Long Lines Site: Prairie Home, MO

The Long Lines site near Prairie Home, MO was part of the AT&T (Bell) Long Lines network between the 1950s and 1980s. The Prairie Home site relayed telephone and television signals during the time.

The tower is situated approximately three miles southwest of the small town of Prairie Home on Route J. Prairie Home is located in southern Cooper County, half-way between Saint Louis and Kansas City.

Due to the tower’s size, it can be seen from miles. It also has an indicator beacon light on the top in order to alert aircraft of its existence.

Due to it’s location (half-way between two major cities), the tower would’ve endured high traffic during its operation, especially since most cross-country telephone calls or television programs would have went through this tower.

The tower has a wide variety of horn antennas still installed from its Long Lines days, including multiple KS-15676 and Gabriel horns.

Site History and Information

The Prairie Home site appeared in the March 1960 network map as being operational and relaying telephone and television data.

Prairie Home was connected to Slater to the northwest and to Holts Summit to the southeast. Television signals were sent to the Columbia station to the northeast.

The station appears to be non-functional. According to the FCC’s ASR database, the tower is currently owned by the Cooper County government. The AT&T sign near the front entrance to the base station has been painted over, and no other signs have been placed on the property. The station was likely abandoned by AT&T in the late 1980s or early 1990s as they replaced the microwave relay technology with fiber optics. While the station appears to be non-functional, it appears that a new air conditioning system was recently installed.

Additional smaller buildings are located near the base of the tower, behind the main concrete block building constructed back in the mid-1950s by the Bell System. The site is likely used for two-way radio communications by the county government, with the smaller buildings housing two-way radio/RF repeater equipment. There are multiple dipole array antennas located on the tower.

The purpose of the main building is still unknown, but it appears a new packaged air conditioning system (with exposed ductwork) was installed long after AT&T Long Lines sites were “turned down.”

White parabolic antennas, like those found at Slater and Dayton, were also found on the tower. The dishes at Dayton were confirmed to be used for wireless broadband internet service for subscribers in the area.

Update: Nov. 11, 2022

Three hops are shown for the Prairie Home site in the Maprad.io database: one south to Barnett, one southeast to Holts Summit (an original link), and another northeast to Columbia. It appears all three hops use the newer-style Gabriel “cornucopia” horns (it appears the original KS-15676 horns on the Holts Summit tower for the Prairie Home hop were replaced later and painted to conform to FAA obstruction requirements) and operate in the 6 GHz range.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Maprad.io results is how recent the licenses are. The license for the hop to Barnett (WLK708) was effective Nov. 29, 2001 and canceled before the expected expiration of Feb. 1, 2010. The license for the hop to Holts Summit (WHT287) was effective June 11, 2004, and canceled before the expected expiration of Feb. 1, 2010. The license for the hop to Columbia (KPP57) was effective Oct. 21, 2014, and canceled before the expected expiration of Feb. 1, 2020, making it the last hop for the site online. (FCC records indicate the Cooper County government owned the Prairie Home site in that time span, so perhaps it was being leased to AT&T to keep the hop alive? At that time, in Oct. 2014, none of the other hops were still online, according to Maprad.io.)

There are no other hops shown for the site on Maprad.io.

Photos: August 2022

The following photos were taken August 8, 2022, using my Nikon D5600 camera and the iPhone SE (2nd generation). I was able to get a variety of closer shots, including some zoomed-in close-up shots of the top.

A photo of the tower taken approximately 2,800 feet away from the north. The set of KS-15676 horns mounted on top pointing to the right hop to Slater, the set of newer Gabriel horns on top pointing to the left hop to Holts Summit. Lower Gabriel horn antennas pointed northeast hop to Columbia. A separate site with a parabolic antenna mounted on a far shorter tower across Highway J from the Long Lines site is used by a local utility company. (D5600)
The front of the relay site, as seen from its driveway. The pickup possibly belongs to the adjacent neighbors.
The tower.
The southern side of the concrete block building. The grill in the middle of the building, to the left of a power cutoff for the facility, is likely for ventilation air intake. The vent scoop to the right is likely for the generator air intake, evidenced by the generator muffler and exhaust mounted directly above. (D5600)
An outhouse is also located on the southern edge of the site.
The ubiquitous “WARNING” sign found on most former AT&T Long Lines microwave relay sites is also present at the southwestern corner of the building on the site.
The front of the building has hardly changed since my last visit in 2018. The old AT&T sign appears to have been painted over (or has faded) more, and an ASR sign was added.
A close-up of the top of the tower reveals a bunch of antennas, both old and new. The two KS-15676 (“Hogg horn”) antennas on the top platform pointed to the left hop to Slater (both have their weather covers damaged), while two other Gabriel horns (obstructed in this photo) on top hop to Holts Summit. An additional horn, or possibly multiple horns, would’ve also hopped to Holts Summit for spacial diversity to avoid interruption caused by interference. Lower horns pointed to the northeast, or pointing away from the camera in this photo, hop to Columbia. Newer dipole arrays are found on multiple spots on the tower, including in two spots in this photo: the top platform and the left outrigger platform below. These antennas are likely used by the county government, who currently owns the site, for two-way radio communication.
Another photo of the top of the tower. The two KS-15676 horns on the top platform, with their weather covers damaged, hop to the northwest to Slater.
Looking directly up the tower.
The size of this tower always blows my mind. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but the tower is easily visible from more than five miles on a clear day. Standing next to the base of the tower to get these photos made me feel like a tiny ant. AT&T Long Lines had even larger towers, such as one in Illinois that had to be expanded to support additional antennas. Unlike that site, which had 11 hops, Prairie Home only had three hops: one to the northwest to Slater, a television-only hop to the northeast to Columbia, and a hop to the southeast to Holts Summit. The site was located on the Kansas City-St. Louis route.
Writing can still be seen on the waveguide racks leading to the tower base.
A photo of the rear of the building, including where waveguides would have once entered the building. On the northern side of the building is a fairly new packaged air conditioning unit along with some exposed ductwork and ventilation air intakes. The parabolic dish at the right of the building, located across Highway J, is owned by a utility company.
A final view of the tower. Waveguides running down from individual horn antennas are visible but no longer connected to the building. (All have been cut at the base of the tower.) The small white parabolic dish in the middle of the tower could possibly be used for wireless broadband internet, like the Dayton, Missouri, site, and the dipole arrays higher on the tower are likely used for the county government’s two-way radio communication system. The site is currently owned by the county government.

Photos: May 2018

Pictures below taken May 30, 2018 using a Samsung Galaxy Express Prime 2.

A distant view of the Prairie Home tower, as seen from the southwest
A zoomed shot from the same location, southwest of the tower by half a mile
Viewing the tower from the north on Route J. Notice the damaged horns. (Photo taken August 9, 2018.)
The base station
A close shot of the base station entrance. The sign in the red circle is a former AT&T sign that has since been painted over.
A view of the tower. Notice the top two horns (the KS-15676 horn reflectors) have their lens damaged.

History – “AT&T Focus”

Tim Souder, an ex-Long Lines employee, posted these pictures of an article featured in the October 25, 1988 issue of Focus, an internal publication for AT&T employees, on a Long Lines Facebook group. Souder was featured on the cover and did some work at the Prairie Home site when it was in operation.

Special thanks to Tim Souder for sharing and granting permission to publish here.

Tim Souder, an ex-Long Lines employee who shared these photos on a Long Lines Facebook group, was featured on the cover of the October 25, 1988 issue of Focus, an AT&T internal publication.
“On The Road”, an article in the October 25, 1988 issue of Focus, features the Prairie Home site from when it was still in operation.
A closeup of the photo of the Prairie Home tower from 1988, when it was still in operation.
The article mentions the small size of Prairie Home. Not much has changed.
A closeup of the first few paragraphs of the article, which mentions the Prairie Home site.
The article also has the Kansas City AT&T Central Office/Long Lines building in the background of a photo. The Prairie Home site was on the Kansas City-St. Louis route.

Among other local technicians responding to this particular post, Tim wrote the following in response to my modern photographs:

Hunters shot the damn things [fiberglass face on the KS-15676 horns] all the time causing 0 air pressure of the waveguide. We would have to either swing around from side or bail off from the top and hang out there and patch to get pressure back up. The newer Gabriel horns had a Teflon face and was pushed out… I’m sure they thought if they shot it would pop… they don’t. Just created work for us.

-Tim Souder

Learn More

AT&T Long Lines – A Forgotten System

In “AT&T Long Lines – A Forgotten System,” I discuss my personal connection with the Slater, MO tower which this tower is linked to towards the northwest. I also discuss the history of the Long Lines network – specifically the microwave relay network – and its importance on telecommunications.

“Focus” section added 4-16-2021