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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, September 15, 2013

Tribute to WYFR Shortwave-4: The American XAL Experimental Shortwave Callsigns

For a period of some 20 years, the three letter XAL shortwave callsigns were in general usage in the United States. Back in that era, beginning soon after the end of World War 1, these callsigns began at first with a number followed by the letter X, and then the two letters AL. However, from October 1, 1928, the initial letter W was inserted into all of tese XAL callsigns.

The reason for examining the usage of the American XAL callsigns here in our DX program Wavescan is because the forerunner to the shortwave station WYFR was on the air with the callsign (W)2XAL in New York and New Jersey, and with the callsign W1XAL in Boston.

The composition of all of these XAL callsigns is as follows:

Back in those prewar days, there were just ten possible usages for the XAL callsigns, running numerically from W1XAL all the way through to W10XAL, though there does not seem to be any information about the usage of the callsigns W4XAL & W5XAL. Perhaps these two callsigns were never issued by the licensing authorities.

The available information would indicate that five of these XAL callsigns were issued as a license for the usage of portable radio stations; news gathering and remote broadcasts. These stations were:

(W)2XAL New York City, NY News gathering 1922
(W)6XAL Greater Los Angeles, CA News gathering 1921-28
(W)7XAL White Fish, Montana Local usage 1928
(W)9XAL Chicago, IL News gathering 1929
(W)10XAL Nationwide USA Remote broadcasts 1930-31

One of these XAL callsigns was issued to Irving Vermilya for experimental use on mediumwave as an alternate callsign for his mediumwave broadcast station WBBG in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. In fact, on one occasion, back in May 1924, he went on the air during the night with a series of experimental broadcasts as 1XAL and he received many reception reports, all hand written onto Applause Cards issued by the Dictograph Company in New York City. Irving Vermilya is credited as being the first licensed amateur radio operator in the United States, with license number 1.

Subsequently, this same callsign W1XAL was recycled and it was taken over by the Hotel Taft in New Haven, Connecticut for use with their 50 watt mediumwave station on 1350 kHz. This station was on the air during the years 1930 & 1931.

Another XAL callsign that was recycled was W9XAL. As mentioned above, this call was originally in use as a portable news gathering station in the greater Chicago area. Then in 1934, it was allocated to First National TV for their electronic TV station, which was installed high at the top of the fourteen story Power & Light Building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Five of these XAL callsigns identified shortwave transmitters that were on the air as experimental relay stations with a program feed from a local mediumwave station. These shortwave transmitters were:

W1XAL Boston, MA 1931-1939 Became WRUL, ancestor to WYFR
(W)2XAL New York, NY 1925-1927 Relay mediumwave WMCA
(W)2XAL Coytesville, NJ 1927-1931 Relay mediumwave WRNY
W3XAL Bound Brook, NJ 1928-1939 Became WRCA
(W)8XAL Harrison, OH 1924-1929 Relay mediumwave giant WLW
W8XAL Mason, OH 1929-1939 Became WLWO, relay VOA

Interesting though, is the previously stated fact that one of these XAL shortwave transmitters was an early ancestor to the modern shortwave WYFR. (W)2XAL was originally a portable news gathering unit in New York City and then a shortwave relay unit with programming from mediumwave WMCA; it was then upgraded and installed at Coytesville, New Jersey as a shortwave relay for mediumwave WRNY; and then it was modified again and transferred to Boston Massachusetts as W1XAL.