Mystery of the "Lida Junction" Nevada gov't/military HF radio station finally solved!

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Hooligan

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Mystery of the "Lida Junction" Nevada gov't/military HF radio station finally solved!

First, read page 64 at:

http://www.americanradiohistory.com...ations/90s/Popular-Communications-1995-06.pdf


Back in the mid-1990s when I was a serious HF radio-geek living in Michigan, fellow HF-geek Rick "RD" Baker
photocopied part of the June, 1994 'Communications Confidential' column from Popular Communications magazine
(a column which Rick would take-over a few years later) in which hobbyist "Bruce Rossi" reported his finding &
exploration of a mysterious old HF radio compound (with signs of heavy security & hardening) that he stated was
near Lida Junction, Nevada. Looking at Lida Junction on a map, it's a very tiny speck in the middle of nowhere, but with
some larger cities (like Goldfield) not too far away, so the presumption is that if someone states the site is near
Lida Junction instead of just mentioning a larger, better-known location reference, that the site must truly be close
to Lida Junction.

It was a huge, cool mystery to me, and being about 1500 miles away in SE Michigan at the time, all I could do was
wonder... Looking-up at Lida Junction on a map, the best educated guess was that it was an old Atomic Energy
Commission/US military station related to the National Test Site. Rick probably sent me photocopies of the slight
update & photos from the June 1995 issue of Popular Communications (I'd stopped subscribing to the
magazine due to all the BS in it), but the photocopies eventually got thrown-out
during one of many futile attempts to clear-up clutter at my home, but I never forgot about the Lida Junction mystery, and
over the next few years, I checked topo maps, US Army Corps of Engineers Defense Environmental Restoration
Program - Formerly Used Defense Sites lists, & utilized then-new resources like Google Earth for any sort of USG/comm site signatures in that
area. Google Earth in particular was a great resource, because that area was just basically desert land, bisected by US-95,
so any human-made structures would stand-out -- and there were pretty much none to be seen besides the old
Cottontail Ranch whorehouse & adjacent landing strip, located at Lida Junction (which got it's name because it's where
Hwy 266 heads off to the mostly ghost-town of Lida from US-95, which is the main N/S route between Las Vegas & Reno.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lida_Junction_Airport
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottontail_Ranch
:: County of Esmeralda ::


Another mystery-HF site I learned about while in Michigan is a site near Tracy, California. Research on-line
(& eventually Google Earth) confirmed some sort of large structure & antenna farm compound, and reports from
locals that whenever they used to drive past it, they'd get interference on their AM radio. However the site had since closed,
and the property was being looked-at by the US Immigration & Naturalization Service for development into a
detention center. Finally, one wonderful local goes to the local newspaper 'morgue' & makes a copy of a 1959
news article about the site -- it was an FAA HF Overseas & Foreign Airways Communication Station (OFACS), specifically
an Overseas & Foreign Airways Transmitter Station (OFATS) that provided flight monitoring & air traffic control services for
civil & military aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean, outside the range of VHF/UHF radio communications. One of the
first major sites to be built during the Cold War, the operations building was semi-hardened (though antennas were still soft).


Fast-forward a couple years, and I'm now living in the San Francisco Bay area, so one of the first of many cool
old HF-radio sites I visit is the old FAA Tracy OFATs complex. Due to the usual factors -- technically speaking,
I was "passing a tres," I was operating solo in a site that looked like it'd had some other recent illicit visitors,
not a bright-enough flashlight to light-up the cavernous interior, etc.
I did not do my usual thorough investigation & documentation inside, though I did see every room, and for
reasons you'll understand if you look at my photos & captions, I even walked on the roof. Still not sure
exactly where the smaller, OFARS (Receive site) was, I'd heard it'd been on a Defense Logistics Center depot
several miles away.

My visit to the CAA/FAA Tracy OFATS:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/coldwararchaeology/albums/72157625668934091

As I was exploring the site, it immediately struck me at how some of the basics resembled the
somewhat vague description of the mysterious Lida Junction comms facility compound, which over the years,
I'd continue to check Google Earth & other Internet resources for any information on, finding nothing.


Fast-forward more years, and now I'm living in Southern Nevada & occasionally in the general vicinity of
Lida Junction, so in addition to paying a visit to the whorehouse

My visit to the Cottontail Ranch & airfield at Lida Junction (warning - some images depict dirty stuff!):
https://www.flickr.com/photos/coldwararchaeology/albums/72157645835668216

I spent a little time futilely driving around the general area, looking to see some sort of mysterious
old compound off in the distance, though I pretty much knew after all the effort using Google Earth,
there was none to be found, and thus it seemed like the "Lida Junction" facility was something
that'd continue to be a questionable mystery. I sure wanted to just think the guy had been
somewhat fibbing, and that the site he claimed was near Lida Junction NV really was the site near
Tracy, California that'd I'd explored, but being a conservative, I deal with reality, and couldn't fully
deduct that the Lida Junction site was non-existent, just to conveniently close the mystery.

I really wished that I still had the initial & follow-up info
from Popular Communications magazine, just in-case there could have been info I that wasn't
significant when I was living 1500 miles away, but that could be helpful now that I was somewhat
of a local.

Today, while researching something else, I came across this web page -- a fantastic resource for us
radio & radio-history geeks: American Radio History: Documenting the History of Radio TV and FM broadcasting and was very excited
to see that it had scans of some of the old Popular Communications issues (as well as, for nostalgia,
Monitoring Times issues, though it was also a magazine I stopped buying/reading long before it finally went out of
business). I had a rough recollection of when the "Lida Junction" info appeared in PopComm, and
after a moderate stroll down Nostalgia Street, I found the June, 1995 issue that I linked at the
top of this story. Unfortunately, the June 1994 issue which contains the first part of the tale isn't
available on the web site (if someone has that issue & wants to scan that column & send it to me, I'd
appreciate it).

Thanks to looking at the photos of the "Lida Junction" site published in that June 1995 update which
I found on-line today & comparing them with my 2002 photos of the Tracy OFATS, after 20+ years,
I can now put the mystery to rest -- "Bruce Rossi" (probably a pseudonym) *lied* about the site being
near Lida Junction Nevada, but otherwise posted semi-factual information (no basement, but a small
second floor) after exploring the former FAA OFATS site near Tracy, California. There's one particular
photo of mine that's almost identical -- albeit taken after more than 5 years-worth of additional
trespassing/vandalizing/scrapping -- to a photo that he took & was published in the June 1995
Popular Communications column.
 

Hooligan

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You could try contacting him.

His ham callsign is AL7LS
Thank you! I did notice that a few days ago, and sent him email. No response as of yet.

Yep! Here's an update that I just sent some friends earlier today

***************
By the way, I thought "Bruce Rossi" was probably a fake name, however, since he claimed he used
HF amateur radio to stay in touch with his safety network back in Arizona, I did an FCC amateur radio
callsign search on that name, and got a hit -- AL7LS -- and he lives in Las Vegas! I'm assuming it's
the same guy. I sent him email several days ago, asking if he's the "Bruce Rossi" whose exploits
exploring a mysterious, abandoned HF radio site near Lida Junction NV was mentioned in a 1994 &
1995 Popular Communications column. No response... I would like to hear from him, just to
get him to admit the site was actually in Tracy, CA & find out why back then he decided to fib about
the location. I haven't checked-into him to see how old he is -- maybe he was just young & stupid
back then (as I was...). He definitely wasted some of my valuable physical & intellectual time, but
I'm glad I was spending time on geeky stuff like that rather than on hookers & blow!
***************
 

Hooligan

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Several months later & still no response from Bruce Rossi/AL7LS...

But a friend did locate & send me a copy of the original, June 1994 story, and there was nothing in it that changes my opinion that Rossi fibbed about the location of the mystery-site he explored.
 

BCFlash

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I am somewhat familiar with both areas you discussed and concur with your findings. There are no government buildings at Lida Junction and no reason for them to be there as the Nevada Test Site boundary isn't far to the East. Also Mercury, NV, a government town for test site support isn't that far to the south on Hwy 95. (Interesting note- the government flies employees to Mercury and Area 51 from Las Vegas using unmarked 737 aircraft.) That said government radio facilities do exist is some odd locales, like the Coast Guard LORAN station near Searchlight, NV, now deactivated.

The Defense Dept. depot in Tracy, CA on Chrisman Rd., is a large complex and could've housed a receiving station. Always tight security there so you can't look around.
 

Hooligan

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Messages
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Clark County, Nevada
I am somewhat familiar with both areas you discussed and concur with your findings. There are no government buildings at Lida Junction and no reason for them to be there as the Nevada Test Site boundary isn't far to the East. Also Mercury, NV, a government town for test site support isn't that far to the south on Hwy 95. (Interesting note- the government flies employees to Mercury and Area 51 from Las Vegas using unmarked 737 aircraft.) That said government radio facilities do exist is some odd locales, like the Coast Guard LORAN station near Searchlight, NV, now deactivated.

The Defense Dept. depot in Tracy, CA on Chrisman Rd., is a large complex and could've housed a receiving station. Always tight security there so you can't look around.
Here are my LORSTA Searchlight photos:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/coldwararchaeology/albums/72157644737536227

I've been aboard the DLA San Joaquin - Tracy facility & didn't see any HF receive station signatures, nor have I seen any HF antenna signatures using Google Earth, though that doesn't mean much. I'm working with FAA & DLA Historians now.
 

mmckenna

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Thanks for posting those photos, that's pretty interesting.

Looks like the copper miners hit that place pretty hard.

I had a friend when I was in that came from Arizona. He wanted to be stationed at Searchlight really bad. Not sure he ever made it there.

I did spend a few days at the LORAN station on St. Paul Island. While I wasn't doing anything with the LORAN stuff, it was pretty interesting to hang around that station for a few days.
 

madrabbitt

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Subscribing so I can read from home (and not on a goverment computer)

Im assigned to rural nevada for the summer (and i think i actually passed that on the 95 coming north from vegas on my way up here) and im totally up for exploring on my days off.

... assuming i get days off...
 

BCFlash

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Another thanks for posting the LORSTA Searchlight photos, I guess calling it deactivated was an understatement, really stripped out except for that one large generator set.
 
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