Monday, August 20, 2018

Highest Powered Mediumwave Station in the Southern Hemisphere - 2YA

2CO Corowa transmitter and aerial
When it was officially opened on December 16, 1931, mediumwave station 2CO in Corowa New South Wales  Australia, was accorded honor as the highest powered mediumwave radio broadcasting station in the Southern Hemisphere with 7½ kW on 560 kHz.  Then on March 15 of the following year 1932, 5CK in Crystal Brook South Australia was officially opened on 635 kHz, also with 7½ kW, thus sharing honor with 2CO as equal highest powered mediumwave radio broadcasting station in the Southern Hemisphere.

However five years later again, a bright new mediumwave station near Wellington in New Zealand, 2YA with a 60 kW transmitter, became the highest powered mediumwave station in the Southern Hemisphere, thus eclipsing the two Australian stations for that honor.  Since that time, 2YA has always held the honor, at least as equal highest powered mediumwave station in the South Pacific.    
Let’s go back now to the month of February in the year 1922, which was when the first mediumwave station in Wellington commenced broadcasting.  This new station was constructed and  operated by Charles Forrest at the International Electric Company in Courtenay Place, Wellington and it was on the air two evenings a week, Monday and Wednesday, for an hour and a half on each occasion.

Six months later, Forrest merged with Hope Gibbons to form Wellington Broadcasters Ltd with their small cramped radio studio at the top of the Ford Building in Courtenay Place.  This building had been constructed earlier for the assembly of American made Model T Ford motor cars.
During the following year (1923), the New Zealand government began issuing callsigns to radio broadcasting stations and this first station in Wellington was accorded the callsign 2YB.  However one year later again, in November 1924, this station 2YB merged with the second broadcasting station in Wellington that had been accorded the sequential callsign 2YK.
This second station in Wellington was owned and financed by a group of five interested men who operated as the Federal Telephone Company.  The transmitter for this new radio station was constructed locally on information provided by Professor Robert Jack who had been experimenting with wireless for the past year or more in Dunedin on the South Island. 
The new Wellington station was installed at the back of Mr. A. H. Simpson’s home in suburban Wellington, quite near to the local post office, and it was launched in August 1922, when the previously mentioned first station 2YB was just six months old.  The New Zealand government issued the callsign 2YK to this now second station in Wellington.
In November (1923) this station, with its staff-built new transmitter, was moved to the 5th floor in the Dominion Building on Plimmers Steps, just off Lambton Quay, hence a new company name, the Dominion Radio Company.  Waterside workers cut a tree and hauled it to the roof of the building to support the antenna system.  This station was on the air two or three evenings a week for a total of just a few hours altogether.
During the year 1924, the New Zealand government began to subsidize four key radio broadcasting stations in New Zealand, including 2YK in Wellington.  Then In November of that same year, the first station in Wellington (2YB) was merged into the more substantial and now more successful second station 2YK. 
On August 30 of the next year (1925) the government took over tall four of the subsidized stations (1YA Auckland, 2YK Wellington, 3AQ Christchurch, 4YA Dunedin), though the Wellington station went silent instead.  As an interim measure, the Post Office personnel provided some form of spasmodic programming for the 2YK transmitter.

Station 2YK returned to the air for the November (1925) elections, and again for special Christmas programming.  Then during the following year (1926), this station began to carry a regular programming schedule.  In June 1927, station 2YK was given a change in callsign, and thus 2YK became the now highly regarded and well known 2YA.
Actually, the 2YA callsign had previously been allocated to a small battery operated station in Nelson.  This small regional city of Nelson is located on the north coast of the South Island almost opposite Wellington, and Wellington is located across the Cook Straits on the southern edge of the North Island.  In 1923, Mr. D. Field established this radio station in Nelson which was allocated at that stage the callsign 2YA.  
This small radio station operated without mains electricity, and it required 300 torch batteries soldered together to provide electricity for it to go on the air.  This 2YA radio station broadcast from a hardware shop, Wilkins & Field Ltd., in Hardy Street, Nelson.
During the mid 1920s, a big new 2YA in the national capital city Wellington was planned as the most powerful mediumwave broadcasting station in the world.  However when it was officially opened by Prime Minister Joseph G. Coates on July 9, 1927, its power level was only 5 kW, not even as powerful as the two stations in Australia; 2CO & 5CK with 7½ kW each. 
Studios for this new 2YA were installed in the Wellesley Club Building on the corner of Waring Taylor & Featherstone Streets in Wellington.  The transmitter was installed in a new building under two  
self-supporting towers on Mt. Victoria, towering over the city of Wellington.
However soon afterwards. another new 2YA was built on a small promontory at Titahi Bay, Whitireia Head, and this one really did become the most powerful in the Southern Hemisphere.  In addition, its single tower was also the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere standing 700 feet high.  The tower was manufactured in Australia and shipped to New Zealand in sections.
The transmitter building at Titahi Bay was constructed to withstand sustained wind speeds of 100 miles an hour, and the end roofing trussets were specially designed to retain the roof in gale force winds.  The earthing system was composed of 10 miles of copper wire laid underground in a special counterpoise pattern.  An emergency on-air studio was installed in the transmitter building, and subsequently, so was an emergency power generator.

The new 2YA transmitter was manufactured by AWA at their Sydneyside factory in suburban Ashfield, and it was rated at the unusual power level of 60 kW.  The antenna system for this new high powered radio station was configured to provide maximum coverage of New Zealand north-south, with a minimum of skywave propagation.

This high powered 2YA on 570 kHz in New Zealand was easily heard one thousand miles away in Australia, particularly in the evenings with programming at a listening level, due to the saltwater pathway.  In fact, on one occasion, mediumwave 2YA was heard on a car radio at a listenable level while a family was traveling up towards the center of Australia when the time at the transmitter site was already late morning.  
This new 2YA was officially opened by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Michael Savage, on January 25, 1937.  The old 5 kW 2YA transmitter was retuned to 840 kHz and it returned to the air under a new callsign 2YC.
These days, the magnificent 2YA is still on the air with 50 kW on 567 kHz at Titahi Bay, and studios in Radio New Zealand House on the Terrace in Wellington.  Over the years, many hundreds of QSL cards have been sent to listeners living in countries within, and beyond, the Pacific arena.
(AWR/Wavescan-NWS 492)
(photo/ABC Archive/Flickr)