WSL

WSL was a major coast station located on Long Island, New York.  The transmitter site appears to have moved during the station's history but its last location was in the town of Amagansett.  The station closed in 1984.  One of our members, Richard Dillman, grew up on Long Island and decided to see what, if anything, was left of WSL.

Ken Hickman/N5CM writes:

You guys bring back memories talking about WSL. Back WW2 days on the North Atlantic Convoy WSL transmitted messages "blind" to us. We had to copy the traffic list and if our secret convoy war call or our own ship's secret war call was listed we had to copy the message which of course was encripted. The transmission of the message was made three times 12 hours apart.  WSL really pounded in!  After the war, I sailed one trip to Brazil and being on a Makay licensed ship, I used WSL and KSF. I had the best job on the ship, a Victory, as I had no duties in port, footloose and fancy free! I didn'tmake as much money as the Captain, Mates or Engineers but all considered, I was supremely happy. Just recalling some of my experiences.

Take care,

Ken N5CM


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This is the WSL receiving station in Southampton as it looked in about 1982.

Richard Dillman writes: As I arrived in the area of Amagansett I could hardly believe it.  I expected perhaps a few broken phone poles and maybe some tangled wires on the ground.  Instead there was a massive tower, a small transmitter building and tuning houses.

The remaining tower is one of the original two.  These supported the two frequency MF antenna.  It took a while to figure out the configuration of the antenna, which was breathtaking when original layout finally became apparent.  The full description will follow, associated with later photos.

The transmitter building is in the foreground.  One of two tuning houses in in the background with a catwalk between them.

Here's the catwalk leading to the transmitter building.  The station is located in an ideal location for radio transmission: a tidal wetland.

The approach to the transmitter building.  Note the ventilation duct just to the right of the entry door, which became significant in a later part of the exploration.

The remains of antenna supports on the pole next to the transmitter building.

The catwalk approach to the nearest tuning house.

A close view of the tuning house.

The remains of the rigging and feed arrangement for the base of one of the two MF antennas, one for 500kc and one for the working frequency.  The antenna layout was as follows, as near as could be determined.  The support wire between the two towers supported two vertical wire cage antennas, each with its own tuning house.  Each tuning house was fed from the transmitter building by coaxial cable.

The steps leading to the nearest tuning house have obviously suffered from delayed maintenance!

The coaxial cables enter the tuning house through the wall, carried by a messenger cable.

Each tuning house had a tuning unit capable of handling high power.  The last MF transmitter used at WSL was rated at 5kW but coast stations of the golden age often ran tens of kilowatts on these frequencies, which were the heart of maritime communications.  One can only imagine the booming signal that such an antenna system fed with 20 to 40kW would have put out.

One of several tuning controls.

Parts of the tuner had been vandalized.

Returning to the transmitter building, I was unable to find any way to get inside.  However there was a ventilation duct at one end of the building with the entry facing toward the ground.  The vent can be seen in one of the external photos above.  Luckily, the screen had largely rusted out so I was barely able to get my head and arm (holding a camera) up into the duct to get a view into the building.  The transmitters were along the wall to the left.

Here's a similar view into the building.  Note the sawn off coaxial cables coming in to left.  The remaining racks held the terminal and keying equipment.

This is a view of the wall to the right, showing power conduits that once connected to the emergency generator.

With a fantastic bit of good luck George Flanagan/W2RKM made photos available of what the inside of the transmitter building looked when the station was in operation.  The door at the far end in this photo is the one with the ventilation duct next to it through which I was able to take the previous photos.  Transmitters and control equipment is to the right.

Photo courtesy of George Flanagan, W2KRM

This interior view is from essentially the same location I had when poking my head up into the ventilation duct.  The backup generator is in the foreground.  It must not have been much fun to be in the building when the generator was running.

Photo courtesy of George Flanagan, W2KRM

This is believed to be a HF transmitter, manufacturer unknown.  Can you help identify it?

Photo courtesy of George Flanagan, W2KRM

This is a Harris 5kW frequency agile MF transmitter.  ITT/Globe Wireless used these in several of their stations including KFS south of San Francisco.  We recovered three of these transmitters from the KFS transmitter site in Palo Alto.  Two of them were in service on MF for KFS.  The third, partly cannabalized, turned out to be the very WSL trnamsitter shown in this photo!

Photo courtesy of George Flanagan, W2KRM

Here's a fantastic view of the west tower taken by a brave man on the east tower.  The transmitter building and the two tuning houses may be easily seen.

Photo courtesy of George Flanagan, W2KRM

This is the far (west) tuning house that could not be reached due to marshy conditions.

Coaxial lines leading to the far (west) tuning house.

I couldn't quite figure out the purpose of the poles with HV insulators that at one time carried a wire.  Counterpoise?  I didnt think so since the salt marsh provided the best counterpoise you could ask for.

The line between the two towers, which were 1000ft apart, was kept taught by a counterweight system at each end.  Each carried concrete weights that could be added or removed to provide the needed tension.

Here's a close up of the east counterweight.