Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
We spend a lot of time on the road, don’t we? So it’s nice, every once in a while, to check in on stations that don’t require an overnight trip from our home base in Rochester…and there’s rarely a more friendly stop than Bob Savage’s WYSL (1040) in Avon, just half an hour from home if the traffic isn’t too bad.
We paid a visit on Bob and the station in January, right around WYSL’s 29th birthday, in part to say goodbye to an old friend. That BTA-1R1 at left was one of Bob’s original pair of RCAs way back at the beginning – one from WELM in Elmira, the other from WLSH in Lansford, PA – and now it’s headed to a happy retirement at the Antique Wireless Association Museum down the road from us in Bloomfield, NY.
The space the RCA long occupied is now home to WYSL’s night rig, a BE AM 2.5, which slid over to make room for a rack that will now house a solid-state Nautel as WYSL’s backup to the BE and the Nautel Ampfet that powers the station’s 20 kW day signal.
(But fear not – there’s still plenty of Olde Stuph here, including not only the beautifully-restored Gates console that now lives in the production room, as well as the even older RCA console that once belonged to Rochester’s WHEC/WWWG 1460 and was hanging out in the transmitter room when we visited.)
While WYSL has anchored the radio dial in northern Livingston County since 1987, southern Livingston County has belonged to Dansville’s WDNY since 1978. After a brief start at 1600 on the dial, WDNY slid downward to fulltime operation on 1400 and added WDNY-FM (93.9) in the early 1990s.
For the last few years, WDNY has belonged to Brian McGlynn’s Genesee Media, and its Main Street home provides studio space for the AM signal, the FM (now “My 93.9” WMRV, with a heritage Binghamton callsign) and McGlynn’s Rochester-area sports stations, WOKR (1590 Brockport)/WRSB (1310 Canandaigua).
If you know where you’re looking, you can see the AM 1400 tower off the east side of I-390 just south of town; the site itself is on Cemetery Road, with a cozy little block building and a tidy Armstrong solid-state kilowatt chugging along inside.
WMRV’s 570-watt class A FM signal comes from a site about a mile to the southeast up on Acomb Road, where there’s a rare TTC FM transmitter powering the station, backed up by a Harris Quest that came from McGlynn’s alma mater, WITR (89.7) at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
This hilltop site is also home to translators: across the road from WMRV’s site, Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes has W248BC (97.5), relaying WZXV (99.7 Palmyra), while the extensive Family Life Network serves Dansville via W283BR (104.5), relaying WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua).
A recent trip on a rainy day took us another 20 miles or so south of Dansville to the outskirts of Bath, where we finally got a peek at the inside of the Family Life operation. Long before there was radio here (FLN’s first station, WCIK 103.1 Bath, signed on in 1982), this building at Campbell Creek Road and NY 415 was home to a Christian youth ministry, founded by the father of current FLN leader Rick Snavely.
Some elements of that ministry still survive here, including a big gym/auditorium that’s used for youth drama programs, sports leagues and the radio network’s share-a-thons.
The radio network itself is anchored at one corner of the building, in two additions that went in as the radio service grew. Family Life is serious about regional news, which comes from a newsroom/studio that occupies the original WCIK air studio. The current FLN air studio, with a spiffy Wheatstone console, sits at the back of the building, down the hall from several small production rooms.
Down the hall, there’s a spacious production room that’s used for youth productions and radio drama – and in the other direction, the Family Life IT racks were being expanded when we visited, though we caught a glimpse of some of the IP networking that now sends FLN programming out to some of the full-power stations that carry the network on HD2 and HD3 subchannels. (A more extensive IP network will soon replace much of the satellite uplinking that carries Family Life to its owned signals across New York and Pennsylvania.)
On the Catholic side of the religious spectrum, the region’s main service comes from a tidy office building in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, just off the busy intersection of Transit Road and Sheridan Drive.
Holy Family Communications now broadcasts “The Station of the Cross” on signals that stretch from Boston (WQOM 1060 Natick) to northeastern Ohio (WMIH 89.5 Geneva), with stops along the way in Syracuse, Rochester (WHIC 1460) and Buffalo (WLOF 101.7 Elma), all coming from a talk studio and master control on the ground floor of this building, which also houses founder Jim Wright’s dental lab upstairs.
Adjoining the studio and lobby, a rack room is packed with automation and the IP networking that sends Station of the Cross programming out to each local station along the chain.
And we leave you with a few images from another day trip to Buffalo: on a clear day from the observation deck high atop Buffalo’s majestic Art Deco City Hall, radio fans can get nice views of several of the Queen City’s downtown transmitter sites. To the west off Lafayette Square, the Rand Building’s mast is home to Townsquare’s WBLK (93.7 Depew), WMSX (96.1 Buffalo) and WYRK (106.5 Buffalo); to the southwest, the former 1 HSBC Center building is now called “One Seneca Tower,” and a careful view of its roof shows the antennas on the left side for W227BW (93.3 Cheektowaga, another WZXV Calvary Chapel relay) and Dick Greene’s W275BB (102.9 Cheektowaga), relaying AC WECK (1230).
Thanks to WYSL’s Bob Savage, Mark Humphrey, WDNY/WMRV’s Brian McGlynn, FLN’s Rick Snavely and Holy Family Communications’ Jim Wright for the tours!
2017 IS HERE…DO YOU HAVE YOUR CALENDAR?
So you didn’t get the Tower Site Calendar for Christmas? Or New Year’s? The year is still new…treat yourself!
Go to our store, click on the “Broadcasting Calendars” tab, select the options for the Tower Site Calendar (be sure to click on “yes” or “no” for a storage bag) and add it to your cart. Click on the “View Cart” button, and you are ready to check out.
And don’t forget our hand-numbered autographed calendar. These are a limited edition, as we only have 40 of them.
While you’re in our store, check out the other calendar we’re offering as well this year – John Schneider’s “Radio Historian’s Calendar.” Each year is themed, and this year’s theme features buildings that once housed radio.
Take a look at our great collection of radio- and TV-related books, too! There’s a gift there for everyone.
And don’t miss a big batch of western NY IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Pittsburgh