Long Lines Site: Slater, MO

The Long Lines site in Slater, Missouri was part of the AT&T (Bell System) Long Lines network between the 1950s and 1980s. The Slater site, like all other Long Lines microwave sites, relayed telephone and television signals via microwaves before they were discontinued in favor of fiber optics and newer technologies.

The Slater site is located on Highway P about four miles outside of Slater, only about 3/4 a mile from the Orearville School. Due to its location (being half-way between two major cities, Saint Louis and Kansas City, as well as having a spur line to Moberly and Kirksville), this site would’ve endured high traffic during its operation.

This site originally had two pairs of KS-15676 horns – one pointing towards Prairie Home and the other pointing towards Dover – before they were removed. There was also another hop to the northeast towards Roanoke (according to the 1966 map), but I don’t recall the antennas for that hop. I remember those horns, as well as a shrouded parabolic antenna pointing towards Dover, being heavily worn and damaged.

I grew up near this site and my parents drove by it every time we went to town. Although the tower always interested me (as I describe in this entry), I never knew what it was used for until recently when I learned about AT&T/Bell System’s Long Lines system. I remember the tower’s horns before they were removed, as well. My dad recalls AT&T and Southwestern Bell (SBC) trucks and agents working on the tower and inside the base building.

A strange fact about this tower would be its size. It’s short enough that it doesn’t require any obstruction lighting, but still bears the white/orange paint.

Like other Missouri sites – for example Prairie Home and Holts Summit – this tower’s base station is a basic white cinder block/concrete building, an outhouse, and a fenced area in which the tower’s base sits and the waveguides would run into the building through. This site would’ve originally been a remote – or un-manned – site.

Although the site was once owned by American Tower, the site is currently owned by a company called “Sedalia Smiles.” While your first thought would be some type of dentist, a preliminary search returned that they at least owned one other tower. Although the site seems to be unused and the tower vacated, this can’t be currently confirmed. Attempts to call the number on the door were futile; the number has been disconnected. There is also no FCC records on this tower. (The audio player below plays recorded audio from the attempt to reach the number on the door.)

This Long Lines site, like others here in Missouri, featured a basic, white concrete brick building with a door and some windows.
Through the door would’ve been some TD-2 radios, telephone equipment, the generator, and some other equipment and binders.
This side of the base station shows some of the interesting items. The big vent under the hood would’ve been an air intake for the exhaust fan. (These remote site buildings had no air conditioning.) You can see the exhaust stack for the diesel generator which this site would’ve originally been equipped with, along with the fresh air intake for the generator right below the stack.
The front door reveals the true owner of the site… Sedalia Smiles. Although that seems like the perfect name for a dentist or orthodontist office, a preliminary search returned that they own at least one other tower. Notice the unpainted cinder block where the “AT&T” sign would’ve likely went. (See the Holts Summit site to see the sign.)
The rear of the building reveals another door for entering the tower area, as well as a cage for the waveguides to run through into the building. This is a part of this site I never saw before.
Similar to other Bell Long Lines offices from around the nation, the Bell System allowed their technicians do their business in style with their own outhouses. Some of the “fancier” Long Lines sites had restrooms built in, some with incinerating electric toilets. Since this was a remote station, that luxury wasn’t included.
We’ve finally made it to the meat and potatoes… the tower! Missing from this tower is the four KS-15676 “cornucopia” horn antennas that was on this tower, as well as a parabolic dish on the side opposite from the camera. The lower (outrigger) spot would’ve been pointing at the Roanoke station, but it seems odd since there is no spot for another antenna pointing towards Roanoke to go. Hmm? Also note the waveguide holders.
This cable marker was found on the utility pole next to the driveway for the tower. The marker dates from the Southwestern Bell days. Those cables would’ve ran to and fro the tower site.
A much newer and nicer AT&T cable marker just down the road next to the Orearville elementary school. Note the tower in the distance.
A zoomed distant view at the tower, from nearly 3/4 a mile down the road. This tower is fairly short in comparison to the Prairie Home and Holt Summit towers that are downstream.
A Google Maps street view of the tower from August 2009 reveals how the tower appeared prior to the horn antennas being removed. The top horns facing the camera are pointed towards Prairie Home, while the top pair facing away are at Dover. The lower horn, on the outrigger, is pointed towards Roanoke. (Click on the image to view street view in Google Maps, which opens in a new tab.)

Coming Soon (7/17): A post about my trip to Slater, as well as a separate “throwback Thursday” entry describing my memories of this tower as a kid, especially one being interested in microwave systems.

Learn More

AT&T Long Lines – A Forgotten System

In “AT&T Long Lines – A Forgotten System”, I briefly discuss my personal connection to this specific site along with general information and history of the Bell System/AT&T’s Long Lines microwave relay network, and it’s deep impact on the telecommunications industry.

Photos taken July 16, 2018 using a Samsung Galaxy Express Prime 2.