"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 N460, December 17, 2017
Abandoned Radio Stations - 3
In our program today, we present part 3 in our mini-series on Abandoned Radio Stations, and this time we examine the story about four major shortwave stations; in Wales, Holland, Ukraine and Australia. Let's go to Wales first.
Back in the early part of World War 2 in the middle of the last century, hurried plans were developed for the construction of an important communication station as a backup for the larger and more important Rugby Radio. The huge wireless a station at Rugby was taken into service in 1925, and at the height of its massive capability, it contained more than 30 transmitters, mostly shortwave, though the superpower very low frequency longwave transmitter was capable of communicating with submarines almost anywhere. There were times also when Rugby Radio carried a relay of BBC radio programming on shortwave for rebroadcast and for direct listening in overseas countries.
During the stressful years of World War 2, the British authorities determined to build a backup station for Rugby Radio in England, and a location in a lonely area near Criggion, across the border in Wales, was chosen. The Criggion station also contained shortwave and longwave transmitters, together with a massive aerial and counterpoise system that was attached to a nearby high hill.
The three tall towers installed at Criggion were originally slated for erection at the British navy communication station at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, but because of the high priority for Criggion they were diverted to the location in Wales. As we know, Trincomalee was subsequently taken over by Deutsche Welle for their Asian relay station, and it is now operated by SLBC, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. There are times when this program, Wavescan, is on relay from SLBC Trincomalee.
Criggion Radio began service on shortwave in July 1942, and the station was declared redundant in 2003, due mainly to the availability of satellite communication. Useful electronic equipment was removed and installed elsewhere, and since then the station has lain vacant and abandoned.
Weeds abound everywhere, the interior of the main transmitter building has been trashed and broken, though it still stands strong and solid. A total of some 10 auxiliary buildings are in the same condition, and the BBC declares that the station has been abandoned and left to rot.
Over the other side of the North Sea, in the country of Holland, there is another high profile radio station that has been closed and abandoned. Radio Netherlands Worldwide, RNW, began the usage in 1985 of its huge shortwave station at Flevo, on ground that had earlier been reclaimed from the sea.
At the height of its usefulness, RNW Flevo contained 1 transmitter at 100 kW and 4 at 500 kW, though the power of the 500 kW transmitters could be stepped down if desired. There were 17 curtain antennas for overseas coverage and 2 for local coverage in Europe.
Radio Netherlands Flevo was closed in 2007, and the usable electronic equipment, including the 5 shortwave transmitters, was all removed. These days, the transmitter building and all of the tall self-supporting antenna towers remain on site, unused and abandoned. This massive shortwave station can still be seen on Google Earth, impressively sited in the midst of serenely cultivated farm lands.
Let's go over to the Ukraine now, to the site of what was a woodpecker over the horizon radar station. It all still stands there, quite near to the disastrous and abandoned nuclear generation plant at Chernobyl.
It will be remembered that there was a catastrophic nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986 that destroyed a nuclear reactor from which radioactive fallout spread out across Europe. This disastrous event is by far the worst nuclear accident in the history of the world.
Still standing nearby, though bereft and abandoned, is a massive radio station that defies imagination for its size; it was known as the Woodpecker. This radio station transmitted super-powered shortwave signals in the form of over the horizon radar transmissions, which caused a havoc of interference in the international shortwave broadcasting bands.
Known in Russian terminology as Duga 3, the Woodpecker station near Chernobyl was constructed in 1976 and it required a total staff of 1500 personnel. The gigantic antenna system stands 1,000 feet tall and it is described as a photographic wonder. The total radio frequency output was estimated at around 10 MW (megawatts). This station was declared redundant in 1989, and closed and abandoned.
And for our fourth abandoned radio station in our program today, we visit down under to the continent of Australia. Lying close to the Pacific coast in North Queensland is the small town of Brandon, and just three miles north of Brandon at the intersection of three roads (Jack, Colevale and Gordon), lies an ABC mediumwave and shortwave broadcasting station.
The Brandon property in the flat sugar cane country was acquired in 1958 and the 50 kW mediumwave station 4QN (630 kHz) was transferred from Clevedon and rebuilt further south at Brandon. Then 31 years later (1989), two 10 kW STC transmitters from the closed shortwave station at Lyndhurst in Victoria were installed with 4QN at Brandon.
The original intention was that subsequently two shortwave transmitters at 100 kW would be co-installed at the Brandon radio station. However, instead a third 10 kW transmitter from Lyndhurst was installed at Brandon (1999), and a few more years (2006), all three STC transmitters were replaced by two 20 kW DRM RIZ transmitters from Croatia. However, 9 years later again (2015), the shortwave service from Brandon was abruptly and unceremoniously closed.
The Brandon radio station is owned and operated by Broadcast Australia and it is an unattended relay station that carries the programming from the government operated ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The mediumwave station 4QN is still on the air at this location to this day, but the shortwave transmitters lie silent, and the two curtain antennas stand unused. However, even though the shortwave facility has been abandoned and is no longer in use, yet the outward appearance of the facility seems to indicate that it is all still in good condition.
Ancient DX Report 1913
The greatest tally of wireless development during the year 1913 occurred in the United States, where experimental transmissions and broadcasts took place in several different locations.
Successful entrepreneur Charles Herrold in San Jose, California continued his daily broadcast of music and speech, and he conducted arc test transmissions between Point Arguello and Mare Island on behalf of the navy; these transmissions were also heard across the continent at the navy wireless station NAA in Virginia. These transmissions were radiated with 1.5 kW on 100 kHz longwave. He also developed a procedure whereby the frequency emitted by the spark could be adjusted so that it was in tune with the voice and the music.
On February 13 (1913), the navy wireless station NAA at Arlington, Virginia was taken into service, with three transmitters; 2 at 100 kW for international communication, and 1 at 5 kW for local communication. This station became very popular with jewelers across the nation with its daily time signals at noon. It is stated that station NAA was regulating 10,000 clocks across the continental United States.
In addition, station 9XB at Beloit College in Wisconsin began the broadcast of daily time signals on February 3; and station 9YR at the St. Louis University began the broadcast of daily weather bulletins in Morse Code during this same year. A phonograph record played in the Metropolitan Wireless Telephone Tower in New York was heard by a wireless listener 225 miles distant.
Large new wireless stations were under construction at Somerset and Belmar in New Jersey, as well as in Bolinas and Marshall in California. Another huge new wireless station was under construction at Kahuku at the northern tip of the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.
The United States navy is now operating nine wireless stations along the west coast of the United States, plus seven in Alaska, and twenty seven along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
The first issue of a new wireless a magazine was issued in October (1913). This new monthly magazine, the Wireless Age, grew out of the old Marconigraph publication.
In an experimental demonstration, wireless news in Morse Code was picked up by a railway train traveling at 60 miles an hour. Wireless towers were erected for this purpose at two locations of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, at Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York.
Youthful amateur radio operators were the first to bring news out of heavily flooded areas of Ohio, in which 1,000 people died and 1/4 million were left homeless. At one location, people were crawling along telephone wires in order to escape from their flooded homes.
On the maritime scene, the ship Volturno burned during a storm in the mid-Atlantic on October 11, and a total of 11 ships responded to the SOS distress signals sent out by Morse wireless. A total of 521 passengers and crew were safely rescued, though tragically 136 died in their attempts to escape the burning Volturno in lifeboats.
Lloyd's of London stated that their registry showed that 1500 ships were fitted out with Marconi wireless apparatus. The ship Hirondelle was fitted with a strange musical instrument, a wireless piano, that Prince Albert of Monaco demonstrated during a visit to New York.
Wireless experiments were conducted across the Atlantic between the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the new NAA at Arlington in Virginia. Sir Ernest Fisk in Sydney, Australia founded AWA, Amalgamated Wireless of Australia, the equivalent in Australia of RCA in the United States.
On April 23 (1913), the International Bureau in Berne, Switzerland issued a document outlining the approved initial letters in the English alphabet that may be used to identify wireless stations throughout the world. Great Britain was allocated the initial letters B, G, and M, Italy was granted the letter I, and Japan the letter J.
New Zealand closed the wireless station on top of the Post Office in Wellington in favor of a new station above the hills of Wellington, and they installed the used equipment on distant Chatham Island under the callsign VLC.