The Voice of America: Shipboard Relay Stations – VOA Ship No. 2: The Story of the Historic KSL Transmitter in Salt Lake City, Pt. 1

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we return to the story of Shipboard Relay Stations as used by VOA, the Voice of America, and there have been more than a dozen of them in use in different ways over the years. Today, it is the story of an old mediumwave transmitter that was formerly on the air at the high powered mediumwave station, KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In a previous program, we presented the story of Utah on shortwave, and we gave the details of the 1939 unsuccessful attempt by KSL to transfer the low powered shortwave station W9XAA in Chicago to Salt Lake City with an increase in power.

We also mentioned the fact that the owners of station KSL also took over the Boston shortwave station WRUL and changed the callsign to WNYW, and this facility was later taken over by Family Radio as WYFR.

Then too, we presented the information regarding the commercial shortwave station that was launched in Salt Lake City as KUSW, which was then taken over by the Trinity Broadcasting Network as KTBN, and then sold to the Caribbean Beacon on Anguilla where it was absorbed into their technical structure.

OK, so now we tell the story of the mediumwave station KSL in Salt Lake City Utah, and in particular, the interesting information regarding specifically one of their high powered transmitters. The story begins in this way.

It was back in the year 1920, that a license was granted to the newspaper, Deseret News, for the installation of an experimental broadcasting station with the call letters KZN. On May 26, 1922, the new station KZN was inaugurated, with 500 watts on 833 kHz, and it is now recognized as the first radio broadcasting station in Salt Lake City. The studio was inside the Deseret News building, and the 8 wire inverted L antenna system was supported on the roof of the building by two masts 40 ft. tall.

Two years later, station KZN was sold to John Copes, who changed the call to KFPT and the broadcast channel to 1120 kHz, though the original transmitter was still in use.

However, one year later again, the station was sold to the Salt Lake Tribune, and the station was moved to the North West Temple Street Building. The modified radio broadcasting facility now had a 1 kW transmitter, a 6 wire cage antenna on top of the building, a new channel, 900 kHz, and a new callsign, the now familiar KSL. This callsign was previously in use by a communication station in Alaska.

In 1929, a new transmitter facility was constructed 8 miles west of Salt Lake City, and a new 5 kW transmitter was installed there with a vertical 3 wire fan antenna system.

However, three years later again, that is in October 1932, another new site was commissioned at Saltair, some six miles further out than the 5 kW location; that is, a total of some 14 miles west of Salt Lake City itself. A new high powered 50 kW transmitter was installed at this new location with a T type antenna system.

The new 50 kW transmitter installed at Saltair on this occasion was a Western Electric model 7A. This transmitter was a direct copy of the WE 7A that was installed at station WLW, near Cincinnati, Ohio just four years earlier. Station KSL also took out a set of new radio studios in Salt Lake City around this same era.

However, give another 8 years, and KSL built a new transmitter building on the same property at Saltair, and they procured another 50 kW transmitter from the same manufacturer, Western Electric. This new transmitter was identified as a model WE 407A, with the WE standing for Western Electric and the designation 407A standing for the model number 7A, in the year 1940.

The transmitter building at this stage was the attractive art deco style building pictured in color, and in black and white, on some of their earlier QSL cards. The antenna system at this stage was the unique diamond shaped Blaw-Knox tower standing 455 feet tall. Now, it was at this stage, that the old WE 7A from 1932 was removed from service.

The attractive art deco transmitter building was demolished in 1986, after a new utilitarian transmitter building, the 3rd at this location, was erected on the same property, a little higher up the low hill. This new building contains a set of newer 50 kW transmitters, a pair of Nautels.

Actually, international radio monitors in New Zealand and Australia tell us that station KSL is one of the easiest mediumwave stations in the United States to hear in the South Pacific.
Numerous QSL collections in both countries hold valid QSL cards from KSL.

Now, let us remember, the original 50 kW Western Electric 7A that was on the air with KSL for a period of 8 years, from October 1932 until it was removed from service in the year 1940. This transmitter was taken over by OWI, the Office of War Information in the United States, for use as a propaganda radio station, and it was installed on board a ship destined for service in European waters during World War II.

From: Wavescan N131 – Aug. 28, 2011

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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).