In 1924 James Cyril Stobie saw an opportunity to solve South Australia’s problems of limited timber supplies and termite infestations.
An employee of the Adelaide Electricity Supply, Stobie designed a pole made of two steel beams filled with concrete, solving the need for the company to import timber from eastern states.
Application for patent specification for the Stobie pole was made in Australia on 15 July 1924 and in the United Kingdom filed 15 May 1925 by James Stobie and Frederick Wheadon.
The first pole was erected on South Terrace in Adelaide.
Since then poles have been rolled out across the city and state.
“It’s so much a part of the fabric of the cities and the towns in South Australia,” Paul Roberts from SA Power Networks said.
Stobie’s original design remains almost unchanged since its inception 90 years ago, with original holes placed in the concrete to save on overall weight filled in as methods of installing the poles improved.
The poles are primarily found in South Australia, with Hobart, Darwin, Broken Hill and areas of Western Australia’s isolated gold fields also using the poles for power distribution purposes.
Building a Stobie
The SA Power Network Angle Park facility remains the only place to manufacture the poles, with 20 to 40 poles produced each day.
Distribution poles of between 8 and 20 metres are produced in the mainly automated production line, with the 30 metres transmission poles made on an adjoining open air construction yard.
Steel is rolled to taper each end of the poles, with 30 metre finished products weighing up to 18 tonnes.
On the larger poles workers use heat torches and up to 110 tonnes of pressure achieve the bends.
“They cost a little bit more to build, but they last 60, sometimes 70 years in some cases.”
A poll outside of the ABC studios in Collinswood carries the date stamp of 1934, making it 80 years old.
“We’ve got nearly 725,000 poles in South Australia,” Paul said.
Poles are occasionally replaced, with many reconditioned, reinforced and reused.
via Which South Australian icon turns 90 this year? – ABC Adelaide – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.