Radio Adventures and Stories Page
Pete Tauriello of Shadow Traffic
|I am the morning drive traffic reporter for 1010 WINS (13 years) and Z100.
I began as a disc jockey and later became a program director, music director..now program director for Shadow Traffic/New
York (actually Rutherford, NJ.) I was never happy just to be behind the microphone and while my expertise is in
radio programming, I also have a great love for the tech side of the profession. I am happy to say that back in
my high school days I made it a point to visit many of the wonderful transmitter sites you featured in your vintage
New York Transmitter page. I knew Bill Reid, the transmitter supervisor at WMCA, which was the first site I ever
visited. It was Reid who taught me about audio processing, basic transmitter operation and directional antenna
systems. I remember the 3 RCA transmitters that were there back then...A big beautiful 5DX, a BTA 5H and a BTA
5U....Today, only the 5 U is still there, but never used. They use a Nautel main and a Collins/Rockwell as a back
up. They now diplex with WNYC, using the same three 315 foot towers.
I also work weekends for WEVD..and I am quite familiar with the WEVD/WHN/WMGM site in East Rutherford. Today at WEVD we use a Continental 317-c-2 50 KW, which feeds three 500' towers. We use one of the old Continental 50 KW rigs from the WHN days as a backup and I think the 10 KW rig is shot. Shortly before WEVD took over 1050, WFAN had our site using an RCA Ampliphase transmitter inhereted from WHN. Sadly, an engineer was electrocuted one night working alone at the transmitter after having defeated a safety interlock.
I also remember the big Western Electric unit at WWRL which just went to 25Kw using a new Harris DX-25 with a 5KW Continental backup. A real treat was the old WOR Transmitter site in Carteret, NJ, which was one of the last sites to use the Big Western Electric 50 KW transmitters that the late Jack Poppele installed in 1935. When I was there, the Western was retired and the cooling pond out front was filled in, but it was lovingly maintained. My last visit to Carteret was to bid farewell to the site, the day before the wrecking ball claimed the site....INCLUDING the Western Electric Transmitter. That day I made my last visit, Mr. Poppele showed up and pulled a set of huge power triodes from the old Western Electric and took them home. It was a sad moment.
I loved your tour of WABC. I knew that it had the old GE rig, I always wanted to see it, but never did. Now, thanks to your page, I have.
By the way...When the WCBS/WNBC 500' tower on High Island was knocked down (it's still there laying in the weeds!) WABC let WNBC, not WCBS use its 10KW backup transmitter. WCBS used a loaner from WLIB which could hardly be heard, and flipped their programming to the FM side...as luck would have it..on the debut day of their new all news format. I also toured the old WNEW site...Monochrome photos do not do justice to those beautiful, Westinghouse Transmitters. They had blue glass as I recall and audio to die for. I also visited WJRZ (Country 97) and accidentally took the station off the air when I went through the wrong door going to the bathroom. Thank God, the engineer had a sense of humour.
Jim, thanks for a great trip down memory lane and such a great web site. I hope to see more in the future.
Best Wishes, Pete Tauriello
Just a quick note to say thanks-for-the-memories! I just paid my first visit to your web page dedicated to the WABC transmitter site. I spent many enjoyable hours there hanging-out with Wayne Ely (who was keeping Ohio's network of public tv station transmitters on the air until he passed away last year) and Larry Mussman who followed him as the main man assigned to keep Lodi up and running. Larry's now piloting DC-9's, flying gamblers to and from Atlantic City. The site shown in your 1966 pictures was very much the same when I joined the station in January of 1968. Major changes came in the early 70's when to 10KW Continental auxilliary xmtr was pulled-out, the GE Hi-Level 50K became an alternate-main, and a new Gates 50K main xmtr was installed. It was the first generation of xmtrs using the pulse duration modulation concept (PDM) and allowed positive peak modulation approaching 120%. It made WABC even louder with more audio punch and beat the pants off the old GE as well as every other 50KW in the market including the RCA Ampliphase that WNBC had. If memory serves, WABC got the third Gates PDM produced. KDKA got the first, WGN the second.It was not long after that the GE was packed off to some 3rd world country and a second Gates (then Harris) 50KW PDM was installed. WABC now uses the successor to these units, the Harris DX-50; in my opinion the best sounding 50K in service today. WINS uses one,. too.
Thanks for keeping the memories alive. I'd love to chat with you about the station someday when you have some time to kill. I was the afternoon news anchor on WABC from 1968 until April of '79 when I joined the ABC Radio Network full-time. I shall always be known by the label the great Dan Ingram bestowed on me: world's skinniest newsman!! And I am back on the station again with my net 'casts weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And yes, that K2NX is my ham call.....QTH Norwood, NJ since 1970 (Harry Harrison and I are neighbors).
Best regards......Bob Hardt
|Just found your most informative web page. Was a treat to look at the old
transmitters. It is interesting that WABC is located just off I-80 and further down the road off I-80 is WLS [about
750 Miles]. WNEW had two top hat towers at the old site.
A friend of mine and I have the hobby of going to AM radio transmitter sites. We happened to go to the new WNEW site and as we were walking back from the transmitter site to the car were approached by a fellow riding a bicycle. He worked for the company which has the big natural gas storage tanks close to the new site. He had seen the night pattern book issued by The National Radio Club in the back seat of the car. On finding out who we were he invited us into the facility for a tour. He said the wnew bought land from his company in the late 60'S ('68).
We have been to every transmitter site in the New York area. We now are older (a lot older) and are realizing our childhood ambition to visit transmitter sites and have seen them all over the country. Of course the neatest antennae are the oldest ones. The true diamond shapes are awesome. Unfortunately there are only three left and one of them is located in the state where I live (NH).
One other item. Back in the early 90's we met the chief engineer of KMOX in St Louis. He said that the KMOX tower is the old WBBM tower. Apparently there was austerity there in recycling.
In speaking with these engineers of the big stations one can sense the loss at the demise of the 1A's. The chief engineer of WLW let me see the pattern map of the station when it was 500 KW in the 30's. They had to have 'SUPPRESSOR' towers to make sure they did not exceed the international agreements when the signal hit the Canadian border.
You live in a major metropolitan area. Up here in NH the radio at bedside is tuned to WCBS all the time. It is not readily audible during the day. But at night the signal is as strong as ever. The loss of the 1A's has made it much more difficult for those on the road at night to listen to a stable signal. That is progress I guess.
Thanks for sharing your efforts with those of us on the net.
Hal worked at WPAT in Paterson, NJ from 1968 to 1974.
This is an uphill battle. First we assume that you have $$$ available.
The lowest power you can get today is 250 watts, and that is only on certain frequencies. You'll need a minimum of 500 or 1000 on certain others.
You will need a consulting engineer to do a study to determine what frequencies (if any) are available in your area. You might have to build a multi-tower directional antenna, and then you have to question whether this is worth the expense (in real small markets it probably isn't).
If you are successful in finding a frequency that will fit, you then need an FCC attorney and between you, the attorney and the engineer, a many page FCC form 301 license application is submitted to the FCC (along with a hefty filing fee). Then it goes out on public notice, and everybody and his brother (including me) can file "on top of you" such that now the FCC has to determine who will be the best licensee.
Problem is, the FCC shut off comparative hearings several years ago and there are about a zillion applications on hold because of it. Maybe they will auction them off, maybe they will have a lottery, or maybe they will invent a new method to dole them out. And maybe you will just grow old waiting to find out.
AMs can be bought in many places, fairly cheap. Why don't you go looking for one?
I'm not jaded. I'm realistic. I spent over $150,000 trying to build my first radio station between 1984-1986 (when we finally got it on). This was in a small Florida unrated market, and it happened to be an AM. In retrospect, although I did well, $150,000 is a great downpayment on a radio station, maybe even a nice small market FM. Look at options. Going from scratch is not the best way and it sometimes takes many years.
Where did that money go? Engineers, LAWYERS, paying off somebody who filed against me, and a myriad of expenses that had nothing to do with bricks and mortar.
Anyone interested in reminicing about New York City morning drive-time radio in the 1950s?
I was just a young kid then, and I only have vague memories, but from what I recall, there were a remarkable number of great talents on the New York airwaves at that time.
From what I recall the following were on the air then:
WNEW - Gene Klavan and Dee Finch (In my opinion, the greatest radio morning team ever)
WINS - Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding (a close runner-up)
WMGM - Ted Brown and "The Redhead"
WNBC - (I'm not certain about this one, but I believe I recall Bill Cullen doing a show called "Pulse")
WCBS - Jack Sterling
WOR - John Gambling (first the original one, and then his son.)
WMCA - Joe O'Brien
WABC - Herb Oscar Anderson
WQXR - George Edwards (who, I believe, started with the station in 1936, and lasted until the late 70s or early 80s)
Some of these shows included live music (I specifcally remember a live dixieland band on Jack Sterling; I think others had musicians as well)
Anyone else want to reminisce, comment, correct, add, etc.
|I remember Klavin and Finch (later just Klavin and prior, it was Rayburn and
Finch) my favorites, Bob and Ray, Ted Brown and the "Redhead", Jack Sterling, John Gambling (with his
live little orchestra), Joe O'Brien (JOB Show), Herb Oscar Anderson (HOA) "Hello Again", and George Edwards.
I remember tuning in to a "carrierless" 1560 when suddently WQXR would come on with a 50KW POP and George
Edwards would immediately start with "Well, Good Morning.. this is George Edwards...". [Bob Weinstein
recalled that George Edwards used Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" as a theme song shortly after some brief
announcements. I do remember that, also.] I do not remember Bill Cullen on radio, just on TV. I also remember Jack
Sterling as the ring-master on a circus show on TV and the sponsor was Sealtest Ice cream, jingle: "Get the
best with Sealtest". I remember John Gambling Jr. best for his readings of school closings when it snowed.
I used to just sit there and wait for him to announce my school when I lived in River Edge, NJ. I remember John
Gambling Sr. with the small live orchestra with some voilins, an accordian, a piano and I don't know what else.
I remember Klavin best when he did his own show with all the characters he did the voices to like Dr. Isodor Isobar (doing the weather in an imitation voice of W.C. Fields) and Trevor Traffic, ("hi sir") with a fake helicopter background noise. Often the copter would develop some "engine trouble noises" and that would end the report. I always tried to see if Klavin would ever try talking at the same time as the characters, but don't remember him doing it, but the timing was so close, especially when he would interrupt himself with the character voice. It gave the illusion of simultanious talk.
I often listened to whatever my father would tune to in the car which seemed to vary alot.
|On the airplane collision into the WCBS/WNBC tower.
My name is Paul Ducroiset, an Engineering Superviser at WCBS and WCBS-FM. I was employed by WCBS on August 14, 1967 in anticipation of the start of Newsradio 88 on August 28, 1967. The plane accident occured in the afternoon of Sunday August 27, 1967, the day before the start of Newsradio 88. ABC offered WCBS the use of the Aux tower at Lodi, NJ but for some reason the management of WCBS decided not to take them up on this offer but instead chose to use the old abandoned site of WLIB located on the East River in Astoria, Queens. We were only able to get about 800 watts out of the old kilowatt transmitter. WNBC was then offered the use of the WABC aux tower. The two stations operating at 660 Khz and 770 Khz from the main and aux tower in Lodi caused the beat at 880 Khz and this created a problem for WCBS on the west side of Manhattan. Fortunately this condition only lasted about a week and at that time both WCBS and WNBC went back to operating at High Island in the Bronx on a new emergency tower. WNBC was operating at 5 Kw and WCBS at 10 Kw into this emergency tower. When the new permanent tower was erected both stations went back to full 50 Kw operation. A 200 ft aux tower was constructed for both stations to operate into in an emergency. By the way, Newsradio 88 started operating on Monday morning August 28, 1967 as planned on WCBS-FM transmitting from the Empire State Bldg. I guess you could say, we were the first FM station to transmit an all news format.
John Vodenik, Voice of America Transmitter Technician - WB9AUJ, Mason, Ohio
|Memories from the Bethany Relay Station
Having been employed at Bethany Relay Station for almost 10 years, I have a few stories I would like to tell.
I'll start with the spark transmitter that a few of us constructed one slow Saturday. Since our primary function as technicians was to: 1. Get the transmitters on and 2. Keep them on, when things are going well, we kind of get bored. Back about 1994, a couple of us decided to see what it was really like back in the spark days. We gathered up a few transmitting caps from the Crosley transmitter stock, wound a couple coils, and built a spark transmitter. It was "breadboarded" on the workbench in the electronics repair shop. The antenna ran from the top of the guard tower, about 80 feet high, down to the front of my truck. From there, the wire ran into the building through a piece of fiberglass tubing, and connected to one of the caps. To get the high voltage, one of the guys brought in a furnace ignition transformer, so we had about 10,000 volts AC We found a CW hand key in my locker, and connected the 110 VAC from the wall outlet through the key contacts, and on to the transformer input.
Somehow, we didn't kill ourselves. Every time we closed the key, there was a very LOUD crack, as the 110 VAC arced across the key, and then the spark gap came to life. The "operators" had to use hearing protectors, to deaden the sound. It could be heard all over the transmitter halls. We managed to generate quite a bit of ozone that day.
The "signal" was located at 1340 KHz on the broadcast band. One of the guys jumped in his car, for a "field strength measurement". We were getting out to 5 miles, and the signal was very narrow band, NOT what we had expected to see. Tuning to 1330 or 1350, the signal was gone.
Things were progressing well, until the output capacitor managed to set the workbench top on fire! So ended the great spark experiment.
Fire in the Hole
Hurry up and Wait
|On antenna tuning for optimal signal transmission and fidelity.
Jim, AM, before NRSC was allowed to transmit whatever the transmitter and antenna system could produce, and if you knew how you could "flatten" your antenna to look just like a resistor. If you did it just right you could make the load 50 J0 at carrier and at +/- 15 KHz. This was why some stations sounded like a million dollars and others sounded like they had a pillow over the speaker. To do so required one additional circuit to the common "T" network. It was a series L/C net at the input of the tower itself and required a fairly large value of cap and coil to get to the point that it would cancel the reactance of the antenna in a linear step. It was something that if the engineer of the station knew about it they said very little or nothing at all about. It was referred to by some as the "secret weapon". Most took what they could get at carrier and did what they could with the Tnet to make it as flat as possible. In some cases the tower was naturally flat (not many) and the T was sufficient. The difference in all of this of course, was if the antenna looked like a dummy load then the transmitter would pass the audio with no distortion, hence developing tons of sideband power in the antenna rather than bottling it all up in the coils and caps in the transmitter where it did no one any good. As you know, there is no value in the carrier in an AM transmission system as the receiver can only hear sideband information. It is incredible to me that very very very few people to this day understand that relationship. Even the people who make AM transmitters. It came out a little when AM stereo was getting set to go but in the tradition of broadcast engineering it was kept a well hidden "secret". If you set your antenna up for flat response with AM stereo the result was a transmitter and sound that far outperformed FM stereo. NRSC changed everything. They decided that just like FM, preemphasis was needed. They later limited the bandwidth allowed to either 7 1/2 or 5 KHz and I am not real sure which. There is not much point in trying to run a CD player through that... They did this to "protect" adjacent channels from splatter. The really (to me) sad part of all of this is, if they would lift the bandwidth restrictions, and share the knowledge of how to make the final filter work, with the new transmitter technology I think AM would still be a perfectly useable transmission medium. I spent the better part of my broadcast career learning why some stations sounded terrible and other stations really shined. Some, even with identical RF and audio paths seemed to outdo the others. I work now for Multi Technical Services. We do custom electronic design and manufacturing. We have a few broadcast related products. EAS, distribution amps, and composite FM receivers. Most of our money is made in other areas.
|Austin Ring Adventure, a "Blowup Story"
"The adventure occurred when I was Assistant Chief Engineer at WNDE-AM/WFBQ-FM (Made it to CE a few years later, then left when the station was sold). Presently, I am Chief Operator/Senior RF Technician at WTHR-TV/WALV-LP; this is a "don't salute me, I work for a living" job, hands-on tech work mainly at the transmitter site. I have a desk but most of my time is spent away from it. :) Even though I do like tubes, I'm awfully fond of the present WTHR rig, an all solid-state 70kW Harris which we run at about 50kW...things have to go *really* wrong before it won't make power!"
Jeff Herman and Jim Durham have shared tales of big broadcast tube rigs working into horrid loads; here's mine:
One fine day I was heading into work at a local 5kW AM, listening to the radio (of course) and enjoying a thunderstorm, when the signal just vanished! I was a few blocks away; sped up, zoomed through the parking lot and up the loading ramp to the back door and was in the AM control room in seconds.
"It won't come back on!" wailed the op. A dash back to the transmitter room showed the Rockwell main rig ready, no OL flags, but it cycled right back out of Plate On; so I fired up the RCA BTA-5U2 all-tube standby, waited 30 seconds for everything to very nearly warm up :), hit the Antenna Transfer and Plate On switches, bang, bang, and we were back.
Antenna current was *way* off; so was PA plate current in the final. The Null meter on the OIB was *pegged!* Back down the hall, top speed, out the door, and squish-squish-squish through the swampy field towards the 440' self-supporting tower. About halfway there, I noticed a thin thread of smoke wending upward from one leg at the base.
Does everyone know what an Austin Ring transformer is? It's one way to light up the aircraft-warning lights on a base-fed AM tower, two *big* toroids interlaced like links of a chain, each a yard across and massively heavy. Very low capacity between the windings, which should each pass through the center of the circle formed by the other.
Well, ours had shifted and got very close at one point, a lightning hit had arced across and the windings had sort of blown out and been nearly welded--the RCA was running into a dead short at the end of about 500 feet of coax and the antenna-tuning unit! I turned around and ran back, yelling "Shut it off! OFF!" to the AM op, who was standing in the door watching the loopy engineer girl running around in the field.
On the run back, I remembered we had some scrap plexiglas in the shop. Ran right by the op, through the building, and back behind the transmtters (killed the RCA on the way, the op being slow at the switch), dug out the plex, and snapped it into 6" lengths on the edge of the bench. Grabbed as much as I could carry, ran *back* out to the tower.
No keys--my purse was still in my car! Oh, well, I had on old jeans anyway, so I stuck the plex through the gate, climbed the 7" fence, hoisted myself up the 6' concrete pier (not too hard a trick, there were bolts sticking out), popped the two rings of the Austin apart by setting my shoulder against one and pushing up with my legs and commenced hammering in as many pieces of 1/4" plex as would fit. (About six).
Ran back in, turned on the RCA from the control room--and everything was *perfect!* No smoke, no sizzle, base current dead-on. Elapsed time from arrival, fifteen minutes.
On my way back to Engineering, still half out of breath and plenty wet and muddy, I met the General Manager. "Hey, we're off the air," he says, then does a double take and asks, "What happened to *you?* Flat tire?"
"No, it was...well, we're not off the air now, okay?" He didn't ask anything else.
(We ran the old transmitter all that day, not being too sure about the RF properties of wet Plexiglas with the paper left on, without problems and took off and replaced the old Austin that night. Seem to recall one of my shoes Vanished Forever in that eternal fifteen minutes, and I clomped around in army boots, kept in my office for slogging out for base-current readings, the rest of that day. 1982 or 3, maybe I started a fashion trend?)
...There's another story, more recent, about cleaning up and rebuilding an output "Tee" on a TV rig, and not getting the center conductor stuck back on in the long vertical run of 3.125" rigid coax at the output; transmitter came up into it just fine, and wasn't I mystified for a half-hour about why it wouldn't tune up properly! Sheeesh, was my face red....
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Richard Loken, Presently, Systems Programmer, VMS - VE6BSV
|Expensive Mousetrap, another "Blowup Story"
This tale would be circa 1975 I figure. At that time I was a maintenace technician at CJOC Television in Lethbridge Alberta - a pleasant small town TV station who no longer exist as a separate entity. We also babysat CFCN Calgary's 5KW Lethbridge transmitter. I was at CJOC from 1973 to 1977.
Well if we are going to talk about frying bacon.
I once worked in a station with a LOT of mice. I used to come in at 6:00AM to turn on the rig and after I had hit the filaments I would wander around and tip over the garbage cans to let the mice out.
One day I was working in the hall beside the transmitter and as I glanced down the hall I heard the bang of the overload relay and a flash shot out across the hall from the glass window of our RCA TT2BH (a 2KW channel 7 rig that drove a 10KW amplifier) followed by two other flashes and bangs as the overload retried for three times and out. Most impressive!!...
Once I got the door open I found half a mouse on output of the HV transformer. I cleaned the mouse out and got the rig back up and half an hour it happened again and I had to clean another mouse out of the secondary insulators. I figure that when hubby didn't get home for his lunch that the wife went looking for him.
I worked for WLS in the summer of 1973. The WLS transmitter is in Tinley Park and there were a few houses close to the transmitter. Somebody called up the station once and said, "I'm picking up WLS on my TOASTER!" I guess the little nichrome wires were vibrating with the modulation.
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Dave Hershberger, Principal
Continental Electronics, Inc. Nevada City, California
A long time ago Andy [Laird] told me some much better radio stories. His 50kw transmitter was located in a residential area in LA and he got all kinds of crazy RFI reports. The funniest of all his stories was about a lady whose toilet picked up the radio station (RF in the plumbing again). She said, "I don't mind it when they're playing music, but I REALLY don't like to be sitting on the toilet and hearing voices coming out from underneath me!"
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