KPH Today

KPH is unique among maritime coast stations that have been shut down. Every other such station we know of has been bulldozed to make way for housing tracts and shopping malls. As a result almost all of the history and artifacts of these great stations has been lost.

These photos show what can be seen today at KPH. When the station was shut down the personnel simply locked the doors and walked away. Thus KPH became a sealed time capsule containing the equipment and documents not only of the last phase of its life but of previous phases as well.

The Point Reyes National Seashore now owns the land and buildings and all the artifacts of KPH. They are thus protected against the outrages that have been visited upon other coast stations in this country and world wide.


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Building 2, Bolinas

Building 2, Bolinas
Building 2, Bolinas

This is the front or east end of Building 2 at Bolinas, now the offices of Commonweal. It is the second most historic structure on the site being built, logically enough, after Building 1. At one time the second floor of this building was filled with high powered point to point transmitters.

Building 2A, Bolinas

Building 2A, Bolinas
Building 2A, Bolinas

This is the north side of Building 2A, added to the west end of Building 2 in 1959. The west end of Building 2 can just be seen near the left margin of the photo. All of the transmitters used during the last phase of KPH were housed here - and still are.

Tom on Transmitter

Tom on Transmitter
Tom on Transmitter

Here is a view of the transmitter gallery on the second floor of Building 2A. Tom Horsfall is standing atop a 1950s vintage RCA H set to help with the re-routing of a coaxial line. To the right of Tom you can see the balanced open wire antenna lines.

Open Wire Feedlines

Open Wire Feedlines
Open Wire Feedlines

This view of the south side of Building 2A shows the open wire feed lines emerging from the square windows near the roof line and then extending out into the southern antenna field. In the last decade or two the trees surrounding Building 2A have grown up into the lines, requiring frequent pruning.

H Frames

H Frames
H Frames

All the open wire feed lines from each side of Building 2A are gathered into trunks and then carried to their respective antenna fields on H frames. This view shows a series of H frames extending away from Building 2A into the southern antenna fiel

Swinging the Line

Swinging the Line
Swinging the Line

Most of the KPH antennas were still standing when we began our project. One significant exception was the Marconi T antenna used by the MF transmitter on 426kc/s and 500kc/s. Soon after we began work we noticed that one side of this antenna was on the ground.  Here Tom Horsfall and volunteers "swing the line" to hoist the end of the MF antenna back aloft.

Marconi T

Marconi T
Marconi T

The center of the Marconi T antenna is held aloft by a 100ft. pole next to Building 42. This building contains the tuning gear needed to match the antenna to a coaxial feed line at two frequencies, 426 and 500kc/s. The current MF transmitter is a Henry 5kW unit.

BL-10 Tuning Gear

BL-10 Tuning Gear
BL-10 Tuning Gear

This is the tuning gear inside Building 42 that was originally used with transmitter BL-10. Note the corona ring around each coil, and the "walking beam" type frequency change switch between the two coils. These are actually variometers as there are moving, selsyn controlled coils inside each one.

BL-10 Tuning Gear

BL-10 Tuning Gear
BL-10 Tuning Gear

In this closer view of one of the variometers it is easier to see the selsyn that drives the inner coil (the selsyn is the cylindrical object with the red band around it in the lower right part of the photo) and its linkage.

Walking Beam Transfer Switch

Walking Beam Transfer Switch
Walking Beam Transfer Switch

This closer view of the walking beam transfer switch makes it easier to see its construction. We hope to re-activate at least this part of the old tuning gear so we can one day hear the satisfying "CLACK!" that must accompany its operation.

Alexanderson Helix Base

Alexanderson Helix Base
Alexanderson Helix Base

The antenna fields at KPH are strewn with artifacts of a past age. Here the great antenna for the Alexanderson alternators once stood, supported by 9 Marconi pressed steel cylindrical towers, each 300ft. tall. The bases of these towers, their guy anchors the helix bases and the anchor for the antenna (see the Bolinas High Power part of the Point to Point section of this Web site for photos) still exist at the site.

Marconi Mast Base

Marconi Mast Base
Marconi Mast Base

This is the base of one of the 9 Marconi 300ft. pressed steel cylindrical antenna masts that supported the multiple tuned Alexanderson antenna at Bolinas. It is easy to see the cylindrical shape of the mast and the tabs on each on the section that has been torched off just above the concrete base.

Radioman Skeleton!

Radioman Skeleton!
Radioman Skeleton!

Exploring the KPH antenna fields is not for the meek. During one of our surveys at the receive site in Service Car 50 we came across the remains of a long lost  radioman near one of the many ponds in the area.

HenryTransmitter B2

HenryTransmitter B2
HenryTransmitter B2

Inside Building 2A the transmitters remain as they were left the day they were shut down - with the notable addition of a significant amount of rust and corrosion from the salt air! Here is a view of three Henry transmitters that were the ones we restored first.  They had been sitting in essentially open salt air (many windows were open) for two years.  They had standing water in them from condensation - not a good partner for 6kV!  But now they run sweetly.

Transmitter 251K

Transmitter 251K
Transmitter 251K

For all the efficiency and ease of operation of the Henry transmitters the real queens of the transmitter gallery in our eyes are the classic 1950s vintage RCA H, K and L sets, as they were known within the company. Here Tom Horsfall tunes up transmitter 251K.  The Henry transmitters sat in the corrosive atmosphere of the transmitter gallery for two years before we started work.  The RCA transmitters sat there for ten years!  When the Transmitter Department started restoration not even the controls could be moved.  Now the K and L sets hum along without a hitch.

RCA "K" Set

 RCA
RCA "K" Set

A view of the power supply cabinet of a RCA "K" set shows the window behind which the thyratrons reside.  When the transmitter is operating they flash in time with the Morse.

RCA "H" Set

RCA
RCA "H" Set

This is a "H" set, clearly a more complex transmitter than the K sets. Nevertheless we have made good progress toward bringing a "H" set back to life and look forward to the day when its voice will once again be heard on the air.

Steve Adjusts 305L

Steve Adjusts 305L
Steve Adjusts 305L

Steve Hawes makes final adjustments on transmitter 305L. The L sets were used originally in point-to-point service (on AM) but were later converted for Morse operation. This is another example of how KPH often got the hand-me-downs no longer needed by the point-to-point service.

Steve Iinspects Keying Lines

Steve Iinspects Keying Lines
Steve Iinspects Keying Lines

The keying lines from all the transmitters are routed to the control room. Here Steve is checking the new cables and terminations he has installed. The current arrangement permits the KSM transmitters to be keyed remotely from Pt. Reyes via the original equipment via a land line, just as was done when KPH was in service.

Transmitter Tone Sets

 Transmitter Tone Sets
Transmitter Tone Sets

These 902 tone sets are located in the control room at the Bolinas transmitter site.  There is one tone set for each transmitter.  In normal operation they receive the narrow AFSK signals from corresponding 901 tone sets at the receive site to key each transmitter.  However for local operation of transmitters from Bolinas, as seen here, the tone sets are keyed through a multiple keying arrangement via the yellow patch cords.

Key Multiples

 Key Multiples
Key Multiples

This key multiple panel was built by Bill Ruck of the Transmitter Department with the same appearance and form factor as the tone sets.  Two sets of multiples are provided.

Vintage FSK Keyers

 Vintage FSK Keyers
Vintage FSK Keyers

This rack contains vintage FSK keyers that were used in point to point service.  They are small transmitters in themselves and provided their output to the associated transmitters via coaxial cable and the BNC patch panel.  We hope to eventually restore one of these and place it in service.  Below the BNC patch panel may be seen the frequency sources for the PW-15 transmitter downstairs.  These are in service and were recovered from the KFS transmitter site in Palo Alto along with the PW-15 transmitters.

Transmitter Site Mill

 Transmitter Site Mill
Transmitter Site Mill

Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes keeps the transmitter log on this Royal mill.

Transmitter Log

 Transmitter Log
Transmitter Log

Here's an example of the log kept by Steve at the transmitter site.

TTY Order Wire

 TTY Order Wire
TTY Order Wire

This Model 15 Teletype machine is one end of the land line TTY order wire between the transmit and receive sites.  This replicates the original link between the two stations.  In fact this machine is at the same location as the original and uses the connectors and wiring used by the original.  The circuit between the two stations is by AFSK tone sets and was engineered by the Transmitter Department.

Kleinschmidts

 Kleinschmidts
Kleinschmidts

Kleinschmidts or "Kleins" were a standard item of equipment at all coast stations.  We have what we think must be the largest collection of Kleins anywhere, many of which were generously donated to the project.  In addition to the ones seen here there are two more at the transmit station and another actually in service at the receive site.  None of these are original to the site but an original KPH Klein has been recovered by the Park Service.  See the Radio Archeology section of this Web site for photos of the original KPH Klein.

The "Box of Death"

 The
The "Box of Death"

When we began our project we were warned never to touch, much less turn on, this item.  It is a tube tester custom built by RCA for the testing of high voltage mercury vapor and thyraton tubes.  Naturally after that warning we dubbed it the Box of Death and restored it to operation.

The original RCA oscilloscope shown in the B of D awaits restoration.  The Tektronics scope on the floor is temporarily used instead.

The "Box of Death"

 The
The "Box of Death"

Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes prepares to test two tubes in the B of D.  He holds a type 575 MV rectifier.  A 872 has been placed in the B of D for testing.

The "Box of Death"

 The
The "Box of Death"

This interior view of the B of D shows the 872 under test to the right and the 676 thyratron to the left. The 676 is the pulse driver.

The "Box of Death"

 The
The "Box of Death"

This time exposure shows the 676 pulse driver and the 872 under test.

Oscillator Rack

 Oscillator Rack
Oscillator Rack

In the point to point service the transmitter frequencies had to be changed for different circuits and for night and day frequencies.  This rack was used to store the transmitter oscillators for use in the transmitters.

Oscillator Rack

 Oscillator Rack
Oscillator Rack

Each oscillator was powered while in the storage rack so it was at operating temperature (and on frequency) when needed.  Note the two prongs at the rear of the rack.  These fit the socket at the rear of the oscillator unit to provide power.  Each oscillator was capable to two frequencies.  The octal sockets below were also powered and accepted crystal ovens. 

Bolinas Shop

 Bolinas Shop
Bolinas Shop

The shop area at the Bolinas transmit site is where much maintenance takes place.

Bolinas Shop

 Bolinas Shop
Bolinas Shop

Generally considered to be the best seat in the house, the work area in the Bolinas shop provides a nice view of the antenna fields.  The area is currently set up to test and repair the "bricks", solid state low level amplifiers of the Henry transmitters.

Feed Line Sled

Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

This sled is used to detect standing waves on the open wire feed lines.  The notable features are the RF ammeters, the slots allowing the sled to ride on feed lines of various widths and the sensing loop feeding the RF ammeters.  The sled was pulled along the feed line with ropes while engineers observed the meters from below with binoculars.  The sled was used to determine the proper place for the installation of stubs on the feed lines.

Feed Line Sled

Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

This close up view shows the slots for different widths of antenna feed lines.  Note the tube with the slot atop the sled for use with the widest feed lines.

Feed Line Sled

Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

This close up shows the internal sensing loop that drives the RF ammeters.

Feed Line Sled

Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

This single wire sled rides the line on small wheels.

Feed Line Sled

 Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

This rear view of the single line sled shows the sensing loop and the wiring of the RF ammeters.

Feed Line Sled

 Feed Line Sled
Feed Line Sled

Remains of the pull ropes are still attached to the single line sled.  Steve promises that we will some day get to use these sleds "in anger" in the antenna field for the replacement of the feed line stubs.

Richard Dillman at the key

Richard Dillman at the key
Richard Dillman at the key

Operating position 1 at Point Reyes, Chief Operator Richard Dillman at the key. All the original equipment is still in place as it was left on the day the station was closed in 1997.  All transmitters, both MF and HF, can be controlled from this position.  The operator can also select keying sources: hand key, "wheel" or pre-recorded messages such as press and weather.

Operating Positions 1 and 2

Operating Positions 1 and 2
Operating Positions 1 and 2

This view shows operating positions 1 and 2 in service for Straight Key Night. Rick Wahl "FW" is at the key on 7Mc in the foreground while Steve Hawes "SH" stands watch on 14Mc in the background.  

Position 2

Position 2
Position 2

Steve Hawes tunes carefully for 14Mc signals at position 2. This position is also equipped with a Watkins-Johnson 8718A and Kenwood R-5000 along with the blue antenna selection panel at the top. The transmitter selection panel is directly below the antenna selection panel.

H Frames at Receive Site

 H Frames at Receive Site
H Frames at Receive Site

A row of H frames marches off into the distance at the receive site.  There were three such trunk lines carrying the 4-wire feed lines from the point to point antennas.  A run of 4-wire has been restored by the MRHS.  See the Antenna Maintenance section of this Web site for photos of the project.

Ray Smith at the Key

 Ray Smith at the Key
Ray Smith at the Key

KPH senior Morse operator Ray Smith sends a commemorative message from Position 1, the same position from which he sent the final KPH message in 1997.

Jack Martini, Phil Diehl and Dick Flint in the standard kibitzing position to the left of Position 1.  I probably wasn't intended by the designers of the operating room but everyone tends to gather here and lean on the partition to observe what's going on in the CW room.

On the fifth anniversary of our project the ex-KPH operators gathered on the steps of the receive station for this portrait.  Back row, left to right: Rick Wahl, Bruce Chapman.  Middle row, Left to right: Jack Martini, Warren Reese.  Front row, left to right: Dick Flint, Denice Stoops, Phil Diehl, Ray Smith.

This 5th anniversary cake was provided by Denice Stoops.

Bill Ruck of the Transmitter Department works on the rewiring of an operating position at the receive site.

KSM participated in the anniversary of D-Day by communicating with SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN/KXCH, the only ship that was part of the original invasion fleet to return for the 40th anniversary of the event.  This is the message sent to the ship.