Herminie Nike Site
Herminie/Cowansburg Nike Missile Site - PI-37
Where: Herminie/Cowansburg, PA
Status: IFC is private and off limits, Launch is reused by machine shop
This was the 3rd stop on my Pittsburgh Area Nike Site Self Tour. This one did not go as planned. First I only had it on the map with basic cordinates, so I wasn't sure exactly where it was located. The marker on the map that I printed made me think that I should go down a back road that essentially led me on about a 40 minute wild goose chase. This was poor planning on my part. I then found my way back to the main road that I had been on, and proceeded to drive past the base twice before realizing where it was located... finally, I find the control site.
As you can see in the main pitcture above, there were signs... Dog signs. Of course I considered that maybe they were just empty warnings. I got out... stood around for a while... listened for dogs, considered my options, and eventually left. It looked relatively abandoned to me, but I wasn't about to cross no-trespassing and beware of dog signs. Instead I'd look for the launch site. Strangely, as I'd eventually find out, the control sites are better protected than the launch sites. If you completely lost, its because you're coming in to the middle of a story. Check the Elrama or Herminie sites for a better explantion.
Assmbly area. See the dips to the right of this picture. These kept the fuels seperate in the case of a spill during prep.
In this instance, the two sites are very close to one another. The Launch site was directly accross the street. I headed that way. It became quickly clear that this site was still in use. I had read that a machine shop used the launch site and that ended up being the case. In my own obnoxious way, I decided just to ride through and hope no one minded. I was wrong. I rounded the assembly building pictured above and was stopped by a bearded man in a golf cart. He was friendly, but curious as to what I was doing. I told him that I was curious and he advised me to ask the owner if it was ok to look around a little. We went back to the former barraks which was not used as offices, and I meant a nice gentleman by the name of Chip. I explained my intentions and eventually Chip agreed to show me around... but not without cautioning that he isn't able to give people tours... so don't show up there looking for one. He's a busy guy and was kind enough to take me around. He also showed me some models that a former base assignee had built of the site and they were amazing... very cool.
Chip couldn't have been more kind. He drove me out to the battery and took me below ground. He took his valuable time to explain the elevator system, what he had to do to rehab the site, and how the program originally worked. It could not have been better. I really can't thank him enough. He had spent time fixing and maintaining the lift. We discussed the auto leveling system, which he once had to repair, as well as the pumps he used vs the much faster pumps the military used and removed from the hydraulics. Chip showed me the filters, the small control space at the bottom of the hatch behind blast doors... pretty much everything you could want to see. Out of respect for his privacy and property, I didn't take pictures. Stick with me... You will see in one of these.
Chip filled me in on a lot of details... the basics of how the system worked, that people from the launch side weren't allowed on the control side, and vice versa, how the missiles were assmebled, fueled, what the basic buidings were (generator house, bunker, barraks, assembly, etc). Basically anything I could think to ask. Again, he doesn't give tours, so please don't go asking for the tour the guy on the internet got. Over all, Chip made my day. I finally got to see inside a missle battery. I didn't get many photos, but I'd make up for that at the Irwin site. One additional detail that Chip helped me out with... the beware of dogs sign across the street is legit. His advice... stay the heck away from the control site. Someone owns it, they have dogs, and they may or may not live there. Keep Out!
We talked a little about if anything had ever left the site in terms of missiles, and if I understood correctly, one was fired, as a test, shortly after the site was built. I'd love to have seen that. These suckers go about 1600 mph, almost as fast as the beat up Honda I drove there!!
Additional Pictures at the Link below... there aren't many.
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Lots more 2007 pictures can be found in the gallery here.