Planet Fox > Microwaves > Interesting Microwave Antennas in the Wild > Alexander Long Lines Tower

AT&T Long Lines Tower at Alexander WV

Hogg horn antennas

There are a bunch of these still standing in West Virginia, and I'm currently working to photograph the entire route from Charleston to Morgantown and the AT&T International Earth Station in Preston county. The cool thing about living in West Virginia is that once something is built, it pretty much never gets taken down because no one cares. In the case of these towers, they were sold by AT&T when they decommissioned their terrestrial microwave network, probably some time in the 90's, and are currently owned by American Tower, which leases space on towers to wireless service providers like cell carriers, which ironically now includes AT&T. Most of these towers are in the middle of nowhere, so they still have all of the original stuff and no active antennas.

You'll notice that these towers are built extremely well, with heavy gauge crossmembers and a massive concrete foundation, because AT&T did not mess around. A notable difference from modern towers is that they have four legs instead of the usual three, and now that I think about it these might actually be modified electric pylons.

Gabriel horn antennaThere are two different types of horn antennas you'll see on these towers. The ones pictured above were actually made by Western Electric and are called "Hogg" horns after the guy that invented them. They're basically an aluminum pyramidal horn antenna capped with a curved reflector. The keystone shaped aperture is covered with a fabric radome to keep out weather and debris. The wire grid above them isn't part of the antenna, it's a shield to keep pieces of ice falling off the tower from hitting the antennas.

The other type, pictured at right, is a conical horn capped with a parabolic reflector, manufactured by Gabriel Electronics, which is still around and still makes great microwave antennas. Unlike the Hogg horns, these have a circular aperture, but still feature a fabric radome to keep out debris and weather. I don't know which is older, but if I have to guess I would say it's the Western Electric horns, which probably date back to the 50's.

Both types are capable of transmitting both horizontal and vertical polarizations at the same time, but use a unique feed system totally different from what is in common use today. Modern microwave systems use flexible elliptical waveguide, basically a hollow corrugated thin-wall copper tube, for the run up the tower. Elliptical waveguide can only carry one polarity, so two runs are needed for a dual polarization dish, which are combined at the feedhorn of the dish. Both the Gabriel and Hogg horn antennas accept massive, rigid, solid-copper-walled WC 281 circular waveguide which has a 71 mm (2.8") inside diameter with 1/8" thick walls, and can carry both polarities at the same time. At the base of the tower a complicated stack of filters, connectors, couplers, and adapters combined multiple frequencies and polarities for the run up the stack. When they were first installed they probably had rigid rectangular WR 229 waveguide from the indoor radios out to the bottom of the circular waveguide stacks for operation at 4 GHz, but were later modified with WR 159 waveguide for operation at 6 GHz.

As for why so many of these things are still around, it mostly has to do with size. That railing on the first picture is about four feet high and looks tiny next to that antenna. Each one of these is about 15-20 feet high and weighs as much as a small car. Removing something that size is almost as expensive as putting it up there in the first place.

There are two sets of antennas on this tower. The Hogg antennas are mounted about halfway up. I believe the North end of the link would have been the C&P central office for Buckhannon, about 14 miles away, although I'm not 100% sure. I do remember that office having a tower out back with a dish antenna pointed in that general direction, but it was taken down sometime in the mid 90's. Some time late in the service life of this tower a 15' Andrew dish antenna was mounted below the Hogg antennas, which I think it replaced. It has a separate pair of elliptical waveguide runs down the tower. The two Gabriel antennas mounted at the top of the tower are pointed South, with the South end of this link being another tower on Point Mountain Road near Woodzell, WV about 20 miles away.

Map Coordinates

38.790093° W 80.258196° N

Street Address

8774 Alexander Rd
Frech Creek, WV

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