Tommy Thomas Photos

   Clarence (Tommy) Thomas was an operator at Alert Bay Wireless during the years 1928 to 1930.  Charles Aitkens, whose photos appear elsewhere on this site, was married to Tommy's sister, Gene.

   Any printing from the back of the photo is shown in italics.

   He makes note of two other operators, Kitchin and Robson, in his descriptions.

  He also did a stint at the station in Coppermine, NWT. Coppermine is on the northern coast of Canada. These small and very isolated stations benefited greatly with the installation of a wireless station. Communication with the 'out side world' was now very quick, whereas before it was via ship in the summer and a rare overland trip in the winter. The famed bush pilots of the 1920's also helped close the isolation gap.

   In the late 1930's Coppermine had the call sign VBK and used a frequency of 571 kHz.

   My thanks to Marilyn Randall, his granddaughter, for providing these photographs!

01   Alert Bay album page shown for context.

02   Clarence 'Tommy' Thomas in the doorway of his residence. Photo by J.E.Kitchin.

03   Senior operator Frederick J. Hollis at the engine room door of VAF, photos by Kitchin.

04   Alert Bay wireless photo album page shown for context. Photos by B.H.Robson.

05   View of the aerial tuning inductance, etc., at VAF. The large air-dielectric condenser to the rear is in the 'tank circuit', the connecting link between the oscillating and radiating circuits.

06   The station and premises, taken from the top of the northern mast. It shows the double house for staff residence, the station proper, and the engine/hoist house with rail tracks down to the waterfront dock. The water shown is part of Johnstone Straights, with Vancouver Island in the background.

07   Panel view of the Continuous Wave transmitter at VAF. Set uses 2 MT6 tubes as oscillators, and 2 MR6 tubes as rectifiers. In 1928 had tuning for waves of 600, 680, 1920 and 2975 meters. Separate oscillating circuits are provided for each group of waves (long and short), and ICW or TT is accomplished by cutting out a part of the filter condenser, letting 480 cycle pulsations onto the oscillators. ICW note one of the prettiest on the coast.

   Frequencies are 500, 441, 156, & 100 kHz.

08   Alert Bay album page shown for context.

09   J. Hartley Burgess, Government Telegraph operator, in his place of employment, Alert Bay. Picture by J. E. Kitchin of the Wireless Station.

10   Fred Taylor, the "boss carpenter" on the Radio Branch, Dept. of Marine & Fisheries, West Coast Service. He is seated on the steps of the office, photo by Kitchin.

11  A rather cock-eye conception of the interior of the office at the radio station. The odd viewpoint was necessary to get in the maximum amount of stuff. The Universal receiver, "Type 707 Serial No. 2" is shown, the typewriter, radiophone receiver "Type R4 Serial No. 68" is shown, and also the Northern Electric 50-watt radiophone transmitter used to work to the tugboats on voice.

12   Vancouver Harbour

13   Alert Bay album page shown for context.

14   Taken at Alert Bay, August 1928. SS Camosun with large complement of Indians returning from the northern fish canneries, call, southbound. Many belonged to Alert Bay and disembarked here. 

15   Leaving Turnbull Cove with barge "Bingamon" in tow, loaded with logs from camp seen in background. Taken in fall of 1926.

   Apparently Tommy did a stint working as an operator on the Pacific Monarch shown in the photo below.

16   Summer 1928 while on leave on the Pacific Monarch.

   Thomas worked as a wireless operator on board this tug.  The "Pacific Monarch" began life as a Thames River tug and was then known as the "Rumania".

17   View of the spark transmitters at VAF. The one to the left is of 7KW rating, while the other, to the right, is of 4 KW rating. Both are Marconi apparatus. The synchronous rotary spark gaps may be seen on the ends of the shafts of the 240 cycle alternators. The large meter between the sets is the radiation ammeter, registering 21 and 18 amps respectively on the sets. The 7 KW machine was running when the photo was taken.

   Long wire antennas have a radiation resistance of only a few ohms (10 ohms not unusual) so the currents and powers mentioned are in the ball park. Use pictures 19 & 20 to get a complete idea of the transmitter room layout.

18   Alert Bay album page shown for context.

19   The 3 gasoline engines at VAF. The 2 in the foreground are 8 HP horizontal Fairbanks-Morse, converted from "hit and miss" to throttle governing. Each is belted to a 240 cycle alternator and a 110 volt DC generator.

   The engine in the background is a 2 1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse "Z" engine.

20    Switchboard and CW transmitter at VAF. This switchboard controls the AC and DC supplies from the alternators, and transfers the set from one machine to another, as well as transferring from CW to spark with either alternator. Below is seen in the charging panel, and the electric heater is used to boost the charging rate by 6 amps. Kitchin took all three pictures. [on photo 18]

There is a bank of light bulbs glowing above and to the left of the space heater. I think the bulbs were the charging resistors for the battery bank, and to increase the charge rate, the operator would use the space heater as an additional resistor to allow more current to flow.

21  Alert Bay album page shown for context.

22   The VAF radiophone installation. To the left is the Northern Electric Super-heterodyne receiver, fully shielded and with 6 peanut tubes in it. In the foreground is the microphone and headset, and to the right is the 50 watt Northern Electric radiophone transmitter. A wave of 198.6 meters (1510 kHz) is used for this work. The transmitter is also tuned to 600 meters (500 kHz) for short range ship work. This 600 meter wave was later done with.

23   Some of Tommy Thomas' radio sets. To the left top is a wave meter and calibrator, next to which is a universal set to cover waves from 250 to several thousand meters. Under them is the Tropadyne Superheterodyne set, and at the right is the aluminum paneled short wave receiver.  A loop antenna is seen in the upper left-hand corner.

24   Taken May 12, 1929. Shows new arrangement of equipment, desks, and the plate glass window between the transmitter room and the operating room at VAF.

25   Taken June 1929. Shows the new Matthews Power Plant, as installed by Bruce Restall and Tommy Thomas. Behind it is seen it's switchboard.