The Voice of America Delano California: Gone but not Forgotten - 3
The powerful shortwave Voice of America relay station located near Delano in California ended its final broadcast at 8:30 pm on Saturday October 27, 2007, and it has lain silent ever since. VOA Delano was paired with an identical station that was located near Dixon, also in California.
Both stations were hurriedly constructed and rushed into service in 1944; both gave widespread coverage into the Pacific arena; both were operated by major commercial radio organizations; and both have been closed in recent times. These two major VOA shortwave relay stations in California were located some 250 miles apart.
The main purpose for the Delano shortwave station was as a program feed for VOA programming to VOA relay stations in the Asian arena; and there were occasions when Delano filled in for times of outage at the newer VOA station in Greenville North Carolina. In the mid 1990s, VOA Delano procured some of the usable equipment from the two VOA stations at Dixon and Bethany, at the time of their closure. At the time of its closure, VOA Delano was on the air with 23 antenna systems, and 9 shortwave transmitters (2 @ 50 kW & 7 @ 250 kW) in two transmitter buildings.
Subsequent to its closure, several different organizations have shown an interest in obtaining the station property, though nothing has yet eventuated. Among the many proposals that have been considered considered are the following:-
Radio broadcasting organizations, as a production and relay station
United States Marine Corp, as a training facility
Establish a radio museum on the property
Re-establish as a regional airport facility
Redesign as a retirement center
However, in spite of all of these projected possibilities, the latest available information would suggest that VOA Delano will simply revert to its original usage as a farm property. It should also be mentioned that the area is a wildlife habitat for three endangered species: Tipton Kangaroo Rat, Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard, and the San Joaquin Kit Fox.
Six years ago (2014), the Antique Wireless Association, in conjunction with the Collins Collectors Association, formed what they called the Collins Radio Heritage Group, and they removed one of the half century old Collins transmitters and re-installed it at the AWA Museum in the small town of Bloomfield in New York state. The massive 25 ft long, 20 ton, 250 kW Collins shortwave transmitter Model No 821A-1 was conveyed by truck and train to its 2700 miles distant new location in 128 crated boxes, large and small.
The four Brown Boveri transmitters at 250 kW each had already been removed and shipped overseas, leaving just the two remaining Collins transmitters in situ. Whoever buys the land gets these transmitters as scrap metal.
We should also mention that originally the program feed for VOA Delano came from the VOA studios in New York City, and subsequently in Washington DC, by AT&T Long-Lines telephone wires. However, after to the Cuban Crisis in 1962, VOA decided that it would be wise to implement an additional back up system of program feed from the New York studios to the Delano shortwave transmitters.
Hence, a Shortwave Receiver Station was installed for VOA Delano near Pixley, a dozen air miles further north from the transmitter site. A tract of land 82 acres in extent, almost barren and featureless, was procured on Flannery Road, just 5 miles west of Pixley. Four rhombic antennas were installed together with a single hop microwave relay system.
For many years, this backup program feed from the east coast to the west coast was maintained and regularly tested, but it was never taken into regular service. In due course, satellite delivery replaced the need for the Shortwave Receiver Station at Pixley.
In this mini-series of three topics on the history of the CBS-VOA shortwave relay station near Delano in California, we have presented the half century story of an important large shortwave relay station. Yes, this station is gone; but no, it is not forgotten. In the QSL collection of a multitude of international radio monitors around the world are QSL cards verifying the reception of VOA Delano. In addition, one of their huge Collins transmitters is on display in that small museum in a small town near the continental east coast.
We might also add, that the story of the VOA relay station near Dixon in California is a similar story to that of the Delano station, and maybe one of these days we can present that information here in Wavescan. In the meantime though, there are still several additional interesting stories yet to be told about mediumwave KNX and shortwave CBS-VOA Delano; so keep listening to Wavescan for all of these coming topics.
(Adrian Peterson, IN, script for AWR Wavescan Jan 5)