CANADIAN LORAN 'C' STATIONS

The document will be updated whenever any new history surfaces about the Canadian Loran  'C' stations.

WILLIAMS LAKE B.C. -  CHAIN 5990

Frank Statham, who served with the Canadian Coast Guard, provides some background information on the Loran 'C' station at Risk Creek, B.C. On Loran charts it is listed as Williams Lake, the master station for chain 5990. Other stations in this chain include Shoal Cove AK,  George, WA and Port Hardy BC.

"I was involved as a regional rep when Loran C chain 5990 was being installed.  A lot of the station training held at Governor's Island, NYC and then at EECEN at Wildwood, NJ.  The 100 kHz transmitter output coil conductor was the diameter of welding cable. The tubes in the RF final amplifier were water cooled.  The station in British Columbia was just west of Williams Lake, at Risk Creek.  It was placed inland to give a better cut to the hyperbolic lines on the lattice charts. Unfortunately, the coordinates of the antenna's latitude and longitude were derived by guess work - and they were wrong!  This occurred because a land surveyor moved a reference point by some several miles. By 'moved'  it meant the surveyor did it with his instruments and some type of error crept in someplace, or perhaps the marker wasn't located properly. Of course, by the time the error was discovered, the Loran 'C' manufacturers had programmed it into their receivers. Next, the USCG arrived with a SatNav system in a truck and camped out under the antenna for a week, averaging the location data.  It was out, but not by miles or anything like that, but just enough to be noticeable when navigating.
lorc_williams_lake.jpg
Aerial view of the Williams Lake station located at 51 57. 58.6 N, 122.22.01.6 W (Image courtesy of Google Earth) 
A lot of good came about with the Loran C station being out that way.  When the station came into operation, a lot of locals complained about the degradation in their phone service.  Many could hear the buzz of the Loran C signal  in their ear pieces.  I was told a few of the phones would actually ring on their own.  These phones were of the ancient "crank-type" variety.  As a result of the Loran Station, Telco had to install a new phone system.  They were using an open wire carrier system at the time -  nice long multi-mile wires, strung along tall poles and operating somewhere in the vicinity of the Loran signal.

We paid BC Hydro to extend their 3 phase power lines many miles to the station.  It wasn't long before the farmers were tapping from the line and  using 3 phase power.

We found out quickly that the local shipping companies wouldn't handle our atomic clock in the belief they were radioactive.  As a workaround, we  changed all the labels and shipping notices to read as "cesium clocks".  The station had three of them, all checking each other via strip chart recorders.  If one was drifting off, we had a control panel where we could dial in a correction. The dial was labeled in femto-seconds (10-15).    (that is:  milli, micro, pico, nano, femto).

WILLIAMS LAKE TRANSMITTER
lorc_will_lake_fpn44_tx.jpg
The heart of the station was the powerful 600 kw AN/FPN-44 transmitter. There are actually two transmitters in this in room but the leftmost one is out of view. Each transmitter had its own access door. Both transmitters backed up each other in case of failure. 
lorc_will_lake_fpn44_tankcoil.jpg
This interior view of the transmitter shows the output tank circuit.
orc_will_lake_tower_base.jpg
The base of the 600 foot tower and the feed wires. The tower was an aeronautical hazard and as such  it was marked with Pulse Technology strobes. Some pilots used the strobe lights  for navigation.
All photos in this table from the collection of Frank Statham. The station had not yet been commissioned when these photos were taken.
At the time Williams Lake was installed,  a number of monitor stations were commissioned.  The one at Alert Bay Marine Radio (BC) was a "stand alone" monitor installed at the site but separate from the facility itself. It consisted of a whip antenna, a 100 kHz receiver and a minicomputer.   The monitor's data was uploaded by land line to Williams Lake Lorsta .Since the location of the monitoring station was accurately known, the chain's controlling station could dial in the appropriate corrections to the timing equipment at the transmitting stations to eliminate any error. Alert Bay was chosen for the monitor station because it was in an operational area for marine traffic plus land acquisition, power and landline were not a problem.

William's Lake was maintained by a private contractor for many years rather than the Canadian Coast Guard even though the latter could do it cheaper.  The management and staffing was done by the contractor but spare parts were supplied and paid for by the Canadian Coast Guard. Both William's Lake and Port Hardy stations were inspected by the USCG several times a year.  Technicians were tested by the USCG for their technical ability as well" .

PORT HARDY, B.C.

Frank Statham, explains how Port Hardy B.C. was established. "A couple of years after Loran C was commissioned along the Canadian West Coast, it was found that the lines of equal time difference for chain 5990 didn't cut at a good angle. (The closer the lines are to a 90 degree cut, the better). At the time, the other stations in the chain were George, Washington; Shoal Cove, Alaska and the master at Williams Lake BC.

The cure for this problem was to install another station near the north end of Vancouver Island called Port Hardy  even though it was closer to Port McNeil. This was done around 1980. The site was likely chosen to optimize the hyperbolic lines for marine traffic as there was no airport at Port McNeil.  This station used solid state transmitters made by MegaPulse".

lorc_port_hardy_location.jpg
Since Google Earth has insufficient resolution to show the Port Hardy site, its location on Vancouver Island is pinpointed here. 
The closure of the Loran-C system in the US in October 2010 also meant the closure of the Loran-C stations in Canada since they were part of the chain..


References and Credits:

1) Frank Statham <fstatham(at)telus.net>
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LORAN


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July 4/12