury also doesn't have many green poles. Many of their newer ones are orange, and are stamped with the "Mereduc" name. South Hadley does not have very many green ones, either; their new poles are usually orange in color.
Current patterns among the Western Mass. Electric towns: green Koppers — Amherst, Easthampton; Leverett, Montague, Southampton; Sunderland; orange Mereduc — Deerfield, Greenfield, Hadley, Leyden, Shelburne.
It seems that, on some occasions, CCA Koppers poles are erected in Greenfield. A pattern I notice is that certain streets seem to have these such poles erected, especially in the eastern part of town — at such streets as High Street; Maple Street; Hope Street; Mountain Road; Eastern Avenue; and Federal Street — while the Penta Mereduc poles seem to more likely be erected in the western part of town — on streets such as Elm Street; West Street; Conway Street; Colrain Street; Devens Street; Leyden Road; and Colrain Road.
The cut-off point in Greenfield between the green Koppers poles (set by WMECo.) and the orange Mereduc poles (set by Verizon) seems to be Routes 5 and 10, which Federal Street and Bernardston Road are a part of. On Federal Street, the electric company usually sets the poles, while on Bernardston Road, the telephone company sets them.
Another street, Deerfield Street, is also part of Routes 5 and 10, which seems to have poles erected by both WMECo. and Verizon. I was confused about this at first, until I was updating this part of the page. I figured out that Meridian Street seems to be the cutoff point for Deerfield Street. The north ( or Bank Row) end is more apt to have poles erected by Verizon, while the south end (that goes towards the town of Deerfield) is more apt to have poles erected by WMECo.
The looks of a pole probably is based on the type of treatment it receives, as well as what species of tree it is made out of.
Orange utility poles start out with a bright color, but eventually fade more to a white or faded orange; they also end up looking more brown at the bottom. Some of these orange poles start out browner than others. Certain ones even look dark to the point that they look as if they had been treated with creosote.
The old gray utility poles are faded in a similar way. Some of the lower half of the pole is a yellowish light brown, with the darkest of the brown at the bottom. These utility poles, many of which apparently date back to the 1930's, were probably originally dark brown in color. That's the color of the very bottom of these old utility poles that I notice after I see that it was pulled out of the ground after being replaced by a newer utility pole.
I saw some other proof regarding the original color of the grayed, old poles. At the post office in Greenfield, hanging on a wall, there is a picture of the building (perhaps when it was newly built) with a pole (no longer standing today) in front of it. Even though this is a black and white picture, I can tell that the pole was probably dark brown in color. The pole in the picture also appears to look rather new. I also noticed in the picture that the crossarm braces (which appear more shiny new here, not tarnished in any way) were fastened on the outside of the crossarms. The pole in the picture also has a gable roof.
There is some confusion as to the original color of the very old and grayed poles. According to The Lineman and Cableman's Handbook, as well as what my father told me, only the bottom of these poles were treated. Perhaps these such poles were originally a yellowish natural wood color in the untreated areas.
The old, grayed poles are probably made out of cedar, which, when weathered, eventually start having a rougher surface. Many of these poles date back to the 1930's, but a few of them also date after the 1930's. I saw a couple of such poles dated 1941, a couple of others dated 1942, as well as a few from 1946 and 1949. I even saw a similar looking one dated as recent as 1963. There are also a few of these that date as far back as the 1920's.
I also saw poles with a smoother and brownish tan-colored surface that date as far back as the 1930's, making them just as old (or even older) than some of the rough, gray poles.
I also saw some poles with a faded orange color that look similar to the grayed ones in terms of surface. Most of these that I have found are dated around 1950. I also know of a 1956 Pentrex/Naugle pole with an orange/yellow color located in Sunderland, as well as at least one P&H pole with the same color located in Amherst.
The creosote treated poles start out a very dark brown or near black but eventually fade to a regular brown color, or a lighter brown.
The CCA treated poles start out with a yellowish olive green color, but do not fade much, except maybe to something of a less yellowish olive green. The wood patterns also show up more on the CCA treated poles as the years pass.
I saw at least four new poles that were of a very dark olive green. These poles also do not bear a Koppers name; they have a logo which looks like a backwards "4," with a diagonal extra piece on the other side, inside a circle flat at the top. These new poles are located in Sunderland on Route 116. Like the lighter olive green poles, these also received the CCA treatment.