In many cases, the down arrow painted near bottom of pole seems to be most common. Such poles getting replaced by telephone company-erected poles especially often seem to get marked this way.
I am guessing that it is a bit more likely that the painted arrow means "a new pole will go here" than it does "this pole will get replaced." On bit of proof is that several poles in a row on Route 47 in Hadley were getting replaced. All were marked with an arrow except for one, which didn't get a new pole erected next to it. Two of the poles had a side pointed arrow painted on them because the new poles for them were to be located several feet away from these poles.
I actually saw one instance of an arrow painted on a brand new pole for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with a pole just slightly older next to it.
On a couple of poles, I saw a painted arrow that was not pointing downward; it was pointing towards the left of the pole it was painted on instead. I figured out that it is because it means that the new pole will not be located directly next to the old one, but a bit away from it on that side that the painted arrow is pointing. I saw a few more instances of arrows painted like this.
I also saw one case of a double-headed arrow painted on an old pole, located on Silver Street in Greenfield. This pole has now been out of service for several years.
I saw one pole with an arrow pointing up. This is located on a dirt road in a wooded area in Colrain.
On one old pole serviced only by the telephone company, there was a vertical line painted on it. This pole is located on Swamp Road in Montague Center, where it is directly across a new house being built. The electric company erected several other new poles nearby as well, replacing up to three other poles.
I also saw at least a couple of poles with two arrows painted on them. These are located in or near Florence.
The way a pole is marked for replacement seems to depend on what town they're in, though it may depend, actually, on exactly who marks them. Here are a few examples:
One pattern that is obvious is that, during the winter when there is snow on the ground, poles are marked for replacement less often. A similar pattern applies to the removing of old poles; one exception is an old pole with the WMECo. ID number 29 on Elm Street in Greenfield. It was removed in February 2004. Another similar pattern that often occurs is the lesser number of new poles erected at this time of year, unless a pole breaks in two as a result of a car accident or something. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, such as the erection of a new pole on the corner of West and Elm Streets in Greenfield in February 2004; the pole that it is replacing hasn't been hit or anything.
Perhaps there is no such pattern about poles being marked after all. Some poles in Greenfield were marked in February 2005. These poles in Greenfield that were marked in February 2005 seem to have the arrows painted a bit higher than usual. My guess is that it is because of the snow on the ground.
There seem to be a few cases in which some or all of the ID numbers and name tags are cut or taken off an old pole after some or all of the wires are transferred to a new pole. One or both of the companies may have done this. I had noticed this (and was also surprised by this) when I revisited a few poles in Turners that are getting replaced. Perhaps it was because the ID numbers of some of the telephone company numbers have changed when the respective company hammered numbers on the new poles.
I have also seen a few instances in which a utility company reuses an ID number by taking it off an old pole and putting it on the new one that is replacing it. This is especially evident of an instance that I've seen in Amherst and Bernardston, as well as a possible instance apiece in Northfield and Hadley.
Once in a while, I even see an instance of a pole getting reused. Here are a few examples. Except for the Erving one, it is evident that they were formerly located somewhere else because of indications of ID numbers that are no longer there.
I can think of as many as three other poles that may have been relocated to where they are now.
One day, I noticed a rare instance of a new pole getting taken down while the somewhat older and cracked pole continues to stand. My guess is that the utility companies gave second thoughts about the wiring location, and decided to have the wires go across the road at some point. Both the cracked pole that is going to be replaced and a neighboring pole have been marked with an arrow, as there has also been a new pole, with a push brace pole, erected from across the road. Looking at the push brace pole carefully, I recognized it as the same pole that was originally standing next to the cracked pole that is to be replaced. It is obvious that the telephone company set the new poles up this way, because they are orange Mereduc brands, and that it is the telephone wiring that has been transferred so far, not to mention that telephone pole numbers have been hammered on them, not electric pole numbers. The cracked pole is now gone, the electric company had transferred the wires to the new pole across the road, and electric company ID numbers and tags are now on the new pole; the push brace pole, however, still only has the telephone company numbers on it.
For the first time, I witnessed an erection of a new pole. As I figured, the device that looks like a giant drill (on the crane-like part of the utility truck) is used to create a hole for the new pole to go in. (The drill is more slow and less noisy than what I expected it to be.) I also found out that they use what looks like an orange belt to lift up the pole (this belt is located within the same crane-like area). After the new pole is upright correctly, it is slowly lowered into the hole. A small loop-like rope on the crane-like part is then used to hold the new pole into place as the utility men take the dug-up dirt and pile it around the new pole, as well as use a device (I believe) that flattens out the dirt around it. I also witnessed the hammering up of ID numbers for the first time; this is one of the last things that is done during an erection of a new pole. The whole process apparently takes about 30 to 45 minutes altogether.
I witnessed the taking down of an old pole (one that had been out of service for many years that had been used at a tennis court). It is like watching an erection of a new pole, only in reverse. A major difference, though, is that the pole was sawed off at its butt.
The wraparounds are put on top of poles only occasionally, which, of course, is before the electric company transfers wires, or puts new ones altogether, on the new pole.
On one trip to Hadley, I witnessed the telephone company erect the last two of four poles that they did so that day. I was also given some idea as to what the orange material wrapped around a new pole is for. At some point, I was guessing that it had something to do with nearby trees, since one new pole that they erected is near trees. When I was watching them put up another pole, however, one lineman considered putting the orange wraparound material on the new pole going up. I heard another lineman saying to him, "We won't be needing that." This was after the pole was successfully stood upright and almost fully erect in the hole that it was going in. My guess is that the linemen use the orange wraparound to even the weight of the pole because the bottom of it is probably heavier.
Because of the direction that this new pole was down on the ground, it was trickier than usual for the linemen to erect it. They had to turn the pole around because of its laying down location as compared to where the old pole is standing.
I also noticed at least a couple of different tools used: something to unscrew climbing hooks (in which in this case two were taken off the old pole) and a device (which looks like a gigantic C-head can opener) to roll the pole around. There were also at least two or three shovels used.
There is a small thing on wheels that attaches to the end of a vehicle that I know of that is used to carry new poles. I have also seen what looks like a gigantic drill on the utility trucks. My guess is that this is probably used to make a hole for a new pole to fit into the ground.
In late March/early April 2004, I saw a first: an orange wraparound lowered near the ground. This was after the electric company was working on putting in new wires and taking out old ones. I felt the orange wraparound, and found out that it is made of a hard plastic, similar to what sleds are made out of, only thicker. (Someone made a joke that the orange wraparound is for the drunks, so they don't hit the pole.)
In July 2005, I saw a second new pole with the wraparound near the ground; it is located in Leyden. Later that year, I saw some more wraparounds near the bottom of two poles next to each other, one newer and one older. (First time that I've seen a wraparound on an older pole.) All of the Greenfield poles mentioned here are on Elm Street.
I saw another first regarding the orange wraparounds. In 2005, I saw one new pole in Greenfield having two wraparounds. This pole is the aforementioned one located on Elm Street, where I later saw one wraparound each on the new pole and the older one that it is replacing. I also eventually saw another pole with two wraparounds. I don't remember exactly which pole, but I believe it is a rather new one next to AutoZone in Greenfield. This pole is also one of the first ones that I've seen with a wraparound still on it even after most of the wires were installed on the pole.
In early 2006, I saw a couple of poles on Elm Street in Greenfield with what looks like an orange flag on their crossarms. In one case, the crossarms are brand new. I've seen at least a couple of other poles on Elm Street having these flags. My guess is that it means that there is more work to be done on wiring of these poles.
On Deerfield Street in Greenfield, I noticed an unusual way for the utility companies (probably electric, in this case) to replace an old pole with a new one: electric wires were taken off the old pole, and the pole cut shorter, before the new pole was put in. Then, eventually, the new pole was erected, but probably after the old one was taken out altogether. My guess is that it is because of where the old pole was located: in a paved area on a sidewalk near the side of the road. From what I can see, it appears that the very same hole that the old pole left behind is now being used by the new pole. [Incidentally, there was also a number skip in the telephone sequence. Even though the numbers on the old pole appeared only in pieces, I can tell that it had the number "20" and that the number "21" was obviously skipped because a remaining piece of a number looked like that of a "0." The pole that followed this one is "22," skipping "21." However, the new pole bears the telephone company number "21"; it is now "20" that is skipped instead.]
The method of replacing old poles with new ones by reusing the same holes appears to have been used on the earlier part of the Bank Row end of Deerfield Street as well. This applies to three telephone company serviced poles. It also applies to a telephone company pole, located in the same area, that was hit in early 1999. Like the pole mentioned directly above, these four poles were also located at a paved area.
On cutting down poles going out of service, there are a few instances in which a tiny part of the pole is still hanging there, holding up a few wires (usually telephone ones).
I also had just missed the sawing off a head of an older pole. I had heard distant sawing. By the time I began witnessing, the electric company was carefully carrying the head of the pole down with their machinery and ropes. The crossarms were still on the head of the pole when they sawed it off, something I was surprised to see. That same day, I witnessed them transferring a street light from another old pole to its respective new pole. There were also two electric trucks doing the wire transferring, probably in order to get the work done faster.
In August 2003, I finally saw the cutting of an older pole. The top of the pole was cut into thirds, and the pieces were dropped to the ground. As I figured, they use a chainsaw to cut the pole. This took place on Sugarloaf Street in Deerfield.
An old pole going out of service can also be cut down to size several times. For instance, after the electric company transfers some of the electric wires to a new pole, they cut a little bit of the top off. After the electric company is finished transferring wires altogether, the pole is cut down to where the cable and telephone wires are. Then, after the telephone company and/or cable company transfers the wires that they service, the older pole is sometimes cut down to size even more.