Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Australian States on Shortwave: Victoria

The Australian state of Victoria is the smallest state in the entire continent, though within it resides the second largest population. In the early days of English discovery and settlement, Victoria formed an integral part of the colony of New South Wales. It is estimated that around 30,000 Aborigines lived in the territory of Victoria at the time of European settlement.

The first permanent settlers came from England on the ship HMS Calcutta and they established what turned out to be a temporary settlement near what is now the city of Melbourne in the year 1803. The colonial administration in Sydney New South Wales was apprehensive that the French would form their own colony in the area and this early settlement was formed to demonstrate a legitimate British claim to the territory.

It was separated as a colony sixteen years later, and it was named in honor of Queen Victoria in England. Along with all other mainland territories, Victoria was federated into the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

The capital city of the Australian state of Victoria, with a total population of six million, is Melbourne with four million. The city of Melbourne was the capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1901 to 1927 during the interim time of development of the Capital Territory, Canberra.

In the Australian radio world, the initial number of the mediumwave callsign indicates the state in which the station is located, and the number 3 indicates Victoria. This pattern of identification for radio stations followed the European pattern that was established in the early days of radio broadcasting.

A total of three different commercial radio stations in Melbourne experimented with the concept of shortwave broadcasting as an increase in coverage area during the early years, and the first was 3LO in 1927. Even though the AWA shortwave station at Pennant Hills near Sydney in New South Wales subsequently became more prominent, yet the early 3LO broadcasts from their own transmitter at Braybrook were a significant milestone in the Australian scene of international radio broadcasting.

At the time, station 3LO was commercially operated during the era before it was taken over by the federal government as a national broadcasting station. The shortwave broadcasts from 3LO created an interest both within Australia and in overseas countries, and their international broadcasts were relayed to local listeners by radio stations and networks in England and the United States, and occasionally in other countries.

Initially the shortwave broadcasts from 3LO were radiated at night from their own lower powered shortwave transmitter that was on the air under the callsign VK3ME, but subsequently, relays were taken out via the 10 kW AWA transmitter at Ballan. The 3LO shortwave broadcasts ended in 1929 at the time when 3LO & 3AR were amalgamated and taken over by the government for what became the nationwide ABC radio service. However, at that stage, AWA continued producing their own programming for broadcast over the same two shortwave transmitters at Braybrook & Ballan.

Then it was that another commercial station in Melbourne, 3DB, took out a relay via VK3ME five years later for the Melbourne Centenary Celebrations, a relay that lasted for a period of three weeks. The programming content in this shortwave relay to the world was taken from the regular evening broadcasts of the mediumwave station 3DB.

The other commercial station in Melbourne that was heard on shortwave during this era was 3UZ, the Oliver Nielsen station in the capital city. Their chief engineer constructed a 150 watt shortwave transmitter that was noted on air for two short periods of time, in 1930 and again in 1931.

We can remember also the ABC shortwave station located at Lyndhurst out in the country, with its several transmitters and several program streams. Experimental transmitter VK3LR began its life as a low power PMG facility for experimental development in a galvanized iron shed near Lyndhurst.

As time went by, the building was rebuilt, renovated, and re-renovated; and transmitter VK3LR became VLR, and subsequently additional transmitters were installed, and these took to the air mainly under the callsigns VLG, VLH, & VNG. Programming was provided by the ABC Home Service and also by Radio Australia; and VNG carried the chronohertz time and frequency service. The Lyndhurst station, with its bevy of 10 kW transmitters, was closed down at the end of the year 1987 at the conclusion of around 60 years of international on air service.

Then too, the other major shortwave station for Radio Australia in Victoria is the facility near Shepparton which was inaugurated with a 50 kW RCA transmitter in mid 1944. Still on the air to this day, Shepparton was on the air internationally with callsigns VLA VLB, etc running down to VLF, all rated at either 50 kW or 100 kW. There was also a 10 kW transmitter at Shepparton under the callsign VLY during that era.

We can also remember that the studios for Radio Australia are located in Melbourne, and this programming has been fed to their transmitter sites located in five states, as well as in overseas countries.

Finally, we look at two program broadcasting stations that were on the air carrying programming for army personnel. In 1955, Radio Puckapunyal was noted in New Zealand and Australia with just one broadcast of an hour duration each week. This station was located in an army camp out from Melbourne, and it was active on shortwave for just a few weeks.

The other army station was located at another army encampment, known as Digger’s Rest, a little further out from Melbourne. This station was on the air with live programming for army personnel under the callsign VMA. It was noted at two different time periods, 1982 & 1987, and the programs were intended for army personnel on service overseas.

Thus, in the Australian state of Victoria, we have seen that a total of more than a dozen shortwave transmitters at more than half a dozen locations have broadcast regular and special radio programming during the past more than 80 years. Every one of these stations issued QSL cards, some of which are now rare collector’s items.

The colorful QSL cards issued by Radio Australia for their broadcasts over Shepparton & Lyndhurst are well known, and the ABC cards for Lyndhurst are also well known, as are also the VNG double sized cards. Occasionally, cards for VK3ME are offered on Ebay, and also for 3LO & 3UZ. The two army stations also issued QSL cards for their unique broadcasts.

However, there are no known QSL cards issued by 3DB for the three week period of broadcasts during the centenary celebrations in 1934. However, it is known that 3DB issued a QSL card for their mediumwave station during that era, and we would presume that they issued the same card for their shortwave broadcasts also.

Next month, we will look at the shortwave scene in another state, Queensland, with the initial number 4.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS # 111 via Adrian Peterson)