"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 N286, August 17, 2014
Phantom Radio Stations in Canada
It was back in the year 1919 that the Canadian National Railways CNR was formed as a government owned corporation. Over a period of time, CNR has owned a sprawling and interconnected network of rail lines across lower Canada, and down into the United States as far as the Mexican Gulf. The tall iconic CN Tower was constructed in the 1970s on CNR land at the waterfront in Toronto; and in addition to these vast public enterprises, they also operated their own radio broadcasting network, for a period of 13 years running from 1921 into the earlier part of 1933.
Over a period of time, CNR developed a network of radio programming distribution and radio broadcasting stations. At the height of its radio activity, CNR owned and operated three radio broadcasting stations, its programming was relayed live by thirty or more radio stations across Canada mostly under licensed phantom callsigns, and it operated 78 passenger radio carriages that picked up CNR programming for the benefit of travelers.
The first CNR venture into experimental radio broadcasting took place in the summer of 1921 from the CNR owned passenger vessel SS "Dalhousie City". At the time, the "Dalhousie City" was afloat on Lake Michigan and an experimental transmitter was installed aboard the ship under the callsign CKUC. Several experimental broadcasts were made from the "Dalhousie City" and they were received at the nearby 1921 Toronto Exhibition in a specially equipped CNR railway carriage.
During the summer of the following year, CNR repeated the radio broadcasts from the ship "Dalhousie City" with the use of a portable Marconi YC3 transmitter under the same callsign CKUC. A new steel railway carriage was fitted out with radio receiving equipment and this was on display at the CNR location in the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The first day of regular broadcasting from CKUC was August 26, 1922, and two hours of programming was on the air daily in three segments on the mediumwave channel 680 kHz.
The first land based station constructed by the Canadian National Railways was station CKCH in Ottawa which was officially inaugurated on February 27, 1924. The studios were installed in the Jackson Building on Bank Street and the transmitter was a 500 watt unit radiating on 690 kHz.
The recently formed CNR radio department wished to operate its radio broadcasting stations under callsigns beginning with the three identification letters CNR, but the international callsign sequence CN had already been allocated to Morocco. The Canadian government on behalf of CNR obtained approval from Morocco for these desired callsigns, and so the CNR radio callsign list ran from CNRA down through the English alphabet to CNRX. Thus it was that the original CKCH in Ottawa became CNRO on July 16, 1924.
Station CNRA in Moncton, New Brunswick was inaugurated also in 1922 as the second station in the CNR network with 500 watts on 960 kHz; and the third and last station owned by CNR was CNRV which was inaugurated in Vancouver on August 11, 1925, with 500 watts on 1100 kHz, as the Voice of the Pacific.
However, in addition to its own three stations, CNR obtained licenses for phantom stations across Canada, whereby CNR programming could be relayed by other already established radio broadcasting stations. When CNR programming was on relay from another station, CNR was permitted to use its own phantom callsign over the air. This CNR network programming was thus made available to listeners in each local area, and also to travelers in specially equipped railway parlor cars.
The first CNR network broadcast was an interview with the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on June 1, 1923; he was traveling from Montreal to Toronto in one of their radio parlor cars. However, the first pre-planned network broadcast was a Christmas/New Year program that was aired on December 30, 1923. Two stations carried the program in English and French, CHYC in Montreal and COA in Ottawa.
The first phantom call was CNRM in Montreal, and the CNR programming was heard over CKAC on Thursday nights and CFCF on Friday nights. The first three station network program was heard in March 1925 (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto); there was a special broadcast from the deck of a ship in Montreal Harbour in the same year; the first national network program right across Canada was the 60th Jubilee Confederation broadcast on July 1, 1927; and regular coast-to-coast network broadcasts began on December 27, 1928.
A total of 23 stations from Halifax to Vancouver carried this Jubilee program including an American mediumwave station WWJ in Detroit. There was no phantom callsign in use for the WWJ relays. In 1930, 27 stations were carrying the special CNR network programming.
In addition to the long list of mediumwave stations on relay with CNR programming, several shortwave stations also carried this relay of radio program broadcasting. For example, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Confederation, the unification of the original four provinces of Canada into one nation within the British Empire, the Marconi shortwave station at Drummondville near Montreal in Quebec, carried the programming beamed towards Europe. A 1931 entry shows Drummondville relaying CNR programming via station VE9BA; and three years later via CGA4 with 15 kW on 6465 kHz.
The American shortwave stations KDKA-8XK Pittsburgh and WGY-2XAD Schenectady also provided programming for broadcast over CNR radio in Canada; and sometimes they relayed the Canadian programming to other parts of the world for live relay in other countries. Smaller shortwave stations, such as CFCF in Montreal, CFCN in Calgary, VE9HX in Halifax, and VE9GW in Bowmanville, all carried CNR programming in parallel with the mediumwave parent stations.
Program production for CNR relay was produced in the studios of the three stations owned by the railway system, though the main coordination studios were in station CNRV at the Pacific Central (Railway) Station in Vancouver. QSL cards and QSL stamps were issued on behalf of the three CNR owned radio stations, as well as some of the CNR phantom relay stations.
However, change was on the way and in November 1931, the Canadian National Railways ended their reception of radio programming in special radio parlor cars; and then in early 1933, CNR sold its radio facilities to the newly set up Canadian Radio Broadcasting Corporation, which in turn became CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in 1936, as it is to this day.
Thus ended the fascinating 13 year story of railway radio in Canada (1921-1933), with its unique list of alphabetically progressive callsigns running from CNRA (Moncton NB) to CNRX (Toronto ON).
Ancient DX Report 1908
"The year 1908 began at midnight when a 700-pound "electric ball" fell from the flagpole atop the New York Times building, the first-ever ball-drop in Times Square, New York. This leap year ended 366 days later with a nearly 2-1/2 hour flight by Wilbur Wright, the longest ever made in an airplane.
"In the days between, the U.S. Navy's Great White Fleet sailed around the world; Adm. Robert Peary began his conquest of the North Pole; Dr. Frederick Cook reached the North Pole (or claimed to); six automobiles set out on a 20,000-mile race from New York City to Paris via Asia; and the Model T went into production at Henry Ford's plant in Detroit, Michigan.
"The events and innovations that occurred within that 12-month frame a century ago marked, in many ways, America's entry into the modern world. In some cases, they quite literally put modern America in motion." - Jim Rasenberger, Smithsonian Magazine, January 2008
"The expert already realizes that practical wireless telegraphy and telephony are possible. Before the close of the year wireless transmission across the Pacific and trans-Atlantic wireless telephony may be expected with perfect confidence. The use of the wireless telephone in isolated districts (within the United States) will spread like fire." - Nikola Tesla, Jan 5 1908
"Anything, everything, is possible." - Thomas Edison, 1908
The year 1908 was a concentrated year in which remarkable development took place in many different areas of human expertise, including wireless and radio communication. Several major attempts were made at radio program broadcasting, and we could say that information and entertainment via radio was beginning to make its mark through this electronic medium, even though distortion and interference were still quite evident.
The American entrepreneur Archie Collins made several successful attempts at radio broadcasting and he activated an arc transmitter at 51 Clinton Street, Newark, NJ and transmitted voice and music. On July 9, Collins sent voice messages from his laboratory in New Jersey that were heard on a receiver in the Singer Building in New York. Later in the year, he sent voice messages across the intervening 81 miles between New York and Philadelphia.
Collins established a demonstration display of his wireless equipment at the New York Electrical Show in October, and the noted Guglielmo Marconi paid a visit. He courteously stated that Collins should be credited with the invention of wireless telegraphy.
Among the wireless experimenters and developers in the United States during the year 1908 was the 21 year old Walter Willenborg of Hoboken, New Jersey. His first newspaper coverage was granted during 1907, and he began to achieve prominence in the wireless world during the year 1908 due to a very large article in a magazine for boys about his achievements with his self-made equipment.
Luxembourg-born Hugo Gernsback launched the world's first radio magazine, "Modern Electrics," from his newly adopted city New York City in April; and on May 12, Nathan Stubblefield received a patent for his wireless telephone, based on induction transmission rather than radio frequency transmission. The first wireless transmission between the continental United States and Hawaii took place unexpectedly in mid-October when Lawrence Malarin at station PH on Russian Hill in San Francisco overheard his friend Arthur Isbell in Morse Code at station HU RCA Kahuku during the dark hours of the night.
The Californian based experimenter Professor Charles Herrold entered the wireless scene in 1908 with experiments in the transmission of voice and music; and the late teenager Francis McCarty transmitted music occasionally from his family home on Hayes Street, near Ashbury in San Francisco.
The United States army successfully transmitted speech and music from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to their army base on Bedloe Island, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor; the United States navy made many music and speech broadcasts from the Great White Fleet as it circled the globe; and the callsign of the Marconi station at Cape Cod was modified from CC to MCC, standing for Marconi Cape Cod.
On February 2, the ship SS "Cuthbert" caught fire out on the Atlantic, 500 miles from its destination while en route from Antwerp in Belgium to New York. The SS "Cymric" was bound from Ireland to Boston and most of the personnel on board the stricken "Cuthbert" were transferred to the "Cymric". On board the "Cymric" was a news reporter and he arranged for a news report in Morse Code to be sent via the ship wireless equipment to the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
The first long distance message from the Eiffel Tower in France was transmitted on January 12. Then during the summer, Dr. Lee de Forest set up a transmitter at the base of the tower with an antenna running up to the top of the tower. Following a series of test transmissions, he made a pre-arranged program broadcast with music and speech on Wednesday April 1. Reliable coverage was provided both day and night for a radius of 25 miles, though an engineer in Marseilles sent in a reception report by letter, a distance of 500 miles.
In England, the Marconi engineer H. J. Round made a successful telephony broadcast using a modulated arc, as did Poulsen at Lyngby in Denmark and his transmissions extended 150 miles on the first test. Three experimenters in Belgium, R. B. Goldschmitt, Monsieur Ruhmer and Maurice Philippson made a series of test transmissions from the Palace of Justice in Brussels which were heard at Liege 70 miles distant.
Down under, Engineer H. V. Jenvey with the PMG department in Melbourne, Australia established two wireless communication stations, one at St. Kilda and the other at Queenscliffe, which enabled successful communication over the intervening 65 miles.
Across the Tasman at Dunedin, down near the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand, three teenagers now known as the Dunedin Boys, constructed their own wireless equipment and made a series of Morse Code transmissions across the city and across the bay. They made a public demonstration of their equipment and sent congratulatory messages between local city mayors and the Prime Minister in Wellington, the national capital. The newspapers gave excellent coverage of the performance of these three boys, Rawson Stark, Stanton Hicks, and Cyril Brandon, though in reality their experimental transmissions were considered illegal by the local authorities.