12th Christmas (cont'd, Page 3)

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This one site has yielded six flat Thomas suspension plates in mint condition.  Three of them are nice red glazes with dark red drools.  We are on such an adrenaline high that we press on down the line.  A few more tower sites with only broken pieces.  Then a tower where the brush crew has left three mint plates right by the tower.  “That’s too easy” says Barb.  Carver looks back up the line “we don’t have them out yet!”  There are two more towers before the next really deep gulch.  At the last one, we spot a plate in the brush.  It is perfect, and has a nice light glaze with burgundy swirls.  We carry these four back to the original find. 

Here we are, miles from the truck, with at least a thousand vertical feet to climb, in possession of ten flat Thomas suspension plates, all in mint condition.  Be careful what you ask for, you might get it!  There is room for three in Carver’s pack, and two in Barb’s.  That means two trips.  We pack up the prettiest glazes first, and hide the others in the brush.  Back up the hill we go.  Trudge, trudge, trudge.  Down into one gulch, then up the other side.  One gulch after another.  “It seems a lot longer going back” says Barb.  “Maybe it isn’t too easy after all,” says Carver.  It is very late when we get to the truck.  We are very sore.  But we now have six mint Thomas plates in the truck.

“There must be an easier way to get there” says Barb.  We check the map and drive some roads looking for a likely approach.  One gulch would get us about the same distance from the stash, and about the same vertical climb, but it is below the site instead of above it.  That means we climb up empty and come back full.  Sounds like a plan, so off we go.  We are still sore, but it seems a lot easier empty.  We get to the line and make our way toward the stash.  Barb spots a piece of the original three-strand conductor.  We leave it there, to be picked up on the way back.  Then there is a 4-string of the oddest Westinghouse plates we have ever seen.  We’ll pick that up later as well.  Then there is a petticoated hook-and-eye suspension which must have been the replacement used for the flat plates.  We’ll pick that up later as well.  We press on, and find the stash just as we left it.  We pack the remaining five plates, have some water and a power bar, and start down the hill.  Well, mostly down hill.  It is still a long drag with a heavy load, and it gets different muscles torqued out.  Finally here we are at the truck, with a total of eleven flat plates.  One more and we could equip a whole tower.  “Where are we going to get a tower?” asks Barb.

Now it is the day before Christmas, and we have been at this for a week.  We make a dinner reservation at Murphy’s, the most historic and romantic restaurant in Prescott.  We grab a mocha at the Mud Hole (coffee shop named after a historic mine that was served by the line) and get an early start.  We have to go back to the stash to get the conductor, the Westinghouse, and the petticoated hook-and-eye.  After retrieving these goodies, we stash them at the nearest point to the truck, and start exploring in the opposite direction.   Wow!  Here is a tower with three of the original flat Thomas plates and one petticoated hook-and-eye still in service!  We notice that the Thomas suspensions come in two distinct types, one having a square-shaped cap, and the other a more rounded cap.  The square-capped ones seem to have the prettiest glazes.

“What is this” asks Barb, holding up a rusty contraption.  Well, Electrical World says “The wire hardware between insulators and copper is composed of a pair of iron blocks bolted together with four bolts similar to the old bolted come-along which is in turn supported by a link.  This clip prevents the slipping of the wire and at the same time is flexible and allows for a change in the position of the insulator without in any way kinking the wire.”  In the pack it goes.

One detail not mentioned in the article is that the clamp had to work with both the seven-strand and the three-strand conductor.  The simple solution was to make both halves fit the larger conductor.  When a single copper wire clip was added around the top half of the clamp, the result was a clamp that would hold the smaller conductor.  

We press on.  There, right in the middle of a tower, the rim of a flat plate is showing just above the dirt and rock.  It has the most beautiful light mustard glaze, with burgundy swirls.  We must have it.  It is buried from a small slide that engulfed the site.  We dig, and scrape, and pry, and dig some more, and scrape some more, and finally get the buried rocks loose from around it.  One last heave and out it comes---with about a third of the porcelain missing.  Bummer! 

There is one more tower before a heroic span over an incredibly deep gulch.  This will be the last one of the day.  We don’t see much, and are about to leave when Barb spots something in the brush.  It is a Thomas.  It is whole.  It is mint.  It has a beautiful light mustard glaze with deep burgundy swirls.  It is beautiful!  So there it is---the 12th Flat Thomas Suspension of Christmas.  So that is what the song should have said!  Well, now it does, at least for us.  The lug out seems less taxing today.  Christmas Eve dinner at Murphy’s is especially romantic knowing all twelve plates are lovingly wrapped in their blankets and tucked safely in the truck.  Now we have to find out where we can get a tower.  Maybe next Christmas…


 Drawing of Thomas 1053: 1917 Northern Electric catalog, courtesy Elton Gish

 Electrical World, Aug. 18, 1910, p. 361 and pp. 373-430

 Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas, Oct. 5, 1907, pp. 289-290

 Engineering and Mining Journal, June 22, 1918, pp. 1113-1116

 A Wonderful Water Power by Stephen A. Monroe

Superb on-line photo essay:  http://www.pinestrawhs.org/childsirving.htm






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