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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, November 29, 2009

Radio Australia - Lyndhurst

In our program today, you will hear the second major feature item in which we honor Radio Australia on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. Back at the time when Radio Australia was inaugurated, or "Australia Calling" as it was known at the time, there were just four low powered shortwave transmitters available and these were located at three widely separated stations. These facilities were:

VK2ME two at 10 kW Pennant Hills near Sydney, New South Wales
VLR one at 2 kW Lyndhurst, near Melbourne, Victoria
VLW one at 2 kw Wanneroo, near Perth, Western Australia

Our earlier feature a few weeks back told the story of the Pennant Hills station that became VLQ and then VLI; our third feature next month will tell the story of VLW, "Australia Calling," in Western Australia; and today's program focuses on VLR in Lyndhurst, Victoria.

The Lyndhurst facility began as a small locally made 600 watt experimental shortwave transmitter installed in a small galvanized iron shed out from Melbourne in an isolated farming community. This was back in the year 1928 and the station was established to ascertain the coverage area throughout Australia for an extended shortwave service.

A more substantial building was constructed on the same property to house the shortwave transmitter in 1935, and the power level was increased to 1 kW. Three years later again, the power was increased to 2 kW, and this was the unit that was taken into the international shortwave service of "Australia Calling" at the end of the year 1939.

During the era of its development, the Lyndhurst transmitter was on the air, at first without known callsign, in 1928. Then it became known as 3LR, and then VK3LR in 1931, and finally the callsign was regularized as VLR in 1937. On occasions, an additional callsign was in use for experimental transmissions, VK3XX. The VK in the callsign, of course, identified the station as Australian; the number 3 identifies the state of Victoria; and the LR was taken from the two mediumwave stations in Melbourne from which its programming was relayed, 3LO and 3AR.

At the end of August 1939, all shortwave transmissions throughout Australia, amateur and professional, were ordered off the air, and the only transmitter that was permitted to remain on air was the low powered ABC-PMG unit, VLR.

It was on Wednesday December 20 in 1939, the birthday of the Prime Minister, Mr. (later Sir) Robert Menzies, that "Australia Calling" was launched. The two shortwave transmitters powered at 10 kW in Pennant Hills opened the new shortwave service at 5:00 pm local time.

Transmitter VLR, with 2 kW on 9530 kHz, came on the air at midnight with programming in English and Dutch for the Dutch East Indies, or Indonesia, as we know the area today. Then, at 9:30 am next day, the same 2 kW transmitter came on the air as VLR3 on a frequency of 11880 kHz with programming in English to Japan and the Philippines.

During the eighteen month era in which VLR was on the air with programming for "Australia Calling," it would appear that the following channels were in use, at least some of the time:

VLR 9580 kHz Dutch East Indies, Far East
VLR3 11880 kHz No. America and Mexico, SE Asia, Japan, Philippines
VLR4 15230 kHz No. America

On June 21, 1941, a new 10 kW transmitter was inaugurated at Lyndhurst, initially under the callsign VLR, but one month later the callsign was changed to VLG. This new unit took over the programming for "Australia Calling" and VLR was then in use solely for the Inland Service of the ABC.

In 1949, transmitter VLR was upgraded to 5 kW, and in 1956 it was withdrawn from service and discarded. However, it is true that Radio Australia was later on the air from several of the 10 kW transmitters that were subsequently installed at Lyndhurst, but by this time on air callsigns were no longer in use.

Thus it was that the low powered 2 kW VLR was in service with "Australia Calling," the forerunner of Radio Australia, for a brief period of just eighteen months, running from December 21, 1939 to late June 1941.

It is true, QSL cards were printed and issued for the Overseas Service of the ABC during this time period and these were the now exotic Orange Kangaroo Card. Printed on the card is the callsign VLR, 9580 kHz. Even though we have seen many of these cards endorsed for VLQ and VLG, yet, as far as we can remember, we have never seen one endorsed for VLR.

Shortwave Listener Cards

It becomes apparent that the most popular postcard in the radio world is the QSL card, which had its earliest origins way back in the year 1916. Thus far here in Wavescan, we have presented several features on various historic radio cards, all of which have been associated in some way with the QSL card. On this occasion, we take a look at the SWL Card, which was an early outgrowth from the early QSL cards which are known these days as Reception Report Cards.

The SWL Card, that is, the Shortwave Listener Card, was quite popular during the 1930s in the era when shortwave broadcasting was developing quite rapidly. Two different styles of cards are noted during this era; those that were printed specifically by an individual listener for his own use, and generic cards that could be used by anybody.

These SWL cards were used by shortwave listeners to send as a reception report to a radio station, usually an amateur radio station, though quite often also to a broadcasting station, shortwave or mediumwave. Most of these cards were in use in the United States, though the concept was used elsewhere in other countries, such as in Canada, many countries in Europe, and also in Australia and New Zealand.

The Indianapolis collection contains several hundred reception report cards, mostly in the 1930s, and mostly from listeners in the United States. We choose a selection of these cards; first of all, the cards that were printed by individual listeners for their own personal use, and the years are from 1933 to 1936. Thus, these dated SWL cards are all more than 70 years old.

For example, the SWL card that shortwave listener Judge Bodycote of East Norwalk in Connecticut used is printed on blue card stock and it shows the letters SWL in large red letters. This card was printed by an amateur radio operator, W9DGM.

The postage stamp on this card, which was addressed to a shortwave listener in Ohio, was a green Benjamin Franklin stamp priced at just one cent. We can remember that these days a post card posted in the United States now costs 28 cents. The postmark is very clear, showing February 25, 1936.

An SWL card dated in 1935 was printed for a radio listener in Irvington, New Jersey. The letters SWL are printed in large hollow red letters. This listener was apparently a proud father, as a postage sized photo of a happy young boy is shown on the text side of the card.

Another SWL card dated in 1935 was from a listener in Brooklyn, New York. Two logos printed on this card indicate that he was a member of the International Short Wave Club and also the Short Wave League. This card reports the reception of an amateur radio transmission in Waterloo, Iowa.

A listener in Placerville, California used a colorful SWL card, with the large letters SWL-W6 and the border around the edge of the card printed in a bright red. The addition of the amateur identification W6 indicated the 6th radio district in the United States, which included California.

Interestingly, the address side of this card carries the same Benjamin Franklin green stamp valued at one cent, and another similar stamp on the text side of the card. The first stamp is postmarked, and the other is not. It would seem then that the listener intended that the second stamp should be used by the amateur radio station for the return postage on the QSL card.

An SWL card from a listener in Canada shows a large maple leaf in green, with the identification VE3SWL superimposed. VE3 would identify the listener as living in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The oldest card in this series is dated April 3, 1933 and it is printed entirely in red for a listener in Toledo, Ohio. This man was also a member of the Short Wave League, with the identification R9LL.

Most of the pre-printed generic SWL cards were made available by the various radio clubs that were flourishing in the United States at the time and most of these cards just indicate SWL for Short Wave Listener. However, a few of them have been overprinted with the amateur radio district, such as W8 for Ohio, W2 for New York, or W5 for Texas, and so on.

Many of these generic SWL cards were printed on behalf of radio clubs, including the famed Newark News Radio Club, the Universal Radio Club, and the Globe Circlers DX Club. Interestingly, one of these SWL cards that was in use in the United States was actually printed in New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand DX Radio League. This listener, living in West Linn, Oregon, must therefore have been a member of that distant radio club down under in the "Land of the Long White Cloud."