August 29, 2013

Two Day Cold War Ontario Blitz - Summer 2013

Trip Report

August 27th and 28th I took a spin to a few Canadian Cold War sites I hadn’t seen, or hadn't seen up close.  Generally, here is the path I took.

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North Bay, Ontario - BOMARC Site
I've mentioned The CFB North Bay BOMARC missile site before, a couple of times, so I wont go into too much detail.

Now decommissioned, the site is a self-storage location and open during business hours.  The owner operator is friendly and has seen a few Cold War tourists drop by. 

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Aerial photo of the SAM site at North Bay - 1967. Courtesy of The NBC Group
I was thrilled to have been invited to see the steam tunnels below the launchers and get a quick tour between two of the hatches to the surface.  The launchers were powered by steam, so the tunnels housed a massive number of wires controlling the electronics, and several pipes for the hot water.  Most of the wires have been taken for salvage, but the pipe, and the conduit the wires sat on, is still there.

Tunnels with conduit and pipe under the North Bay BOMARC Launch Site - Aug 27th, 2013
Burdied water storage tank (one of two)

Sudbury, Ontario - Falconbridge GATR

CFB Falconbridge's GATR site was located a few kilometres away, East, past the airport.  The perimeter is still visible, and the building is, or was, owned by a helicopter maintenance company.  The property is derilict, run down, strewn with empty barrels and pails of hydraulic fluid, has smashed glass, two trashed trailers... but luckily, also holes in the fence.  Thinking about it now, I'm not sure the original building is actually intact or if a new building has been erected in it's place.  The current building is clad in siding, and has an extension built off the side.  Where the TDDL antennas would have been located there is now a helipad on one site, and a pile of garbage on the other side  There seem to be underground water storage, or perhaps tunnels for wiring or other equipment.  Either way, those holes are full of water that I wouldnt want to swim in.  

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View of the building now where the GATR builing was, picture taken facing North
View of the front gate

Timmins, Ontario - The Timmins Gap Filler Annex
I'd never been to Timmins, I really only knew what I've read on Wikipedia, but a Gap Filler Annex was built there in the early 1960s, and the dual purpose fire tower / radar tower is still standing.  At least part of the facility has been integrated into a local ski hill, and pictures of the ski hill often have the tower in the background.  It's a great example of reusing and re-purposing buildings.
I made it there at dusk and snapped some pictures quickly.

Timmins GFA Building (on of two original Steelox buildings)
Timmins GFA Tower
One of few remaining Canadian dual usage radar / fire towers

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CFS Ramore GATR Site
Thanks to Mike I was able to locate the site of the GATR site, and with him acting as my guide, checked it out!

I mentioned previously that along with the Pinetree Line radar sites there were supporting facilities; air fields were created, mini-radar stations built to fill in the gaps in coverage, and powerful radio transmitters were built to communicate with overflying NORAD fighter interceptors.  Well, every Pinetree Line station (AFAIK), in the early 60s, had their radio transmitters/receivers upgraded.  They went from two separate buildings by the base (say within ~1-2 Km, and on the station's grounds) to one remotely located a bit farther away (say ~3-30Km).  The upgraded transceivers were more powerful than the previous gear, and they didn't want interference from the Radar, or visa-versa.  Until meeting Mike, who son knew exactly where it was, all I knew were these two hints, gleamed from the internet.

Hint #1

Narrative Report
RCAF Station Ramore, Ont.
2 Oct 61 to 31 May 62

"19 Mar 62
The GATR site located north-west of the station 17 miles distant by
road, was accepted from the contractor this date."

Source: National Archives of Canada
Meaning, the contractor finished the work and officially handed the keys on that day to DND.  They'd been working on the facility for about two years .

Hint #2
"I was stationed at Ramore from Jan '65 to Jul '71. Worked at the GATR site, which was located just off the Watabeag road."
-Rick Lean,
 Hanover, Ontario

We found the site a little off the Watabeag Lake Road.  Since the facility hasn't been used since 1974, the woods have reclaimed the area, but the road, which is now a trail, is still passable.  

The roof was made of wood and tar paper, so it's falling apart; as well, things are growing on top of the building.   The concrete block looks to be in good shape.  Any idea of where the TDDL antennas were has been swallowed up by the bush; I'll need to try and investigate in the spring after the snow melts, but before the foliage gets in the way.  You can still find stumps of the antenna poles around, and lots of guy wires that dont go to anything.  The galvanized wire that is still on site looks perfect, it hasn't deteriorated at all.  Quite impressive!

Clearly viewable where the AN/FRT-49 Coax wire went through the wall
(Center Middle)

That solves a mystery that until now I didn’t have an answer for; proof that the GATR site was there, and proof that it is still standing! 
(Location: 48.431301,-80.486185)

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