GPO Vehicles

Make Bedford
Model RSHC5
Type Pole Erection Unit
Body Builder Simon Polecat
Registration Number ELP 713C
Fleet Number Range 200288 to 200347
Date of picture October 1965


Pole Erection Units
Taken from External Plant News - No. 1 July 1966

Each Area will shortly have received two Pole Erection Units (PEUs), which should lighten the work of pole erection and make conditions safer.  The safety helmets worn by the men will be available as a personal issue to external staff.

The Pole Erection Unit bores the hole neatly - up to 11 ft. 6 in. deep - lifts the pole and plants it.  This can be done up to 22 ft. 6 in. from the vehicle, a four-wheel drive truck, designed for cross-country travel.

Two types are being purchased, the Tel-e-Lect, manufactured by the King Truck Co., and the Polecat, manufactured by Simon Engineering Co.  Both PEUs are very similar in construction and can carry up to nine poles.

The method by which a pole is gripped at the end of the jib differs.  The Polecat grips the pole with two hydraulically operated claws, while the Tel-e-Lect winches the pole against two wide cheeks on the winch motor mounted at the end of the jib.

The machines will be used to erect most of the 100,000 poles erected every year, plus the extractions.  Poles in inaccessible sites such as gardens behind houses, will still require traditional manual methods for erecting.  To replace a pole an hydraulic jack is used to jack out the decayed pole, which is safely held by the jib of the PEU.

The hydraulic power of the PEU is also used to operate a rapid punner to consolidate the earth around the new pole.

With the poling work concentrated on specialist two-man parties, the remaining overhead gangs can be reduced in size, effecting a considerable saving in manpower.

All Regions in the Northern section of the country are equipped with Tel-e-Lect type machines and the remaining Regions with the Polecat type.

Vehicle ready for the hole boring operation.  Notice the hydraulically operated legs which support the vehicle during these operations, and the plot-form for the operator.

An important part of the equipment is the Locator No. 1A which is an electronic 'dowser' used to locate buried services in the vicinity of the pole site prior to boring.  Briefly, the Locator to consists of a Transmitter, operating at a frequency of 80 Kc/s modulated with an audio tone, and a Detector fitted with a headphone and a meter to give a visual indication. Frame aerials are fitted to the Transmitter and Detector cases.  The transmitted signal induces a current into any buried conducting service, i.e. cable (P.O. or electricity), gas or water pipe, which is detected as a radiated signal along the run of the service.  The Detector is positioned over the intended pole site, whilst the Transmitter is carried round in a circle of approximately 25 ft. radius.

The radiated signal is received by the Detector, and the position of a buried service is indicated by a sharp increase in the signal strength when directly above the line of the service. A more precise location can then be obtained by use of a ' null-point' method.  The Locator to can also be used to determine the depth of a buried service.

The PBU crew, which consists of a Technician I and Technician IIA, will be fully trained in the use of the vehicle and the Locator No. 1A.


The detector and receiver which comprise the Locator No. 1A.  These clip together for transit.  The small foot on the transmitter is to give extra stability when free standing in one of the locating operations.


The photograph shows a Tel-e-Lect unloading a pole at the site of work. The vehicle can carry up to nine poles which are loaded at the pole stack using the jib. The auger is stowed away whilst using the jib for this type of operation and when travelling.

The Pole-Erection Unit
By R. J. HUNTf

As a result of a work study most Telephone Areas are being equipped with one or more pole-erection units. This article briefly describes the pole-erection unit and the reasons for its introduction. The training of operators, typical working procedures, and the organization and control of the unit’s work are also described.


In the past, various forms of mechanical assistance for pole-erection work have been tried by the British Post Office to a limited extent. The aids ranged from a tractor-mounted pole-hole borer, which still left the men to erect the pole, to a fully mechanized unit such as the line-construction vehicle, of which three have been in use on a trial basis for 3 years.

A work study of these machines in operation was conducted during 1964, and the results indicated that financial savings of the order of 10 per cent could be expected from the introduction of total mechanization of poling work.

In addition to this, considerable savings are to be expected from the streamlining of the remainder of the overhead work which becomes possible when the poling content is removed. The number of men in each working party can be reduced, and smaller vehicles can be used, with resultant direct financial savings and an increase in the efficiency of working. Estimates of these savings have been made, but reliable figures will not be obtained until the new methods have become established and further work study has been conducted.

Most Telephone Areas will be equipped with these specialist machines to deal solely with poling work; a total of 100 have been purchased, and their allocation to Telephone Areas has been made on the basis of the number of poles erected annually. The majority of Areas have at least one machine and some have up to four.


Comparison With Line-Construction Vehicle
The line-construction vehicle 1 was designed as a multi-purpose vehicle, and was equipped to carry out such operations as underground cabling, mole ploughing and overhead wiring and cabling work as well as pole erection. These extra features are not required in the present application, and the pole-erection unit is intended to be used at this stage for the erection and recovery of poles and the provision of stays.

The main differences between the pole-erection unit and the line-construction vehicle are that the winch is smaller and mounted on the end of the jib, a personnel bucket for the jib is not provided, and a heavier chassis and different body are provided to increase the pole carrying capacity.




Dimensions and Capacities of Pole-Erection Unit
The machines are of two types, the King ‘ Tel-E-Lect (Fig. 1) and the Simon “Polecat” (Fig. 2), and differ in some details although they are broadly similar in function. All pole-erection units will be painted yellow. A brief specification of the main features of the machines is given below; figures for the Polecat, if they differ from those for the Tel-E-Lect, are given in brackets. When  the vehicle is carrying poles these may project beyond the dimensions given for the overall length and height.

Overall length (unladen): 21 ft.
Overall width with stabilizer jacks retracted: 8 ft (8 ft 6 in.).
Overall height (unladen): 12 ft.
Gross moving weight: 11 tons 2 cwt.
Pole-carrying capacity: 30 cwt. This represents approximately nine poles of assorted sizes in common use.
Lifting capacity: 1 ton at a radius of 6 ft (4-10 ft), and 8 cwt at the maximum radius of 24 ft 6 in. (22 ft 6 in.).
Auger size: 12 in. diameter, but others could be fitted.
Maximum depth of boring: 6 ft 6 in. This can be increased in 1 ft steps to 11 ft 6 in. by repositioning the auger down its driving shaft.
Reach of jib for boring : 14-22 ft (13 ft 6 in.-21 ft).
Maximum size pole which can be erected or recovered: approximately 50 ft, subject to weight limitations.
Ancillary equipment: hydraulic backfill tamper and pole-recovery jack.


The pole-erection unit operators must become skilled specialists in order to make maximum use of the machine’s capabilities and to avoid causing expensive damage due to misoperation. They are, therefore, selected for their mechanical aptitude combined with a good basic knowledge of overhead work, and receive specialist training in the operation and day-to-day maintenance of the machine. The training consists of an intensive 1-week course at the Home Counties Regional Training Centre, and covers basic manipulation of the machine, detection of buried underground services plant, a limited amount of actual pole-erection work, and day-to-day maintenance. A minimum period of 3 weeks is then spent with a working party experienced in using the pole-erection unit in the field to gain a broader appreciation of the problems likely to be encountered.

Experience has shown that, due to the unusually heavy and uneven wheel loadings, driving the pole-erection unit over bad ground conditions requires specialist training, and this is also being arranged.


Detection of Underground Services Plant
The size, power and speed of operation of the soil auger are such that it is essential to make every effort to ensure that there is no underground plant present which it might damage, and local-authorities’ records must always be consulted before boring operations are undertaken.

The possibility of developing a special detector for underground plant has been considered, but, for the time being, the best existing equipment for the purpose, the Locator No. 1A, is being used. The Locator No. 1A is basically a transistor radio-frequency transmitter and detector set, which combines the functions of a metal detector and track locator. The basic way in which it is used by pole-erection unit operators is to position the detector over the proposed pole position and to carry the transmitter in a circle around the detector. The two parts of the instrument are kept in alignment during this operation, and if the transmitter passes over metallic services plant, which also runs past the proposed pole position, a signal is heard in the detector headphone; Fig. 3 shows the instrument being used in this way. Obviously, great care must be exercised in checking the proposed pole site.

In addition to metallic services plant there are, unfortunately, a considerable number of empty earthenware pipes, plastics and asbestos-cement pipes, buried brick structures, etc., for which there is no means of detection.

The presence of manhole covers, stopcocks, reinstatement scars, etc., on the surface and their layout in relation to the roads and any adjacent houses, etc., can often provide an indication of the positions of underground services plant, and in some instances it will be obvious from this information that it would not be safe to bore.

Proposed pole site under investigation by the crew using the Locator No. 1A. The PEU control panel can be
clearly seen at the rear of the vehicle.


In the absence of any positive indication from the Locator No. 1A, or of any deduced information such as that described above, it is assumed that the position is safe for boring, unless there is some other doubt which warrants the excavation of a pilot hole by manual means.

Pole Erection
In a straightforward case of erecting a pole the sequence of operations is as follows:-

  1. Team puts on safety helmets, positions the vehicle, sets out road signs, etc., and engages the power take-off to drive the hydraulic system.

  2. The proposed pole position is checked for the. presence of buried services.

  3. The stabilizing jacks are lowered, and, using the jib as a crane, the pole is unloaded from the vehicle and set down on the ground on a pole horse for dressing.

  4. The auger is released from its rest position on the side of the jib, and is lowered into the working position. The pole hole is bored and the auger is restored to its rest position.

  5. Using the jib as a crane, the pole is picked up at a point about one-third of its height from the top and is raised into a vertical position by winching it in to the tip of the jib.

  6. The pole is manoeuvred into the pole hole by rotation, extension, elevation and depression of the jib, as necessary, and the jib is used to hold it vertical during backfilling (see Fig. 4).

  7. The hydraulic backfill tamper is connected to the hydraulic-accessory points, and is used to backfill around the pole.

  8. The vehicle is finally restored to road trim.

This sequence of operations can take as little as 20 minutes under ideal conditions. In practice, five to nine poles are usually erected by one pole-erection unit in one day.


Pole Recovery
For pole recovery the machine is set up as shown in Fig. 5, using similar techniques to those described above. The hydraulic jack is connected to the hydraulic- accessory points, the grip on the pole being obtained by fixing a chain around the pole and engaging it in a fork at the top of the jack ram. The pole is then jacked out, the winch rope, holding the top of the pole, being kept just sufficiently tight to steady the pole as the butt comes out of the ground. The pole is then lowered to the ground, ready for any stripping that may be necessary before loading it on to the vehicle.

The pole is under complete control all the time, and this ensures a high degree of safety compared with manual methods.


A new type of stay anchorage 2 has been introduced to replace the existing stay block method, thus speeding up this part of the overhead-construction process to match the speed of the pole-erection unit for poling.

A screw-in stay anchor is installed by the pole-erection unit in line with the proposed line of the stay wire. The anchor is driven in by an adaptor, which is virtually a long box-spanner fastened to the auger driving shaft in place of the auger itself. The adaptor passes over the stay-anchor rod and engages on a square boss just in front of the anchor plate (see Fig. 6).

The installation of a screw-in stay anchor takes only a matter of minutes, and the holding power that can be obtained is adequate for over 95 per cent of staying situations encountered. In the few instances where heavier staying is required two or more separate stays are fitted, each with its own anchor.

A new method of terminating stays using helical wrap-on stay grips is being introduced in conjunction with the screw-in stay anchor, and this will further speed up the staying operation.



Initially the pole-erection unit in a Telephone Area will work to a “poling control,” in the major-works control or in the installation control; this is another matter that will be reviewed when mechanized poling has become established.

The function of the poling control is to receive all requests for poling work from advice notes,* from extracts from estimates for development work, and for maintenance and renewal work. The work is then programmed and issued to the pole-erection unit party in an order which is determined on such considerations as priority, grouping of work in a geographical area, and reduction of travelling. As an aid to this programming, each poling control is equipped with a large-scale map of the Telephone Area on which the positions of works are indicated to provide an initial visual guide. It is expected that the pole-erection units will erect practically all the poles, the exceptions being where the site is either inaccessible, such as in a back garden, or is very remote.

* Advice note: a document issued by the Sales Division of a Telephone Manager’s office and which constitutes the authority for carrying out certain installation or other work.


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Last revised: November 03, 2019