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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, March 28, 2010

The Voice of American Relay Station - AT&T Lawrenceville New Jersey

As our opening feature in Wavescan today, we present the story of a large communication station that was in use by the Voice of America as a relay station in the middle of last century. The station was located at Lawrenceville, New Jersey and it was operated by AT&T, the American Telegraph & Telephone Company.

There was a time when AT&T was the largest telephone company in the world, so we go right back to the very earliest beginnings.

The noted inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, was born in Scotland in 1847 and at the age of 23 he migrated with his family to Canada. Two years later he moved to Boston, and at the age of 28, he succeeded in transmitting the human voice by wire for the first time.

At the age of 30, he formed the Bell Telephone Company which grew, and developed, and merged, until it became a huge multi-faceted company involved in telephones, radio, television and electronic manufacturing. AT&T was at first a subsidiary of the Bell Company, but on the very last day of the 1800s, the subsidiary AT&T acquired the parent Bell Company, and thus the holder of all of the subsidiary companies.

In the 1920s, AT&T established many operations and experimental facilities at a dozen different locations throughout the state of New Jersey, most of which were involved with experimental work in various forms of radio broadcasting. At the end of an extensive search, two properties were procured for the erection of a large shortwave station for communication with Europe and South America.

The location for the transmitter station was an eight hundred acre site near Lawrenceville, some fifty miles inland from the Atlantic coast, and the receiver station was installed on another very large property near Netcong, fifty miles north of the Lawrenceville transmitter facility.

Initially, a series of curtain antennas were strung from 26 towers at a height of 180 ft and they stretched for a distance of one mile. However, some ten years later, the curtains were removed and replaced by a series of rhombic antennas beamed on Europe and South America. This new communication shortwave station was taken into service in 1929 with the inauguration of a 15 kW transmitter.

Shortly afterwards, a published station list shows four transmitters at AT&T Lawrenceville, each rated at 20 kW, under the callsigns WMI, WND, WNC and WLO. However, the usage of callsigns by AT&T was always very confusing. Not only was each shortwave channel allocated a separate callsign, but the same callsign was used at as many as three different AT&T locations. For example, back in the 1930s and at different time periods, the callsign WND was in use at Deal Beach, Lawrenceville and Ocean Gate; and the callsign WNC was in use at Deal Beach, Lawrenceville, and also in Florida.

During the late 1930s, many of the callsigns listed for AT&T Lawrenceville were noted with the relay of programs for re-broadcast in other parts of the world, though mainly in Europe and South America.

On February 24, 1942, the government took over all of the shortwave broadcasting stations in the United States for the relay of programming from the program service that became the Voice of America. Shortly afterwards, the FCC gave approval for VOA, under the auspices of OWI, the Office of War Information, to relay programs over seven different point-to-point shortwave stations. The large shortwave communication station operated by AT&T at Lawrenceville, New Jersey was one of these communication stations that joined the VOA shortwave network.

The first known loggings of a VOA relay from Lawrenceville were noted in Australia in August 1942 when a 20 kW transmitter on the frequency 10555 kHz and under the callsign WOK was heard with this new broadcasting service. This VOA program relay was beamed to Europe in English, followed by Spanish to South America. Even though this transmitter was rated at just 20 kW, yet the signal as heard in Australia was noted at a good level.

Shortly after the inauguration of the new OWI-VOA relay from AT&T Lawrenceville, a new 100 kW shortwave transmitter was installed to ensure reliable communication between President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington and Mr. Winston Churchill in London. This transmitter operated under the callsign WRX, usually in the 9 MHz shortwave band, and it was first noted with test broadcasts in November 1942. It was also used extensively as a VOA relay, and it was noted, for example, in January 1943, in a parallel relay with WGEA in Schenectady New York.

Interestingly, on several occasions during the year 1944, various transmitters were noted on air with a test transmission that consisted of a technical reading on the definition of magnetism. This was apparently a convenient audio feed into the transmitter before beginning a VOA relay or a point-to-point transmission.

The AT&T shortwave communication station at Lawrenceville, New Jersey was on the air with OWI-VOA programming for somewhere around three years, extending from 1942 through 1944. The transmissions consisted of program broadcasts for direct reception in target areas, point-to-point broadcasts for live off-air relay in other countries, and the transfer of program inserts to be incorporated into subsequent broadcasts.

The stations at Lawrenceville that are known to have carried the OWI-VOA relays are as follows:

WCN 20 kW 5077 kHz 1944
WMA 20 kW 10110 kHz 1944
WOA 20 kW 6775 and 10515 kHz 1943 and 1944
WOB Probably 20 kW 5852 kHz 1944
WOK 20 kW 10555 kHz 1942 and 1943
WON 20 kW 9870 kHz 1944
WOT Probably 20 kW 5052 kHz 1944
WOZ Probably 20 kW 7555 kHz 1944
WRX 100 kW 9 MHz 1942 - 1944

After the war, AT&T Lawrenceville continued in service for communication traffic with Europe and South America. In 1956, a new undersea cable was laid between the United States and Europe, and the need for shortwave transmissions was greatly diminished. When satellite communications were introduced, the transmitter station at Lawrenceville and the receiver station at Netcong became redundant.

At the time when the Lawrenceville station was closed, on the last day of the year 1975, it contained several active shortwave transmitters, mostly rated at 10 kW, plus the already mentioned 100 kW unit. Twenty years later, the land was sold to Mercer County for use as a recreational park.

Unfortunately, there are no known QSLs anywhere that verify any of the shortwave transmissions from AT&T Lawrenceville. The station is gone, and pretty well forgotten.