By Ron VandenBoom
You get a real good view of Havre when you're suspended by a harness some 240 feet in the air, but it's little more than another day's work to the men of the Communications Maintenance Department of the BNSF Railroad.
And another day's work was exactly what employees of Ray Southworth's maintenance team were doing in Havre Tuesday as they worked to replace a parabolic dish atop BNSF's 240-foot microwave transmission tower.
"We're going from an analog radio to a digital radio," Southworth said.
The 25-year-old communications tower is the tallest man-made structure in Havre and serves to maintain microwave communications between Havre and points east and west of Havre.
The old Collins-Rockwell radio had about 600 channels, Southworth explained. The new Magastar digital system will increase the number of channels to about 2,000.
The upgrade is part of a project to convert BNSF's communication system between Havre and Fargo, N.D., this summer a project Southworth estimates will cost about $4 million.
"Next year we'll probably go west," he said.
Included in the Havre portion of the project is a new building that sits just east of the tower.
Construction of the single room, box-shaped building, began in January and is designed to house the computers and other digital equipment needed to maintain communications.
Also being installed is a two-inch diameter cable that will connect from the tower to the building. The cable will be capable of handling 5.9 to 6.9 ghtz of data and will have forced air running through it to prevent moisture buildup and corrosion.
The new system will monitor all data circuits and all circuits that monitor train location, Southworth said.
Train location is determined by sensing stations that read codes attached to the side of a train as they pass by a sensor. Two such sensing devices are located in Havre on the east and the west end of Havre Yard.