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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 498, July 18, 2004

The Case of the Missing Transmitter - All India Radio, Madras

In a recent email message, our DX reporter in India, Jose Jacob, asked a question.  He said:  In an article in the 2002 edition of "Passport to World Band Radio," Manosij Guha states that a 10 kw shortwave transmitter was removed from Madras in 1941 and quickly re-installed in Delhi.  Do you know anything about this transmitter?  This intriguing question got us thinking, and after a lengthy spate of research, this is what we found about the radio scene in Madras.

Back in the 1920s there were two communication stations in Madras, and these were on the air in Morse Code under the callsigns VWM and VWO.  A few years later there were also two experimental broadcasting stations on the air in Madras, and these were 2GR with 40 watts on 750 kHz and the Crampton Electric Company with 120 watts on 1360 kHz.  In 1930, the 2GR transmitter was returned to the air on 770 kHz by the Madras Corporation under the Indian callsign VUM. 

The Indian government took over all radio broadcasting in India and they launched their own station in Madras under the same callsign VUM, with 250 watts on 1420 kHz.  On the same date, June 16, 1938, a 10 kw shortwave transmitter, was also inaugurated as VUM2 using four different frequencies.

During the past 64 years, our documents show that six different shortwave transmitters have been on the air in Madras and all apparently at the same location, Avadi.  These transmitters have been:

        2  Philips at 10 kwW
        1  500 watt in use for local coverage from 1949 to 1957
        2  at 100 kw for regional and international coverage, and
        1  BEL transmitter at 50 kw

The Philips transmitters at 10 kw were intended for local and regional coverage in the lower frequency shortwave bands, though at night they were often heard in far distant countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand.  It was replaced by a BEL 50 kw transmitter in 1994.  The small 500 watt transmitter was introduced in 1949 to carry a second program service, Madras B, throughout the Tamil speaking areas of what is now the Indian state of Tamilnadiu.

The first high powered shortwave transmitter in Madras, a Marconi unit at 100 kw, was commissioned on October 3, 1957.  The 100 kw BBC transmitter was installed at Avadi in 1984, and for a period of 10 years these two transmitters were on the air simultaneously for national and international coverage.  When the original 100 kw unit was dismantled, a 50 kw transmitter, made by BEL in Bangalore, was installed.

Just recently, Jose Jacob visited the transmitter site at Avadi and he states that there are three transmitter buildings housing a total of eight shortwave and mediumwave transmitters.  He also says that the site contains 275 acres, that the peripheral wall is 7 km long, and that there are fifteen shortwave towers.
Jose also states that an earlier transmitter site was located at Guindy, and it was on the air with three lower powered mediumwave transmitters.  This facility was closed and dismantled some ten years ago.

We are holding more than 20 QSLs from All India Radio Madras, or Chennai, as it is now known.  These QSLs are in a variety of forms: letters, prepared postal cards, old AIR cards, and tourist postcards printed as QSL cards.

Now what about that "missing transmitter" that we referred to earlier?  Is it true that a 10 kw shortwave transmitter was hurriedly moved from Madras and re-installed in Delhi in December 1941?

We decided to check monitoring observations about the Madras shortwave station for this time period as printed in the Australian magazine,
"Radio & Hobbies." Yes, these monitoring observations do confirm that no shortwave station in Madras was heard in the South Pacific during this time period, from about November 1941 to July 1942.

Interestingly, when Madras shortwave returned to the air, the monitoring report lists this station as "another new Indian," thus confirming the removal of the original transmitter from Madras.  The available information would suggest that Madras was off the air shortwave for a little less than a year, and that the replacement transmitter was identical to the one that was so hurriedly removed.

Does the information about shortwave stations in Delhi support this matter?  Ah! That's another story, and we will present that here in Wavescan on another occasion.