KDKA Shortwave

This article was originally aired over Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” program and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to the South Pacific DX Resource hosted on www.radiodx.com for a period of 5 years from December 1 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

It is generally recognized that radio broadcasting began with station KDKA in 1920; and it is also generally recognized that international shortwave broadcasting was inaugurated somewhere around the year 1927. However, it is also interesting to note that the beginnings of shortwave broadcasting can be traced back to the same station KDKA, in the same inaugural year, 1920.

In this edition of Wavescan, we look at the full story of Westinghouse shortwave broadcasting by KDKA, at its six different locations over a period of nearly fifty years.

It was in August 1916, that Frank Conrad obtained a licence as an amateur radio operator with the callsign 8XK. He built his own equipment and installed it on the top floor of his garage in Wlkinsburg, in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All amateur licences were suspended in 1917 though Conrad was granted a special licence as 2WM for government experimental work during World War 1.

The ban on amateur radio was lifted on October 1, 1919 and two weeks later Conrad was on the air again, with music broadcasts from his station 8XK. One year later, his amateur music broadcasts were noted in the local newspaper.

During the war, the station with a special licence at the Westinghouse factory was designated as 2WE; and in the early part of 1920, Frank Conroy, took his amateur station 8XC to the factory for a special demonstration. Out of these events with Conrad & Conroy, grew the concept of establishing a radio broadcasting station at the factory which was licenced initially as 8ZZ.

The notable date for the launching of the new mediumwave station, now known as KDKA, was November 2, 1920. This same program was relayed on shortwave by Frank Conrad from 8XK in his suburban garage as a back-up precaution.

Two years later, a 1 kW shortwave transmitter was installed at the factory in East Pittsburgh under the callsign 8XS; and two years later again, the mediumwave and shortwave units were moved out to a new facility at Forest Hills, where the shortwave callsign reverted back to the more familiar 8XK.

However, in 1931, both KDKA & 8XK were moved again, this time to another new facility at Saxonburg, another suburban location within Pittsburgh. Here it was that the callsign was regularized in 1939 to the four letter callsign, WPIT. By this time, four shortwave transmitters were in use for the broadcast of the Westinghouse radio programming.

Right towards the end of the year 1939, the final split came between mediumwave KDKA & shortwave WPIT, with the transfer of KDKA to another new location again, this time Allison Park in Pennsylvania, and the transfer of WPIT to Hull in Massachusetts. Production staff and studios for the shortwave service were re-located some months later to the home of another Westinghouse mediumwave station, WBZ in Boston.

However, during the following year, the other Westinghouse shortwave station, WBOS was transferred from Millis near Boston, to Hull, which is located right at the end of a narrow peninsula opposite Boston. Here it was that the equipment of both stations was integrated and the WPIT callsign was dropped, with the usage now of only the one call, WBOS.

For a period of twelve years, station WBOS in Hull carried VOA programming to Europe & Africa. When this term of service was over, the equipment was sold and transferred to shortwave station WRUL which was located further down the coast at Hatherley Beach, near the town of Scituate (SIT-you-ate).

There was a disastrous fire at station WRUL in 1967 in which all of the World War 2 equipment was destroyed. This then would mark the final end of the historic shortwave station, 8XK-WPIT, after nearly half a century of international radio coverage.

As a postscript, station WRUL in Scituate became WNYW, and then it was bought by Family Radio and re-designated as WYFR, which is on the air these days with fourteen shortwave transmitters at Okeechobee in Florida.

Westinghouse KDKA on Shortwave

Time Lines

Location Calls Year Date Events
Wilkinsburg 8XK 1916 Aug 1 1st listing of this call in Radio Service Bulletin
8XK 1917 Apr 7 All amateur licences suspended WW1
2WM WW1 Special authorization for tests during war
1919 Oct 1 Amateur ban lifted; ISH 4
8XK 1919 Oct 17 1st broadcast of music
8XK 1920 May 1 Relicensed, listed in Bureau of Navigation Bulletin
8XK 1920 Sep 23 Concert program reported in newspaper
8XK 1920 Nov 2 Back up relay on SW for KDKA
8XK 1924 Jul Call transferred to new station at Forest Hills

Pittsburgh E 2WE WW1 Test transmitter installed at factory during war
8XC 1920 Fred Conroy gives demo to Westinghouse at factory
8ZZ 1920 MW station constructed, 500 w, 500 lbs
KDKA 1920 Nov 2 MW station launched as KDKA
8XS 1922 Aug New 1 kW SW transmitter began relay from KDKA
8XS Power raised from 1 kW to 10 kW
8XS New 30 kW MW KDKA used at night SW to England
8XS 1924 Jul MW & SW moved to new location at Forest Hills

Forest Hills 8XK 1924 Jul MW & SW moved from Pittsburgh to Forest Hills
W8XK 1928 Amended call
W8XK Upgraded to 15 kW
W8XK 1931 MW & SW moved from Forest Hills to Saxonburg

Saxonburg W8XK 1931 SW & MW moved from Forest Hills to Saxonburg
W8XK Additional SW transmitters installed, 4 SW in use
WPIT 1939 Sep 1 Official date for call change from W8XK to WPIT
WPIT 1939 KDKA MW moved to Allison Park, SW WPIT to Hull

Hull WPIT 1939 SW moved from Saxonburg to Hull
WPIT 1940 Late WBOS moved from Millis to Hull
WPIT 1940 Dec Studios & staff moved from Pittsburg to Boston
WBOS New composite 50 kW installed; Fraser
WBOS 1941 Jan 1 WPIT call dropped, now only WBOS
WBOS 1941 Nov OWI & CIAA programming began
WBOS 1942 Dec OWI-VOA took over
WBOS 1953 Jul Released from VOA service
WBOS 1953 Sold to WRUL and moved to Scituate

Scituate WRUL 1953 WBOS sold to WRUL moved Scituate for spare parts
WRUL 1960 Station sold to Metro Media
WRUL 1962 Jun Sold to Latter Day Saints, Mormons
WNYW 1965 Jun 1 Call changed from WRUL to WNYW
WNYW 1967 Apr 9 Fire destroyed all WW2 equipment
WNYW 1967 Sep Station re-opened with 5 transmitters
WYFR 1973 Oct 20 Sold to Family Radio, call change
WYFR 1977 1st transmitter removed re-installed at Okeechobee
WYFR 1979 Nov 16 Last transmitter switched off at 2052 UTC


Westinghouse KDKA on Shortwave


City Location Call Information & Reference
Cleveland, Ohio
Factory SW relay from KDPM MW began Mar 1923; ISH 224
KDPM began relay off 8XS Mar 4, 1823; Kent 71
KDPM closed soon afteerwards; Kent 71

Forest Hills, Pennsylvania
New Station 8XS FH, east suburban Pittsburgh, close to Wilkinsburgh
8XS Moved E Pittsburgh to Forest Hills Jul 1924; Kent 81
8XS Provisions for several SW transmitters; Kent 82
8XS Moved to new location FH Jul 1924; Kent 81 8XS Call returned to FRC; JB OTSW 48
8XS Call returned mid summer 1924; ISH 28
8XK Call transferred to Westinghouse; JB OTSW 48
8XK Call transferred mid summer 1924; ISH 28
8XK Photos building, transformers, 8XK. RN 84.161 9-24 1
8XK 50 ft copper tube antenna; RN 84.161 9-24 1
8XK 1st overseas station heard Australia; LI 26-9-31 43
8XK 1st overseas station rebroadcast Australia; Dec 14 24
8XK Letter from manager after Herald tests 25-3-25; 77.18
8XK Special 3 day programs Australia; LI 79.23 2-10-26 1
8XK Photo transmitter building; LI 79.23 2-10-26 16
8XK Photo 8XK transmitter; LI 79.23 2-10-26 16
8XK Relayed by 3LO MW & 3SW 63 m; LI 79.23 16-10-26
8XK Test to Australia 63 m; LI 79.23 16-10-26 1
W8XK Amended call; JB OTSW 48
W8XK Upgraded to 15 kW; Kent 85
W8XK Moved FH Saxonburg 1931; Kent 35

Hastings, Nebraska
KFKX 9XM Long station profile; Golden Age 83.2 17
9XM Work began Spring 1923; Kent 72
9XM SW relay from 8XS to KGO began Nov 22. 1923; ISH
9XM Photo 9XW; PC 10-98 14
9XM NBC took over Dec 3 1925; Kent 75
9XM Entire station closed & moved to KYW Chicago; Kent

Hull, Massachusetts
New Station WBZ Hull, Nantasket Beach, end peninsula East of Boston
WPIT 1939 KDKA moved Allison Park, WPIT to Hull; Kent
WPIT 2 rhombics LA Europe 50 ft highwood poles;Kent193
WPIT 2 rhombics LA Europe 50 ft high wood poles; MT8 93
WPIT Pittsburgh 46.86 6140 1939 Dec 30; CPRV QSL card
WBOS Moved from Millis to Hull late 1940; Kent 191
WPIT Staff move to WBZ Boston Bradford Hotel Dec 1940;
WPIT Studios moved to Boston; R&H 3-41 56 79.12
WPIT Studios moved Boston recently; R&H 79.12 3-42 52
WPIT 1940 to Europe, Africa & LA; Kent 191
WPIT 25.27 11870 1940 Jul 14 Fox N Zealand; AWR
WBOS New composite 50 kW installed; Fraser
WBOS WPIT call dropped Jan 1, 1941; QSL letter
WBOS Nov 1941 OWI & CIAA programming began;Kent192
WBOS OWI-VOA took over Dec 1942; Kent 191
WBOS Dropped from VOA service Jul 1 1953; SWdoc
WBOS Sold to WRUL moved to Scituate 1953; SWdoc

Millis, Massachusetts
Station WBZ Millis is 30 m SW of central Boston
W1XAZ Moved in with WBZ summer 1934; Kent 86
W1XK Change call from W1XAZ to W1XK 1936; Kent 86
WBOS Callsign change Sep 1, 1939
WBOS Moved from Millis to Hull late 1940; Kent 191

Okeechobee, Florida
New Station WYFR 1977 Nov 23 1st Scituate unit activated; SWdoc
WYFR 14th transmitter installed

Pittsburgh East, Pennsylvania
Factory 2WE Test transmitter installed at factory during war; ISH 4
2WE Wartime callsign; Kent 58
8XC Davis hears nearby amateur station; Fraser
8XC Radio Club Carnegie Institute ; YB 84.161 BoB 73
8XC Fred Conroy gives demo to Westinghouse; Fraser
8ZZ MW station constructed; Fraser
8ZZ MW licence granted 27-10-20; Fraser
KDKA Launched Nov 2, 1920
KDKA 500 watts 500 lbs; LI 79.23 26-9-31 48
8XS New SW transmitter relayed KDKA began 8-22; JB
8XS New 1 kW SW transmitter at factory; SWdoc
8XS Photo of transmitter; PC 10-98 14
8XS Regular evening relay began; JB OTSW 48
8XS To KDPM 3 Mhz Mar 4, 1923; Kent 71
8XS Regular relay began Jul 1923; ISH 24
8XS Regular relay began Jul 19, 1923; Kent 61
8XS Power raised from 1 kW to 10 kW; Kent 61
8XS Regular relay began KDKA 8XS KFKX SW KGO; JB
8XS Special relays to England, South Africa, Australia; JB
8XS Plans for UK relay; R&E 24 84.161 99
8XS Special broadcasts northern regions began 1923; JB
8XS Northern brodcasts began summer 1923; Kent 81
8XS Relays to 2AC Manchester began Oct 1923; Kent 76
8XS New 30 kW KDKA used at night SW to England; Kent
8XS 1st relay by 2AC Dec 29, 1923; Kent 76
8XS 1st foreign language broadcast March 25, 1924; Kent
8XS Moved to new location Jul 1924 Forest Hills; Kent 81 KDKA Early voices; DXN 14-10-96 19

Pittsburgh East, Pennsylvania
Mobile 1st remote, church Jan 2, 1921; USH 12
200 w SW transmitter steeple Presbyterian Church;

Saxonburg, Pennsylvania
New Station W8XK Saxonburg is 20 miles NE of central Pittsburgh
W8XK SW & KDKA moved from FH to SB 1931; Kent 85
W8XK Rhombics Europe, Africa, South America; Kent 85
W8XK KDKA-8XS weighs 164 tons; LI 79.23 26-9-31 48
W8XK 3 SW transmitters in use; LI 79.23 26-9-31 48
W8XK 46.86 6140 1934 May 24 Moss England; QSL AWR
W8XK Pittsburgh 1935 QSL; JB OTSW
W8XK 4 transmitters 4 frequencies, 40 kW; Kent 85
W8XK 6140 11870 15210 21540 40 kW QSL card; JB
1936 FCC required separate licence each transmitter;
Transmission facilities further increased; Kent 85
W8XK Began EE FF Icelandic Danish Eskimo 1939; Kent
WPIT Call change from W8XK to WPIT Aug 1939
WPIT 1939 KDKA moved Allison Park, W8XK to Hull; Kent

Scituate, Massachusetts
New Station W1XAL Established 1936; SWdoc
W1XAL Also W1XAR at Scituate in 1939; SWdoc
WRUL WSLR & WSLA then WRUW & WRUL; SWdoc WRUL Full time usage VOA programming 1942; WS267
WRUL Station sold to Metro Media 1960; WS267
WBOS Sold to WRUL moved to Scituate 1953; SWdoc
WRUL Sold to Latter Day Saints, SLC, 1962; WS267
WNYW Call change from WRUL to WNYW 1966; WS267
WNYW Fire destroys WW2 equipment; 9-4-67; SWdoc
WYFR Sold Family Radio call change Oct 20 1973; WS
WYFR 1st transmitter removed to Florida 1977; WS267
WYFR Last transmitter off 2052 UTC 16-11-79; WS267

Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania
Garage 8XK Wilkinsburg is in east suburban Pittsburgh
8XK Dr Frank Conrad’s home, photo; ISH 3
8XK Aug 1, 1916, 1st listing Radio Service Bulletin. ISH 4
8XK Call granted Aug 1, 1916; Kent 58
8XK All amateur licences suspended, Apr 7, 1917; ISH 4
2WM Special authorization for tests during war; ISH 4
2WM Wartime callsign; Kent 58
Amateur ban lifted Oct 1, 1919; ISH 4
8XK 1st broadcast of music Oct 17, 1919; ISH 6
8XK May 1, 1920 relicensed in Bureau Navigation Bulletin
8XK Concert program Sep 23 1920 reported in paper; ISH
8XK 1920 Nov 2 back up relay KDKA; SWdoc PC 8-88 26
8XK Conrad relays KDKA on SW 1920 Nov 2; ISH 10
8XK Conrad relays KDKA , SW up to 60 m 75 – 100 w: JB
8XK Relay KDKA tests on 3 Mhz began winter 21-22; Kent
8XK House 1921 winter SW experiments; SWdoc
8XK Call transferred to Westinghouse; JB OTSW 48
8XK Call transferred to new station at Forest Hills; Kent 82


Westinghouse KDKA on Shortwave

QSL Cards

Call Location M kHz Year Date Listener Country Holder
W8XK Saxonburg 48.86 6140 1934 May 24 Moss England AWR
W8XK Saxonburg 1935 OTSW
W8XK Saxonburg 19.71 15210 CPRV
WPIT Hull 48.86 6140 1939 Dec 30 CPRV
WPIT Hull 25.27 11870 1940 Jul 14 Fox N Zealand AWR

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