Infrastructure Spotting: Tracing Power Lines with the Pylon Appreciation Society

“It’s funny how many people accuse me of being mad or geeky – and then they send me photos or ask for more information!” writes Flash Bristow, founder of the Pylon Appreciation Society, which is dedicated to plotting, spotting, explaining and photographing power line pylons.

Pylon from below, image by Flash Bristow

For some, pylons are easy to overlook. For others, they are eyesores. But to those who notice and appreciate them, they represent not only elegant feats of engineering but also embody a surprising range of aesthetic expression. When traveling, Bristow finds herself drawn to seeking out power plants, which are often surrounded by large pylons supporting lots of power lines.

The Pylon Appreciation Society boasts around 600 members, and it is not alone — there are sites dedicated to specific pylons, like a pink-painted one, plus pylon blogs, like the Pylon of the Month website, which was started as a lark by a physics teacher from Oxfordshire who then kept it going, gathering a great array of examples over time.

UK power pylon, image via Kevin Mosedale’s Pylon of the Month website

According to Emma Ailes of BBC News, the first pylons in the UK were designed by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1928, with a “lattice” approach that “sought to be more delicate than the brutalist structures used in Europe and the United States.” Reportedly, he was “inspired by the root of the word pylon – meaning an Egyptian gateway to the sun.”

Pylon-shaped art installation, image via Kevin Mosedale’s Pylon of the Month website

A typical pylon weighs dozens of tons and reaches over 150 feet high, carrying up to 400,000 volts. Today, there are nearly 100,000 pylons across the UK. Most conform to a few basic styles though there are exceptions made to work around existing architecture and infrastructure. And that’s just in the UK — the world is full of all kinds of other shapes and sizes. The sky is the limit, as they say.

Special thanks to Brad, the 99pi fan who sent in this story tip!

  1. As a professional analyst of the visual impacts and aesthetics of transmission lines and other infrastructure, I was excited to see a story about pylons/transmission towers.
    A little shorter than I was hoping for…but fun to read.
    Here is a link to Icelandic plan for giant human towers: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3248509/Not-blot-landscape-Icelandic-architects-create-series-designs-statue-like-electricity-pylons-shaped-like-humans.html

    FYI, On another topic, here is a site to see if you have an appreciation of shipping containers:
    http://www.matts-place.com/intermodal/part1/sea_containers1.htm

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