HARTFORD RADIO HISTORY
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WHCN (W1XPW) Early Years
   History was made in CT in the last thirties when Major Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of F.M., conducted a series of experiments from West Peak.  First experimenting with APEX modulation in the 25 Mhz range he then moved on to FM, with a transmitter in the 42 MHz VHF broadcast band. There has been so much radio activity from West Peak in Meriden that it was known locally as "Radio Mountain."  Armstrong also was the first to crate a radio network using FM radio signals to connect his stations in Alpine, NJ with a station on Mt. Washington, NH, relaying through other New England cities.
   In the early '40's Franklin Doolittle would operate no less than two low-band FM stations from the site.

    Please see related links at the left of the page. 

In late 1938, W1XPW, licensed to WDRC, Inc., was given an authorization for experimental operation on 40.3 MHz. from West Peak in Meriden.  The location and some of the equipment had been used since 1936 as W1XSL, which was an amplitude modulation Apex station.  

     On May 13, 1939, Franklin Doolittle's W1XPW started on-air testing with 2,000 watts on 43.4 MHz., awaiting a higher power transmitter.  This was one of the first FM transmissions in the country and certainly the first in the state.

     On Jan. 4 and 5, 1940, Major Armstrong utilized Doolittle's West Peak station for historic experimental FM relay broadcasts with programming being sent from New York City to an AM station in Boston via W2XCR Yonkers, W2XMN Alpine NJ, W1XPW Meriden CT, W1XOJ Paxton MA, W1XOY Mt. Washington NH and finally to a Boston AM station.  The success of this test marked the way for the proliferation of radio networks   

In September of that same year, Franklin Doolittle, who also operated WDRC, launched a new commercial station on the new FM band (88-108 Mhz).  Retaining the call letters W1XPW the station had an ambitious schedule of nearly 20 hours a day of special FM programming.  Doolittle stated that the purpose of the station was to serve as a demonstration of the potential of FM radio and to give purchasers of new FM sets something to listen to. Robert M. Provan, Jr., was hired as promotions manager and he also set the station's programming schedule. Both newspapers and mailings to radio distributors were used to get the word out about the new station.

     A 1941 Hartford Times article quotes Mr. Doolittle as saying "very shortly, the first question asked about a radio receiver will be: Has it a frequency modulation band?"

    The old photos below were provided by Rick Walsh, WHCN Chief Engineer.


This is the earliest picture we can find of the W1XSL/W1XPW transmitter building on West Peak.  Apparently there were several summer houses up there. In this photo the transmitter building is the 2nd from left.  WWYZ's transmitter building now occupies the space where the other house is.


This is a close up of the two structures shown in the last picture, probably taken around 1940. The W1XSL/W1XPW transmitter building is the one on the right.  If you look closely you you can see the striped tower in front of the building.  Note the fire tower in the background.


In order to operate a transmitter you need electricity and up until the time Armstrong did his experiments there was no power on West Peak due to the remote location and sheer cliffs.  This picture shows a military officer, probably a Coast Guardsman, using a small cannon (a "Lyle Gun"?) to shoot a rope over the cliff so that electrical and telephone lines can be pulled up.  This picture probably dates from around 1936.


A crowd gathers as the utility company prepares to hoist up the power lines.  W1XPW building is out of sight to the left of the photo.  That's Freaklin Doolittle himself "supervising" from the ladder.


A winter shot of the W1XPW transmitter building.  The tower is visible over the right peak of the roof.  Since it appears from the ladders that the building is still under construction we're going to guess that this picture dates from 1936 or so. (Editors note:  Having serviced transmitters on West Peak for more than 20 years I cannot imagine what it must have been like to try to get up there in the winter without 4WD - tire chains were necessary as you can see in this photo).

 
We tried to get a contemporary picture to match the previous one but the WDRC building is in the way so this one will have to do.  Note that the left hand door and the front window has been blocked in and the buidling extended to the left.  A steel ice guard covers the original slade shingles on the roof installed in 1936! 2009 photo.


An early photo of the W1XPW tower and the new utility poles taken from the rock outcropping beyond where the ATT tower now stands.


View of the W1XPW transmitter building and tower looking West.  Apparently the tower in the upper right is under construction as evidenced by the boom/gin pole near the bottom and the guy temporary guy wires. c. 1936.


Completed building and tower. Date unknown but probably late thirties/early forties.  Note the antenna feed at the bottom of the mast.

 
Same scene in 2009. The W1XPW tower is still standing after 70+ years!  Brandon Kampe photo. The WHCN tower is to the far right of this photo.


6 bay turnstile antenna fed by open wire line extends nearly to the top of the 90' mast.  We assume this is probably the 43.4 Mhz antenna.


The transmitter building and driveway, complete with decorative stones! The 90' mast should be visible just to the right of the building but it isn't so this photo was probably taken prior to the mast being put up.


Why did Armstron pick West Peak as his transmitter site?  First, it served as a vital link to relay signals for his early network from Alpine, NJ to Mt. Washington via New York City, Worcester and Boston.  Second, it provided excellent coverage into the central CT area.  This is a picture taken from the roof of the transmitter building showing the city of Hartford. Mt Tom in Holyoke is on the horizon.


This is a picture from the roof of the transmitter building looking South.  The large power plant is near New Haven harbor. You can make out Long Island Sound and the shore of Long Island just beyond!


Early sixties?

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