The CCA AM1000D

Still in use as the main transmitter after 42 years at WCKL 560 KHz, Catskill, NY.

CCA AM1000D transmitter, WCKL Catskill, NY
CCA AM1000D transmitter, WCKL Catskill, NY

The last seven years or so, it has not had much use, the station being caught in some strange LMA with Clear Channel, then sold to the Black United Fund of NY something or another. They basically had it dark, turning it on for a few days each year to as not to lose their license.  Finally, they LMA’d it to Family Broadcasting (not to be confused with Family Radio).  There are rumors of a sale, but it remains to be seen.

They have been broadcasting an eclectic, free-form programming style which appears to be the work of mostly volunteers.

The station was first licensed in 1970, thus this is the original transmitter:

CCA AM 1000D name plate, WCKL Catskill, NY
CCA AM 1000D nameplate, WCKL Catskill, NY

Towers are 446 feet tall, which works out to 90 degrees at 560 KHz.

WCKL 560 KHz antenna array
WCKL 560 KHz antenna array

The station is licensed to Catskill, but the transmitter site is located in Hudson, across the river. With the current ownership situation in flux, I would characterize the operation as “tenuous.”

The transmitter itself is a pretty simple high level modulation tube type transmitter.  It uses 4-400 tubes, like the RCA-BT1AR transmitters, and is built around a similar design, which makes sense as they were designed and built by former RCA engineers.  One of the CCA principles, Bernie Wise, still makes Energy Onix transmitters about 10 miles away in Valatie, NY.

Parts are fairly generic and still available.  Things like the modulation transformer may be harder to come by, however, Goodrich Electronics, Harbach Electronics, Energy Onix and others will be able to steer one in the right direction. I’d put up a schematic if I could find one.

I find these older tube-type transmitters often sing with modulation, especially the higher frequencies.  That sound and the soft sound of the blower moving air is the sound of radio, at least to me.

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15 thoughts on “The CCA AM1000D”

  1. You sir, are a radio romantic. You probably also enjoy sitting alone in a dark studio lit only by the soft, incandescent glow of VU meters.

    Tools and equipment embody the collective values of the world in which they were built. This vintage CCA transmitter is a time-capsule of a period in which radio broadcasting generally aspired to the highest possible programming and transmission standards.

    Presently, I think this is why Apple iPods and iPhones can command such premium prices. In spite of their various shortcomings, these devices clearly represent a much higher level of tactile and operational integrity than most of their competitors, and users respond to them in a very instinctive and organic way.

  2. @Lee: Good technology analog. There are people who go through the motions, then there are those who are true artists.

  3. I have an opportunity to get one of these in the next couple of days and was wondering if you might have some information on it.

    Is the 1000 watt rating the carrier power or modulated pep power? I suspect it is pep and actually runs a carrier around 250 watts or so.

    How heavy are one of these? Could a small pickup truck handle it ok?

    I appreciate any info you can provide. Thanks!

  4. Nate, The rating is 1000 watts carrier power. Peak power would be in the 2,500 watt range, as I think these units were capable of 125% peak modulation.

    As I recall, this weight about 1,000 pounds or so. The iron transformers and chokes are pretty heavy, but cabinet is fairly heavy gauge steel. A 1/2 ton pick up should be able to handle it for a short trip without major hills.

  5. The painful part of these transmitters is that the 4-400 tubes now command upwards of $600/ each…for Chinese manufacture tubes. That transmitter always ran best with Amperex graphite plates. Expect extremely short tube life with the Chinese bottles.

  6. I had one of these at WGLI. It ran for years and never gave us any trouble. They do run better with Amperex tubes and it did positive modulate nicely.

  7. Hi..

    We are an auction company from South Carolina. We have transmitters on auction right now and we are trying to reach out to people who may be interested in them.

    If you think you may be interested, our auction is online right now. You can go to our website and click on “auctions online now” to view the transmitters. If you are not interested, no stress, we are just trying to find homes for these beauties. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

  8. Just a month ago I brought one of these beauties back to life. It runs as the main transmitter on CKWW, however since last fall we’d been running on our standby (an older Gates BC1G) when the CCA AM1000D started throwing the overload circuit and blowing fuses. Its biggest issue that I found was that about half the original wiring in it from 1972 had its insulation dried out and flaking off, leaving the bare conductors to short out. There were also quite a few resistors, capacitors, and other components I found to be shot. After a lot of new wire and components the AM1000D is happily on the air once again. I admit to a certain satisfaction after I’d completed the repairs, powered it up for the first time in months and heard it start to sing.

  9. It is amazing that a post that is almost ten years old is still getting interest. Sadly, that station is long gone, license surrendered. I don’t know what happened to the transmitter, it was removed by a semi-religious fraudster, never to be seen again.

  10. I was just looking at the CKWW am100d today, I have serial #272, with a date of 12/1/72. That is only 100 more than the serial on the one referenced in this post.

    I also have #369 with a December 1977 date on it. We had picked up 369 as a parts spare years ago and over the years it has been a help keeping 272 on the air.

  11. I just obtained Serial 117 from WKAL in Rome, New York and am in the process of getting it up and running. It looks like someone removed the voltage reduction circuit to run low power. I had to install a buck transformer since my line voltage is 250 volts and don’t want to stress the equipment. Without this my plate voltage was running over 5,000 volts. I have a schematic that is about 90% correct but no service manual. Until I get one, I am working with the tube specifications and doing some reverse engineering to determine proper values.

  12. John, that sounds like a fun project. Are you putting this back on the air for broadcast or just restoring it for some other reason?

  13. John, I have the manual for this transmitter, along with full schematics. I can scan the manual for you, I’m sure that’ll help your project. The copy I have is at the CKWW transmitter site (yes, #272 is still our main transmitter, along with the station’s original BC1G as standby), next time I’m there I’ll grab it to scan.

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