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Edgar – A Cold War relic

Published in the Barrie Advance
6 December 2006
Published in the 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/

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