Shipping Container transmitter site

Shipping container transmitter site from the early 1990's.
Shipping container transmitter site from the early 1990’s.

I do not particularly like these. I know, they are relatively inexpensive, easy to come by, easy to install, etc. However, a shipping container was not designed to house a transmitter, they have certain drawbacks. These are, in no particular order:

  • Air conditioning.  Using a traditional Bard type equipment shelter HVAC unit requires cutting through a lot of fairly heavy gauge steel.  What’s more, the steel walls are uneven, requiring filler.
  • They are by necessity, fairly narrow.  Arranging racks and transmitters along the length of the unit restricts access to either the front or the back of the equipment.  Meeting NEC clearance requirements for electrical panels, transfer switches and disconnects can pose problems.
  • They are not very tall.  Mounting overhead equipment can be problematic as one does not want to drill through the top of the container.  Crosswise unistrut is one solution, but it lowers the overhead considerably.
  • Electrical work is slightly more dangerous.  Doing any kind of electrical work, trouble shooting, repairs, etc is a little more nerve-racking when everywhere around you is a metal surface at ground potential.
  • They are difficult to insulate against cold and heat.
  • The door latching mechanisms bind, wear out or otherwise fail over time.

All of those things being said, I am now rebuilding a transmitter site in one of these shipping containers.

Inside view of shipping container transmitter
Inside view of shipping container transmitter site

Fortunately, the original electrical work was not bad.  The transmitter is a twenty year old BE FM10B, which will be retained as a backup.  The new transmitter is a Gates Air FAX-10.  We have installed several of these Gates Air transmitters in the last two years or so and they seem to be pretty solid units.  This is the second 10KW unit I have installed.

Gatesair FAX-10 transmitter in Middle Atlantic Rack

We decided to install the FAX-10 in a Middle Atlantic rack, since we did not have a whole bunch of extra room for a separate transmitter rack.  The 1 5/8 inch coax switch is installed in the top of the transmitter rack along with a Tunwall TRC-1 switch control unit. The other rack will have the STL and all other ancillary gear.  My idea is to have nothing in between the door and the FM10B so it can be easily removed when that day comes.  Something, something about planning ahead since it will be likely myself removing the FM10B.

9 thoughts on “Shipping Container transmitter site”

  1. On a similar installation that I observed, standing water on the flat roof caused it to rust through and leak water on to the transmitter. That container would also become an oven when the air conditioning failed.

  2. These containers are aluminum. I would know since it was my Sawzall that cut the holes for a few of the Clima-tel wall-mount air conditioners at this site. We used carriage bolts to draw the frames of the wall-mount units into 2×4 lumber on the interior side along with caulking compound to make an airtight seal. At least that was the intention. The breaker panel clearances are very dangerous and may violate NEC codes as Paul stated. There is no insulation at all. It was very important to have a thermostatically controlled exhaust fan and louver as back-up for those dog-days of summer when the air conditioners would fail. The tube transmitters could take it but time will tell how well the solid state transmitters will tolerate it. My favorite place to pee was off the end of the deck to the right of the third trailer in photo 1.

  3. Paul,

    Looks like the Clifton Park Site. I recall installing the BE transmitter, hard to believe it is 20 years old. For some reason I thought there was another station in that same container when the FM10B was installed.

    Looks like you are going to have a nice install when done. Thanks for posting.

  4. That is correct, Rich. I will take a few pictures of the final product. It is difficult to get frontal shots due to the lack of clearance.

  5. Sometimes I wonder how some tightwad owners haven’t attempted to cram transmitters into a tent to cheap-out on a structure. (or is the case already)

  6. We currently house our transmitter in what we affectionately call “The Meat Truck”. It is a retired refrigerated trailer. Skinny, but insulated well. The radio station started operations there 30 years ago (the original Medalist 8 is still hooked up and ready to go). Studios moved to more “comfortable” surroundings about 12 years ago. The Meat Truck has served its purpose well, but it is time for a replacement. It is rusting and starting to leak – luckily not in the transmitter area. This spring I will be replacing the Meat Truck with a used Fibrebond concrete building. I’ll share pictures of the transformation.


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