Rare transmitter ready to go back on air

By John Cousins

A 75-year-old broadcasting transmitter believed to be one of only two still operating in the world has been restored by Tauranga's Village Radio.

Regarded as the Rolls Royce of communications equipment, the American-built Collins transmitter was to receive its first real test on Saturday.

It has been out of action for the 13 years since the high voltage power transformer burnt out. The restoration was a joint effort by retired radio technicians Russ Bain, Neil Walsh and George Stewart, aided by a $2000 grant from the Lotteries Commission.

The Collins briefly went live on October 16 after the technicians painstakingly went through all the suspect components.

"By mid afternoon we were confident that all the faults had been discovered. It was with great jubilation that when the two buttons were pushed, all the meters were reading perfectly," Mr Stewart said.

Village Radio will continue to rely on its more modern 1960s Toshiba valve transmitter, leaving the Collins as a back-up to be used on special occasions.

The Collins was one of four imported for New Zealand's commercial ZB network for use in the 1940s and 1950s, and was used by Radio 1ZB in Auckland. It later became the emergency transmitter for the Bay of Plenty stations 1ZD and 1YZ before it was gifted to Village Radio in 1984.

Mr Stewart said the transformer was unbelievably heavy weighing about half a tonne and had an internal bar heater which ran all the time to combat moisture. He understood that the Collins was one of only two of its type still operating in the world.

Village Radio 1XT on 1368AM forms part of the historic village and is a working replica of an old-time radio station, operated entirely by volunteers. It costs about $27,000 a year to keep Village Radio on air, including $600 a month rent to the council.

Technicians maintain the equipment and operate the turntables and mixing panel while announcers compile and present their own programmes based on an easy listening format from the 1920s to 1980s.

The radio station's music library holds 100,000 music tracks on LPs, 45s and 78s, plus some CDs. Village Radio is non commercial and Mr Stewart said donations were welcome.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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