(Editor’s note: This is the fifth part in a series about fire towers in Missouri.)
I must admit, for many years of “towering,” I didn’t pay much attention to the various tower designs.
They were either unusual, small, oil derricks, “back & forth” or “diagonals.”
However, after decades I began to have an increased interest in telling “this from that.” Now, I won’t attempt to explain the totality of design. I get stumped on the big picture even now.
But, if we limit it to Missouri, I can lay out some general ideas that you may find useful in your tower observations.
Let me begin with what I used to call the “unusuals.” These are made up of two groups: 1) Taum Sauk and Baldy; and 2) Lincoln, Tram, and Bloomfield.
Neither Taum Sauk or Baldy are very high (270 feet) and both have, as in the case of Taum Sauk, or had, in the case of Baldy, a walkway that surrounds a central housing/office unit. These features were common to CL-100 models.
Conservationist Jim Lyon noted to me that some lookouts out west have no height. They are simply built at high mountain locations and that provides the elevation for coverage.
He also noted the need for the central facilities as isolation might make trips out few and far between. It might be noted that Taum Sauk Tower sits at Missouri’s high point, so part of what is true out west might ring true here, also.
Lincoln, Tram, and Bloomfield seem to be actual or variations of the Aermotor LL-25 design. The notable feature of this model is the absence of the central steps — or “risers” — and landings. Instead, you made your way up by a metal ladder or ladders, even if that was 100 feet or more.
If the metal ladders ran to a series of platforms, LL variations were created. These models were very unpopular with the tower workers who found climbing these with many pounds of radio or supplies “interesting.”
The “small” towers might have been small in size, but were large in number and scattered all over the state. These towers were almost always “secondary” towers that were used only in the dry season or to provide coverage.