The SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) continental air defense system was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Digital Computer Lab, the Air Force Cambridge Research Lab and MIT's Lincoln Lab between 1950 and 1957.
SAGE was intended to identify and track Russian bombers coming over the north pole. By the early 1960's, there were 23 SAGE "block houses" at various Air Force Stations across the country. Each block house was a hardened, windowless structure that was home to an enormous 200+ ton computer. Each computer would speak to the other SAGE computers, ground radar, ship-board radar and weather stations in order to keep tabs on legit air traffic and keep a constant eye out for Russian traffic. The Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site was used for communications between these fellow SAGE sites.
A fellow explorer, Keith A, lit a fire under me to go visit this site. I figured there wasn't much left to see, considering the SAGE block house was bulldozed in 1985. I was wrong. This site has tons of neat intricacies. Especially when you consider that there's a golf course encroaching on the east side, ATV trails running through the middle of the GATR sites and many of the remaining buildings have been repurposed as schools and local housing.
To reach the former Topsham (say "tops-am," not "top-sham") AFS from Bangor, take I95 south to I295 south. Get off at the Topsham Fair Mall exit and head east on 196. Take 201 North (Main St) to Eagle's Way and park behind the school.
From the parking lot, you can walk right up Mt. Ararat to the foot of the cell tower. You'll find yourself looking at the base of a huge cell tower and a fenced-in fire lookout tower. You'll also find that Mt. Ararat is a misnomer. It takes all of seven minutes to walk from the parking lot to the base of the tower. On the other side of the cell tower is the location of the former GATR receiver site. Walk north along the nicely paved access road and you'll quickly come to the former transmitter site, which is all but completely bulldozed. The original chain link fence is still standing, but the land within it is piled high with dirt for the earth work going on at the housing development at a nearby golf course.
Once you've checked out the GATR sites, head back to your car and drive around the former base to check out the remaining buildings and an air raid siren that is still in place.
Photos are from November 2009 visit.
Special thanks to Keith A for helping me to find some of the neat stuff at this site.
Photo at top left courtesy of Radomes.