Wyoming Weekends

Copyright © 2005-2010, Scott D. Murdock
11 Jun 2005 - Corrected squadron identifiers and other information for Lowry Titan I sites, courtesy of Fred Epler.
17 Jun 2010 - Added additional photos.

This report covers weekend visits made in conjunction with business trips to Cheyenne, Wyoming. By arranging my travel to include some personal down time, I managed to see some of the tourist attractions in the area.

Saturday, 22 Jan 2005

I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Denver International Airport (DEN). I had flown to and from Stapleton years ago, but this was my first trip through the "new" Denver airport. Our approach was a straight shot from the south, and I had a nice view of the bermed Jeep range on the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range from the left side of the plane. (More about the range later.) After renting a car, I drove toward civilization and made my way south into Denver.

My first stop was the former Lowry AFB (1235, NTMU), 39-43-15, 104-53-20. Some of the former Air Force buildings, including three hangars, have been reused. Lots of new construction was taking place, and lots of new homes have been built on the old airfield. I spent some time at the Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. My friend Steve met me at the museum and we piled into his vehicle for some local ops.

Our first destination was Buckley AFB (7003, CRWU), where us two old retired guys visited the BX. ("Steve, we have to. It's the law.") This was my first ever stop on Buckley, and I was impressed by the modern facilities. Large signs proudly advertise major construction projects still underway.

From Buckley, we headed east on to the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range (NTNG). This was a large range area that included several ranges and targets (including the ground gunnery "Jeep" range I had seen from the air). The ranges ceased operation at the end of W.W. II, but the property remained under government control for many years. Our quest today was to find three Titan I missile sites, used during the early 1960s, and one 1980s-era communications site. All of these were located on the former bombing and gunnery range property.

About the Lowry Titan sites, the squadron identifiers in bold are from the map on page 109 of From Snark to Peacekeeper: A Pictorial History of Strategic Air Command Missiles. Missile site guru Fred Epler has pointed out to me that this map is incorrect, and I've added his corrected squadron identifiers in parentheses. Thanks Fred!

We found Lowry missile complex 724-A (724-C per Fred Epler) without any trouble. Although the access gate was open, we respected the no trespassing signs and just looked from outside the fence.

Not too far away, we found the gate to Lowry missile complex 724-C (724-B per Fred Epler). We encountered a gentleman leaving the property as we arrived, and he politely told us the facility was not open to the public, even though the gate was open at the time. A sign on the gate indicated "MMM SAM 1 Flying Field" and that indicates Magnificent Mountain Men and Society of Antique Modelers, two local groups dedicated to flying model airplanes.

We next looked for a former Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN) relay node site. As we neared the vicinity of Watkins Communications Site GWEN 666 (YNMH), 39-39-34, 104-36-51, I had a bad feeling because the 299' tower was not visible. We got as close as an access gate about one-half mile east of the tower location. Since the tower was not visible at that close range, I believe it has been taken down.

The GWEN site was on a piece of the former bombing range that had yet another Air Force identity, as the Lowry Training Annex (NTNB). The training annex was transferred to the USAF in 1969 from the Navy, who had called it Navy East Blast Research Range. (I don't know when the Navy acquired this property from the Air Force before that.) The annex covered 3,833 acres centered approximately at 39-39, 104-37, and was inactivated in 1994. Current owner is the Colorado State Land Board, and they still call this property Lowry Range.

Our last stop in this general area was Lowry missile complex 724-B (724-A per Fred Epler) (NTNH). We found this one securely gated. Fred Epler reports that the City of Denver recently bought this one, and it is now part of a Landfill.

Back at the former Lowry AFB, I bade farewell to Steve and revved up the rental car for the drive north. I had no other stops that day; instead I just drove straight to Casper, Wyoming. The drive from Denver to Casper took 4.5 hours.

Sunday, 23 Jan 2005

I checked out of the motel early enough that I had to wait around for sunrise at the former Casper AFB, 42-54, 106-28. I noticed several hangars that date back to the W.W.II era. They appeared to be in very good condition. Some other older buildings were standing, and several foundations and chimneys were present. This is now Natrona County International Airport (CPR)

From Casper, I drove east into Nebraska and headed for the former Whitney Communications Site GWEN 930 (YXBN), near Crawford. I found the tower and equipment shelters extant.

Heading south, I visited the former Scottsbluff AAFld, 41-52, 103-35, now William B. Heilig Field (BFF). There were no obvious signs of W.W.II buildings.

I had visited Francis E. Warren AFB (1298, GHLN) before, back in 1998. Not much has changed -- the late 19th century houses of the former Fort D.A. Russell are still a focal point of the base. A row of large, brick stables still stands, now used for a variety of purposes. Some of the newer buildings on the base were designed to recall the distinctive shape of the old stables. All in all, this is a very quaint base to visit. The F.E. Warren AFB ICBM and Heritage Museum has enhanced its display of Minuteman missile items since I first saw it in 1998. The museum is worth a visit, if you can get on base to see it.

I stopped in Cheyenne at 1445, covering 422 miles in 7.75 hours. The next four days were spent working, and I returned home Thursday evening.

Saturday, 12 Mar 2005

The day began early, with another 0745 flight from DFW to DEN. Once in Denver, I obtained a rental car -- a Chevy Trailblazer 4x4 this time, considering the weather forecast -- and met with my erstwhile coworker and staunch pal Steve. We headed up York Avenue and found the former location of the Air Force Finance Center (2095, ACYV), 39-46-13, 104-47-34. The building marked 3840 was probably the headquarters, based on its appearance and the flagpole out front. Behind this building is a complex of warehouse-type buildings that may have been part of the finance center. The Air Reserve Records Center was also housed at this location.

We took a stab at finding the W.W.II location of Headquarters Western Technical Training Command, at 1108 15th Street, but as best as I can tell that location is now a parking lot. After having lunch, Steve and I parted ways and I headed north out of Denver.

Near Fort Collins, I looked for Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site 13 (566-9), an Atlas E site. I found the access road, complete with No Trespassing signs, but the launch facility was out of visual range. At this time the weather was partly cloudy, with plenty of sunshine. By the time I hit Cheyenne the sky had clouded over. I turned east on I-80 as planned, but before I had gone far the snow started, as forecast. So, I scrapped my remaining plans for the day and found lodging in Cheyenne. That night, we had about 3 inches of snow, turning the Trailblazer from silver to white. The drive from Denver to Cheyenne covered 186 miles in 3.5 hours.

Sunday, 13 Mar 2005

When I looked outside at 0600 it was still snowing. At 0700 the blowing snow was creating a near-whiteout condition. Things were not looking good, but as I ate my complimentary breakfast at the hotel, the snow stopped and the sun came out. Okay, now we're talking! After about half an hour of scraping ice, I started down the road at 0900, intending to catch up on the previous day's missed visits.

I pushed east on I-80, only passing one snowplow (now that's smart!) on my way to Kimball, Nebraska. My first stop was the gate to Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site 8 (566-4), an Atlas E site. In Kimball itself, I located the town's Titan I missile display, in Gotte Park at 41-14-00, 103-38-58. From Kimball, I crossed back into Wyoming and worked my way west back to Cheyenne, picking off the next few sites on the way.

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site 7 (566-3), another Atlas E site, was secured by gates and wire across the access road. Luckily, a dirt section line road paralleled the access road, just a few yards to the south, so I was able to get reasonably close to the site. Some residents of the property were keeping an eye on me!

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site 9 (566-5), also an Atlas E site, was locked up so I just photographed it from outside the gate.

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site 3 (565-B) was my lucky stop of the day. At first I thought I would have to settle for distant shots from outside the gate and its No Trespassing sign. But while I was standing near the gate (under the watchful eye of some horses), the owner drove out from the site and we chatted. Turns out the property is a business -- an auto junkyard called Site Three Sales -- and after signing a release form at the office I was allowed to roam most of the site, moving in a generally counterclockwise loop.

Fuel tanks stand next to the former power plant building.

I viewed the launch operations building from various angles, and the track antenna structure at its northern end (notice the antenna dish and other parts are visible on the ground in front of the antenna structure). Although I wasn't permitted to explore the interior of the launch operations building, I was allowed a quick glance inside. The building has a basement, with an internal staircase and freight elevator, as well as an external stairway. Several cable runs lead away from the launch operations building.

The first launch & service building had the front door open, showing off the internal structure of the two-piece sliding roof. I walked carefully inside the building to avoid falling into the flame pit!

Two smaller buildings were between the first and second launch & service buildings. 

The second launch & service building was in similar condition as the first, and here I was able to get good views of an adjacent pad, the interior, and the exhaust trough behind the shelter.

The third launch & service building had lots of items stored inside, but appeared in similar condition as the others. This vintage sign caught my eye. The exhaust trough turns a corner as it heads away from the launcher, ending in what is called a burn out pit on site plans.

The vintage security gate offers a framed view of a launch & service building. This was a fun but tiring romp, as the temp was in the low 20s with a strong, gusty wind.

At this point I was caught up with the sites intended for the previous day. I had enough daylight left to tackle a couple more sites near the interstate highways (many of the back roads were still quite slushy), so I went north on I-25 from Cheyenne.

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #1 (564-A, B) was the rare double-size Atlas D site with six launchers instead of three. Unfortunately, the access road is private and posted far enough out that the site is not visible. (Note: I reapproached the site on 18 Mar and was able to get some distant shots of the site's launch operations building and launcher buildings from the north, from another road.)

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #5 was gated, with a few traces of the Atlas E site visible from the public road.

I stopped in Cheyenne at 1600, covering 330 miles in 7 hours.

Wednesday, 16 Mar 2005

After work, I drove to Greeley, Colorado, for a prearranged visit to Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #12 (566-8), an Atlas E site. This site is now owned by Weld County, who uses it for archival storage and also shows it off as a museum. The site caretaker, Pete Ambrose, was my cordial tour guide, and I thank him for his patience in accommodating my visit, as well as for sharing his time and knowledge on our tour.

Inside the launch & service building, the missile erector arm is still in place, with a painted plywood missile "shape" mounted on the arm to give the visitor a sense of the missile's size and shape. The gantry clamp is displayed along a nearby wall. This site was spared from being stripped by salvagers, so many of the items seen here are not found in other Atlas E sites. A platform with steps has been added, allowing visitors a view of the flame pit. We walked through the tunnel to the launch operations building. The equipment room now holds shelves and file boxes; this room was modified by filling cable troughs with concrete, and adding a concrete block wall.

Topside, most of the original features are intact. The overhead door has a protective cover of rubber sheeting to keep out rain; tires are stacked on the sheeting and this may be to keep the wind from damaging it. (In spite of the rubber sheeting, there are enough cracks in the concrete work that rain does get inside.) The flame pit is covered. Vents and the spray pond are still in place. This evening jaunt took a mere 2.5 hours and 120 miles.

Friday, 18 Mar 2005

After finishing up the business part of my trip, I had a few hours of daylight left. So, I made up the visits I had skipped because of weather the previous weekend. (All sites seen on this afternoon were in Wyoming.) Sunny skies and temps above freezing! That's what I enjoyed as I drove north on I-25 and then on US 85. I wanted to find two Atlas sites in this direction, and I scouted for the farthest one first.

Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #6 (566-2) was an Atlas E site, and the distinctive launcher door was visible from the security gate, as was the spray pond and a water system building.

My next stop was Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #2 (565-A), an Atlas D site. This one was gated, but I could see the launcher buildings, launch operations building, and power plant with fuel tanks in the distance.

Based on information I learned from Jim Kirkpatrick's Missile Site Coordinates web site, I made a revisit to Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #1 and photographed the buildings from a distance to the north.

Back in Cheyenne, I took I-80 west toward Granite, and looked for Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #4 (565-C), another Atlas D site. This time a gate stopped me beyond visual range of the facility. I headed back to Cheyenne for the night.

Since I was now off-duty from my civilian job and was staying an extra night at my own expense, I put on my Air Force retiree hat (just a metaphor, I really don't have such a hat....) and checked in to billeting on Francis E. Warren AFB. I stayed in Frontier Manor, a brick visiting officers quarters building constructed in 1900. The view was a look back in time. The desk clerk warned me the room would either be too hot or too cold, and she was right.

Saturday, 19 Mar 2005

I departed Cheyenne at 0545, driving south on US 85. My first stop, near Nunn, Colorado, was Francis E. Warren AF Missile Site #11 (566-7), an Atlas E site. This one was locked up tight and appeared heavily modified.

Now it was time for my first airport visit of this adventure! Heading south then east to Fort Morgan, Colorado, I looked for the former Young Airport, 40-19-55, 103-48-10, now Fort Morgan Municipal Airport (3V4). This was a contract civilian glider school, operated by Plains Airways, Inc. for the Army Air Forces during the early part of W.W.II. It looked as though no structures remained from the wartime era.

From Fort Morgan I worked my way southwest toward Deer Trail, and found the former Lowry AF Missile Site #3 (725-A) (725-B per Fred Epler) (NTNK). This was a Titan I site, and I found it wide open and unmarked. The silo lids, antenna silos, orientation targets, hardened UHF antenna, and other openings are still visible. Fred Epler tells me this large "crater" ringed with mounds of dirt shows the former location of underground diesel fuel tanks, between the powerhouse and the exhaust system structure.

My next visit was another Lowry Titan I complex, 725-B (725-A per Fred Epler) (NTNL). When active, this one was on the Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range property. I found it was situated behind private roads, but I could see the orientation targets from a public road to the east.

By this time I was tired of satisfying the Trailblazer's thirst for gasoline! Well, that and it was time to go home. So I headed back to the "new" Denver airport, turned in the rental car, and processed in for the flight home to DFW. Not a bad week!