Alexanderson Plaque

MRHS member Richard Dillman writes: When I first visited the RCA transmitting station in Bolinas in 1972 I made a pilgrimage to Building 1, the most historic building on the site.  Building 1 was constructed in 1913 by the American Marconi Company to house the original 230kW trans-oceanic rotary gap transmitter.  In 1920 the rotary was replaced by two magnificent Alexanderson alternators, each capable of 200kW.  The Alexandersons were of course long gone but evidence of their former presence remained in the form of a bronze plaque screwed to the outside wall of Building 1 to the left of the entry.  The plaque proclaimed the presence of the alternators inside.  When I returned to Bolinas in 1973 I was shocked to find the plaque gone.  Ony the threaded studs remained in the wall where it once was.  I hoped that the precious artifact had been taken by a collector rather than a scrapper.  I hoped that one day word would come about the location of the plaque.  I waited through the 70s.. the 80s... the 90s... Finally in 2008 the call came.  "We have this plaque in the basement of our museum.  We think it belongs to you guys."  You can imagine the feelings that call generated.  Before long the plaque was back at Bolinas, in safe storage.


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This evocative photo of Building 1 was taken by Warren Reese, last transmitter technician at KPH.  The building was largely empty but at the time the photo was taken MF transmitter BL-10 was still in service within.  The entry doors may be seen at ground level.  The single remaining rigger's shack is in the foreground.

The plaque returns home, appropriately via Service Car 50.

The plaque in storage in the parts room at the Bolinas site.  Behind the plaque are slate panels that were originally part of the power switchboard at Bolinas or Pt. Reyes.  These too were returned to the site... after being used as stepping stones in the yard of a local residence!

The evocative thing about the plaque, and the similar ones that were mounted on the point to point transmitter sites around the world, is that it shows how proud the builders of these systems were.

The plaque reads:

This Station Was Designed and Constructed by the

RADIO CORPORATION OF AMERICA

The 200K.W. High Frequency Generating Equipment was Manufactured and Installed by the General Electric Company

The General Engineering and Construction Work was Performed by the J.G. White Engineering Corporation

1920