Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Concrete Piece Of History...! (UPDATE)

Once in a great while, I find an article about something I've never heard of before. This is one of them!

Just imagine how important these things were back in their day. If I found one, I'd spend a long time trying to figure out just what it was. Until this article anyway.

The Concrete Arrows That Range Across The United States

By Nolan Moore on Monday, June 30, 2014


Back in the early days of airmail, flying across the US was risky business. Pilots didn’t have radar and had to rely on landmarks to find their way. Wanting to make things easier (and speed up delivery time), the USPS decided to set up concrete arrows across America, pointing the way from one coast to the other.

If you ever take a road trip across America, you might stumble across a peculiar sight. Well, you’ll probably encounter quite a few peculiar sights, but the one we’re talking about looks like a bizarre clue from a National Treasure movie. Strewn across the US are a series of giant concrete arrows, stretching from east to west. If you happen to discover one of these strange landmarks, don’t jump to any weird conclusions. They’re not the work of extraterrestrials or any secret societies. Instead, they’re part of a project devised in the 1920s by the United States Postal Service.

During the early 20th century, the USPS used locomotives to transport letters across the country. All that changed, of course, with the introduction of the airplane. Excited by this new invention, the USPS established the Transcontinental Air Mail Route, a coast-to-coast delivery system that was successfully flown in 1921 by a group of seven pilots. Planes truly revolutionized the mail industry, cutting cross-country mail delivery down from several weeks to a mere 34 hours. However, there was one slight drawback. These were the days before radar and guidance systems. Thanks to these technological constraints, pilots could only fly during the day, assuming the skies were clear. Not only did they depend on good weather, they also relied on landmarks to lead the way.

Wanting to make things easier on the pilots and speedier for customers, the USPS came up with a rather simple plan. They’d just build a bunch of arrows to point from one coast to the other. Beginning in 1923, the government started spreading these 15–20 meter (50–70 ft) concrete arrows from New York to San Francisco, covering a whopping 4,230 kilometers (2,629 mi). Each marker was spaced 16 kilometers (10 mi) apart from the next, and they were all painted a bright yellow, a color clearly visible from the sky. In addition to the arrows, each marker was accompanied by a 15-meter steel tower equipped with a beacon. These lights flashed coded messages so pilots always knew where they were, and if conditions were right, pilots could see the next tower up in the distance. Of course, if the sky was too murky, they could always glance down at the arrows and know which way to go.

While the project was finally finished in 1929, the arrows soon became outdated. When radar and radio systems came along, the project fell into obscurity. Eventually, the Department of Commerce shut the whole thing down in the 1930s. Later on, a few of the towers were converted into TV antennas, but most were scrapped during World War II. However, the arrows are still out there. They’re all faded gray now and don’t serve any purpose other than reminding us of how quickly time and technology changes.

Seems to me that there must have been a better way to give directions, but I reckon they did the best they could with what they had. Still, it seems a better way could be found. Just my opinion, ya know.

Coffee out on the patio this morning...OK?  

(Updated Version)
So many folks have asked for more info on these arrows and their location, I have a link that may be of some use to you. More info can be found right here!


Mamahen said...

I drove truck otr with my first husband a number of yrs. I would have run into or a least heard about these...Oh well learn something new everyday :))

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
It does seem that I would have heard of them from somewhere, as much as I research stuff. Interesting facts, though.

I appreciate you coming over this morning!

Chickenmom said...

Had heard about them, but never saw a picture of what they looked like - thanks for posting the pic. Dunkin' Donuts today!

Sixbears said...

I used to work with some old pilots so had heard about them. It was a straight forward simple solution. In the future they are going to blame the arrows on ancient aliens.

linda m said...

I have never heard about these before. Very interesting; wish I could see them someday. So what did a pilot do if he was off course - arrows would not be there to guide him. I agree with Mr Hermit - a better way could have been found.

texasann said...

Bubba - I love this story! I knew, of course, about the beacon system that even smal plane pilots use to go from place to place, but this is delightful! A giant arrow - what could be plainer, and of more use?? Thanks for this today, and Happy July!!
Big hugs ~

JO said...

Very interesting I think I'll look this up to see if they tell you where they are. Would be neat to find some.
Wonder how many are left.

Coffee on the patio sounds good nice morning.

edifice rex said...

Cool! Now I dying to go on a road trip to try to find some of these! lol!

Dizzy-Dick said...

When I was a kid I could see two beacons from my house. One was located at a small airport. My father-in-law told that back in the old days he had to land in a farmers field to ask directions. No radios, no radar, just the seat of your pants (grin). He also said that if there were a major city around, all roads pointed to it, like spokes on a wheel. Those were the good old days of flying.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
Funny how we could go that long and not know about them. Guess we can't know everything!

Thanks for coming by this morning!

Hey Sixbears...
At the very least! Reckon many things in the future will be blamed on the Aliens!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Linda M...
That was one concern I had as well.Pretty hap-hazard way to fly, I think.

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Sis...
I thought you might find it interesting! Nice place to have a picnic.

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Jo...
I can send you a link to some more info on them if you would like.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

Hey Anne...
Now that would be a fun trip, I think.

Might find some close to home, even! Like a treasure hunt!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Dizzy...
Now that would be some real seat of the pants flying!

Thanks for the visit today!

Mamahen said...

Thanks for the update, I was just showing this post to my hubby:))