August 6-20, 2004

WRIB and WPMZ, Providence, R.I.

Toward the tail end of our May visit to New England, we headed south to visit with some of Lisa's relatives in southeastern Connecticut - and a beautiful spring Saturday was all the excuse that we needed to point the ol' NERW-mobile up the Connecticut Turnpike (you can call it I-395 and the US 6 spur if you want) to pay another visit to Providence.

There we met up with fellow DX'er Craig Healy, who's the engineer for several Providence stations and who graciously took us around for some touring. We'll start by showing you WRIB (1220 Providence), one of the last remaining pieces of the Carter Broadcasting empire that once stretched from Maine out to Springfield.

WRIB's studio/transmitter facility is hard to find unless you know where to go, being tucked on a dead-end street alongside the Seekonk River in East Providence. But with Craig leading the way, we found it - and then followed him down the slope to the side of the water to admire the tower out there in the river.

The current guyed tower went up in the late seventies, replacing a self-supporter that went down in a winter storm. (It took Army Corps of Engineers permission to rebuild the tower; believe it or not, that's considered navigable waterway under the transmission line there, never mind that you can wade out to the tower at low tide!)

The building itself is nice and compact - walk in and you're facing the studios, a little production room right in front and the main air studio behind it. Look carefully down the hallway at the right and you can just see a couple of folding doors, which Craig opened up to reveal the WRIB transmitters: a little LPB for night use (166 watts) and a vintage Nautel for daytime (1000 watts).

We mentioned before that Craig's a DXer, and we should note that he does something neat with the automation at WRIB. Every morning at 2:58, the kilowatt Nautel fires up for a few minutes for a little DX test, dropping back to the 166-watt LPB at 3:02. So if you're listening to 1220 at 3 in the morning, you might just hear this signal fade up for a moment - and maybe even some Morse code if he gets the automation set up right.

(Check out Craig's web site at www.am-dx.com, too!)

Like that WRIB tower photo at the top of the page? It'll be featured in the 2005 Tower Site Calendar, which will be out very soon now...

Before we made it to WRIB, we met up with Craig (and with tower-hunting buddy Garrett Wollman) at another station he engineers, WPMZ (1110 East Providence).

This is the station long known as WHIM, and its towers are easy to spot from alongside I-195 as you head east from Providence, though not so easy to get to, down there on a dead-end street in a little neighborhood north of the highway.

This is an unusual site indeed: its two towers are used by 1110, which operates from a skirt on the tall (548') tower and uses the entire shorter tower (180' or so) as part of its 5000-watt daytime directional array. But on top of the tall tower are two unrelated FM stations: Clear Channel's WHJY (94.1) and Brown University's WBRU (95.5).

If you'd come out here a few years ago, you'd have been even more confused, because the building next to the towers was being used as studios for WHJY, WSNE (93.3 Taunton MA) and WHJJ (920 Providence), whose tower site is a couple miles away out on Wampanoag Trail.

How'd 920 end up at the 1110 site? Here we delve into history: WHJY was once WHIM-FM, with studios here at 115 Eastern Avenue. In the late seventies, Outlet Broadcasting sold off its radio holdings, including what was then WJAR on 920 - and the then-owner of WHIM/WHIM-FM proceeded to spin off the daytime-only 1110 signal and buy the fulltime 920 signal. (For a time, 1110 operated from studios next door to WHJJ/WHJY; you can just see that building behind the trees at the right.)

That's how 920 ended up with studios overlooking 1110's towers for many years - though, what with consolidation and all, this building is now vacant and WHJJ, WHJY, WSNE and several others can be found in a new facility on Oxford Street in Providence.

(The building still bears a plaque honoring veteran chief engineer Carroll Philbrook; Providence is big on naming its broadcasting buildings after people, as witness the Salty Brine Broadcast Center over at WPRO!)

A few housekeeping notes before we finish up this week: due to our hectic summer travel schedule, we're "Tower Site of Every Other Week" for the next few weeks. We'll be back to weekly updates after Labor Day (and the exciting National Radio Club Convention, being held right here in western New York - why not come?), and in the meantime you can catch up on past favorites by searching our Index page. If you want to see more pictures of this site, you're in luck - Garrett Wollman was along for this tour, and his page on the Boston Radio Archives has even more images than you see here. And if you haven't heard, we're in the midst of our Summer Pledge Drive here on fybush.com, and we could really use your help right now - visit NorthEast Radio Watch for all the details. See you in two weeks!

Huge thanks to Craig Healy for his gracious hospitality during our visit!

Still haven't ordered? It's not too late - Tower Site Calendar 2004 is STILL AVAILABLE! If you haven't yet ordered, what are you waiting for? Click here for ordering information!