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Notching up half a century in the electricity industry

Posted on 8 September 2015 02:11 PM by alcoc2r

I started with Eastern Electricity in 1965 at the tender age of 15 as a trainee linesman. I was based at the Wroxham Depot in Norfolk, which is now Roys Garden Centre.

In the early days it was not unusual to have a construction team of up to ten men travelling out to site in a canvas covered lorry. This was also used to transport the stores to site with the men .The poles would be pushed through the front of the lorry above the cab and tied in the centre, with the men seated down the side on storage boxes. Not quite up to today’s safety standards.

The Wroxham and Cromer depots closed in the early 1970s, with a new depot opening at North Walsham. This move resulted in several friends and colleagues taking redundancy. With the reduced work force, mechanical diggers and hoists started to be used more to reduce the physical side of the work.

No mobile phones
I progressed to charge hand linesman with my own team of three linesmen plus a trainee/ apprentice and a digger driver. The work was mainly new construction jobs with some maintenance thrown in. I started standby in the late 1960s and have been on a rota to this day. No mobile phones, just a radio in the cab of the lorry. If it turned foggy, messages from across the channel could be heard!

For a short period I spent time in the office –firstly assisting the foremen at North Walsham and then moving to the main office in Norwich, assigned to the planning department. This work proved to be very interesting, planning out what a customer wanted with regard to a new service or a service alteration, with some requiring small capital jobs to be raised.

Responding to customer problems
Then in 1994, Eastern Electricity created a new role to respond quickly to customer problems and loss of supply.  It was the position of distribution supply technician. This caught my attention, as it would be like being on standby 24/7 – and it was in the beginning.

I was accepted for one of the positions in the Norwich area working from home, with my work coming directly from the office in Ipswich. After 21 years in the role, I am pleased how it has worked out – being able to get customers back on supply gives that little bit of job satisfaction that we all need. The equipment that we are now supplied with for fault work is excellent giving us that extra bit of help when needed, with the electronic maps both high voltage and low voltage being invaluable.

Rescuing a cat
Over the years I’ve had some interesting jobs. On standby one night, we were called to rescue a cat sitting on an 11kv channel. On nearing the top of the ladder I wondered what sort of reception the cat would give me. Do I grab it or gently try to get hold of it, would it fall off? With the owner standing watching me, I hoped not. As I approached the cross arm the cat started purring, a good sign. I bent forward and the cat climbed on my shoulder and sat there all the way down the ladder, jumping off at the bottom to everyone’s relief.

I also had an interesting training day at Bristow Helicopters’ site where we were taught to guide the pilot over a wooden pole or transformer and attach it to the helicopter, for the purpose of transporting it to a remote site. We then had to plant the pole in an excavated hole or place the transformer. Although the idea was ok, we never got to use it.

I still really enjoy my job so I am not quite ready to put my feet up - much to my wife's dismay!

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