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Edgar – A Cold War relic

Barrie Advance
6 December 2006
Huntsville Forester
13 October 2006
Simcoe County has always had a proud military heritage. Long-time residents of the Barrie area may remember a time when three giant white globes once sat on a hill near the Village of Edgar. These globes once housed powerful radar units belonging to one of Simcoe County’s contributions to the Cold War: Royal Canadian Air Force Station Edgar. Although it has a brief 12-year life, RCAF Station Edgar played an important role in the defence of Canada.

RCAF Station Edgar was part of the Pinetree Line, a network of radar stations established in the early 1950s and one of three early warning detection lines that would guard North America against a Soviet air attack. All Pinetree stations were equipped with one Search Radar, one Height-Finder Radar and a third back-up radar. The stations were situated at approximately 150-mile intervals, mostly along the 50th parallel but also along the east-coast of Canada and into southern Ontario and Quebec. In the beginning, RCAF personnel manned most of the Pinetree stations, but some were manned by the United States Air Force. Eventually all of the USAF stations were transferred to the RCAF.

RCAF Station Edgar, originally designated No. 204 RCAF Radio Station, was the southern most station in the Pinetree Line. No. 204 became operational in September 1952 and one month later, the unit was re-designated No. 31 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron and the station itself RCAF Station Edgar.

Although Pinetree stations were much smaller than full-size bases like Camp Borden, they were still self-contained cities featuring standard military housing & barracks, a school, a recreation centre with a bowling alley & swimming pool, an infirmary, a chapel, a firehall, a water treatment & distribution facility, a central heating plant, auto repair shops, cafeteria facilities and sports fields.

Unlike most Pinetree stations, RCAF Station Edgar also served as a Ground-Control Intercept station in addition to its primary function as an Early Warning Detection station. It was the job of No. 31 AC&W Squadron to track any incoming Soviet threats and then dispatch and direct fighter interceptors to head-off inbound Soviet bombers or missiles.

Overseeing No. 31 AC&W Squadron was No. 3 Air Defence Control Centre, also located at RCAF Station Edgar. No. 3 ADCC also coordinated the operations of No. 32 Squadron at RCAF Station Foymount, No. 33 at RCAF Station Falconbridge, No. 34 at RCAF Station Senneterre and 912 Squadron (U.S. Air Force) at the Ramore Air Station (later taken over by the RCAF and re-named RCAF Station Ramore). With the creation of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in the late 1950s, No. 3 ADCC was re-designated the Ottawa NORAD Sector Headquarters.

When the Pinetree Line was first established, the RCAF utilized a manual system of plotting the movement of all aircraft on a large plotting board in the Operations Control Centre, situated inside a large reinforced concrete building, with Fighter Control Operators directing this process. In 1961, this system was replaced by the new Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system. A computer now determined the height, speed and direction of enemy targets and relayed the information to the Sector Control Headquarters. This change of operating procedures also lead to No. 31 AC&W Squadron being re-named No. 31 Radar Squadron and RCAF Station Edgar being placed under supervision of the Syracuse NORAD Sector Headquarters.

In May 1963, Ottawa NORAD Sector Headquarters re-located to RCAF Station North Bay and No. 31 Radar Squadron was later put under control of the Detroit Sector.

Continued upgrades in radar equipment lead to greater coverage areas for Pinetree stations. As a result, RCAF Station Edgar was deemed unnecessary as neighboring RCAF Stations Foymount and Falconbridge were now able to cover Edgar’s area of responsibility. As a result, operations at RCAF Station Edgar were terminated on March 20, 1964 and the station closed at the end of the month. A formal station disbandment parade was held on April 8, 1964, with the RCAF flag being lowered for the last time.

The Ontario Government purchased the property for just over $218,000 and in 1965, the former station became the Edgar Adult Occupational Centre for handicapped adults. This facility closed in 1999 and the Ontario Realty Corporation put up the property for sale, marketing it for possible industrial or institutional usage. It has yet to be sold.

Today the former station sits vacant. Except for occasional use by various Army reserve units, who utilize the property for training, the security guards guarding the property are the sole remaining occupants. All of the station’s buildings remain except for the Operations Control Centre building and the radar towers (they were demolished long ago), but they are slowly deteriorating. It remains to be seen what will finally become of this once important Cold War relic.

As for the rest of the Pinetree Line, in 1985 the Canadian Government announced that the Pinetree Line would be shut down as a part of the North American Air Defence Modernization Plan. By 1991, the last of the Pinetree stations closed and an important era in Canada’s military history came to an end.

For more information on RCAF Station Edgar, read “Abandoned Military Installations of Canada Volume I: Ontario” by Paul Ozorak of visit the Pinetree Line web site at www.pinetreeline.org.

To see the full Barrie Advance article, go to – http://www.simcoe.com/article/27424

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/edgar-a-cold-war-relic/

6 comments

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  1. Jerry Mullen. Major, USAF Retired Reserve.

    I served at the 912th ACW Sqdn at Ramore from December 1956 to November 1957 as an intercept officer. During July 1957, I was sent to 3 sector for “cross training” though’ my verbal orders were to work as a a sort of liaison officer, as 3 sector didn’t consider the 912th to be capable of controlling aircraft. (We only had three controller scopes, whereas RCAF control centers usually had at least a dozen.) I still have a nice letter of appreciation from Group Captain Dennison, commanding 3 sector.

    The 912th was equipped with an A/N FPS-3 main radar and two Canadian-built height finders, which were similar to the U.S. A/N TPS-10. We worked with two fighter squadrons at North Bay flying the Avro CF-100, which was a superb fighter. I’d worked with F-86 D’s before and occasionally with F-94’s and 89’s. The F-94-C had the worst characteristics of the 89 and the 86, having a slow rate of climb and short range. The CF-100 had the best of the two, having a fast rate of climb and a long range. I loved ’em. The call signs of the two sqdns were “Chopstick” and Gigalo.” One of them may have been No 114 sqdn. i don’t recall the other.

    In September, ’57, RCAF was testing all radar sqdns ability to work against electronic jamming. My crew, was called in off break, as we had been working on this problem, using the15-J-1C target simulators. One of our airmen had come up with an idea and we tried it. Even though the Air Staff Instructions (the ASI’s) forbade turning off video when aircraft were under control, when the jammer, a C-119 loaded with jamming gear showed up and gave us condition five, I turned off the video and I could see the IFF blips of the two CF-100’s from North Bay. I flipped a switch that our folks had installed and I could hear my height finder operator (who worked on a different frequency that the FPS-3) and he gave me positions for the jamming aircraft. Essentially what I did was to run two IFF blips in on a grease pencil mark! We were the only site in 3 sector that intercepted that bird.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Jerry,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site and for sharing your story. It sounds like those were some pretty fun times working on the Pinetree Line. Too bad I missed it.

      Bruce

      Bruce

  2. George Fuller

    Bruce
    During the 1950’s, as an RCAF Auxiliary intelligence officer in the MontrĂ©al area, I had a weekend assignment at RCAF Station Lac-St-Denis. Driving there I overtook and passed an Air Defense Command ECM jamming truck.
    In an Internet search for an image of one of these vehicles I have been so far unsuccessful, but happily came upon your commendable site and Major Jerry Mullen’s comments.
    It may interest you both to know that my personal records of photographs suggest that the ADC ECM aircraft he intercepted might have been either St-Hubert-based:
    C-119F-20 22122 (photographed in September 1957) or
    C-119G-60 22113 ( ” ” June 1959) .
    I will try to vector an ex-CF-100 radar navigator friend to your site to savour Major Jerry’s comments.
    Stay well!
    George Fuller

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi George,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. If you wish to share any of your photos, you can send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Bruce

  3. Melinda Skanes

    Sure brought back memories for me. My father was stationed there in 1961. I believe we were there for 2-3 yrs. Times were so different but I loved it. I still remember when they did drills and we had to go to the basement for days.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Melinda,

      I’m glad you like my web site. Pass it on to your friends.

      Bruce

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