"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 480, March 14, 2004
Australian Radio Anniversary - VLR at Lyndhurst: Australia's First Government Shortwave Station
It was on Monday March 12, 1934, that the first shortwave station operated by the Australian government began a regular broadcast service to the outback areas. Last Friday was the 70th anniversary of this significant radio event in the history of Australia, and on this occasion here in Wavescan we present the story of this radio station, VLR in Lyndhurst, Victoria.
Actually, the history of radio station VLR goes way back before the year 1934, six years further back in fact. It was in the year 1928 that a small, locally made shortwave transmitter was installed in a small galvanized iron shed on the summit of a small hill in a country farming area at Lyndhurst, some 40 km southeast of Melbourne.
This experimental transmitter was constructed by Post Office engineers and it emitted just 600 watts, usually on the 31 metre band frequency 9580 kHz. The broadcast callsign was VK3LR, though when the transmitter was on the air with experimental transmissions the callsign was VK3XX.
Programming from this low-powered transmitter duriing this era was a composite relay from the two government mediumwave stations in Melbourne, 3LO and 3AR, hence the composite callsign 3LR. In addition, there were several notable broadcasts from this transmitter that were prepared specifically for the outback, for the Pacific Islands and even further afield.
In 1934, a new and substantial building was erected on the same property at Lyndhurst to house the shortwave transmitter which was rebuilt for the occasion. On March 12, transmitter VLR was reactivated with a regular relay for outback areas using a composite program format from 3LO and 3AR.
It was in December 1936 that a regular bulletin of news in the French language was introduced for listeners in the French islands in the Pacific, and in December 1937 the experimental callsign VK3LR was regularized to VLR.
Right at the end of the year 1939, shortwave VLR was taken into the inaugural service of "Australia Calling," and it continued in use with a relay of the programming of Radio Australia until the 10 kw VLG was inaugurated on June 21, 1941. From this time onwards VLR was in use only for the ABC National Service, with programming for the benefit of isolated listeners in the outback areas of Australia.
In the 1950s, a larger building was constructed around the current building at Lyndhurst and the old one was removed. At this stage, three new RCA transmitters were installed, each rated at 10 kw, and the original VLR unit was retired. These new units were American navy transmitters and they were modified for broadcast usage. Then, in the 1980s, eight STC transmitters were installed, and any program service could be fed to any transmitter.
The original low powered VLR transmitter was on the air for a period of 29 years stretching from 1928 to 1956 when the navy transmitters were installed. From that time onwards it is probable that all 11 of the 10 kw transmitters at Lyndhurst carried the VLR service on a rotational basis, at least on some occasions.
With the proliferation of television and the satellite delivery of radio programming over Australia, the ABC shortwave service from VLR was declared redundant and it was closed at 1402 UTC on Friday, June 12, 1987, at the end of nearly 60 years of international on-air radio coverage.
The original specific QSL cards verifying the reception of VLR were issued by the PMG department in two different designs. Later the ABC also issued specific QSL cards for VLR in two different designs. When the ABC introduced a standard design QSL card for all of its relay stations throughout Australia, these cards were also issued to confirm the reception of the shortwave unit VLR.