Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
At the very end of August last year, your editor took the family on a road trip before school started again. After a couple of fun days in Philadelphia, we pointed Mrs. Editor’s new car across the state line to spend the last weekend before Labor Day at the Delaware shore.
A good time was had by all – there was minor-league baseball, all sorts of fried food, nice weather at the beach, and surprisingly little time spent chasing down radio towers.
But it wouldn’t be a vacation without at least a few tower sites, and in any event the long drive from Wilmington south to Georgetown needed a bit of breaking up, which explains why our first radio stop was just outside the state capital of Dover, for a quick shot of iHeart’s WDOV (1410), WDSD (92.9 Smyrna) and WRDX (94.7) transmitter site. The 5 kW AM station uses three of these towers by day, all four at night; the building at the base used to be the WDOV studios, but now houses only transmitters, as best I could tell. This site also houses WRTX (91.3 Dover), part of the extensive relay network of Temple University’s classical/jazz WRTI from Philadelphia.
The lure of minor-league ball, as noted above, prompted us to make the hour-long drive from Rehoboth Beach to Salisbury, Maryland one day to take in a Delmarva Shorebirds game – and that took us past some Salisbury sites we hadn’t seen earlier in 2016 when we visited several Salisbury studios.
Among those studio visits was public broadcaster WSCL (89.5)/WSDL (90.7) – and this drive took us past the WSDL tower near Roxana, Delaware (inland of Bethany Beach) before crossing the Maryland line and passing the two-tower site that’s home to WQHQ (104.7 Ocean City-Salisbury) and WRAU (88.3 Ocean City), the local relay of DC public broadcaster WAMU.
When we were at the studios of Salisbury CBS/Fox affiliate WBOC (Channel 16) earlier in the year, we’d noticed the tower of Maryland Public Television’s WCPB (Channel 28) not far away – and this time, we drove back into the residential neighborhoods along the Wicomico River to find the site neatly tucked away in the trees.
West of the Wicomico, iHeart’s WJDY (1470) sits off Brick Kiln Road, pumping out 5000 watts by day and 32 watts after dark from its two-tower array.
Its sports sister station, WTGM (960), is the old WBOC(AM), and its 5000-watt full-time signal comes from a four-tower site way up north of Salisbury, not far from the Delaware state line, tucked in behind a line of more recent residential development along Northwest Road.
Rounding out the Salisbury AM dial is Rothschild Broadcasting’s WICO (1320), which has studio and transmitter facilities on Ellegood Street, along the west bank of the Wicomico River south of downtown Salisbury. The WICO non-directional AM tower also holds sister station WKTT (97.5) – and the signage on the building on this August day in 2016 also promoted “94.9 Oldies,” the construction permit for WAMS-FM (94.9 Newark MD), a signal that has still yet to sign on as of this writing more than half a year later.
It was just a few minutes after we shot those pictures of WICO when Mrs. NERW’s new car got backed into in the parking lot of a nearby gas station; thankfully, nobody was hurt, insurance eventually took care of the damage, and the car was still driveable.
And so with a few unwanted dents and scrapes, we pressed on toward Baltimore, where an Orioles game awaited us – and along the way out of Salisbury, the road trip offered up a few more sites to see.
Delmar, as the name suggests, is a border town along the Maryland-Delaware line – and just north of it, on the Delaware side, is the tall tower of WBOC-TV (Channel 16/RF 21).
A few miles west, right by the southwestern corner of Delaware, we come to Mardela Springs, which is entirely in Maryland – and not far from there, back in the woods, is WBOC’s competition, ABC affiliate WMDT (Channel 47).
And along US 50, headed for the Bay Bridge and Annapolis, we pass one last TV station, and an odd one it is. WMDE (Channel 36/RF 5) was dropped in just a few years ago, allocated to Dover, Delaware in an FCC bid to thwart two low-band VHF signals from being moved from Wyoming and Nevada into the Philadelphia and New York TV markets. A court ruling eventually allowed those stations to move anyway – but channel 5 in “Dover” and channel 4 in Atlantic City, N.J. were also put into the table and eventually licensed. This strange little station was built as close as it could get to Baltimore and Washington (where WTTG, virtual channel 5/RF 36, persuaded the FCC to put WMDE on virtual 36 to avoid confusion) – and today it broadcasts infomercials to however few viewers can pull in its low-band VHF signal. Its tower in Wye Mills, a few miles east of the bridge, sits next to the site of WCEI-FM (96.7 Easton).
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Next week: Nashville, part I