Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
This week’s installment of Site of the Week gets us very close to a big moment in this column: the first time our colleague Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us made it across the border to begin seeing the sites of Canada.
On the way, we ended up with a little bit of work: our friend Mark Humphrey needed something checked on at one of the many translator sites attached to his WCJW in Warsaw, halfway between Rochester and Buffalo, and since it was a site we hadn’t been inside recently, we stopped to get keys and headed out to see his W285EZ (104.9).
That translator lives at a very historic site: Audacy’s WLKK (107.7 Wethersfield Township), one of the links in the original Rural Radio Network that spanned upstate New York starting in 1948. The original steep-roofed RRN building is still out here along Route 78, the westernmost link in that pioneering over-the-air FM chain. Back in its day, it would have picked up the RRN signal from Bristol Mountain, 70 miles or so to the west, and with a newer, taller tower, today’s 107.7 signal easily reaches from Buffalo to Rochester and well beyond.
The original RRN transmitter building layout has been gutted and opened up on the main floor, though today’s WLKK transmitters and racks still live roughly in the same corner where the original transmitters would have been back in the 1940s.
The most original RRN features left here are the attic, where engineers would have lived during their shifts back in the day, and the storage area/garage down in the basement.
There are a bunch of two-way transmitters and ham repeaters down here – and the W285EZ rack, down in a corner room, too.
After checking what we came for (the translator antenna up on the tower had swung around and a tower crew would soon be dispatched to get it back in position), we headed west to see a few Buffalo-area sites for which Mike needed an update.
At the western edge of Wyoming County, there’s a tower we’d seen before, but with a new tenant and a new antenna. This stick went up in the late 1980s for what was then WNYB-TV (Channel 49), but the DTV repack a few years ago found channel 49 (now WNYO-TV) joining Sinclair sister station WUTV (Channel 29) on Grand Island, closer to the core of the Buffalo market. WNYO is now the ATSC 3.0 signal for Buffalo from over there – and its own tower at the back of a golf course is now home to Buffalo-market Ion station WPXJ (Channel 51), which moved here from its original analog/DTV site in Pavilion, near its city of license, Batavia.
The WPXJ tower is also home to Buffalo’s Catholic station, WLOF (101.7 Elma), on a two-bay antenna lower on the tower.
Mike hadn’t been to the cluster of TV towers in the hills south of Buffalo since the repack, so we take advantage of a lovely blue-sky day to get some updated shots of those new antennas, which you can see in detail on Mike’s Buffalo NECRAT page.
We make a quick stop for a nice shot of the WGRZ (Channel 2) tower, the northernmost of the “big three,” then loop around south to WKBW (Channel 7), the southernmost.
Of particular interest to us, since we hadn’t gotten good pictures of it, is the reworked antenna at the WIVB (Channel 4) site in Colden. WIVB, Buffalo’s oldest station, actually gave up its own RF channel in the repack auction, entering a channel-share with Nexstar sister station WNLO (Channel 23) that took some interesting twists. For a little while, WIVB and WNLO operated from WNLO’s original location on the WNED-TV tower on Grand Island, but a clever swap of RF channels with WUTV allowed WNLO/WIVB to move back here to Colden, providing improved coverage south of Buffalo at the expense of a little Canadian coverage. The current WNLO/WIVB antenna sits on a pedestal to maintain the full height of the tower here; Audacy’s WTSS (102.5) remains where it’s always been on the side of the tower, with its superpower signal.
Another site that’s been through some interesting changes is in Boston, New York, one ridge over from the TV towers. This is one of the oldest FM-only sites in the region, having been built in the late 1940s for what was then WBNY-FM (92.9), probably with an eye toward an eventual TV station that never manifested itself.
WBNY became WBUF, with a superpower 92.9 signal that stayed here in Boston for more than 50 years before being moved into North Buffalo at the tower behind the WIVB studios. After that, this tower was vacant for a while until getting a new tenant: EMF’s K-Love outlet, WBKV (89.9), moved here fairly recently from its original site a few miles away near Chestnut Ridge Park. The new WBKV runs from a Shively yagi up at the top of the old WBNY tower – and someday, maybe we’ll get inside this building to see what relics of WBNY/WBUF might still exist here.
One more stop before we head for the border: we’ve been to the five-tower site of WDCZ (970) many times before, but it’s a beautiful day to get a new angle on this site, from the back of a new housing development that now backs up to this site in Hamburg, a few miles south of Buffalo. (It’s now also home to WHLD 1270, which moved here a few years ago from its original site on Grand Island.)
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If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of western New York IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and St. Catharines, Ontario