March 08, 2014

1970 Hydro-Québec Eric / Logan troposcatter link

Site Name: Eric?
Location: Poste Montagnais Hydro-Québec / Eric
Built: ~1970
Operational: Unknown
Coordinates: 51.98483, -65.6545
Condition: Active (Last info as of 2008)
Current Ownership: Hydro-Québec
Distance from paved road: Unknown, area is unreachable by road
Condition of access road: Unpaved road leads from rail line to tropo site

Site Name: Logan?
Location: Churchill Falls, Québec
Built: ~1970
Operational: Unknown
Coordinates: 53.5879, -64.2012
Condition: Active (Last info as of 2008)
Current Ownership: Hydro-Québec
Distance from paved road: 1 Km from main road, not sure if the 500 is paved at that point.
Condition of access road: 1 Km access road of unknown condition, expected to be passable but gated as the site is active


While researching the communications link between Goose Bay and NORAD/SAC facilities further south, I found reference (thanks to Alex Lupták) of a whole world of troposcatter facilities (  I mistook the currently operational Hydro-Québec troposcatter sites "Eric" and "Logan" to be old Cold War facilities that had been repurposed... now, I don't know that's entirely untrue, since there was a 6 site (5 hop) troposcatter network that joined Québec and Labrador built in the 1950s and potentially decommissioned around the same time as the Logan-Eric link was made... but let's say it was purely coincidental that Eric-Logan used seemingly identical antennas and technology.

With a little help from Google, I found the following from the Utilities Telecom Council of Canada:
"Hydro-Quebec reported that they intend to continue to operate one troposcatter hop in Labrador, which is above 200 kilometers and operates currently in the 1.7-1.9 Ghz band.  While Hydro-Quebec expects to replace this hop within the next five years, it needs to continue to use it for the foreseeable future because it has not found any other equipment in another band that could be used."
Correspondence between Utilities Telecom Council of Canada and the Director of Spectrum Engineering Branch of Industry Canada (2008.07.25)
Rail Map of the Tshiuetin Rail route
(click to enlarge)
Extrapolating from the information in that correspondance, I believe it stated that the link between Eric and Logan is a 60 channel analog link.  Eric to Logan is just over 200Km, matching the description, and it's only one hop.  They do mention that there is a two-hop troposcatter link used by Hydro-Québec somewhere, and I'm not sure where yet. 

So why is this important?  Why care?  Why is this so interesting?  Well, troposcatter sites of this design were used along the Mid-Canada line at Site 070, 060, 050, 415 and 410 - which were all shut down in 1967.  Other sites, like the troposcatter link that went from Hay River to Lady Franklin Point for DEW Line communications were decommissioned by the military in the 1970s.  The White Alice network along the West Coast up to Alaska was decommissioned many years ago as well.  Polevault along the East coast?  Long gone.  To the best of my knowledge Eric and Logan are essentially the same as those other troposcatter facilities, making them living museum pieces (as much as Hydro-Québec might cringe from me calling them that).


Regarding getting to Eric;
I'm not really sure there's a GMC Suburban-passable road to Eric from Sept-Isles, so it seems the only way to get there is by train.  Not VIA, they don't go that far, it's Tshiuetin Rail Transportation (wikipedia here, web site here)  The train from Sept-Isles leaves at 8am Monday and Thursdays, and Eric is half a day's train ride away.

I get the feeling that walking up to a remote critical infrastructure building, in the middle of nowhere, with a fence, would be a bad idea; so I'm going to have to ask around and see if I can find someone with an interest in the history of this site within Hydro Quebec.  Also, I'd rather see the inside of the facility than just the outside.  Now that would be a trick.  Wish me luck.

Logan is right off HWY500, the trans-Labrador Highway

Trip Report:

Haven't been, yet...


Eric Troposcatter Antenna Site (pointing at Logan, 200Km NNW)

Eric Troposcatter Antenna Site
(There is a road that leads West to, and along, the rail line) 1:30000

Logan Troposcatter Antenna Site 1:15000


L'Avenir Page 16 - May 9th, 1972 (Thanks to Alex Lupták - and Google News too)

March 07, 2014

CFS Senneterre and GATR Site

CFS Senneterre

The location of RCAF Station Senneterre / CFS Senneterre, operational from 1953-1988, was a significant air defence station, as it was the fall-back in case North Bay (The Hole) were to be taken out by a nuclear strike.  Some ruins of the buildings exist, but many are still intact and in use, re-purposed by local businesses.

RCAF Station Senneterre / CFS Senneterre

CFS Senneterre GATR Site

A GATR (Ground-to-Air Transmit & Receive) station was set up in the early 1960s, and I'm unsure what of that location is still intact - it's up the road a little North of Senneterre. 

Locals report there is nothing at the top of the mountain... I suspect the foundation and stumps of antenna poles will still be present.  In late 2012 I tried to get to the Senneterre GATR site, unsuccessfully.  The road is quite wet, and I didn’t have the right footwear.  The trail would be passable by ATV, but there is a steel farm gate at the end.  Rubber boots would be required to get to the base of the mountain.

CFS Senneterre GATR Site
2014.03.07 Update: It seems like there is better satellite imagery than previously available, so here are three views of the site (HERE Maps is the best)

View Larger Map

Former site of the CFS Cenneterre GATR building and antenna farm
48.48089, -77.2093

Photos of CFS Senneterre Trip (October 2012)

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

March 02, 2014

NATO III & IV SATCOM Constellation Satellite Ground Terminals

From my previous posts here and here, I've been interested in the satellite uplink that was at CFS Carp.  Well, let's see if we can knit it all together.

The NATO III and IV constellations were NATO owned and operated, and provided communications for the NATO countries for their leadership.

NATO III Satellites were launched between 1976 and 1984.
NATO IV Satellites were launched between 1991 and 1993.
The last NATO IV Satellite was decommissioned in 2010.

These satellites communicated with ground stations in the NATO countries as well as having two control stations.  Once these ground terminals ceased to be used they were either sold off to private companies or re-purposed by their host nations.  Checking out where they were located, and what the immediate surroundings are, yields some very interesting sightseeing.

Here are all the satellite ground terminals that were used for the NATO III and NATO IV Satellite constellations. (click the top right of the map to enable full screen and see things a lot easier)

March 01, 2014

Globalstar feeder-link earth station - Smiths Falls

   Globalstar provides satellite based communication to phones and devices through a constellation of 48 sattelites in a low earth orbit, and 24 ground stations (that they call feeder-link earth stations).  You know SPOT?  Signals from SPOT are transmitted using the Globalstar constellation.

You can find this earth station at 44.91638, -76.01671; at the moment the Google Satellite imagery and Bing imagery is pretty bad, so I used Here Maps for an areal shot below.  

There is a second Canadian feeder-link station in High River, Alberta; but I haven't visited yet.

Globalstar Feeder-link Earth Station - Smiths Falls

Globalstar Feeder-link Earth Station - Smiths Falls
Credit: Here Maps