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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, August 29, 2010

Mediumwave WOR in New York on Shortwave

The 88 year old mediumwave radio station WOR in New York City is one of the well known mediumwave stations in the United States. Among its achievements is the fact that it has retained its original callsign all the way through, and it is the only three letter callsign still in use in New York City. However, in spite of its high profile throughout its long and illustrious history, there are very few people today who are aware that this notable mediumwave radio station was also involved in experimental shortwave broadcasting back in its earlier years.

Radio station WOR was launched by Jack Poppele, of subsequent VOA fame, back on February 22 in the year 1922. At the time, the station was licensed to Newark, New Jersey and it was installed in the sixth floor of the fourteen story Bamberger Store in Newark. The original transmitter was a 250 watt unit constructed by De Forrest and it was allocated the congested 833 kHz channel.

In the license application, request was made for the callsign WLB, but that had just been taken up by another station so they were granted the sequential call WOR. At the time, this call had just been relinquished by the Orient Line passenger vessel, SS "California". This call, WOR, had meaning as the first two letters in the name Orient Line, but it had no meaning whatsoever to the Bamberger store.

Soon afterwards, the transmitter was removed from the sixth floor and re-installed on the roof of the Bamberger building; and shortly afterward again, a 500 watt Western Electric transmitter was installed. During the following year again, WOR moved from the highly undesirable 833 kHz channel to the more open channel 740 kHz.

At this stage, studios were opened at Chickering Hall on West 57th Street in New York itself, though shortly afterwards, these were moved to a more prominent location at 1440 Broadway.

When station WOR was just five years old, a more impressive transmitter facility was constructed on a lonely plot of land four miles away at Kearney, still in New Jersey. The power level here was raised to 5 kW, and the frequency was changed to 710 kHz. A colorful old postcard shows an attractive aerial view of this ornate facility.

When station WOR was twelve years old, another transmitter facility was constructed, this time at more distant Carteret, though again still in New Jersey. The property here was thirty four acres against the Rahway River. The new building was planned to house several transmitters, including the 5 kW mediumwave unit from Kearney, a new 50 kW mediumwave, an airways beacon, and also a shortwave transmitter. The counterpoise system for the mediumwave antenna was made up of thirty five miles of buried copper wire covering an area of ten acres, some of which was buried beneath the flowing waters of the Rahway River.

The president of the United States at that time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, performed the opening ceremony for the new WOR on March 4, 1935 during a special event at the White House.

In 1967, a new transmitter facility was constructed near Lyndhurst, and the previous Carteret site became a community park. Almost forty years later again, another new transmitter facility was constructed for station WOR at Rutherford, and the Lyndhurst property became a golf course. These days, station WOR can be heard widely with 50 kW, still on 710 kHz. They have always been a reliable verifier of reception reports.

In addition to the main mediumwave transmitters, station WOR has also been involved in other forms of radio transmission. Back in the year 1928, they operated a mobile shortwave transmitter, W2XAQ, which was installed in an airplane for a remote broadcast. Eight years later, they performed another significant remote broadcast out in the Atlantic with the usage of their mobile shortwave transmitter on the new luxury passenger liner, the "Queen Mary".

During the late 1930s, station WOR operated a high fidelity shortwave transmitter on 11 metres under the callsign W2XJI. In spite of the low power for this experimental operation, just 100 watts, yet it was often heard in Australia and New Zealand.

During the experimental era of fax broadcasting in the late 1930s, station WOR was on the air mediumwave with the late night transmission of a fax newspaper. They also operated a shortwave fax transmitter during this same era with the callsign W2XUP. Sometimes this transmitter on 11 metres was also heard in Australia and New Zealand, and at times with the occasional broadcast of musical programs.

Then too, they were also involved in FM broadcasting from several locations under half a dozen different callsigns; and of course, they were also involved in early TV transmissions as well.

OK, now back to their involvement in the shortwave scene. It was in the year 1928 that a 50 watt shortwave transmitter was installed at their new transmitter base near Kearney in New Jersey. This was an experimental unit, on the air under the previously used callsign W2XAQ, and subsequently as W2XCX, with the intent of installing a higher powered unit in due course.

In the early part of the year 1933, it was announced that WOR was ready to install a powerful new shortwave transmitter. The transmitter itself was already constructed, the announcement stated, but the building was not yet readied for this purpose.

During the following year, WOR announced the date for the inauguration of their new shortwave service. Their new shortwave transmitter, W2XHI, would be inaugurated on December 1, 1934, at the same time as the inauguration of their new mediumwave transmitter base at Carteret, New Jersey.

Subsequent news statements indicated delay after delay, until finally in November 1935, the shortwave project was abandoned, it was stated.

However, that was not the end of WOR on shortwave. In April 1937, international radio monitors in the United States noted WOR as a shortwave relay from the Press Wireless station at Hicksville, under the callsign W2II. On several occasions during the year 1937, the programming from WOR mediumwave was heard on relay from PWI Hicksville. The Hicksville callsign was W2XGB and the shortwave channel was usually 17310 kHz. PWI issued QSL cards confirming these broadcasts.

On two occasions, the high profile Jack Poppele of station WOR attempted to communicate with the planet Mars with the usage of transmitters at Hicksville; once in 1924, and again in 1939. These attempts were notably unsuccessful, due probably to the fact that Mars is uninhabited. (!!!)

The final occasion when WOR was noted with a shortwave relay was in September 1942, around the time when Hicksville was conducting experimental broadcasts in anticipation of their coming relay service on behalf of the Voice of America. International radio monitors in New Zealand and Australia sent reception reports on these shortwave broadcasts to mediumwave WOR in New York City. Official reply letters stated that WOR knew nothing of the relay of their programming over callsign WJQ on 10010 kHz at Hicksville. However, they suggested, keep on listening to the same shortwave channel, and you will hear WOR again.

Thus it was, that mediumwave WOR was involved with shortwave broadcasting in, shall we say, four different eras: