Wick Radio

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The Radio Equipment

In the 1950's the UK's Coast radio Station network underwent complete equipment refits. Mainstay of the transmission side were new GPO-built W5 main transmitters. These were multi frequency 1kW (3kw peak) transmitters capable of CW, MCW and AM RT in the maritime bands around 500kHz and 2182kHz. The pair of power amplifier valves had hot cathodes which enabled the transmitters to be brought to air from cold in seconds.

Wick GKR had an additional "little brother" 300 watt MF WT tranmsitter which was used when the W5's were all busy on RT traffic.

On WT, GKR could transmit of 498 (500), 512, 431, 410 and 1615kHz, while on RT the frequencies were 2182, 1792, 1827, 2705, 2840.6 and 3610kHz.

There were also two 300 watt HF transmitters, each capable of operating on GKR's fixed frequencies in the 4, 6, 8 and 12MHz bands.

GPO W5 tranmsitter
The GPO W5 Transmitter
W% transmitter pa valves
W5 hot cathode
power amplifier valves

On the receive side there were a combination of GPO built R20 receivers together with Marconi Mercury and Electra receivers. GPO built receivers were also employed for 500KHz and 2182kHz loudspeaker watch and later a CR100 receiver was brought into use for 2381kHz watch. These receivers, together with transmitter and landline selection controls were all builtinto grey operating consols.

GKR also had direction finding capabilities (which were also very useful at times for nulling out signals from unwanted directions!) DF capability was eventually withdrawn from uk coast stations, a shortsighted policy which was somewhat of an embarrasement on occassions, with reliance having to be placed on the capabilites retained by continental stations and those available at the UK government station at Brora and the US naval station at Forse.

500kHz working receiver 1965
R20 receiver at main 500kHz working point

electra receiver
Marconi Electra Receiver
used on HF working points

1623kHz working receiver and df 1965
R20 receiver at 1615/1623kHz trawler point with (at top) direction finder controls

In the 1970's the station equipment again began to change. Initially a single H1000 tranmsmitter was provided for SSB operfation. Then SPT/Ajax single frequency 1kW transmitters were installed to provide the main SSB RT and 1615kHz WT working. Combiner units were used in conjunction with the Ajax transmitters to enable several transmitters to operate simultaneously to one aerial. At Wick (and at Landsend GLD) Racal TA1800 transmitters were also installed, providing 4kW output. Later the W5 tranmsitters were replaced by new W50 transmitters, again built inhouse by the BT engineering workshops.

Racal TA1800 transmitter
The Racal TA1800 was a 10kW sythesised auto tuning transmitter, used at the 4kW power level.
BT W50 transmitter
The BT built W50 transmitters was a dedicated WT transmitter brought into service in the 1980's
SPT Ajax Transmitters
The bank of single frequency SPT Ajax transmitters
with their associated combiner units
Marconi H1000 tranmsitter
The Marconi H1000
multifrequency SSB/CW transmitter

TA1800 and H1000 transmitters
TA1800 and H1000

On the receive side Eddystone EC958 receivers became the mainstay. In addition, two remote receivers for channel 7 (2548kHz) and channel 3 (2104kHz) were provided at Scousburgh at the southern end of the Shetlands which enabled Wick to better received signals from the Loch Eribol and north coast areas as well as from waters around Shetland and beyond.

To enhance service to the oil industry operating in more northerly waters, a remote station Norwick Radio was set up at RAF Unst, providing fixed frequency communications for oil rigs. These circuits delivered two RT channels (operating on lower sideband) plus multiple dedicated radioteleprinter circuits operating on the upper sideband of each frequency. Radio Telex (Sitor) service was also provided via Norwick) with a later provision of a second channel locally at Wick. Later, two further RT channels were added, initially for use by the Lay Barges and associated vessels. One of these channels transmitted on 2840.6kHz and subsequently an additional receiver was provided at Wick and the Wick and Norwick transmitters transmitted in parallel to provide vessel with a continuous service on this channel from the Moray Firth to the Faroes.

New operating consols and selection controls were also provided, this time in a cream colour, which was supposed to create a more appealing working environment.

Telephone landline provision at Wick was originally five lines, 2271 to 2275. To ensure resiliance, 2275 had a different routing from the other four numbers. The primary dedicated incoming line was 2271 which tripped over to 2272. All international telephone calls were routed via London Ships Service but when International Direct Dialing became available at Aberdeen, a number of out of area Aberdeen numbers were provided at Wick, enabling the station to provide a better service to the internationally diverse oil industry.

The lanline room also included a Telex machine and a TAS machine into the internal telegram network. This latter machine operate in duplex mode, i.e. you could transmit and receive telegrams at the same time and all typing was "blind". The two Radio Telex (Sitor) teleprinters were also located in the landline room.