Fire Control, Radio, and Searchlight
There are five fairly unusual fire control structures (FCSs) at Fort Andrews, four of which pre-dated WW2. The fort also had its own radio station, and featured an uncommon disappearing coastal searchlight.
The first FCS [see Slides 3 and 4] was the elegant old two-story brick tower built in 1904 on the east side of the tall ridge on the northern end of the island [here called the "east side station"]. Originally the FCS held base end/spotting stations for Bttys Rice and McCook, as well as the Fort Commander's station. Later, it was designated the Battery Commander's station for Btty McCook alone (after Btty Rice did not receive any guns).
Next came the large (32' x 40') fire control building atop the 120-foot hill on the west side of the fort. Constructed in 1907, this structure [see Slides 15-17] housed twin DPF instruments and plotting rooms for the 16 mortars of Batteries Whitman and Cushing. The building was originally built at the bottom of a pit about 12 ft. deep, placing the axis of observation for the instruments only a few feet above ground level. Today, the building has been collapsed in upon itself by fallen trees and has slowly been deteriorating, choked with debris and vegitation so it can not easily be explored.
This building, which seems to have been abandoned before WW2 (the mortar batteries it supported were discontinued in December, 1942) was accompanied by a 16-foot square dormitory and a 16' x 10' latrine constructed behind it, but nothing remains of these outbuildings except some vine-covered concrete foundations about 50 ft. to its west.
Then, in 1925, two more fire control positions were built. One, a coincidence range finder (CRF) station [see Slides 1 and 2] for the 3-inch guns of Battery Bumpus, was located in a pillbox-like bunker built over the platform originally intended for Gun 1 of Btty Rice, at the other (westerly) end of the row of gun positions on the north end of the island. The other, a Depression Position Finder (DPF) station for Btty McCook [see Slides 5-7], was set up in a 6'6"-cube pillbox-like bunker that was mostly buried, about 70 feet in from the lip of the bluff northwest of Btty Rice [the distance from the lip had shrunk to about 30 feet by 2010, due to erosion]. Both of these positions were part of the WW2 fire control system at the fort. [[Slide 7 shows the gaping entry shaft to the DPF bunker hidden in the brush, a real hazard to a careless visitor.]
The final position was a base end/spotting station constructed in 1944 (surprisingly late in the war) for the 6-inch guns of Battery McCook [see Slides 10-14] and located up on the western hill about 50 ft. south of the 1907 Whitman-Cushing station mentioned above.
Unique among other Boston coast artillery installations, Ft. Andrews was provided in 1909 with its own radio transmitting station, a 16' x 22' structure with a radio room, a work room, and a generator room (although the generator seems to have been rated at only .36KW). The radio station building could not be found in the thick underbrush during a recent (2010) field visit.
The fort's searchlight emplacement (see the lower gallery at left) is located about 30 ft. behind the McCook DPF pillbox. As the photos [Slides 1 and 2] show, what is visible today is the heavily rotted rail-mounted wooden cover for the pit into which the 60-inch searchlight of 1924 [Slide 3] was designed to be lowered. The cover would be slid back along the rails, and two men would operate a hoist which would lift the light from its concrete pit. That pit was about 9 x 19' and 14' deep. [Today one must be very careful in exploring near the searchlight pit, since it would be easy to fall down its access shaft or fall through its rotted cover.
The 60-inch light installed in 1924 included a GE N-6 projector, which replaced a 36-inch GE EC-36 unit that had been installed in 1914. The smaller light had apparently been mounted in a surface shelter close to (or at) the location of the 1924 pit. An N-10 unit replaced the N-6 light in 1942. These successive lights were each controlled by remote cable from the 3-story east side fire control station, and drew their power from one of the two 25KW generators at Btty Cushing, about 1200 ft. distant.
The 60-inch searchlight is said to have had an effective range of 5 or 6 miles, which would make it possible for the Ft. Andrews light to cover the entire mouth of the harbor between Hull and Ft. Dawes (Deer Island), reaching westward all the way to Boston (over a few islands) and northeasterly well out past the Brewsters.