WEBE WICC studio build out

You know those fancy new facilities pictures with the accompanying article you can normally find in the trades?  The article usually expounds on how this guy made the decisions on purchase then these guys worked hard and pulled it all together.  Here is the works hard and pulling it all together story.

WEBE and WICC have been in the same studio building for several decades.  The Pacific Recorders and Engineering equipment, while great, is tired and worn out.  On top of that, an F1 tornado ripped the AC units off the roof last June, ripping the membrane and doing extensive water damage to the facility.

The cleanup/water damage mitigation took some time.  All of the carpet and ceiling tiles needed to be replaced.  The walls needed to be resurfaced with new drywall.  In some cases, modifications such as removing a storage closet from the engineering room, moving a door, building a new talk studio and WICC control room needed to take place.  In short, lots of dust, dirt and disruption to the station equipment and staff.  It has not been trouble free, as several times computers and consoles failed due to age and dirt.

Sometime about the beginning of December, new equipment and furniture began to show up and the project was underway.

Cumulus Bridgeport new equipment
Cumulus Bridgeport new equipment

All of the new equipment was stored in the program directors office.  Heh, the program directors office.

Cumulus Bridgeport new rack room
Cumulus Bridgeport new rack room

A new rack room was designed around the old one.  The old racks are out of the picture to the left.  The original rack room had a door into the hall, that has been replaced by viewing windows, the door has been moved to the engineering office, next door.  I kind of like the windows, it lets visitors see the fancy computers but keeps them out of the room itself.

Cumulus Bridgeport Op-X servers
Cumulus Bridgeport Op-X servers

The existing automation system is being replaced by Op-X.  This is the business end of the Op-X audio servers.  All of the network connections are Gigabit using Belden Mediatwist (1872A) Category 6 cable.

Cumulus Bridgeport wire wall
Cumulus Bridgeport wire wall

All the wiring from the studios and racks are brought to this wall.  The terminations are Krone LSA-PLUS blocks.  AES/EBU digital and analog audio is run on Category 5e cable.

Cumulus bridgeport wire wall Krone block
Cumulus bridgeport wire wall Krone block

Krone LSA-PLUS termination block with Belden Mediatwist cable.  All rack and studio wire runs are terminated on this style block.  Notice the wire labels, every run is labeled with both termination ends and use.  Mediatwist cable is fairly easy to work with, the pairs are bonded, so a special tool is recommended to quickly separate the wires.

Cumulus Bridgeport wire tray
Cumulus Bridgeport wire tray

Wire tray between the racks and wire wall.

WICC new Axia console installation
WICC new Axia console installation

The new WICC control room and talk studio.  The Axia consoles are pretty slick.  They are not a true mixing console in the traditional sense, they are more like a control surface.   Most all of the audio inputs are in the rack room, however, the microphones are digitized in the studio and sent over an IP network to the rack room.   All input and output channels are computer configurable and remote controllable.  Console inputs also have onboard mic preamps and full processing.

Cumulus Axia console set up
Cumulus Axia console set up

Axia console control software.

New WICC talk studio furniture
New WICC talk studio furniture

The new talk studio set up.  This is located where the news room used to be.  In order to stay on the air and maintain the old studios, a sort of musical chairs system needs to be played.  In the end, the WEBE studio and one production room will end up where they started, everyone else will be in a new space.  The news room will end up where the current WICC control room is.

Cumulus Bridgeport network switches
Cumulus Bridgeport network switches

Network audio switches.

Cumulus Bridgeport network patch panel
Cumulus Bridgeport network patch pane

Network patch panel, notice the T568B markings.

Currently, the program directors are loading all there material in the Op-X system.  The time schedule is to transfer WEBE into a temporary studio in about two weeks.

More updates as the project progresses.

Update: The new Axia equipment and Op-X automation is on line as of 2/24.   More pictures to follow.

Update 2: For more information on how the Axia consoles are made, check out A broadcast console makers perspective.

Update 3: More pictures:

WICC new studio with Axia console
WICC new studio with Axia console

WICC studio is nearly done, just a few odds and ends here or there.   This is located where the former talk studio was located.

WICC talk studio
WICC talk studio

WICC talk studio, host and four guest positions.  This is located where the former news room is.

Former WICC air studio, gutted
Former WICC air studio, gutted

This is the former WICC control room.  It has been gutted and several walls are being removed.  This will become the permanent WEBE control room when it is finished.

WEBE temporary control room
WEBE temporary control room

WEBE temporary control room.

WEBE old control room, gutted
WEBE old control room, gutted

The former WEBE control room, gutted.  All the carpeting has been removed and 1/4 inch drywall is going over the old, glue encrusted drywall.  This room will become a production room.

WEBE WICC rack room
WEBE WICC rack room

WEBE WICC rack room viewed from the hallway, approximately where the door to the room used to be.  The old racks to the left are being stripped out and removed.  All of the stations are now on the air from the new racks.

WICC Station Operating Report

From February 8, 1940:

WICC operating report, February 8, 1940
WICC operating report, February 8, 1940

I found this in one of the file cabinets at the transmitter site.  It was apparently used as scrap paper because there is what looks like connection information for a remote control system scrawled on the back.  I thought it was interesting in as it shows a 6 am sign on and the type of programming, source and exact times each element ran.  For Origins, YN = Yankee Network, BPT = Local Studio (Bridgeport) and NBC = NBC.  Program logs for later years (1943) show the Alarm Clock Salute was received via FM from W43B (Paxon, MA) on 49.3 MHz.

Sign off was at midnight.  It must have been cold in that little house out on the island in February.

Anyway, I’ll save these in my radio station history files.

Better Times at WICC transmitter site

The WICC transmitter site, Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, has been cut off from normal access since the bridge to the island burned in 1996.  Since that time, access has been by boat with a 0.93 mile walk from the dock to the transmitter building.

Last summer, LVI Construction, under contract from the Town of Stratford, put in a temporary road and began removing the burned out cottages.  While that road is in place, the radio station has been able to access the site and get many important things accomplished.  These include:

  • Replacing the vandal damaged top beacon on the South tower
  • Removing several decades worth of stored crap, garbage, obsolete and unused equipment
  • Repair the electrical service to the building
  • Replace the generator transfer switch
  • Repair the Sonitrol building alarm
  • Replace the old Onan Generator
  • Have the power company replace the 3 phase circuit from the point where the under water cables come ashore to the transmitter building.

All of these projects should greatly improve the reliability of the station.  This should make Bill, happy, who appears to have a WICC chip implanted in his brain because every time the carrier is interrupted he posts about it on the radio-info.com website.

The biggest issue with the site was the utility feed from the shore to the transmitter building.  The original circuit was installed in 1936 when the station moved to the island.  It was old and the poles were all rotting and had horizontal cross arms.  Ospreys especially like the horizontal cross arms as they made good nesting spots.  That is, until the nest shorts out one of the phases catches on fire and burns the top of the pole off.  This has happened several times over the years causing many hours of off air time.

WICC new utility service
WICC new utility service

United Illuminating, the local utility company, was very cooperative and installed new utility poles, wires, breakers and transformers, this time with a vertical phase arrangement, which should keep the Ospreys off of them.  Additionally, the cottage removal project included installing Osprey nesting poles.

Pleasure beach cottages removed
Pleasure beach cottages removed

With almost all of the cottages now removed, the area looks much better than before.  Actually, it should be a nice nature preserve  and hopefully, the absence of the buildings might reduce the number of vandals in the area.  The work is almost done, so the road is about to be taken up. This means we need to wrap up the work out there, so the final push is on.

WICC transmitter building
WICC transmitter building

In the last three weeks, 10 truck loads of junk have been hauled out of the transmitter building and generator shack.   Over 1,500 pounds of scrap steel, 640 pounds of insulated wire, 2,000 pounds of particle board furniture, old t-shirts  and hats (something called “Taste of Bridgeport” which, if anyone knows what that was let me know), old propane tanks, batteries, etc.  We also managed to fix the fence and gate in front of the building, cut down the over grown yew bushes and bittersweet vines.

Transfer Switch
Transfer Switch

The old Kolher transfer switch was also an issue.  There was no place to mount a new switch inside and mounting one outside is out of the question, so the guts from the Kohler switch were removed and replace with an ASCO unit.  This was done in the summer of 2009.  The breaker on the right side is the main service disconnect for the building, which was installed in September.

Onan 12JC 4R air cooled generator
Onan 12 KW 12JC 4R air cooled generator, removed from service

Today, it was time to replace the Onan propane generator.  The old generator is an Onan 12JC-4R air cooled propane unit which was installed on April 4, 1969 at a cost of $1,545.00 new.  For many years, this unit gave reliable service, but it has many, many hours on it and it lacks the fault/self control circuits needed for remote (read desolate) operation.  Several times over the last few years, the generator would run out of gas or the propane tank would freeze up and the starter would crank until it burned out.

It was cold out on the island, with temperatures in the twenties and a bitter west wind blowing right into the generator shack.  All of this conspired to make  working conditions difficult.  Wind chill readings were in the single digits all day long, and in spite of long johns and extra layers, by 3 pm I was shivering and even several hours after coming inside, I still feel cold.

Using tractor to move new generator
Using tractor to move new generator

The new generator is an Cummins/Onan 20GGMA which is rated for 20 KW.  We used a John Deere bucket tractor to move the generator from the flat bed truck to the generator building, then push it inside.  The old generator wiring to the transfer switch was reused, but a piece of flex was used to connect to the generator instead of the solid conduit.  The building fan was also wired up so that it will run whenever the generator is running.

The generator load with all possible things switched on  and the transmitter running at full power is about 12,000 watts, but this would mean the air conditioner and tower lights were on during the daytime.  More likely, the transmitter will be at low power when the tower lights are on and the AC will be intermittent on/off at night.  At full load, this generator uses slightly less than 2 gallons of propane per hour.  At half load, I’d estimate that to be 1.4 or so gallons.

Cummins Onan generator in new home
100 pound propane gas tanks
100 pound propane gas tanks

HOCON gas came out and connected six 100 pound propane tanks in series, which should prevent tank icing.  Propane weights about 4.11 pounds per gallon, therefore the fuel supply should last about 100 hours, or 4.5 days, give or take.  Why 100 pound tanks?  Because we will have to shuffle them back and forth between the dock and the generator shed, a journey of about one mile, in a cart.  Anything larger would be impossible to deal with.  Even so, refilling the propane will be a 2 person job and will likely take all day.