Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
What does it take to get me to update some of the older posts in this space, when they’re all showing sites within a 15 minute drive (and in some cases, just an easy walk) from our home base in suburban Rochester, New York?
Sometimes, it’s as easy as just getting a visit from a fellow tower photographer – when Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us comes to town, as he did last fall, of course we’re going to take a day or two and catch up on whichever sites have changed since his last stop.
That almost always means a visit to nearby Pinnacle Hill, because things keep changing up there. Look at that tower in the center – over the last decade and change, it’s lost the crossbar that once crowned it, along with two UHF antennas for analog TV. WXXI-TV then top-mounted a channel 16 antenna for its original DTV allocation, then removed it and replaced it with a new channel 22 antenna after the repack.
Inside the WXXI building, there’s a lot more empty space these days – the old Thales transmitter that powered the channel 16 signal is gone, replaced by a tiny new GatesAir back in the corner for channel 22. Gone, too, are the old Gates and Harris transmitters that were the original WXXI-FM (91.5) rigs. (There’s a newer set of GatesAir transmitters behind me as I’m taking this picture, serving WXXI-FM and WRUR on 88.5.)
The tower on the right in the top image has seen a more subtle change: WHAM-TV (Channel 13) moved to RF channel 9 in the repack, with a new antenna mounted atop its tower (and a spacer below it taking the space that once belonged to WHAM’s pre-transition digital signal on RF 59.)
There’s even more empty space in channel 13’s building – the top floor, which until recently housed the original 1962-vintage RCA transmitter from the sign-on of what was then WOKR, has been completely cleaned out save for a backup digital transmitter; the current channel 9 rig, a Rohde & Schwarz, sits downstairs in what was originally a garage and was later used for that original channel 59 digital transmitter in the mid-2000s.
One more quick Pinnacle shot: in between the WXXI and WHAM-TV buildings, a side room in the transmitter building of WHEC (Channel 10) houses the transmitter rack for W221CL (92.1), the translator for Bob Savage’s WYSL (1040), and since the last time we saw it, there are now two of those BE STX transmitters there, a main and a backup.
We made a quick stop down the road at Entercom’s (now Audacy’s) WROC 950, where the towers were being repainted last fall (we still need to go back and take some new exterior photos!), and where there are now a pair of Nautel J1000 transmitters powering that AM signal.
And we made our first visit in quite a few years to the tall tower on the west side of Rochester that was built in the 1970s for what was then WEZO (101.3), now WRMM.
The original 101.3 building here is now packed with transmitters – there’s 101.3 on one side, and on the other, Audacy’s WBZA (98.9), where there’s a new Nautel GV transmiter alongside an older Nautel.
And we made it to a site a little farther out that we hadn’t seen in many years. The top of Bristol Mountain, 35 miles or so southwest of Rochester, has been home to FM radio since way back in 1948 when the Rural Radio Network went on the air there as WVBT. That facility saw many changes over the years, ending up as WNVE on 95.1 before being relocated closer to Rochester in 2001 in a swap that moved a smaller signal, class A 107.3, up to Bristol.
The old 1948 building is still up there and still used by the 107.3, now iHeart’s WNBL (“The Bull”), along with a big-signal translator on 104.5 relaying Canandaigua’s WCGR (1550).
And that’s even the original 1948 tower in back, I think, making this one of the few original RRN sites to still have both its original building and tower.
(The buildings still survive at most of the sites, from Wethersfield to the west all the way to Ithaca, DeRuyter and Cherry Valley, the links in the old over-the-air relay chain going east, but most of the original towers have long since been replaced, as this one probably will be someday.)
Just to the south on South Hill Road, still dirt but much better graded and cleared than we recall from our last visit, there’s one of Family Life Network’s earliest relay stations. WCIY (88.9 Canandaigua) takes advantage of the considerable height up here to serve a big chunk of the western Finger Lakes and well into Rochester.
Oh, by the way – We’re now a couple of weeks behind schedule with these posts, and we may schedule a few mid-week bonus editions to get caught up. But there’s a good reason: you might notice a fresh coat of paint, or at least a new WordPress theme, on the fybush.com site… and now we can do even bigger, more detailed images in these Site of the Week posts. Hope you like it!
Thanks to all my Rochester broadcast engineering colleagues for the tours!
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Next week: To the Southern Tier!