Update: Took longer than anticipated, but the station is back on the air with generator power as of 8:15 am, Thursday (11/1). Commercial power restoration is not expected until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.
Update: Commercial power restored on Thursday, 11/8 for a total outage of 10 days. One good thing about incidents like this, I now have a fresh set of contacts for all the important people connected to servicing this site.
Class Charlie fire in the transmitter room electrical panel. Away fire party from repair locker forward. Set condition ZEBRA throughout the ship, this is not a drill.
Or something like that. If you were driving around Albany, NY this afternoon and noticed WDCD-FM was off the air, this is the reason why.
A little after noon time, the 480 volt main distribution panel at WDCD AM/FM caught fire, taking the FM station off the air.
According to this clock, it happened at 12:19 pm, when there was a loud bang and the lights in the studio flickered several times, followed by the building fire alarm going off. Thankfully, a quick response by the station staff and the Town of Colonie fire department limited the damage to the interior of the distribution panel. Other than the dry chemical fire extinguisher residue all over the place, the building is none the worse for wear.
The 480 Volt three phase electrical distribution panel was installed in 1947 when the original building was constructed. The power company cut the power to the building and an electrician was able to re-route the distribution for the dry step down transformers that power the studios and equipment racks. The original 480 volt service was installed due to the 50 KW AM transmitter for WPTR (WDCD-AM). Currently, WDCD-AM is silent, pending programming decisions by the owner, Crawford Broadcasting.
So, we spent the late afternoon vacuuming the NextGen computers and UPS out, wiping down the equipment and making sure to clean out the power supplies and other nooks and crannies. Then, we powered everything back up, one at a time and to our pleasant surprise, all came back up without error. Total off air time for the FM station was about 6 hours.
I found this photograph in a filing cabinet the other day as a part of a sales proposal dated 1948. I have never seen one of these in the field. They look like very sturdy units:
Back in the day when AM was king, no expense was spared on transmitting equipment. I remember the GE BTA-25 transmitter from the same era, it was build like a tank. Once, while we were repairing the Harris MW-50A main transmitter, the old GE burped, sputtered and threw an IPA overload, then returned to air. I looked in the IPA cabinet and found a mica capacitor had been blown in half. It was in the tuning circuit, but apparently there was still enough capacitance in the circuit for the transmitter to keep running.
This unit looks similar to that one. The simplified schematic:
Like other 1 KW AM transmitter designs, this unit uses the venerable 833A triode. There are some advantages of this tube, as extra circuits for PA stage neutralization are not needed. The full sales brochure can be found here (medium sized .pdf). These were manufactured in Syracuse, NY.
The asking price in 1948 was $8.730.00, tax and shipping extra.