July 18, 2012

A Pinetree Line pit-stop: Graham, Ontario

(updated and reposted)

Between CFS Armstrong and CFS Sioux Lookout there was supposed to have been a "gap filler site", filling in where the two station's radar couldn't quite reach in the 1950s.  From my understanding, there wouldn't be a full base, just a tower with a Radome on the top.

This is an even more "forgotten" part of the Pinetree Line, as this was one of the few gap-filler sites which were built, then cancelled before the project went operational.  I believe this was because the radars on either side were upgraded, and the gap-filler program was no longer needed - there wasn't a blind spot to be filled anymore!  There were gap filler sites planned across the entire Pinetree line, this isn't the only site by any stretch - I just happened to notice it while researching Northern Ontario.

From my best guess, the gap filler site was slightly Northwest of the green arrow on the highest elevation.  From my other adventures, I know that 50 years of foliage fully covers even terrain that had been razed to the ground - so I don't expect finding anything is going to be easy.  But it will be an adventure!

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Further to the Southwest there were two gravel airstrips 50+ years ago; I don't have any information about them other than what I can see on the Topographic map of the area.  Indeed, from the satellite photo, those gravel airstrips haven't been used in a long time.  From the topo map, it was "Graham Airfield" - did it have other names?  Was it military?  Was it built as a great depression make work project, like so many airstrips in Northern Ontario?

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Conveniently, Graham Ontario is along the road less travelled between the former site of CFS Armstrong and CFS Sioux Lookout.  How convenient!  I hope to see what's left, if there's anything at all, when I pass through.

While the land may have been surveyed or selected for a potential site for a gap filler radar site no development at all is recorded in the archives.  Graham is only ever mentioned as being in the "planning" phase, there isn't anything there to see.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. In the mid 60s while flying back to Thunder Bay from Steinbach, we encountered a barrier of thunder clouds. We radioed for info and were informed we could land at an unserviced but usable field at Graham. We turned back and landed there on what I remember as a black top strip with grass coming up through cracks, but perfectly good for our 172 on an unmarked strip. The office was manned by competent radio and port personnel. Then even more amazingly, after wondering about how we would spend the night, a female led us to a military style residence with clean beds, chairs, tables, kitchen, etc. We had a good sleep, got up early, had a good flight back to Thunder Bay (then Fort William and Port Arthur), and back to work (almost on time). In 2012 I drove into Graham to try to find this spot. I was told by local campers that it was overgrown, pointing up a trail through which I was sure my car would not make it. Pressed for time I left, on my way to Winnipeg.