Starting in the early 1950s, the AT&T’s Long Lines department began constructing a coast-to-coast microwave relay link. This relay link, which would become colloquially known as the Long Lines system or the “Telephone Skyway” (or just “Skyway”), would carry telephone calls and television programs from coast-to-coast.
The Long Lines microwave system would remain in service until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when they were gradually replaced with fiber optics. The system was even used for a short period after the divesture of the Bell System.
Former Long Lines sites can be found in urban areas with the iconic horn antennas situated on the top of buildings and former telephone offices. However, many Long Lines sites can be found in the middle of cornfields, some far away from the nearest town. Many sites were even hardened to keep the system online in the case of a nuclear attack, to allow communication networks to stay online after an attack. Some Long Lines sites housed AUTOVON and other important defense and government-related networks from the Cold War.
While most sites have been abandoned by AT&T and stand as a reminder of the Cold War, others have been repurposed into cell phone antennas, ham radio and CB radio masts, and much more. Some of the hardened and underground stations have been turned into bunkers.
My goal is to photograph former Long Lines sites in the Central/Western-Central Missouri area. Here are the ones I’ve already photographed:
- Aullville, MO (Lafayette County)
- Holden, MO (Johnson County)
- Holts Summit, MO (Callaway County)
- Prairie Home, MO (Cooper County)
- Slater, MO (Saline County)*
This 1977 advertisement from the Bell System introduces the towers and the improvements which were made in their transmission systems around that time.