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Radio Station WISL: Broadcast News September 1949

  • July 30, 2014

When WISL Radio signed on the air for the first time in January of 1948 it was truly a “state of the art facility.” The second floor of the Lark Building, a former bank, on Sunbury Street, was completely remodeled into a modern radio studio complete with a main control studio, news booth and a performance studio, in addition to administrative office. The walls were covered with acoustical tiles and the floor was finished with cork. This clean, new space was certainly a sight to behold.

The Lark Building on Sunbury Street Many Years Before Becoming Home to WISL Radio

The Lark Building on Sunbury Street Many Years Before Becoming Home to WISL Radio

Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s RCA published a magazine entitled “Broadcast News,” highlighting the accomplishments of the stations that purchased and used their equipment. In radio’s “golden years” the equipment was as impressive as the media that they helped to produce. The chrome lines and Art Deco style of what would otherwise be very boring electrical equipment made studios into showpieces and RCA was very proud of their product. Almost every installation of the era was featured in this publication complete with fantastic pictures of the facilities they equipped. In September of 1949 WISL was featured in Broadcast News. Thanks to this magazine, supplied to us by western PA radio veteran Clarke Ingram, we can look back in time to see what WISL Radio looked like in the early years. Even more spectacular is the article that accompanies these photos, written by WISL’s first Chief Engineer B. T. Marshall. He outlines all the equipment and technical details of the WISL installation. The article has been transcribed for easy reading on the internet, and the original document is located at the end of this post in PDF format.

Less than 20 years later WISL’s transmitter building and the equipment contained within would be destroyed by fire. Click Here for information on the 1968 WISL Transmitter Fire.

WISL Directional Problem Solved With Four-Tower Array

By B. T. Marshall (Chief Engineer)

Radio Station WISL (Radio Anthracite, Inc.) which is located in Shamokin, Pa., has been serving the anthracite region of central Pennsylvania for over a year. The new 1 KW AM broadcast station was conceived in the minds of a small group of public spirited citizens with a desire to provide complete local radio service to Shamokin community which lacked primary radio service at night prior to the advent of WISL.

Antenna Array Location

Engineering studies and surveys started in 1946 resulted in the filing of an application for 1000 watts on 1480 KC, with night-time protection provided (by a four tower antenna array) for existing stations on this channel. The antenna array (see Fig. 1) had to be located southeast of Shamokin in order to serve the purpose of its design. This particular area, at first, yielded no prospect for a suitable site because of the rising brush covered slopes of Big Mountain and the man-made ravines resulting from previous coal stripping operations. An aerial survey finally revealed a flat section, on the slope, large enough to accommodate the array. After a C.P. (Construction Permit) was granted, work began in June of 1947. Building construction and equipment installation proceeded smoothly. However, some delay was encountered while laying radials since huge rocks just below the ground surfaces mangled the laying plow. A highway rooter was finally equipped with a feed pipe. This massive piece of equipment pulled by a heavy duty “cat” planted 720 radials in four days. Equipment tests, shaping of contours, and proof -of -performance were started in the late fall of 1947. Due to the rugged terrain and danger of driving into stripping holes at night-the FCC granted permission to take field measurements in the daytime. Two-way radio was used to maintain contact between field cars and the transmitter.

Station Equipment

The transmitter house and studios were completely equipped with the latest RCA equipment, including the 1 KW AM transmitter (BTA-1L), 76 series consolettes, 70-D transcription turntable, two complete audio, test and monitoring rack equipments and necessary RCA studio and control room microphones.

WISL 1948 Transmitter Room View Showing RCA Test Monitoring and Audio Racks From RCA Brochure


The 1 KW transmitter and associated rack equipment were located as shown in Fig. 3. Transmitter design ineludes the RCA 250 watt transmitter (BTA-250L) which is used as the exciter for the 833-A Power Amplifiers which operate in a class “C” push-pull circuit. Plate modulation of the final amplifier is accomplished by two RCA-833A tubes, operating in class “B.” The complete transmitter occupies an approximate floor area of only 14.5 square feet. The studio consolette and turntables were arranged in front of the studio window as pictured in Fig. 3, to provide a convenient arrangement for the operator.

WISL 1948 Bernie Marshall and Charlie Petrie Test Audio Rack From RCA Brochure


With both studio and transmitter ready for final equipment tests, WISL was granted permission for program tests in January 1948. All tests proceeded satisfactorily and since operation started, no air time has been lost due to equipment failure.


View the original article as published in the September 1949 issue of “Broadcast News.”



Inside the WISL Transmitter Building circa 1948

Inside the WISL Transmitter Building circa 1948

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