Saturday, September 6th saw the completion of a year-long project by a pair of local Eagle Scouts to restore a vintage airway beacon tower at Brodhead Airport, and build a replica generator shed.
Several years ago, EAA Chapter 431 acquired an original airway beacon from member Chris Price. These airway beacons were used in the 1920’s and 30’s as a primitive but effective navigation aid to pilots on the fledgling air mail and airline routes of the day. Typically placed at the top of a 51 ft. tower at intervals of approximately 20 miles, pilots would follow these beacons between major cities. One of these beacons was just north of Brodhead in Decatur township, on the Chicago to St. Paul route. Local farmers recall firing up the generator and lighting the beacon every night and also mowing the grass runway at “Government Airfield”.
An original, decommissioned tower for our beacon was obtained from an airport in the region, and local Eagle Scout candidate Sebastian Adams set out to restore and put up the tower as part of a new airport memorial. Another Eagle Scout candidate, Holden Whitledge planned to build a replica generator shed to house a historical display and other artifacts for the airway beacon.
On Saturday, August 23rd, the generator shed was put up by Whitledge and a team of scouts. The previous week, Alpine Ready-Mix of Brodhead donated the concrete foundations. The weekend of the MAAC Grassroots fly-in, the restored tower was erected by a team of scouts and generous crane services donation by Carter Machine of Monroe.
In the spring, landscaping will be completed and a memorial to Brodhead Airport members will be dedicated.
Here’s a timelapse video of the tower work on Sept. 6th: