Monday, September 04, 2017

The World’s Smallest Shortwave Station

The world’s smallest shortwave station, the smallest shortwave station of all time without question, had to be a little home made transmitter with a rated output at just 1½ watts.  This transmitter was licensed originally under the Canadian callsign VE9CS, it was located at the top of the stairway in a church building in Vancouver British Colombia, it was inaugurated in the latter part of the year 1929, and it was on the air for just a few late night hours each week.
  The parent mediumwave station for the little shortwave station in Canada was a Christian station CKFC  that had moved a few months earlier from the nearby First Congregational Church at 1155 Thurlow Street in downtown Vancouver to the Chalmers United Church at 2801 Hemlock Street on the corner of 12th Avenue.  A makeshift production studio was installed in a downstairs Sunday School classroom and the transmitter and a record player were installed at the top of the two storey stairway.
 The shortwave transmitter was a home brew breadboard unit constructed by Cyril Trott who operated his own radio business under the trade name Radio Service Engineers at nearby 734 Davie Street.  Engineer Trott operated the shortwave transmitter VE9CS on 6070 kHz as a service on behalf of the United Church of Canada. 
 In 1931, two years after the little station was inaugurated, approval was granted for operation at 100 watts, though they planned to operate at just 50 watts.  However, even this projected improvement was never implemented. 
 Also in 1931, Engineer Trott announced his intention to broadcast a special program beamed to Australia.  This information was printed in the Australian radio journal Wireless Weekly, but we would suggest that at just 1½ watts, the shortwave signal probably got lost on the way. 
 However, as time progressed through the 1930s, there was an increase in on air programming, usually on a daily basis around midnight.  This increase in programming was for the benefit of local listeners, of whom there were probably very few back at that time.
 In 1929, the studios and offices of the mediumwave parent station CKFC were moved into the new Stock Exchange Building at 475 Howe Street, though a new out of town location was chosen for the mediumwave transmitter.  The evidence would suggest that the little VE9CS transmitter was also then installed at the new mediumwave transmitter location.
 Seven years later (1936), the parent mediumwave station CKFC was leased to the Standard Broadcasting Co, along with the little shortwave station VE9CS as well.  However, during the following year (1937), Standard Broadcasting was taken over by Sun Publishing, and so the studios and offices of mediumwave CKFC were transferred into the Sun Tower at 128 West Pinder Street in Vancouver.
 When the 17 storey Sun Tower was constructed in 1912, it was the tallest building in the British Empire.  The Sun newspaper has long since relocated, though the building has retained its well known name as the Sun Tower.
 According to the best available information, the callsign for shortwave VE9CS was regularized to CKFX in December 1938, though the old identification lingered on for another year or two.  At that stage, shortwave VE9CS-CKFX was on the air at night, usually around 1 or 2 o’clock in the early morning hours.
 During the year 1940, the licensing authority in the Canadian government asked the parent mediumwave station CKFC to surrender its broadcast license, and in that way station CKFC was closed.  However at that stage, another mediumwave station in Vancouver CKWX agreed to take over all of the religious programming from the mediumwave station that was closing, and they also agreed to take over the small shortwave station as well.
 Mediumwave CKWX was owned by Western Broadcasting and they were in the process of constructing a new transmitter station on Lulu Island Vancouver.  The engineering staff built a new 10 watt shortwave transmitter which was co-sited with the new mediumwave facility on Lulu Island.  At the same time, the operating frequency for the shortwave unit was changed from 6070 kHz to 6080 kHz.    The shortwave antenna at the new location was described as a V beam, which was focused on the isolated coastal communities of British Columbia north of Vancouver.  The communication transmitter/receivers in use in those areas back then could readily tune the 49 metre broadcast band, which included of course VE9CS-CKFX.
 Over the years, several different shortwave antennas were installed for CKFX on Lulu Island, including a half wave omni-directional antenna with 30 buried radials as a counterpoise.  Then in March 1993 a new 10 watt transmitter was installed foat shortwave CKFX. 
 However, give three more years, and the transmitter malfunctioned.  There was no real need for the 10 watt shortwave station, it was little more than a DX novelty, so the transmitter was never repaired nor replaced.  That was the final and unceremonious end of the world’s smallest shortwave broadcast station.  
 There were many occasions when the little 10 watt shortwave CKFX was heard way across the Pacific in New Zealand and Australia, and also over there in Europe.  They were a very reliable verifier of listener reception reports and loads of international radio monitors in many lands around our world hold the now historic CKFX QSL card in their collection.