Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer    

The Vashon Island Picnic

July 2014

What if you were invited to a picnic with a bunch of great broadcast guys?

What if you were invited to a serial tour of multiple 50 kW legacy stations?

What if you were invited to do this on an island duiring the summer?

If you had those invitations, you were invited - as I was - to the SBE Chapter 16 picnic and transmitter crawl on Vashon Island, home to a whole bunch of 50 kW stations.  

To be accurate, Clay Freinwald has been inviting me to this event every year, but somehow it always seemed to be only a few days before. This year, we talked earlier, and I made my plans to go.

It took three long days of driving from Tucson to Tacoma to get there, but I managed to make it on the Ferry and over to Vashon Island without incident. Arriving at the KOMO site, the picnic materials were already being set up.

KOMO is one of the legacy stations on the islands. In fact, it was radio stations like KOMO that led to much of the population growth on Vashon, as they kept the transmitter site fully staffed for many years. There were bedrooms and apartments for staff to live on the island.


This year, as a sort of suprise, a set of apartments were "re-discovered" next to the KIRO building, after removing a lot of foliage.

Of course, today most of the stations are cared for by a local contractor.


One of the nice things about the tour was that we got to see some of the classic 50 kW rigs, RCA's BTA-50F1, for example, and the Continental 317Cs.  While the RCA at KOMO is no longer in service, a couple of the 317Cs are ready to go on the air, should they be needed.


Seeing the older transmitters did allow us to consider in our minds why it took a lot more engineering time and talent to keep the stations going. Oh .. and you needed a special cart with a crane to change a tube!  Another era, for sure.




An interesting facet of the tour was seeing in person how the size of the 50 kW transmitters went from the huge, to the more modern size, about that of a large refrigerator.






At KIRO, in addition to the current operations, a nice historical display was set out for us, as well as a tour of the "bunker" downstairs, should the absolute worst happen.


Back at the KOMO site, we got well fed and the Chapter recognized members contributions to the Chapter and the industry. It was a lovely afternoon. Weather was in the 70s with a light breeze. Attendance at the picnic was good, as was the food and conversation.





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