Visiting Jamesburg Earth Station (USA)

AT&T’s Jamesburg Dish – by Robert brand

In early June 2012 I visited the Jamesburg site with the intention of surveying the site and turning it into a data centre. The site was abandoned by AT&T in 2002 following the attacks on the NY World Trade Center buildings. It was thought by AT&T that Jamesburg was too vulnerable to aircraft attack of a similar nature. I recently set up a company that is now looking to buy the site. The 2 day visit was like a trip back in time as many of the site’s offices and systems were still fully intact.

The picture above shows that the dish is still able to move as it was taken out of stow for a movie being made on site at the time of my visit. The large vertical appendage on the left of the structure is a covered stairway giving access to the upper rooms. Although the tracking system is still installed, the owner was using a manual controller. The tracking system is shown below (Note you can click on the images to enlarge them):

The halls are still filled with pictures of the Intelsat family that was worked by Jamesburg and the battery room still filled with batteries:

The power switchboard is also 100% active and capable of switching half a megawatt.

Below is the current owner (Jeff Bullis – r) with his nephew (Scotty – l) in the lunchroom as it was when it was vacated – fully operational and well appointed. I am in the picture on the right with the rather interesting map with 2 Australias. One showing the pacific Intelsat coverage and the other showing the Indian Ocean Intelsat coverage.

The site had a room filled with filling cabinets with every bit of AT&T correspondence. A Jamesburg fax cover sheet is seen below (left). The waveguide below the dish is able to swivel and transition from the vertical to the horizontal in the photo to the right.

I certainly remember working with Jamesburg regularly on day shift as the morning US TV news feed was sent to Paddington from Moree. It is amazing to think that this site was so completely abandoned 10 years ago. It is like using a time machine to go back to when it was operational. An amazing experience   More on Jamesburg in a future post.

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6 thoughts on “Visiting Jamesburg Earth Station (USA)

  1. Bob,

    Very interesting and also brought back many happy and stressful memories. I was in OTC(A) Marketing Branch and we were responsible for negotiating and booking space and ground segments for Video/Audio transmissions to/from USA and Australia.

    Satellite capacity for video services was of very limited availability as it required a full transponder and later to half transponder working and of course to multi-digital channels today. Due to the limited video capacity available on the satellite and not forgetting a very limited number of satellites we had to improvise with a combination of several satellites in several regions, appropriate ground segments and multi standards conversions.

    Then there was the U.S. system where the carrier of week rotated between 4 U.S. carriers WUI, AT&T, and I think RCA was the other and I’m unable to recall the fourth carrier.

    The scenario today is very different with several satellite operators, leased full time video channels
    and earth stations owned and operated by the customers. The terrestrial component is no longer an issue as customers can transmit/receive from their own fixed and portable ground stations. Incidentally Nine Network Australia signed the first international transponder lease in the world. There contract number at Intelsat was numbered 001 and it was on the Intelsat POS 180E satellite.

    If I recall correctly, Brewster SES in Washington State came into service to replace Jamesburg. It was a great period to be in the industry particularly when we had to employ all means at our disposal to secure space segment for our Australian customers which required many months of forward planning.

    Kind Regards

    Vernon Yen

    • Thanks Vernen for the background info on this. I was around when the Nine TV Network took their own lease. Worrying days for the income side of the business. None the less the program side continued to expand. I departed OTC in 1987 so the Jamesburg closure was a long way away. Oddly enough I uncovered documents at Jamesburg that showed that they had intended closing Jamesburg in the 1980s, but it stayed operational until 2002

  2. Bob – Oh so interesting….I worked within the industry ….it was ever so exciting back then…almost like Spock on Enterprise” Space the new frontier”…I changed careers to the Travel Industry and I am always looking for new locations for special interest tour groups….Please contact me with further information about the site in Jamesburg – when you have taken it over…and would love to discuss the possibility of tours stopping off….It would give wonderful insight / rare access for the tour participants.
    Thanks
    Jules Montgomery

    • It is a beautiful drive from Monterey Ca into Carmel Valley, but the windy road is fairly dangerous for cars and a bit hard on tour buses. Would there be an income to offset the inconvenience? We are looking at a high security site in the long term.

      • Hi Bob – yes we pay a fee to visit sites/hosting fees for guided tours..and if required we will provide information on each persons background (Russian site Star City has requested the same for visits to Moscow)
        My groups aren’t large – generally 20 …very boutique and specialized.
        I have used Hummers on some tours (just to give you an idea of the extremes I will go to). Also to set the record straight..i am a female….I can remember dealing with one Middle Eastern F1 Circuit manager who corresponded with me via email for 10 months while organizing a tour…and when we met face to face..he burst out laughing cause he was expecting a male.

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