Northern exposure 

24 October 2016

From the BBC Year-book for 1931.



north1931 0In order to serve the highly important districts on both sides of the Pennine Chain it was necessary to find a site for the new station high up on the hills themselves. At first it was difficult to find land which was at the same time suitable for building and free from screening by neighbouring hills. Various sites were tested with a transportable transmitter, all within a radius of about ten miles of the point where it had been decided to begin the search. One or two of these were more than 1400 feet above sea level. Eventually it was found that a flat piece of land some 31 acres in extent, about five miles west of Huddersfield and a mile and a half north-west of Slaithwaite, gave the most favourable results on test. On the ordnance map the actual spot on which the station is being built is marked “Moorside Edge,” and for this reason it is sometimes referred to by that name. However, the station itself is to be called the North Regional Transmitting Station. Those who are familiar with this part of the country will realise that the weather conditions are likely to be unusually severe and far from ideal for the construction of buildings and masts. It is hardly necessary to say that this was realised long before the work began; nevertheless, the exceptional rain and snow of last winter did interfere with the progress rather more than was expected. However, it is far better to face the difficulties of an exposed site of this kind than to sacrifice the ultimate performance of the station.

By now the work is very well advanced, and by the time this book appears the station should be approaching completion. The building will stand at a height of a little over 1100 feet above sea level, and with the masts will be a very conspicuous landmark for some miles round.

The London Station having fully come up to expectations of performance, it was decided to proceed on very similar lines for the North Regional Station. Naturally it has been possible to introduce a considerable number of improvements, but the most important difference is the height of masts. In the North the Government restrictions which limited their height at Brookmans Park do not apply; consequently there will be three masts each 500 instead of 200 feet high. They will be of the stayed type instead of “self-supporting,” on account of the greater height, and each stay will be divided into certain specified lengths by insulators. Each mast itself will be insulated from earth at the base by porcelain insulators standing on a concrete base. The object of this insulation is to prevent “ mast shadow ” and maintain as far as possible symmetrical radiation in all directions.

There are certain additional innovations in this station which are in the nature of improvements, or have been necessitated by different conditions of working. One of them will be a reservoir for the storage of water, capable of holding some 200,000 gallons. A high-power wireless station of this type consumes up to a maximum of nearly 10,000 gallons of water a day, and it was found necessary to take this precaution to guard against a severe drought such as that which occurred in the summer of 1929. However, the reservoir will serve a double purpose, since it will be used in connection with the cooling plant for the water-cooled power-valves used in the transmitters.

Owing to the altitude it is necessary also to take special precautions against frost and to ensure that the Station will not be put out of action by a coating of ice on the aerial wires. To obviate this danger the aerials will be so designed that a strong current can be passed through the wires, heating them sufficiently to melt any ice or snow which may be adhering to them when the station is being prepared to start up in the morning.

It has been necessary to reconstruct part of the roadway leading to the station, since it must be possible to deliver heavy machinery during construction, as well as some 600 tons of fuel oil per annum when the station is in operation.

The North Regional Station will use the wavelength of 479 metres (626 kc/s) for its Regional programme and 301 metres (995 kc/s) for the National programme. Tests will begin on the longer of the two wavelengths. It is impossible to forecast an exact date, but ample notice will be given. The process of changing over the service from the present group of low-power stations to the new high-power station will be a gradual one. At first experimental transmissions will be made outside programme hours altogether. After a short time, part of the evening programme will be radiated from the new station, and as soon as evidence is forthcoming that listeners generally have adjusted their sets to the altered conditions, the complete change-over will be made.

It is fully realised that for those who possess valve sets and those receiving greater strength from the new station, the gradual “slide-in” is bound to be, to an extent, unnecessary and even irritating. Although such people will be largely in the majority, nevertheless, the minority will be considered, and it is inevitable that those who live within a mile or two of the existing transmitters must experience reduced strength, in spite of the vastly greater power of the new transmitters. For some listeners it will be necessary to erect an outside aerial where none exists at presents; others may need to improve their existing aerial, and so on. The B.B.C. will be only too glad to give advice when asked, and pamphlets are being prepared which attempt to give information concerning all likely difficulties.

Ruston 6VE diesel engine and dynamo. One of four from BBC Moorside Edge radio station, Yorkshire. Now on display at the Internal Fire museum.

Ruston 6VE diesel engine and dynamo. One of four from BBC Moorside Edge radio station, Yorkshire.
Now on display at the Internal Fire museum. CC-BY-SA 3.0 licence | Author: Andy Dingley | Original location: Wikimedia Commons

The shorter of the two wavelengths radiating the National programme will not be introduced until after the station has been working for some weeks as a single programme station on 479 metres. When the time comes the sliding-in process will be repeated, giving listeners the opportunity of adapting their sets to the altered conditions, where necessary, with the least possible inconvenience. This station has been given the most effective wavelength in the “medium band” which this country possesses, and the site which has been chosen allows the greatest use to be made of it. Listeners in the North Region will realise, therefore, that every possible effort has been made to contend with the particular difficulties which are caused by the mountainous nature of the North of England.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 24 October 2016 at 1:16 pm

Slaithwaite is pronounced ‘slah-wit’ locally and was the main location for the Sunday night ITV drama series “Where the heart Is”.

Dave Jeffery 28 October 2016 at 7:27 pm

mb21 has some excellent pictures and information about what’s on this site today:

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