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Retired Airways Beacon Photos

For many, this page is quite possibly more than you want to know about old airways beacons.

But for aviation history buffs, a close-up view of this amazing piece of machinery might be interesting. We think that it is. And just because you took the time to click on this page, we'll tell you about a fascinating feature on the airways beacon that we didn't mention back on the new page--keep reading, please.

Serial No. 11, Department of Commerce, Airways Division

The beacon held two incandescent bulbs, not just one. They were both mounted on a rocker assembly that would tilt about 45 degrees, from side to side. The rocker assembly was spring loaded, and held in place with a small catch. At bulb replacement, you would tilt the assembly back, loading up the spring, and letting the catch hold it all in place. Both bulbs were then replaced, but when the beacon turned on, only one bulb would light--the one that was in the center of the fixture, optimal for the large parabolic mirror.

Then, somehow, when the first bulb burnt out, the lever was tripped, and the rocker assembly flipped over 45 degrees, and the second bulb was placed in front of the mirror, and power was again applied. It sounds like a Rube Goldberg device, but it mostly worked. Of course, this clever arrangement meant that you only had to climb the tower half as often to replace bulbs, a job better done on calm days: the hinged glass door was big enough to catch a lot wind if opened carelessly, and when it swung open, there was risk of being knocked off of the tower.

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The Pallet Provides A Size Reference: A Substantial Device
Official Seal of the U.S. Department of Commerce
The Beacon Comes To Earth After 60 Years Aloft
The New Beacon, Green Lens Shown
The Removed Maintenance Plate Allows A Glimpse of the Rotating Copper Ring Which Provided Power
Triangular Base, Shown Still in Operation
The Base Unit, With Mechanical Spare Bulb Mechanism
The New Beacon's Data Plate