Tower of Power

Copyright 2015, Scott D. Murdock


Montana is one of my favorite states to visit, so I'm always glad for an excuse to visit some new corner of Big Sky Country. This time, it was an opportunity to visit a friend while he was staffing a forest fire lookout tower. While I was in the area I could also check on a few historical military properties.  My thanks to my friend Tom Page and the Online Air Defense Radar Museum for improving my radar site knowledge.  So, once again, I loaded up the Outback and headed to Montana! 

Saturday, 22 Aug 2015

On my second day of the trip, smoke from the many active fires was already becoming more visible. So I took the Subaru up the switchbacks west of Lakeside to get some fresher air.

Kalispell Air Force Station MT  (3237, LXTH) 48-00-40, 114-21-55   This Air Defense Command (ADC) long-range radar site was also identified as site TM-179 or Z-179. Activated on 24 Nov 1959, the site was operated by the USAF until 1978. At that time part of the topside portion of the site was transferred to the FAA, who continue to operate an ARSR-4 radar as Joint Surveillance Site J-78 or Lakeside. Support, during years of USAF use, was from Malmstrom AFB.
(General view)
(General view)
(Operations area)
(Operations area)
(Building)
(Building)
(Building)
(Radar with fence posts in foreground)
(Water system building with radar in background)
(Water system building and water storage tank)

Kalispell Family Housing Annex MT  (7294, LXTT) 48-00-49, 114-14-34   The housing area adjoined the administrative and support site, and both these areas have been in use by the organization Youth With A Mission since 1985.

My destination, and base camp for several days, was Columbia Falls. With the smoke hanging like fog in the air, blocking the Big Sky, Montana almost seems like an ordinary state!

Sunday, 23 Aug 2015

Sunday and Monday were devoted to the forest fire lookout tower adventure. Tuesday was devoted to rest and recovery!

Wednesday, 26 Aug 2015

By Wednesday I was ready to get out and see some Cold War history, not to mention escape the smoky air of Columbia Falls. (In fairness to Columbia Falls, it is an idyllic setting when the smoke clears!) I had been to the town of Cut Bank previously, but I had never made the extra drive north to visit the radar site. Until now, that is!

Cut Bank Air Force Station  (2472) 48-56-32, 112-48-20    This ADC long-range radar site was also identified as site P-24 or Z-24. First used in 1951 under the name Del Bonita, it was redesignated 1 Dec 1953. The site number was changed from P-24 to Z-24 on 1 Jul 1963, and the site was inactivated on 1 Mar 1965.
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower interior)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower interior)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower interior)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower interior)
(AN/FPS-26 FD height-finder radar tower interior)
(AN/FPS-3/-20/-66 Search Radar tower footings)
(AN/FPS-3/-20/-66 Search Radar tower footings)
(AN/FPS-3/-20/-66 Search Radar tower footings)
(AN/FPS-3/-20/-66 Search Radar tower footings)
(AN/FPS-3/-20/-66 Search Radar tower footings)
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (1))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (1))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (1))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (1))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (2))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (2))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (2))
(AN/FPS-6B (-90) Height-Finder Radar tower footings (2))
(Type 2 Operations Building (altered))
(Type 2 Operations Building (altered))
(Type 2 Operations Building (altered))
(Type 2 Operations Building (altered))
(Type 2 Operations Building (altered))
(Diesel power plant building (altered))
(Diesel power plant building (altered))
(Diesel power plant building (altered))
(Diesel power plant building (altered))
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory)
(One-story dormitory interior)
(One-story dormitory interior)
(One-story dormitory interior)
(One-story dormitory interior)
(One-story dormitory interior)
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1))
(Large two-story dormitory (1) interior)
(Large two-story dormitory (1) interior)
(Large two-story dormitory (1) interior)
(Large two-story dormitory (1) interior)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Small two-story dormitory)
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Large two-story dormitory (2))
(Communications building (1) possibly manual radio receiver)
(Communications building (1) possibly manual radio receiver)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter interior)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter interior)
(Communications building (2) possibly manual radio transmitter interior)
(Communications building (3) possibly Military Affiliate Radio Station (MARS))
(Communications building (3) possibly MARS)
(Communications building (3) possibly MARS)
(Communications building (3) possibly MARS)
(Water system building (1))
(Water system building (1))
(Water system building (1))
(Water system building (1))
(Water system building (1) interior)
(Water system building (2))
(Water system building (2))
(Water system building (2))
(Water system building (2))
(Water system building (2) interior)
(Water system building (2) interior)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant)
(Heating plant detail)
(Heating plant detail)
(Heating plant detail)
(Heating plant detail)
(Storage shed)
(Storage shed)
(Storage shed)
(Building foundation remains (1) and general view)
(Building foundation remains (2))
(Building foundation remains (2))
(Building foundation remains (3))
(Building foundation remains (3))
(Building foundation remains (3))
(Building foundation remains (3))
(Building foundation remains (4))
(Building foundation remains (4))
(Building foundation remains (5))
(Building foundation remains (5))
(Building foundation remains (5))
(Unidentified feature - possibly coal storage)
(Unidentified feature - possibly coal storage)
(Unidentified feature - possibly coal storage)
(Small underground water reservoir)
(Small underground water reservoir)
(Small underground water reservoir)
(Small underground water reservoir)
(Large underground water reservoir)
(Large underground water reservoir)
(Large underground water reservoir)
(Large underground water reservoir)
(Cable trough)
(Cable trough)
(Cable trough)
(Cable trough)
(Utility infrastructure)
(Utility infrastructure)
(Utility infrastructure)
(Fire hydrant)

Cut Bank Family Housing Annex  (4983) 48-56-49, 112-48-21   The houses no longer stand at the nearby family housing area.
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(Fire control station)

Cut Bank Communications Annex  48-58-05, 112-49-21  This ADC communications annex, a Ground-to-Air Transmit and Receive (GATR) facility, was northwest of Cut Bank AFS.
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(Doors)
(Doors)
(Doors)
(Exterior light fixture)
(Electrical framework)
(Electrical framework)
(Electrical framework)
(Electrical framework)
(Interior)
(Interior)
(Interior)
(Interior)
(Interior)

Browning Gap Filler Annex  (4380) 48-52-14, 113-10-23   This unmanned ADC radar site supported Cut Bank AFS, and was also known as site P-24A. It operated from Oct 1957 to Dec 1960.
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(General view)
(Tower footings)
(Tower footings)
(Interior)
(Interior)

I returned to my now-familiar rooms in Columbia Falls, very glad I'd made the trip to Cut Bank AFS.

Thursday, 27 Aug 2015

The smoke was even heavier as I loaded up the car and headed south. My first stop for the day was in Missoula, where I met a friend for coffee and conversation. An hour flies by pretty quick when you're having a good chat. I had hoped to also find and document the W.W.II War Dog Training Center near Rimini, but the only road to the site completely blocked by construction. I continued on to Helena, and used that extra time to visit Fort Harrison.

Fort William Henry Harrison  (HFCN, 30655) 46-37-32, 112-06-35   Acquisition of this post began in 1892. It was designated on 13 Dec 1892 and established 23 Sep 1895 -- but at first it was known as Fort Benjamin Harrison after the 23rd U.S. President. On 16 Feb 1906, it was redesignated Fort William Henry Harrison after the 9th U.S. President. It seems that a fort in Indianapolis had earlier taken the name of Benjamin Harrison, so this fort's name was changed to avoid duplication. Ownership was transferred to the Montana National guard in 1913. In W.W.II the fort was enlarged from 1,799 acres to 11,787.97 acres, and it was again an Army installation. It was inactive on 31 Jan 1944, and declared surplus on 28 Feb 1944. A portion (1,527.51 acres) was reassigned to the Montana National Guard on 22 Jan 1948. It remains in service as an Army National Guard installation today, occupying 6,387 acres. I discussed my visit with security personnel, and was allowed to photograph the older buildings you see here. My thanks to Fort Harrison security for their friendly cooperation. Oh, and in case you wondered -- yes I did visit their small BX!
(Building T0015)
(Building T0015)
(Building T0016)
(Building T0016)
(Building T0018)
(Building T0019)
(Building T0021)
(Building T0021)
(Building T0022)
(Building T0022)
(Building T0022)
(Building T0028)
(Building T0029)
(Building T0029)
(Building T0031)
(Building T0031 (L) and T0028 (R))
(Building T0034)
(Building T0034)
(Building T0102)
(Building T0102 (L) and T0103 (R))
(Building T0103)
(Building T0103 (L) and T0102 (R))
(Reproduction W.W.II hutment)
(Reproduction W.W.II hutment)

I stopped for the night in Laurel, just west of Billings. On Friday I motored home with no further historical visits. This grand adventure put 2,530 miles on the Outback.


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