Lyons Long-Lines AT&T Communications Tower/Bunker

Lyons, Nebraska

1967 - ?

Apart of the reinforced L-carrier communications system, a trunk like to carry phone and data, Lyons was on a portion of the transcontinental L-4 system route. Due to it's proximity to Offutt Air Force Base, it acquired a specialized task. Offutt's "Looking Glass" aircraft could tap into the lines via UHF antenna, and ground based messages could help direct America's nuclear forces before and possibly during a nuclear war.


An evolution of long-ranged communication nationwide began via telegraph, but by 1911, multiplexing had become a reality and a national method of voice circuit via telephone was becoming possible but not yet practical. By 1941, the first "L" system ran on a frequency of 3 Mhz, carried 4 tubes per cable and could carry 600 voice channels per tube. During the early years of the Cold War, a national system was devised in the form of the L-3 promising a great deal of improvement. Along with emerging microwave communications technology, these "long-lines" could not only provide voice communications but also television signals. 

The military requirement

The problem of command, control, and communications between nuclear forces became more acute by the late 1950s. By the Kennedy Administration these military systems were seen as a "one-shot" system, meaning only the message to launch the nuclear force was necessary. The need for communications during and after a nuclear war were somewhat overlooked. While Strategic Air Command began devising alternative methods, AT&T was working to secure their own networks and provide more bandwidth via the L-4 Transcontinental Coaxial route. A nominal improvement over the L-3 network, signal stations and repeaters were "toughened" to withstand nuclear attack. Main stations, over 100 of them, were built and protected to the extent of having underground facilities, emergency power systems, blast doors and enough supplies to help a crew within the facility hold out for up to 2 weeks. 


Especially due to the fact that the Lyons, Nebraska L-4 site was located so close to Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, it became a site of national importance. It was connected to Platte, Wyoming via L-4 line (twenty coaxial cables) via the transcontinental route but also to Offutt AFB (eight cables) via North Bend, Nebraska (twelve cables). Spacing would suggest a route around Omaha (a possible nuclear target) but also near Offutt's other communications hubs near Elkhorn and Scribner, Nebraska (High Frequency radio). In addition, the Lyons tower also possessed underground and microwave redundancies.


The introduction of "Combat Ciders", a USAF method of communications converting signals from line-of-sight UHF transmissions (usually via aircraft) to the AUTOVON system that ran on L-4 circuits, meant that Lyons would receive UHF antennas (which, as of 2020, still remain in place). This meant that "Looking Glass" missions by Strategic Air Command, "Nightwatch" National Emergency Airborne Command Post aircraft, and even Air Force One could tap into national landlines via radio to send and receive signals. 


By the 1980s, communications technologies like fiber optics and laser were overtaking the old coaxial methods. The phase-out of the system may have occurred sometime during the late 80s or early 90s. AT&T phased out and eventually sold the tower facility at Lyons to American Tower, however it's fate thereafter is unknown. Today, the site appears abandoned.

Photos Taken Fall 2019

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