RCA Radio Central
the years, several wireless and radio stations have laid claim as the largest in the world, and at the time when the statement
was made, the claim in many cases was indeed quite accurate.
The most grandiose claims of largeness were made on behalf of the massive
RCA wireless station located at Rocky Point on Long Island, New York, and if the station had been completed in its original
intent, those claims would surely have been correct. Even so, it was indeed developed into a very large station, though somewhat
different from the original concept.
Long Island is
located off the edge of the eastern coast of the United States. It is 180 km long, and 35 km wide at its widest point. The
island was inhabited by Indians of the Delaware and other sub tribes at the time when it was first discovered by European
It was the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano who was the first
European to site the island back in the year 1524. (We might add that he explored much of the east coast of North America
during three consecutive voyages, but he did not fare well on his third and final voyage to the Americas. He was killed and
eaten by Carib Indians on the island of Guadeloupe.)
The first European settlers came from Holland and England, and it was
the Dutch who gave the name to the island, as Lange Eylandt, or Long Island, in their language. Today, much of Greater New
York City is located on the western end of Long Island.
The first known mention of Rocky Point is found in official records
for the year 1714; and 40 years later, the area was listed as Rocky Poynt Hollow, in the quaint old spelling of that era.
In 1872, their first Post office was installed; and two years later, there was a small shop in Rocky Poynt Hollow, and a district
school for the children living in the 20 dwellings in the nearby community.
was in this year that RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, was formed as an amalgamation of half a dozen interested radio
companies. As their first big venture, they set out to establish a new super sized international wireless station, and they
procured a suitable property on the northern edge of Long Island for this purpose.
work began on Radio Central,
the huge new wireless station at Rocky Point. The property measured 2000 hectares of slightly undulating territory. The original
plans called for an ornate two storied central building to house the offices and the transmitters - the huge Alexanderson
A total of 12 antenna systems was planned and these would be arranged
in a spoke pattern around the central building. The steel antenna towers were 140 m. high, and separated at 400 m, and each
antenna would be 4 km long. Each antenna required 40 km of high strung wire, and each antenna also required 400 km of buried
copper wire as the counterpoise earthing system. Initially just two of these massive antenna systems were erected.
The first test broadcasts
were radiated from the new RCA Rocky point with 200 kW on longwave 18.3 kHz under the callsign WQK. At the time, the station
was described as the world's largest and most powerful wireless station.
November 5 1921
The station was officially inaugurated when President Warren Harding
pressed a button during a special opening ceremony at the White House. Electricity was applied to the new transmission system
on Long Island, the alternators began turning, and the first official message was tapped out in Morse Code. It was a message
of goodwill to the world from the 29th President of the United States.
Soon afterwards, a second longwave transmitter was activated, a similar
unit to the afore-mentioned WQK, and this unit operated on 17.15 kHz under the sister callsign WQL.
However, by this time, smaller electronic transmitters for use on shortwave
were becoming available, and they were more efficient with a more reliable propagation coverage than the heavy longwave electrical
transmitters. In addition, the new shortwave transmitters required less power to operate.
In this year, RCA lodged a formal
document with the Federal Radio Commission requesting approval to establish a total of 65 different shortwave communication
stations across the United States. Many of these stations were eventually installed, though not all.
However, plans to install the additional 10 longwave transmitters at
Rocky Point were abandoned, and instead, a multitude of shortwave transmitters rated at 10 and 20 kW were installed, together
with a bevy of rhombic antennas directed towards Europe and South America. It is stated that RCA installed several dozen shortwave
transmitters at Rocky Point during the 1930s, and in 1934, a total of 80 registered callsigns were in use. In November 1935,
they activated a 200 kW shortwave transmitter.
RCA Rocky Point was often noted
on air with the broadcast of radio programming. Sometimes, it was a point to point relay for rebroadcast in another country
in Europe or South America, and sometimes these broadcasts were an experimental relay for direct reception by shortwave listeners.
The direct broadcast of radio programming was usually made under the
callsign W2XBJ, which could be allocated to any channel in use for this purpose. A lesser known experimental broadcast callsign
that was in use at times was W2XCU.
The first known radio program
broadcast from Radio Central took place under the callsign WAJ when a music program was relayed for rebroadcast in Germany.
During the following year, a special broadcast was arranged from an Italian blimp flying over the United States and this program
was relayed for rebroadcast in Italy.
At the time of the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, Marconi
himself arranged for Rocky Point to relay special programming from Chicago for rebroadcast in Italy. There were also many
special broadcasts beamed to various other countries in Europe and also to South America during this same era.
Radio Central received and
transmitted special broadcasts to and from Europe and North Africa, and on occasions, with South America. Some of these special
relays were on behalf of the Voice of America, usually the transmission of special voice reports, though occasionally for
local rebroadcast elsewhere.
The RCA main receiving station was located 25 km distant, at Riverhead, also on Long Island, and a back up receiving station was located at Belfast
During the 1950s, some of the tall towers were brought down. During
the mid 1960s, the station was finally closed. In 1972, a large slice of the property was given to the New York state authorities
and it was developed as the Pine Barrens Wildlife Area. In 1978, the remainder of the Rocky Point transmitter property, as
well as the Riverhead receiver property, were sold to the state for $1.
Thus, after some 45 years of on air usage, RCA Radio Central at Rocky
Point, the magnificent huge radio station on Long Island, quietly disappeared, for ever. It was in use for international communication,
and the transfer of radio programming for rebroadcast elsewhere, and at times for the relay of programming on behalf of the
Voice of America.