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Mount Mansfield, highest point in Vermont

LBA Technology AM antenna systems, RF
shielding, and test equipment

As alluded to in the previous post, I spent a fair amount of time at Mt. Mansfield last month. It is the highest point in the state of Vermont, topping out at 4,393 feet (1,339 M).  At the top, there is a large transmission facility that is home to WCAX-TV, WPTZ-TV, WVPS, WEZF, and several low power TV’s, NOAA weather radio, etc.  Next door, Vermont Public TV is housed in a separate building.  Here are a few pictures and descriptions.  First off all, Mount Mansfield is the home of Stowe Ski area.  They own the access road to the top of the mountain and are quite proud of it.  In the summer time, the toll for a car load of people is $26.00.

Mount Mansfield Toll Road gate

Mount Mansfield Toll Road gate

The transmitter building is below the actual peak.  This is one of the few transmitter sites that is manned 24/7, as such there is a working kitchen, bathroom, bunk rooms and so on.  I’d imagine it gets pretty deary up there in the wintertime, but perhaps not.

Mount Mansfield transmitter building

Mount Mansfield transmitter building

The transmitters are located along a long hallway.  WEZF and WVPS share a room, WCAX and WPTZ are in open bays as are the low power TVs.  NOAA weather radio and some other government transmitters are located over the garage.

WCAX digital TV transmitter

WCAX digital TV transmitter

All of the TV transmitters are new because of the recent conversion from analog to digital transmission.  WCAX is noted as channel three, which was their analog channel, they actually transmit on channel 22 with a power of 443 KW ERP.

WPTZ transmitter

WPTZ transmitter

Like WCAX, WPTZ was on channel five, it is now transmitting on channel 14 with 650 KW ERP.

The site is backed up by two 1.2 MW diesel generators, which can be paralleled with the commercial power grid, if needed, during peak demand times.  These generators also provide backup power for Stowe Ski area.   There is a 50 KW back up back up generator that runs all of the emergency transmitter cooling equipment if the two main backup generators fail.

Mount Mansfield generator

Mount Mansfield generator

All of this generating equipment requires a lot of fuel.

Transmitter building and fuel storage tanks

Transmitter building and fuel storage tanks

The TV and FM broadcast antennas are located just below the peak

Mount Mansfield TV and FM antennas

Mount Mansfield TV and FM antennas

I don’t recall which TV station belongs to which antenna. The FMs are combined into the four bay, three around panel antenna, this includes WVPS’s HD radio signal.

Mount Mansfield from the top looking west

Mount Mansfield from the top looking west

From the very top looking west into the aperture of the TV antennas.  I only stood there for as long as it took to get a good picture, then departed.  Off to the left of this view is the antenna for Vermont Public TV.

Mount Mansfield Vermont Public TV antenna

Mount Mansfield Vermont Public TV antenna

The transmission lines go down the hill on a large ice bridge.  An absolute necessity as the rime ice can sometimes accumulate several inches.

Mount Mansfield Ice Bridge

Mount Mansfield Ice Bridge

Tower base, which is the location of the highest RF concentration, according to the TV engineers.  I only lingered here to snap a few quick photos.

Mount Mansfield tower base

Mount Mansfield tower base

All of the STL antennas are mounted to the side of the transmitter building next to the living quarters.

Mount Mansfield STL antennas

Mount Mansfield STL antennas

On top of all that, as if that weren’t enough, there is the view.  I would also comment a bit on the weather.  In some cases, the site can be completely engulfed in a grey dull fog bank one minute, then the wind changes direction, the sun comes out and you see this:

Mount Mansfield morning

Mount Mansfield morning

I can think of worse things.

I regret that I didn’t have a better camera with me as several of the pertinent pictures came out blurry.  All of these pictures were taken with my cellphone camera, which works well, when it works.  It is also very convenient because it is almost always with me and I don’t have to remember to bring another gadget.  However, it this is going to be a semi-serious endeavor, I will have to take some of my earnings from these scribblings and buy a good camera.

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15 comments to Mount Mansfield, highest point in Vermont

  • Robert Anstee

    I like your site. However, I do have a minor complaint about the transmitters. I wish they had built one massive tower and put all the TV channels on it instead of the current setup. You only have to see the tower on Mount Royal in Montreal to see what I mean. It is very difficult to pick up all the stations there on Mt. Mansfield equally especially the under-powered ones. I will have to look for a new antenna in the spring to compensate for this shortcoming. WVNY is totally off the radar here and WFFF is in and out.There should be a minimum power output of at least 100 or 200 kw for TV stations, and why not 650 kw like WPTZ ? I have been watching digital TV since the end of August here when Canada made the switch-over and have been unimpressed with the reliability with your transmissions with the exception of WPTZ and VPT. Other than that, your photography is very good, except next time take along a bonafide digital camera.

  • Kathie

    So we are ready to ditch DishNetwork due to many issues with the company and I was hoping to go back to free tv. Why can I get channel 3 but not the other stations? I bought a high gain uni directional antenna as the engeenier suggested. When HDTV first came we got all the stations, now just 3, why?

  • Robert Anstee

    Well, I put up that new antenna and I still don’t get WVNY 22 , omly once in a blue moon when atmospheric conditions boost all the signals. WFFF 44 is a major disappointment as well, no sign of it at all. Kudos to VPT, their signal is the most reliable despite the fact they are much less powered that WCAX and WPTZ. Maybe they have a better antenna ? WCAX has been coming in a bit more poorly lately, perhaps I can tweak my antenna a bit. It’s a frustrating situation not picking up 22 and 44 since I got fed up with the high monthly bills and dumped my satellite. E-mails to FOX have not been returned. Why isn’t there a standard as regards to signal output to ensure adequate reception ? Why is WVNY transmitting on 13.1 when they were offered 16.1 by the FCC ? There are no less then 6 channel 13′s here in Canada in a 300 mile radius. WVNY is putting out a measly 10,000 watt signal ensuring no reception up here.

  • Robert, and others, a couple of things to note about this transmitter site, and understanding power levels and such.

    Broadcast TV, like Broadcast FM operates on a “line of sight” theory. (It’s much more complex than that, but that is the simplest way to put it for now.). Because of this, the FCC sets a maximum power, at a maximum height. If you go beyond that height, the power level drops, as the actual “footprint” will remain the same. It is why radio stations on the Empire State Building in New York City operate at 6,000 watts, but have signals equivelant to 50,000 watts. WVNY may “only be 10kW”, however they are 10kW at over 830 meters above average terrain. That signal is equivelant to the maximum power allowed by the FCC for VHF channel 13. Now as to why WVNY chose 13 versus 16 (and for the record, they transmit on 13 and 16, not “13.1″ or “16.1″. The PSIP table is 22.1, but the actual RF slot and program number are 13.3). There are several advantages to being on VHF, especially in mountainous Vermont. First off is better signal propogation. VHF does better in hilly terrain than UHF does. Second is cost. A VHF solid state transmitter for 10KW costs a lot less to run than for 800KW UHF.

    Now as for the varying power levels and antennas, it all has to do with design. Antennas have different patterns, power levels. To combine everyone into one massive antenna, would require a much bigger UHF antenna system, a lot beefier tower design, and it puts the entire television market into an “all the eggs in one basket” scenario. Stations operate at different power levels because certain channels have to “protect” other channels and services. Both in the US and Canada. For instance, WCAX on UHF 22 has to protect a UHF 22 assignment in Springfield, MA. If Burlington where the only market with the only stations in existance, then they could all just operate at a uniform power level. But unfortunatley they can’t due to other stations.

    As for your reception issues, there are a few things to note. I don’t know where you are in Canada, but make sure you have an antenna that is rated for both VHF and UHF useage. The higher up and more directional, the better. Also, depending on where you are, if you have a pre-amp, you may want to toss it. I’ve found with DTV reception, (as with most RF reception), pre-amplification does more harm than good, as it increases the noise floor, which is more detremental. The five stations being on different towers makes no difference, as they are all within .2kM of each other. The differences in reception are due to channel assignment, “local interference” (Items in your house that can interfere), power level, and other factors. If you are emailing Fox TV network, that won’t help much, as they don’t respond for local station’s support.

    Hope some of this helps.

    – Mike Fitzpatrick
    TV Engineer in Rhode Island w/ 2 VHF DTV stations.
    NECRAT.us webmaster

  • Robert Anstee

    Nothing wrong with my antenna, it’s a brand new Channelmaster CM 2020. for channels 7 to 69. The problem is strictly the fault of ABC and FOX. Their transmitters are at a lower overall height than the others there and at lower power. It’s a mystery to me why some major U.S. networks can’t afford some decent equipment! It’s like a Keystone Cops operation there.

  • Robert Anstee

    I don’t how the FCC or Industry Canada decide on which channel a tv station can operate, but they made a few errors in this area. They gave 22 to WCAX in Burlington and 21 to CBMT in Montreal. There are plenty of unused channels in this area and stations side by side invites interference. They made the same error with WVNY putting it on 13. There Is channel 12 in Montreal and several other channel 13′s in Quebec. Shouldn’t the “Powers That Be” be concerned with providing adequate reception for all concerned ?

  • Robert Anstee

    I have recently learned that WFFF FOX 44 is deliberately not transmitting to the north and west and concentrating on the south and east. That would explain why there is no reception in most parts of Montreal. Their signal would be picked up here otherwise. Perhaps it’s the quality of their antenna. PBS is doing an excellent job with their setup. WCAX continues to be the lesser performer here compared to PBS and NBC due to the fact that the CBC station in Montreal CBMT decided to transmit on channel 22 and have recently increased their power. With so many other channel choices in the area, it doesn’t make sense that they chose 21 knowing full well that it would cause interference to WCAX.

  • Robert Anstee

    I came across another website showing pictures of the transmitting antennas on Mount Mansfield. The WVNY/WFFF antenna is right next to the WPTZ/WCAX antenna, but I get one but not the other ! I have been told that WFFF is directing their 47kw signal towards the west and the south. That explains why they can’t be received in certain areas of Montreal, notably the area I’m in which is designated as “Green Zone” by tvfool.com for 22 and 44 ! However, I have no trouble getting 3 443kw and 5 650kw from the same location. WVNY was offered ch 16 where they could have run higher power instead they chose 13 which is hard to get because of it’s low power and because of a few other channel
    13′s in the area and channel 12 in Montreal. I wish the owners of the FOX affiliate in Buffalo running 1000kw would take over here, then we would be getting reliable reception !

  • Paul Thurst

    Robert, I am not sure that I or this website can provide any helpful information regarding your receptions problems. Perhaps you should write your congressman.

  • Robert Anstee

    I’m not the only one here with reception problems in Montreal with regards to WFFF , and WVNY is a real challenge . Practically no one here gets that channel ! The situation is even more strange given that the size of the viewing audience in Montreal for those channels is about 10 times the viewing audience they serve in New York and Vermont !

  • Robert Anstee

    If WFFF would match the output power of WPTZ and WVNY would move to channel 16 like they were originally offered by the FCC and run power like WCAX or WPTZ , then reception problems here in Montreal would end for those two channels. Kudos to PBS for it’s great signal and programming ! With just 90kw they must have a great antenna for the quality of signal they are transmitting !

  • Robert Anstee

    Reception Report:

    CBS – NBC – PBS all excellent as usual. PBS has done something recently as their signal is as good as and sometimes better than NBC.

    ABC and FOX. continue to be the welfare stations of Mount Mansfield.

  • Jay B.

    Same issue from east end Montreal. CBS, NBC, PBS are excellent. Poor signal from ABC (WVNY) and FOX (WFFF). I use to be able to catch WFFF last year (spring 2013). Something changed?

  • Robert Anstee

    Jay B. What part of the east end are you and what brand and model of antenna are you using? I live just east of the Olympic Stadium and I get 22 only when strange atmospheric conditions exist. The same goes for 44. I have two Channelmaster CM2020 antennas. I tried the two connected together and then only one connected and still I don’t get 44 ! 22 is a lost cause, they are supposed to be on 16 ! I was thinking of going with an Antennacraft HBU55 but my antennas are only two years old and there’s no guarantee it would change anything. From what I’ve been told before, 44 is deliberately directing it’s signal away from Montreal’s east end. Their signal is too weak to transmit an omnidirectional signal.

  • Robert Anstee

    My channel count sits at 19. It would have been 23 if not for WVNY ‘s poor choice of channel to move to and WFFF’s weak and directional signal !
    TUFF TV is supposed to start transmitting this Spring, I hope they don’t align themselves with those two useless channels ! The best news would be if they had new owners. The FOX station in Buffalo New York puts out 1000kw !

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