ATT Long Lines Site, Rock City NY

Another one of those former ATT Long Lines sites has been re-purposed. This site was known as Rock City and as the name suggests, it is a fairly remote location. These locations were chosen by ATT to facilitate microwave relay between cities.  Some of the more remote rural locations are so far off the beaten path that they do not make good wireless carrier sites today.  Such is the case here, there simply are not enough people around to turn this into a profitable cell site.

Former ATT long lines site, Rock City NY
Former ATT long lines site, Rock City, NY

This site is useful in other ways, the local township purchased it and has put it to use for E911 dispatch and other uses such as WKZE translator W290BZ.

Former ATT long lines Western Electric Tower, Rock City NY
Former ATT long lines Western Electric Tower, Rock City, NY

The tower is less than 200 feet tall, therefore it is no longer painted or lit. These old Western Electric towers were really built. Under that peeling paint, the galvanizing is still in near-perfect condition. The tower dates from 1968.

Former ATT tower, Rock CIty NY
Former ATT tower, Rock City, NY

The Western Electric KS-15676 microwave antennas and waveguides have been removed. The top platform is quite large, one could build a house up there. The W290BZ antenna is the cross-polarized LPA attached to the center pole which is barely visible.

Former ATT long lines site, Rock City NY.  The big empty.
Former ATT long lines site, Rock City, NY. The big empty.

This room held the switch gear and TD-3 microwave radios.

Former ATT site, Rock City NY 100 KW generator
Former ATT site, Rock City, NY 100 KW generator

The original General Motors 100 KW diesel generator. The fuel tank was removed before the site was transferred from ATT to the new owners.  If reconnected to a fuel supply and the block heater turned on, I’d bet this unit would start and run.

ATT Rock City NY generator, Detroit Diesel straight six engine
ATT Rock City, NY generator Detroit Diesel straight six engine
ATT Rock City NY fuel tank cathodic projection unit.
ATT Rock City, NY fuel tank cathodic projection unit.

The tank had a Cathodic protection unit installed, which ran a small DC current through the tank to keep it from rusting.

The original visitor’s log book is still there, showing every ATT person who visited the site from 1968 until it was decommissioned in 1994.  This site was unmanned and remotely monitored and controlled from somewhere else.  Maintenance personnel showed up at regular intervals or to fix specific problems.

Like many of its rural counterparts, this site sits mostly empty since the microwave equipment was removed in the early 1990s.  This one seems to be well taken care of, others are in terrible shape.

Wikipedia Articles


Type the call letters for almost any radio or television station in the country into a search engine, and the second or third result will be a Wikipedia article.

Try it.

This is both an opportunity and a burden.  Since Wikipedia articles place so well in most search engine results, it would be a benefit to radio stations to keep an eye on them; keep them up to date, make sure that no one vandalizes them, and fix them when they do.  Most importantly, keep the station website link and streaming link information up to date.  That is the burden but it is relatively small.

The opportunity comes from the ability to document the history of individual radio stations. On the grand scale, the history of any individual radio station is like a grain of sand on the beach. It is only pertinent to those who care.  But then there are those who do care and for some of us, reading a well-written, well-sourced article about some station we are familiar with is interesting.  To be sure, there are many crappy radio station articles on Wikipedia.   Some of them read like advertisements, clearly written by non-neutral party.  Others do not have sections, have poor grammar, improper or no source citations, etc.  Those poor articles should be fixed.

In my time as a broadcast engineer, I have found radio stations to be like ships; they all have a certain personality.  It is difficult to explain how an inanimate collection of equipment and buildings can have personality, but they do.  Of course, with time, format, and ownership changes those personalities change.  Documenting operating histories, formats, unique occurrences, famous past personalities, incidents, accidents, and technical discoveries in one place takes a little bit of time.  Having that information available for fellow radio people to read about is a valuable service.  The one thing that I notice about most radio station Wikipedia articles; there are no pictures.  There should be more pictures.

Troposcatter communication system

I found this interesting article on the inter-tubes the other day and thought that I would share it.  It is about a disused site from the Soviet era Troposcatter communication system called “SEVER.” There are many more pictures of equipment including MUX, transmitters, antennas, buildings, etc, at that link.

Soviet SEVER troposcatter communications antenna
Soviet SEVER troposcatter communications antenna, courtesy

Like many of its counterparts in the US, this system has quite a bit of information available, including an interesting blog and associated web site which has lots of interesting information.  Some of it is in Russian, which mine is a little bit rusty, but here is what I could find out:

This is site 6/60, call sign Poloska and is located in Amderma, Nenets Autonomous okrug. That is way up north along the Barents Sea.  This site was in use from about 1965 until 2001 when it was closed down.  It communicated with site 5/60, which was 264 km away.

Amderma map with SEVER 6/60 location
Amderma map with SEVER 6/60 location, courtesy of

Troposcatter was used widely before satellites came into availability.  It used decimeter wavelengths (approximately 2 GHz) and lots of power with very high gain antennas. Basically, the earth and the troposphere were used as reflectors, creating a type of duct.  It is noted the SEVER and the GOREEZONT (HORIZONT) systems used both space and frequency diversity as a part of their system.  Frequency diversity means that there were as many as five identical signals transmitted on different frequencies at the same time.  Space diversity means that two or more transmit and receive antennas were used, as can be seen in the picture.  This site was run by the military but would have likely carried civilian communications as well.

SEVER troposcatter communication system
SEVER troposcatter communication system

Basically, it was a way to maintain communications across vast distances when wired or microwave systems were not practical or possible. The US used such systems on the DEW line and across the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Okinawa.  I remember the big Troposcatter dishes up on the hill behind the Navy housing area above Agana.

US Pacific Troposcatter communications system
US Pacific Troposcatter communications system, courtesy of Wikipedia

These systems were massive and expensive to build, operate and maintain.  From the looks of the pictures, site 6/60 generated all of its electricity with diesel generator sets. Fiber optic cable is an improvement of several orders of magnitude over this technology.

It is always interesting to see how things used to be done and give thanks to those that went along before us.  Last night I was grumbling about the network latency when watching a youtube video.  It was terrible, but in retrospect, not really that bad.

Clove Mountain

We take care of a non-broadcast radio site on Clove Mountain, NY. This is a fairly prominent terrain feature and has something else interesting next to the tower site. This old fire tower:

Clove Mountain fire tower, Clove Mountain, NY
Clove Mountain fire tower, Clove Mountain, NY

That is an Aermotor LS-60 fire tower, constructed in 1932. For an eighty-year-old structure, it is a remarkably good shape. In New York State, fire towers were used for spotting up until 1990, although I believe the last season this one was used was 1988.

Clove Mountain fire tower, clove mountain, NY
Clove Mountain fire tower, clove mountain, NY

Clove mountain is about 1,400 feet above sea level and 800 to 1000 feet above the surrounding terrain. From the top, on a clear day, the view was approximately 30-45 miles depending on terrain obstacles. A forest ranger would be constantly scanning the area looking for signs of fire. If he saw something, there was a range finder that would give the range and azimuth. He would then reference a map and call the fire department responsible for that location.  The fire tower was equipped with electric and a wired telephone.

Clove Mountain view to Northwest
Clove Mountain view to Northwest

This picture was taken on a cloudy day, thus the view is somewhat restricted.

Stairs looking down
Stairs looking down

It would be nice if this were preserved and not allowed to deteriorate any further. Several of these sites have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Clove Mountain Ranger cabin
Clove Mountain Ranger cabin

Below the tower is this ranger cabin. Presumably, during the busy season, somebody stayed up here 24/7. There was electricity and a refrigerator, but no running water.  Off to the side is a bedroom.  Over the years, people have broken into the fire tower and this cabin and smashed things for no reason.  It would be nice to preserve all of this for future generations to see, but it is likely these pictures will have to do.