November 22, 2012

CFS Moisie and GATR Site

Moisie was mentioned to me by a colleague at work, and I figured I should take a look at what I could find on the current state of the former site of CFS Moisie, which is about a ten hour drive from Montreal, past Quebec City, just past Sept-Iles.

RCAF Station Moisie came online in 1953 as an early warning radar station, and was renamed CFS Moisie in 1967.  The station was decommissioned between 1987 and 1988.  It was placed on a peninsula located east of Sept-Iles on the north shore of the St Lawrence.  From the vintage pictures, I'm sure the sand beaches were appreciated by those who served at Moisie in the summer, but I would think the winters would have been rather harsh from the high snow banks.

At the time that I'm writing this post, it seems that Bing has the best satellite imagery of Moisie

Google Maps shows a slightly older picture, at a poorer resolution

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The older 1984 Topographic maps show the locations of DND property
The newer online topo map doesn't have as much detail, but I have circled the operations and GATR sites
As far as I can tell the domestic portion of the base is still standing, some of the auxiliary building are still there, but the main operations site was demolished in the 1980s.  I'll need to research further, but I believe the base has been sold to the closest First Nations tribe - or perhaps it was part of a larger settlement.  I'm not sure of any details.

I'm still curious as to how Senneterre and Moisie's operations buildings changed from the 1950s to the 1960s.  Clearly from the below photos the site started with three radomes atop three buildings, but over time grew to six buildings (which would have had Radomes at one time) with two radomes in 1982.

Aerial photo RCAF Station Moisie - 8 May 1956 - Courtesy ADC Museum

Fire Hall at RCAF Station Moisie - June 1957 - Courtesy Brian Sutcliffe

Aerial photo RCAF Station Moisie - February 1962 - Courtesy ADC Museum

Ice on the shores and the Operations site in the background - April 1962 - Courtesy ADC Museum.

Aerial photo of RCAF Station Moisie - August 1962 - Courtesy ADC Museum

CFS Moisie viewed from a CF SAR Helo - May 1982 - Courtesy Roger Bird

Site Plan for RCAF Station Moisie

November 08, 2012

RCAF Voodoo and Genie storage facilities

Photo Credit:
While digging around for information on the Special Ammunition Storage (SAS) facility at Val D'Or, then the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) hangers at Val D'Or, I discovered the rather obvious - there are at least six other sets of similar hangers and ammunition magazines which were all built at the same time across the country to house the CF-101 Voodoos. Some of the buildings pre-date the Voodoo, as far as I can tell, but I believe all the facilities were upgraded in the 1960s to accommodate the nuclear-weapon-capable CF-101 Voodoo.  I have not researched every airfield and documented every hanger and every ammunition dump; that wasn't the point.  I just wanted to see, of the ammunition storage facilities and hangers made for, or used by, the Voodoo and Genie - what was still left?  The last nuclear weapons on Canadian soil left in 1984, so I'm reasonably sure that the remaining SAS (S for Special... ie Nuclear...) isn't being used exactly for what it was intended, but they still make mighty fine ammo storage bunkers, or just random storage vaults.

CFB Bagotville is still in use today as a major CF-188 (F-18) base, it's QRA hangers are still there, and so is the SAS. Judging from what seems to be boxes of stuff inside the fence line at the SAS, I don't think it's being used for what it was originally built for.

CFB Bagotville QRA

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CFB Bagotville SAS

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CFB Chatham was decomissioned in 1996, and from the last Google satellite imagry, the SAS is being deconstructed by a local company which is "mining" the sand/dirt/gravel the ammo storage berm was buried in. Sort of a shame. The QRA hangers look to be getting put to good use.

CFB Chatham QRA

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CFB Chatham SAS (under deconstruction)

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CFB Comox is an active Canadian Forces military base, it's QRA hangers and SAS facility are still there, and as far as I can tell active.


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CFS Val D'Or is long gone, one of it's QRA hangers remains, and I believe it's SAS has been fully dug up.

CFS Val D'Or QRA (one of two buildings still standing)

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CFS Val D'Or SAS (well it would have been there)

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CFB North Bay doesn't seem to have the same style of ammunition storage bunkers as the others, I believe this may be because it pre-dates the design used at Val D'Or, Chatham and Bagotville. North Bay has it's QRA hangers as best as I can tell from the satellite pictures.

CFB North Bay QRA

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CFB North Bay SAS (Technically maybe not a SAS)

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CFB Uplands is close enough to me that it warrants a visit. While the base itself was decomissioned, the Canadian Forces still own property and buildings at the civilian airport. The QRA hangers are still there, and so is the ammunition bunker - but like North Bay, it is not the same design as the other SAS facilities, so I assume it was built at another time, or has undergone a face-lift since that time.

CFB Uplands QRA

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CFB Uplands SAS (Technically maybe not a SAS)

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November 04, 2012

Follow-up on the crash of CF-101 Voodoo #17480 in March of 1968

RCAF 425 Squadron
As luck would have it, a friend of mine's father was a navigator for the CF-101 Voodoo with the RCAF back in the day, at exactly the time that #17480 crashed.  From what I understand, #17480 crashed on approach in March of 1968 while attempting to land from the North on the runway at Val D'Or.  #17480 was flying with the RCAF 425 Squadron "Les Alouettes", the first French Canadian squadron, that flew CF-101 Voodoos out of Bagotville (and now fly CF-18s).  They have the motto "Je Te Plumerai".  The accident report cites the pilot losing sight of the horizon as the cause for the crash.  The plane crashed before getting to the runway.  There were no survivors, both crew were killed, and no armed AIR-2 missiles were on-board at the time.

Thank you BD for your honourable service to the men and women of Canada.  Especially with remembrance day coming up, we all remember the service you did for your country, your countrymen, and the sacrifices you made to your family.  May we all be as selfless as you.

I'm not sure where the #17480 Voodoo crashed, but it should have been somewhere North of the runway.  I assume it was lined up with the runway but hit the dirt or trees prior to making it to the runway.  From driving around the site, there is no sign of where the plane might have crashed - but it has been 44 years and I presume the site was cleaned up very well after the accident.  In 1968 Val D'Or was under it's own administration and was no longer being administered by RCAF Station Senneterre, so I know there will be some information in the Historical Narrative of the base at Val D'Or at the National Archives.

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November 03, 2012

Visit to the North Bay BOMARC Site

On our way back from our trip (October 22nd, 2012), with only two of four brakes working (which is another story) we stopped behind the BOMARC site at North Bay.  Whenever I've passed by previously the gate has been closed, as I've been travelling at odd hours or on the weekend.  I was surprised to see the gate open as we left, but we were out of time, and had already been taking pictures from the rear of the base.

To take pictures from the rear of the base, we parked on the ATV trails along the natural gas line which runs North/South to the West of the base.  Take BOMARC Road off HWY 11, past the trailer park, and take a left on the pipeline access road/ATV trail.  I would not recommend this in something other than a high 4WD vehicle, the road is not maintained to a quality suitable for car traffic.

Lesson Learned:
  • Plan time for stop at North Bay BOMARC during business hours

I was quite impressed that the self-storage facility which now owns the property is keeping the place together pretty well.  I'm glad to see most of the buildings still there.  I wish they could get a grant to paint the buildings to their original colours, but it is a private business, so I doubt that will happen.  Surely it's a site of historical significance that is worthy of getting some of my tax dollars.

USAF BOMARC Missile Maintenance Bays

BOMARC Launchers

BOMARC Launchers

BOMARC Missile standing at the ready

North Bay BOMARC Site

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November 01, 2012

Visit to Ramore AS / RCAF Station Ramore / CFS Ramore

Ramore was first operated by the USAF, then the RCAF, and was operational from 1953 to 1974.  It was sold to a lodge, which failed as a business, and parts of the station still remain standing today.  On my previous trip I had only investigated the operations site at the top of Lava Mountain, but this time, with CE, camped overnight, did some light painting and low light digital photography (him, not me), and investigated the residential site below.  The dump is still operational at Ramore, so there is some light local traffic.  We saw some other trucks pass by while we were investigating the garages and maintenance buildings, but I have no idea where they were going.  It was the middle of hunting season, so I suspect several people have little back roads they like to frequent to find that "perfect spot" to hunt at which they keep going back to... legally or illegally!

I was surprised to find the barracks falling to pieces and and the parade square in fine shape.

To the West of the massive generator building, there was a covered concrete tank, very large, with vent pipes and an inlet of some kind going to it.  I'm not sure what it was, but we didn't go down into the darkness.

In the Southern-middle radome building (shown below) there were several square pools of water which seem to be openings into a basement of lower level.  Poking around with a stick indicated that they were quite deep (6ft-8ft+), draining them and getting down there seem like a good idea for next year; but I'm going to need a gas/diesel powered trash/semi-trash water pump!  I'll be passing the hat to see if anyone wants to lend me one, as I really don't need to *own* one.

Lessons Learned
  • As before, bring more air photos and satellite imagry.  You can never bring too many air photos.
  • Sleeping with the wind swinging creaky shutters on the generator building is crazy-spooky.

Post-Trip Research
As with the pictures from Senneterre, I did some more digging in the archives of the site (provided by my new friends! THANKS GUYS!) and below are pictures salvaged from the sadly now defunct site.  RIP Ren.

CE and I saw several of these locations, and the vintage pictures fill in a substantial number of gaps.  There was a lot of "what was this?"  and "why is there a hole here" - well lots of it is explained when you see the pictures of the time.
The view of the base from the south in 1959 shows the generator building, operations site, new radar and radomes on the far right and left.
Aerial photo of Operations site from Beaver aircraft, May 1959
Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer

 The view of the domestic site.  You can see the garages, mess, H building and guard post quite well.
Aerial photo of Domestic Site from 4,200 feet, May 9th, 1962
Courtesy Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

 Here we have the operations bldg at the top of Lava Mountain
Toward the top is the road that heads to the GATR (or perhaps TX/RX) site
Aerial photo of Operations site from 4,200 feet, May 9th 1962
Courtesy Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

 This is a fantastic vantage point showing the entire layout of the base
Including the fuel tanks which are no longer there, but the berms around them are.
Aerial close up of Operations site, May 9th, 1962
Courtesy Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

This greenhouse is no longer there, from the picture it was located beside the parade square near the "H" buildings
Greenhouse, August 21st 1999
Courtesy Bob Agar

Where this fireplace was, which I believe was in the combined mess, is now a hole. 
Yes, someone stole the fireplace!
Wish I'd thought of it...
Unknown remains in the domestic site - 21 August 1999
Courtesy Bob Agar.

Same spot, other side of the fireplace, and showing the mess kitchen in the background. 
The supports on the left, presumably for a roof, have fallen over since this picture was taken.
Unknown remains in the domestic site - 21 August 1999
Courtesy Bob Agar.

This picture shows the view from the shipping door across what is now a pool of water.
I think it shows fairly certainly that there is a lower level to the building.
Unidentified buildings in Operations site - 21 August 1999
Courtesy Bob Agar.

 The vegetation prevents any kind of picture like this from being taken today
That picture has been taken facing SW
Diesel Power House on the "Hill" - February 1956
Courtesy Ralph Gronlund.

 I think this picture has been taken facing West.
The radome building on the right has been levelled, the one on the left still stands (sans radome)
Search and height finder radar towers and radomes, February 1956
Courtesy Ralph Gronlund.

 I now know that this picture was taken at The Poderosa - the rec bldg by the lake
We drove by, but didn't take any pictures ourselves.
The Ponderosa is now being used by a camp, and looks to be in good repair
Cpl. Al Amyotte (without shirt) and unidentified Radar Techs at Ponderosa - June 1972
Courtesy Margaret Renaud.

 Notice the stone chimney?
Left rear is Cpl. Brian "Tex" Redden - June 1972
Courtesy Margaret Renaud.

 The stone chimney is clearly attached to this...
Karen and Joey Renaud sitting on the fireplace mantle in the Ponderosa - June 1972
Courtesy Margaret Renaud.

The same chimney can be seen on the left
This picture is recent, but since the fire, it has clearly been fixed up.
Remains of the Ponderosa - September 2001
Courtesy Ian Curran.

This picture was probably taken facing NW
Don Church in front of the entrance to the Operations building - July 1955
Courtesy Bob Miller.

 I believe this picture has been taken facing NE, and to the left of the picture you see a ~100,000 Gallon Diesel storage tank, which had a berm around it.  We found the berm, the tank is long gone!
(L-R) Iverson, Bumpus, Skkags, Jake Jacobs - August 1955
Courtesy Bob Miller.

 We did not head over to the GATR site, as it would have been too tight for the full-sized Suburban
Trees and plans have completely taken over the area, an ATV-sized trail remains of what was once a road.
Motorcycle parked at the GATR site (looking north) - June 1970
Courtesy Rick Lean.

I didn't see this building at all.
Unidentified building just across from the MSE 9 bay garage, on the left as you start to go up the hill to the Operations Site - August 2002.
Courtesy Bob Agar.

 This shows where the gas pumps used to be.  As the asphalt hasn't been disturbed, you can be sure the 2000 gallon gas tank and 1000 gallon diesel tank are still there under the surface.
The nine bay garage - 24 February 1964
Courtesy ADC Museum.

 This is the view shot East toward the combined mess, all the buildings pictured are now gone.
Only foundations and memories remain.
And the snow keeps piling up - 24 February 1964
Courtesy ADC Museum.

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Visit to RCAF Station Senneterre / CFS Senneterre

Mid-morning on October 20th 2012 myself and CE rolled up to the top of one of the peaks at Mont Bell, following Montee de la Tour, where the operations site of CFS Senneterre once scanned the horizon for Soviet bombers.  The site has been re-purposed by telcos and other companies that need the high ground for antenna equipment, and most of the buildings have fallen into disrepair.  The station was operational from 1953-1988, and the majority of the domestic site at the bottom of the hill is still very much in use today by the local population, the PMQs are in a very good stare of repair, and most sport new vinyl siding and new roofs.  The larger buildings (hospitals, schools, etc) are still intact, though it is unclear what some are being used for.  There seems to be a department of transportation and other provincial government usage of the buildings.  Following Chemin de Penetration we found one of the TX or RX buildings that I'm becoming familiar with, as the exact same design was at Foymount and Parent.  Surprisingly, it has been re-purposed by the local gun club as an indoor firing range - after all, it's a concrete building!  They have put a new roof on it, and walled up the windows.  In hindsight there was a 2nd building down Chemin de la Normick, which also looks to be a comms building, but we didn't head over there.  Down Rue Arthur Facteau there were garages and maintenance-looking buildings, that looked like they were occupied as well.  Unfortunately, it was foggy and raining, otherwise the view from the top would have been fantastic!  For other would-be explorers; there were no obstacles that a car couldn't drive over; no offroading needed to get to the top and tour around, it is paved all the way to the top!

Road to Senneterre GATR Site
After visiting the operations site and taking a spin through the rest of the station, we tried to get to the Ground to Air Transmit Receive site (GATR for short!), but had to turn around after a few Km walking through the wet grass and weeds because the road became too wet and muddy, we didn't even get to the mountain itself (but we could see it!)

Lessons Learned:
  • Do not drink to excess the night before exploring a Canadian Forces Station. *groan*
  • Bring offline satellite imagery on an iPad, Playbook, whatever to get a bird's eye view.
  • Bring Air Photos from the period when the station was active to get a better idea of where things are.
  • Do not expect cell coverage; while there may be, it may not be Rogers (my cell provider)
    (Telebec serves the Senneterre area, FYI)
  • Bring tall rubber boots
Upon returning from Senneterre I went back to digging through the archives of, which I've mentioned before has become defunct since the original webmaster passed away.  Luckily, through some new found friends, I have a copy of the site - which is available via the Way Back Machine or other services, but extremely difficult to trawl through. (THANKS GUYS!)

Here are some pictures, with some of their original captions, and some of my own comments.

Below is the Senneterre GATR site, we did not make it up there, but I'm fairly certain there is little left of the original radio towers and am not sure if there is even a building up there anymore   Local reports say there isn't anything, I'm hoping to find something hidden in the bushes!
GATR Site - 12 miles away from station, 1963
Courtesy CFS Senneterre 25th Anniversary Album. 

Notice the poles and antennas in the below picture?  I believe that's the RX site, which CE and I didn't see
PMC accident by the Receiver site, December 6th, 1960
LAC Mike Bitten runs into LAC David Dunbar on the way to the Receiver site
Courtesy Mike Bitten

I wish I'd seen this map beforehand as it would have proved most useful.  Thankfully I'll have it for the next trip.
Composition of Roadways (drawing of roads and buildings), June 1st 1953
Courtesy National Archives of Canada

To the best of my understanding, this is the original configuration of the station.
Notice the large operations site in the middle, and two flanking buildings with Radomes.
This was 1956.
The radar towers and the radomes at the operations site, April 1956
Courtesy Bunny Gammon

You'll notice a new building has been added with a walkway between the buildings.  The rightmost radar is likely the same FPS-6 that is now on display in Senneterre as a monument to those who served.
This was 1959.

Combined Mess with Operations site on the hill
Note that the new FPS-6 Height finder does not yet have a radome, June 1959
Courtesy Sherman Esliger

You'll see that the height finder radar on the right has been covered by a radome, and the other radomes and their radars have been removed.
This was 1960
Operations site, April 1960
Courtesy Jeannine Lizotte

This was 1965
Barracks in Domestic site, March 1965
Courtesy Phil Frankland.

There seems to have been an annex added between the operations building and the next one over.  I'm unsure of it's purpose.
This was 1979
The Combined Mess (foreground) with the Operations site perched on the hill, December 9th 1979
Courtesy Jim Compton

This was what the inside of the operations room in the central building looked like
Interior photo of the Operations room, November 1958
Upper level (L-R) Sammy Fehr (later married Sid Bennett), Pat Bourke (Ops B), F/L Bourassa (Senior Director).
Middle level - Jim Cabell (Forward Teller).
Lower Dias - Bill Stewart (Ident), Doug Joy, Cpl Betty Doucette (later married Ray Zuback), Cpl Gil Pettigrew.
Courtesy Fred Hoskins via Bill Stewart

Unfortunately, the operations building burned ~1990, and only the foundation remains
Remains of Operations building, 1991 Courtesy Paul Ozorak

RCAF Station Senneterre / CFS Senneterre

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