April 22, 2005

Farewell to Pennsylvania's "Old Shakey"

Since 1947, WPIC (790) in Sharon, Pennsylvania has transmitted from the same tower, a 550-foot self-supporting tower made in nearby Youngstown, Ohio by Truscon. It was a beautiful tower, as so many Truscons from that era were - but its time had passed. A few years ago, after Cumulus bought WPIC and sister station WYFM (102.9 Sharon), the FM station was relocated from the four bays atop the WPIC tower to the Youngstown site of WHOT-FM (101.1). And the advanced age of the tower, coupled with the neglect the steel had suffered over the years, eventually led the engineers to begin calling this stick "Old Shakey."

Its demise had been on the way for a while, after riggers refused to climb it to try to repaint it or repair it, but an inspection in mid-April 2005 found a crack in one of the base insulators. There was only one thing to do after that: take it down, and quickly, before the tower fell of its own accord.

On April 20, 2005, at noon, a rigging crew pulled the 100,000-pound tower down in one piece, with a mighty "thunk."

There was little publicity, since the dangerous nature of the work made it important to keep the public away from the demolition, but retired WHOT engineer Jerry Starr was on hand to document the moment for posterity - and to share it with all of you.

(Jerry notes that it wasn't even possible to salvage the STL antennas, lighting or the old WYFM antenna, since the tower was essentially unclimbable in its final days.)

Jerry also worked with WPIC to design and build a temporary longwire antenna that will keep the station on the air with 400 watts daytime (instead of its usual 1000 watts) and 50 watts at night until a new tower can be rebuilt at another site.

We're pretty sure whatever that new tower looks like, and wherever it's built, it won't be nearly as interesting as this venerable Truscon that was a landmark on the Sharon skyline for so many decades.

Thanks to Jerry Starr for sharing his demolition pictures with us!

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