Mid Canada Line Test Site 012

Category Exploration Date Status Province / State Country
Military Abandoned Ontario Canada

History: 

At the early phase of the Cold War, the primary perceived threat was waves of Soviet bombers flying over the arctic to rain nuclear horror down upon North America. A line of radar stations across Canada, the Pinetree Line, was constructed to detect such an attack. But shortcomings in this line were being identified even before construction had been completed.

It was proposed that another line, further north, was required to compensate for these short-comings. This line would employ Doppler technology to be developed by the Eaton Electronics Research Laboratories of McGill University.

During the summer of 1953, seven test sites, including this one, were constructed along the Ottawa River Valley to test the theories and hardware that would be used. Aircraft were used to test the sites, and results controlled and coordinated in Chalk River, Ontario.

Eight sector control stations and 90 unmanned stations were constructed across the country. Each site constituted part of a "picket line" that would detect aircraft crossing it. The sites were built with redundant generators and equipment that would keep the site operational in the event of failure until a team from its sector control site could arrive to fix the problem.

The sector control sites used microwave and troposcatter technology to share data with the NORAD control centre in North Bay, Ontario.

Construction of the line began in 1956 and moved quickly with the entire line being declared operational by January 1, 1958.

Like the Pinetree Line before it, shortcomings were already being identified in the MCL line. It lacked many features including the ability to vector interceptors toward attacking aircraft or plotting continued tracks. This information would still not be available until the aircraft had traveled far enough south to be detected by the Pinetree Line.

The DEW (Distant Early Warning) line had been proposed across the arctic that would provide all of these capabilities, but with even more lead time. Construction of the DEW line began before the MCL was completed.

In January, 1964, despite the protests of the United States Air horse, the western portion of the MCL line was shut down By April, 1965, the rest of the line was shut down as Soviet technology had shifted from aircraft to long-range missiles


Personal Commentary: 

It was an overcast day as I walked through the gate onto the site. The most prominent feature, of course, was the antenna with its multiple attachments that was once a broadcaster and receiver of doppler radar signals.

Little is left of the control building sitting nearby. The outside walls are covered in graffiti, and the interior is completely gutted leaving almost nothing to hint at the function of any given area.

It wasn't a long visit, and there's not a lot left to see, but as there is almost nothing left of this important part of Canadian technological history anywhere, I felt it was important to see.


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