Victoria radio's operating position in the 1930's. Change from spark and crystal to vacuum tube equipment complete.
This station was one of the original five stations and was operational
in December 1907. Gonzales Hill is located in an eastern suburb of Victoria, British
Columbia, overlooking the Straight of Juan De Fuca. In the early days the site was
referred to as Shotbolt's Hill instead. Shotbolt was a Victoria pharmacist and had
his house on the north west slope of the hill.
The original location was to be on Clover Point in Victoria, a small thumb of land sticking out into the ocean below Beacon Hill. Conventional wisdom at the time figured radio waves somewhat like light waves, thus the higher the better and the move to the top of Shotbolt's Hill.
This wireless station was by no means the first established in the Victoria area. The USA based Pacific Wireless Company had erected three stations. One in Mt. Douglas (although I've heard it was on Smith's Hill) just north east of Victoria, another at Port Townsend, Washington State, and the third at Friday Harbour, Washington State. This Victoria station was shuttered within a year or two of Gonzales being commissioned.
Google Earth location here.
Station is centered on this fragment of a 1936 map of Victoria. The larger black square is an observatory and over the years has served as both astronomical and meteorological functions.
1906 Cecil Doutre, Dominion Superintendent of Wireless Stations
for the Department of Marine and Fisheries, and Eddie Hughes, Project Engineer, sail on
the Marine & Fisheries Vessel 'Quadra'. They make site selections for the new
chain of wireless stations along the British Columbia west coast. Gonzales Hill in
Victoria was one of the selected sites.
Some station chronological photos are on this page.
1907 July 27 edition of the Daily Colonist reports: "John
Taylor has a similar contract for the building of the station on Shotboltâ€™s hill in
this city." $2,000 was paid for lot 14, an acre of land on Shotbolt's Hill.
Construction and installation of the station began almost immediately. Main equipment was
a Fairbanks-Morse 3 Horse Power gasoline engine, driving a 1,000 Watt alternating current
generator. The transmitter was the Shoemaker type, with the open core transformer,
tubular glass condensers, fixed spark gap with the inductance coil helix. A crystal
detector radio receiver rounded out the installation. 150 foot wooden mast supported the
antenna. The single floor building consisted of three rooms, far end held the 6 HP
gasoline 110 volt generating plant, the middle room held the actual wireless transmitter,
while the operations area occupied the remaining room.
Late in the year (Oct 22 ref A.Lawton) the station opens with Eddie Haugton as station manager. Call sign VSD. Newspaper notes station is exchanging test messages with Point Grey on November 20, 1907. The November 24 Colonist paper reports the five original stations will be open for business on December 15,1907. Station doing tests in November and December of 1907.
1908 Station is fully operational in January.
1909 2 kWatt spark transmitter installation started on October 7th.
1910 Walter Howard is assistant operator.
1911 January Colonist reports a more powerful transmitter will
be installed later in the month. New 180 foot 8 ton mast installed during the spring. Two
more acres purchased to provide extra antenna space. Total area now three acres.
Operator Whiteside arrives. With the staffing increased to three operators, 24 hour coverage is now avaialbe at this important station.
1912 October newspaper reports the new Marconi 2kW apparatus is working well.
1913 Call sign changed from VSD to VAK in accordance with the Berlin Conference. Newspaper reports three land-lines connected to the station: G.N.W., C.P.R. and Dominion Government lines.
1915 Image shows the Gonzales station's antennas up on the hill. (Victoria Heritage Foundation image.)
1922 Andy Gray's son remembers the 500 watt tube transmitters
being installed about this time. (Andy was an early operator.)
Commercial broadcast stations were becoming popular and the local listeners were up in arms over Gonzales' spark transmitter's Morse interfering with their listening pleasure. Thus the December 20th Daily Colonist reports Gonzales now does not transmit, except for emergency traffic, between the hours of 7 and 10 PM.
1923 Station operation is improved with the installation of 8 kWatt four valve continuous wave transmitter equipment. The age of the spark transmitter is coming to a close.
1929-30 Annual Report A successful break-in relay was
developed and installed on the C.W. transmitter. (Before this point the station receiver
was disabled during transmission. Now the receiver would be active during key up,
allowing the far station to 'break-in" and get the transmitting station's
attention--i.e. get an immediate repeat of a word. A mechanical remote control wave
changing device was installed which enables the operator to change wavelength from his
chair. A screen grid valve was incorporated in the type 707 receiver.
A new front verandah and front steps were built on the operating house and half the roof was re-shingled. A new hand rail and landing was built at the dwelling and roof re-shingled and trim painted.
1933 1600 Watt transmitter being installed in April.
1936 Modulated CW frequencies 405 & 500 kHz
1939 A November news item reports early planning to move from
Gonzales Hill, Victoria out to a 10 acre plot in Gordon Head, Saanich, some 15 km
northward. Gonzales area was getting built up and man made interference was degrading
reception. Gordon Head area was then a rural area with little interference. A six room
house is also included in the plans.
New CW transmitters include 2 kW and 1 kW. 200 Watt 3 channel crystal controlled CW/Phone short wave transmitter. Two steel self supporting towers are being erected.
1967 Station moves from Gordon Head to Sooke, approximately 40 km to the west. Moving was again necessitated by the expansion of Victoria's residential areas out into Gordon Head. Sooke's transmitter site was further west at Sheringham Point lightstation. 430kHz & 500kHz VHF 16 & 26 1630/2182/2340 and a couple of 2mHz tug and fish boat frequencies. There was also a VHF lighthouse circuit.
Sooke establishment is closed down at the end of March 1992 and operation is consolidated with the Marine Traffic and Communications Station at Patricia Bay (next to the Victoria Airport YYJ). During the move MF and HF frequencies are decomissioned.