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Thursday, March 15, 2012

84th anniversary of the first Australian shortwave station, Lyndhurst, Victoria

This year, 2012, marks the 84th anniversary of the first shortwave station operated by the Australian Government, which was located at Lyndhurst, Victoria.
It was in the year 1928 that a small locally made shortwave transmitter was installed in a small galvanised iron shed on the summit of a small hill in a country farming area at Lyndhurst, some 40 km south east of Melbourne, on the South Gippsland Highway.
This experimental transmitter was constructed by Post Office engineers and it emitted just 600 Watts, usually on the 31 metre band frequency 9580. The broadcast callsign was VK3LR though when the transmitter was on the air with experimental transmissions, the callsign was VK3XX.
Programming from this low-powered transmitter during this era was a composite relay from the two government mediumwave stations in Melbourne, 3LO and 3AR, hence the composite callsign, 3LR. In addition, there were several notable broadcasts from this transmitter that were prepared specifically for the outback, for the Pacific Islands and even further afield.
It was on Monday March 12, 1934, that the first shortwave station operated by the Australian government began a regular broadcast service to the outback areas. March 12, 2004 is the 70th anniversary of this significant radio event in the history of Australia and on this occasion here is the story of this radio station, VLR in Lyndhurst Victoria.
In 1934, a new and substantial building was erected on the same property at Lyndhurst to house the shortwave transmitter which was rebuilt for the occasion. On March 12, transmitter VLR was re-activated with a regular relay for outback areas using a composite program format from 3LO and 3AR.
It was in December 1936 that a regular bulletin of news in the French language was introduced for listeners in the French islands in the Pacific, and in December 1937, the experimental callsign, VK3LR was regularised to VLR.
Right at the end of the year 1939, shortwave VLR was taken into the inaugural service of "Australia Calling" and it continued in use with a relay of the programming of Radio Australia until the 10 kW VLG was inaugurated on June 21 1941. From this time onwards, VLR was in use only for the ABC National Service with programming for the benefit of isolated listeners in the outback areas of Australia.
In the 1950s, a larger building was constructed around the current building at Lyndhurst and the old one was removed. At this stage, three new RCA transmitters were installed, each rated at 10 kW and the original VLR unit was retired. These new units were American navy transmitters and they were modified for broadcast usage. Then, in the 1980s, eight STC transmitters were installed, and any program service could be fed to any transmitter.
The original low powered VLR transmitter was on the air for a period of 29 years stretching from 1928 to 1956 when the navy transmitters were installed. From that time onwards, it is probable that all 11 of the 10 kW transmitters at Lyndhurst carried the VLR service on a rotational basis, at least on some occasions.
With the proliferation of television and the satellite delivery of radio programming over Australia, the ABC shortwave service from VLR was declared redundant and it was closed at 1402 UTC on Friday June 12 1987, at the end of nearly 60 years of international on-air radio coverage.
The original specific QSL cards verifying the reception of VLR were issued by the PMG department in two different designs. Later, the ABC also issued specific QSL cards for VLR in two different designs. When the ABC introduced a standard design QSL card for all of its relay stations throughout Australia, these cards were also issued to confirm the reception of the shortwave unit, VLR.
In 1988, one of the transmitters was relocated to Brandon, Queensland, for Radio Australia services, and another was resited to Llandilo, NSW, for the VNG Time Signal service.
In 1989, all transmission lines and antenna infrastructure was dismantled at Lyndhurst, and the administration building and workshop were used for Radiocommunications Maintenance by Telecom Australia.
In the mid 1990s, the site was sold, and the land was was developed for high-density housing in the new suburb of Lynbrook.
No trace of the original facilities remain, but a legacy survives in the name Towerhill Close, a small street on the site of the original station.
Researched by Bob Padula, Melbourne

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