This is the KRLA History section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by: Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
Last update: 6/13/05

A Pictorial Tour of KRLA

KRLA data

Here are some images and recollections from the folks who worked at KRLA.

 

The original site at Lexington and Gallatin Roads, in El Monte, CA.
T.Q. Weatherall: The Burke family owned a newspaper ( Santa Ana Register?) in Santa Ana.  They were the original licensee at KPAS.  They owned another station in the area and had to divulge one of their stations.Loyal King worked for them and was married to their daughter, Mary Burke King.  He formed a group of investors and bought KPAS [in 1945.]

Bill Earl shares this logo ... "I'm a KRLA nut" from the El Monte site.        

The original WE 10 kW water cooled transmitter.

Installed in 1941, this transmitter was retired in 1976.

Earl Arbuckle recalls this transmitter was outfitted with a "TOJO" device. Should the Japanese ever have invaded Southern California, the operator was instructed to pull a lever which was to make the transmitter inoperative. It may sound silly, but such was the paranoia after Pearl Harbor.

"The WE had 241B drivers and and 342A finals, in the unique Doherty amplifier configuration developed by Mr. Doherty at Western Electric/Bell Labs. There was a history of its development somewhere at the transmitter. It used a carrier tube, which under zero modulation and on negative peaks, produced all the carrier power. The "peak" tube produced the added power required on positive modulation peaks. Surprisingly, this arrangement was supposed to be more efficient than a plate modulated transmitter and did not require huge modulation transformers. The 342A had gone out of production about the time I was born, so we never could buy new tubes. Fortunately, California Tube Labs was able to rebuild these tubes many times, so we always had spares. One thing I remember about the WE was that the 15 kV HV transformer was a massive vertical affair affixed with a large metal nameplate proclaiming that it was filled with "Askarel," which was a rather nasty PCB transformer oil used in that era."

Harvey Smith recalls: "The WE was quite fault tolerant, and since it was normaled into the dummy load when it was not on the air, all you had to do was fire it up 30 minutes ahead of changeover ( I actually found it would auto start using its own filament and plate delay relays just 3 minutes before need) and so when the changeover occurred, it actually was never turned off, but [essentially] switched hot. (A squelch circuit actually cut the RF for the milliseconds of the contactor operation.)

"This is why the changeover could be made [almost] instantaneous[ly]; T.Q. always wondered just how much of an arc was made when the switch over was done this way, but you would loose 5 - 10 seconds cutting back to the 10 kW continental, because of walking distance between switches.

"The WE used 845 and 872 type tubes (known as 8 series developed before and during the war). Fortunately I was not required to repair it without help from T. Q. As I considered it capable of killing me, and told T. Q. as much, and he did not disagree. I sensed that he knew it was a two man repair crew effort in all instances."

Chris Hays remembers: "The mercury vapor rectifiers had a 3 minute time delay. Because of this, the Western Electric was always operated in "warm standby" with the rectifier and driver filaments left on. In this configuration, the rig could be brought up in a matter of seconds. The final tubes used direct heated filaments and were about as "instant on" as a tube could get."

Marvin Collins recalls: "I am reminded of an overnight shift at KRLA when I awakened from a nap and checked the operation of the WE transmitter as usual. All looked normal except the frequency monitor was off scale. The WE transmitter was on the air but what was the frequency? I never did find out. I put the Continental 10 kW on the air and the frequency monitor returned to normal. I soon found the heater for the crystal oven in the WE transmitter was not operating thus causing the off frequency operation. So, I  opened the oscillator assembly and found the contacts had finally melted away after so many years of use. I was wondering how we would ever make a repair because parts were no longer available. Chuck Moore arrived to take over at the end of my shift and I showed him what I had found. Chuck asked if I had a dime. I did and so did he. We soldered our dimes in place to form new contacts for the heater thermostatic control contacts. As far as I know that fix worked until the day the WE transmitter was junked. I never did get my dime back."
In 1959, KRLA added a
50 kW Continental 317 transmitter, and more towers to raise power
.
The Continental 317 - 50 kW transmitter. This is one of only three of this model that were built.

It was installed in 1959.

Peter Haas notes: "As KPAS/KXLA, it was 10 kW DA-N, using four 135 degree towers. When it became KLRA and installed 50 kW, the following happened:
  1. The end towers, tower 1 (west-most) and tower 4 (east-most) were removed,
  2. a new 90 degree tower replaced tower 1,
  3. a new 180 degree tower replaced tower 4,
  4. the new 50 kW DA-D included original towers 2 and 3,
  5. the original towers 1 and 4 were installed south of the night array, and on the same bearing, thereby forming a parallelogram; Apparently old tower 1 became DA-D tower 1, in its new location, old towers 2 and 3 became DA-D towers 2 and 3, and old tower 4 became DA-D tower 4, in its new location, and
  6. DA-N towers 1, 2, 3 and 4, these being 90, 135, 135 and 180 degrees, formed a vertical angle cancellation scheme; this was to answer a demand from KFAB on account of purported interference to KFAB, which was actually frivolous, but KRLA didn't know they had another problem (see below), while
  7. DA-D towers 1, 2, 3 and 4, these being 135, 135, 135 and 135 degrees formed a DA which protected 1130 in San Diego (I believe 1130 was then operating 50 kW/10 kW DA-2; it is 10 kW DA-2 now) and KFAB in Omaha, with the 1130 protection being for days, and the Omaha protection being for critical hours.
Harvey Smith recalls: "The Continental was a 10 kW Doherty unit, completely self standing, with a 50 kW Doherty linear appendage. Through the magic of the designers at the newly named Continental Electronics Company, they built an amplifier that required 150 kW input dc power, 16 kV at 10 amps, and when you applied 10 kW input drive (lowered by swamping resistors in the linear) you saw 50 kW carrier output from the water cooled tubes. This included reserve as well, for modulation peaks.

"Inefficient as it was, it was a simple solid design, and all I ever did was change tubes, and never had to mess around with the tuning as you invariably did have to do when you were changing tubes in the FM transmitters of the day. I am remembering Machlett 5531 style air cooled tubes, and perhaps 833's as rf drivers, and 6 or 8 audio tubes in cathode follower service, driving swamping resistors, providing a very low impedance solid audio drive to the modulator / rf finals."

Marvin Collins recalls: "The original WE transmitter which became the AUX started its life in another building next door but was moved to the larger building when KRLA went to 50 kW. Yes, the 10 kW driver was used for night operation but not all night. We usually would switch to the WE transmitter bat sunset because we could make a very fast switch doing so. Then after the Continental was switched to 10 kW mode (while off the air), it  would be put back on the air and the WE 10 kW shut down after a run of only a minute or two. Then somewhere around midnight we would put the WE transmitter back on the air until sunrise when the Continental would be put on the air in 50 kW mode. The idea was to make the switches between Continental and WE because the switch could be made so fast it was almost inaudible. We did not want to run on the WE all night because the transmitter was old and tubes were difficult to come by. Sometimes if we were waiting the return of a rebuilt tube we would minimize the use of the WE transmitter. And then there were the times when one or the other would not work at all. Normal switching operation involved having one transmitter working into a dummy load briefly before switch time while the other transmitter was on the antenna. Thus a very fast swap of transmitters between dummy load and antenna could be made. Also we would know that both transmitters were going to work before trying to put one on the air."

Stan Kelton adds: "Long-time KRLA transmitter engineer Ted Shireman explained to me the switching of the transmitters just as you have. He also told me that the reason KRLA went back to the old WE from midnight to sunrise was because, although the quality was not as good, it was cheaper to run the old WE at 10 kW than it was to run Continental 50 kW transmitter at 10 kW."

Earl Arbuckle remembers: "The 10kw CE used 575 mercury vapor rectifiers and one of the projects during my tenure at KRLA was to replace these with plug-in solid-state rectifier stacks. In keeping with TQ's frugal nature, we built these ourselves using great bags of diodes purchased economically from "Poly Packs," a Boston purveyor of surplus electronic parts. We had to test the F/B ratio of each diode, since quite a few were duds. A continuing maintenance action was to pull the stacks out of the rig and check for shorted diodes; there were always some to be replaced. Thanks to TQ's conservative design, we could suffer several shorted diodes without significant fireworks.

"Part of the routine maintenance always included rolling around the air compressor and blowing out the transmitter cabinets. Being in the middle of a cow pasture meant that the entire transmitter building was always dusty."

Chris Hays adds: This was a water-cooled monstrosity with a driver that operated at 5kw day, and ran "barefoot" at 10kw night. The final was bypassed and turned off in the 10kw mode! This was the most complicated transmitter control-ladder wise I've ever seen. For its day it was pretty efficient.  The 50kw final was a grounded grid Doherty amplifier.. If you understand grounded grid amplifiers you know that the input power is not "lost" but winds up at the output of the amplifier.

 


    

Chris Hays continues: "This is a close up of the 10/5kw driver section of the old 317. The Center cabinet is the PA, which used a pair of Machlett 5531 triodes in a grid modulated Doherty configuration. These tubes were air cooled. Note the round CRT in the top rear of the compartment. This was a built in scope for tuning up the Doherty stage. Tuning up a Doherty meant making sure all the phase shifts of the networks were correct. The right hand cabinet was the rectifier cabinet (not seen behind are the plate transformers). You can see the solid state replacements that Earl Arbuckle mentioned in the top of this cabinet, and in the bottom of the left cabinet. The main high voltage rectifiers were not replaced, as the diodes of the day were not quite up to the abuse level that these old mercury vapor tubes could take! Although difficult to see, there is a seventh rectifier on the bottom left. It was common practice to have a hot spare mercury vapor rectifier in these rigs. The left hand cabinet is the modulator and driver for the PA. The RF output was from a pair of 833 triodes seen at the top. Next down were the Buffer and audio driver tubes. These were 807s. The third row down were the modulator and last audio driver. My recollection is these were 845 triodes with an different tube as the driver. The four left hand tubes were in a cathode (actually filament) follower configuration to provide lots of voltage and a very low source impedance. The bottom row is rectifiers. Note the "tiny" vacuum tube rectifier at the bottom. I don't remember its function, but it might have been for feedback."


Chris Hayes: "This is the water cooled 50kw Doherty grounded-grid amplifier (which actually sat to the left of the driver section). This is pretty big, but what is NOT shown here is the dual (redundant) heat exchangers and their massive blowers, The plate transformer and filter banks (located in a caged in area at the rear of the building) and the power distribution unit loaded with relays and big breaker/contactors!"

The PA used Machlett 6696 triodes in a grounded grid Doherty configuration. The peak tube is on the left, the carrier in the center and rectifiers on the right (including a hot standby tube). There are some more of Earl's and Tom's solid state units at the bottom. Note the ceramic water pipes below the tubes. These carried water to and from the tubes back to the heat exchangers. There was also a water-cooled dummy load that the water passed through (not shown here). The pipes appear to be glowing in this picture, but they were just a very bright white color. The second meter from the left was measuring "leakage current." This was the current being drawn by an electrolysis target in the water stream, and was an indication of the purity or lack thereof of the water (which of course was distilled). The plate voltage was about 12kv, and the resting current was about 7.2 amps. The current of course would swing up with modulation.

KRLA Phasor, with the operator's control desk in the foreground.

The system was DA-2, with different patterns between day and night.

Harvey Smith recalls: "There was a pattern transfer coax switch positioned in one of the "trough's" under the phasor cabinets, and a part of the weekly maintenance I was instructed to do was to "squirt" some oil "'at'" the porcelain 17 kV switch. You could not reach this switch with your fully extended arm while laying down on the concrete behind the phasor cabinet. T.Q.Weatherall  never wanted to have to replace that changeover relay, I assume it would have taken 10 men and 6 hours, as you would have had to move two phasor cabinets, between midnight and 6 am, and hope you did not break anything else doing it." 
Peter Haas comments: "KFAB had demanded a cancellation array for KRLA because of ongoing "interference" being received at Omaha, hence the 90, 135, 135 and 180 night array.

"But, when the new array wouldn't prevent the observed interference, KRLA blamed it on the existing and new SCE 220 kV transmission lines running almost parallel to the KRLA night array. SCE said their transmission lines weren't the problem, and that the problem was actually self-caused, by the south towers (part of the new DA-D array) thereby compromising the DA-N array.

"Ah, a clue.

"Instability of the DA-N array was indeed observed and characterized. In order to prove SCE wrong, KRLA removed the two south towers! This was acceptable as KRLA always had a license to operate its night DA during days, and it always operated the night DA all day Tuesday, meaning, effectively, from local sunset on Monday until local sunrise in Wednesday, thereby giving them a LOT of time to take FIM measurements on the night DA.

"After the south towers were on the ground, FIM measurements were taken and there was no DA-N instability. Therefore, the south towers were NOT the problem, and SCE was forced to detune all its 220 kV transmission towers.

"The vertical cancellation scheme was operated until the move to Irwindale, although it was never necessary in the first place. (A more economical installation at KRLA would have been to leave the DA-N completely alone ... a LOT less expensive in terms of proofing costs ... and to install two 90 degree towers for the new south towers for the DA-D array. When Irwindale was constructed, all towers were the same height)."

Collins Auxiliary transmitter (sold by Continental after they purchased Collins from Rockwell. 
Chris Hays recalls: "The Collins came about interestingly. It might never have been there had it not been for the fact that some technician at Cal Tube Labs died, and nobody who survived could properly rebuild the water cooled triodes in the final amplifier of the Western Electric. I witnessed a few of the arc-overs that proved this. At any rate, Jack Reeder, found the Collins on the cheap. Continental had just purchased Collins, and they had one of these left and were willing to sell it cheap.

"The Collins did actually fit inside the old walk-in Western Electric 10kw. The Collins was probably the best of the plate modulated transmitters. It still sits today at the Irwindale site, and it still works fine. It is one of those rigs that may not win any loudness wars, but it always comes up and plays, and it sounds darned nice It has that "warm tube sound" many of us remember."

Dave Hultsman comments: "Also note in the lower right side of the Collins is a small panel with some colored buttons. This was added by Continental and is a  'Magnaphase Unit,' a VSWR protection for AM. It is pretty standard on most AM transmitters today, but not usually used on older tube transmitters. However Western Electric and Continentals always had them on their transmitters."

Robert Leembruggen recalls: "In the Collins 816 photo, Don Beem's day-nite pattern switch panel sits above the GE two-way we used for talk-downs. This I built from Don's plans. It looked at all seven ATU switch positions and phasor switch positions.

"With one button both transmitters would "carrier quench", move every switch in the phasor and ATU's then return carrier only if all of the switches were in position. The DJ's would give us three seconds between spots to switch patterns. I agree with Chris, the Collins 816 sounded fat and powerful. Chris was the on-air-processing engineer. He had KRLA pounding the dial while still retaining fidelity. Jack used to say the high-end sounded like velvet. The old 317, #003, in my opinion, sounded terrible. As I was growing up I didn't know why, but after a couple of days with Don Beem pointing out RF circuitry it was apparent. This was my chance to put some soul back into the station I grew up with.

"The boys before me had moved caps and coils around inside the 816 to keep the heavy modulation from arcing across components."

Meanwhile.... back at the studio

The KRLA Control Room. The GE console later served at the transmitter when the station "automated" in 1973

The DJ lived on the other side of the glass from the engineer

          
The slow spiral downward ... and the move to Irwindale.
As time went on, and KRLA's finances got precarious, layoffs began to happen. First, most of the studio engineers were jettisoned.  The old GE console was set up at the transmitter site and the cart machines were loaded by the transmitter engineer. The DJ had a remote start for each cart machine, and communicated with the engineer by intercom.


    

Chris Hays remembers: "And here is one of the all night DJ's!!! Just kidding of course! Hey, it got boring on the overnight shift. KRLA was one of the last transmitter sites to be manned 24/7. This was mandated by the FCC because the night antenna was on an STA and never worked as it was supposed to due to literally dozens of high tension power line towers near the site. When times got hard, a truly bizarre operation was initiated, with the jocks at the Pasadena studios, and the carts played from the transmitter. The picture shows 3 of the 6 ITC cart machines and the GE console. The carts could be remote started from the studio, or placed in a round-robin "cartamation" mode when there was not a live DJ. There was even an old Schaffer audio clock for time checks! All this because it was a union shop,and they had to have union engineers present all the time. Well, they let go the studio guys, and kept the transmitter guys (FCC mandate). Also, it would have been very scary trying to remote control those old rigs!
 
"
No discussion of the KRLA transmitter from the late 60's through 80's would be complete without talking about "Lobo," our faithful mascot and guard dog. According to Tom Weatherall, he showed up as a stray. He had been injured, possibly he was hit by a car. The guys nursed him back to health and it is unclear who adopted who. My first encounter with Lobo was my first visit to the site which was about 6 months before I started working there. He was on a chain attached to the building, and he was very scary He'd run to the end of his chain barking and baring his teeth and snarling, and I was pretty sure he'd just as soon eat me as look at me! But, once you were recognized as "OK" by one of the guys, you were OK with him. Amazingly, six months later, he remembered who I was. He was quite a comfort on those nights I did overnight maintenance by myself. It was never tested, but I'm pretty sure if anyone or anything threatened me, they would have to get by him first.
 
"We also had a ritual with the pattern change. Pattern change involved first turning on the Western Electric, switching to the Western Electric, switching the Continental to 10 kW mode, then switching back. Each of these operations was accompanied by the sound of big contactors and motorized breakers. These noises would get Lobo very excited. He would first run to the Western Electric, barking while he waited for you to turn it on, then he would run over to the phaser and bark, waiting for that step, then run to the 50 kW amp barking waiting for you to switch that, then he'd run and wait for the 10 kW contactors to close (there was a slight delay) and bark at those! There was a joke that with any new men, we'd tell them if they ever forgot what they were supposed to do, just follow Lobo! Nobody who witnessed this spectacle ever forgot it!
 
"He had a few bad habits. He liked to chase our cars when we left for the day. Marv Collins said once that Lobo chased him all the way around the field and up onto the 60 freeway. He was forced to pull over on the freeway, collect Lobo and bring him back. He also would catch and eat gophers, cats and the occasional skunk! The latter caused him to be banished from the building for a week or two, and I don't think he ever understood why.
 
"Lobo had a wonderful life for a city dog.. he had a huge field to romp in. Eventually old age, kidney problems, and finally incontinence forced us to put him down. I had grown very attached to him, and that final day was one of the few times in my adult life that I wept."

Robert Leembruggen recalls: "The GE Console photo is where I came in. It was a very sexy place to sit and run a show for those knuckle-heads in Pasadena. Russ O'Hara, Johnny Hayes, Dave Hull, Rege Cordic, Terry McGovern, Jane Platt, Richard Beebe.

"There was a board op at the desk 24/7 jamming carts into the slots. The longest walk away time was six carts until the new rack was built, then we were good for eight carts. You just had to remember what the last song was while you were hack sawing a piece of 3" hardline. "Excuse me but, who left 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' on top of the refrigerator?" "I've got to know."

"Sometimes the crew would set me up with a cart that wasn't cued. Usually a cart for the "Big 11 Countdown". My defense was to look at the wear marks where the pressure-roller hit the tape. If it wasn't shiny I put it in a machine and let it cue up. Gotcha Rudy!" [Ed. note. Rudy was famous for always being on a union break, or stopping whatever he was doing at exactly 40 hours of work in a week. He probably didn't have time to rewind the carts.]

As finances got even worse, most of the DJs were laid off, and the remaining (Johnny Hayes and Sid) voice tracked on cartridges., The studio was empty most of the time.
In 1982, the aging 317 was replaced as main transmitter by a new 317-C2 from Continental
Robert Leembruggen recalls: "I was hired by Jack Reeder in 1981. My stay was the shortest of any ones and strictly for the installation of the 317C, phasor and Tower-7.

"The Western Electric 10kW was removed in 1981 on my first day at KRLA. We were careful not to break off the temperature gauge on the plate transformer. It was heavy and filled with PCB. It sat on top of a cement pedestal. The entire room behind the rig was the power supply. Doors leading to this room had failsafe switches. The high-voltage line ran eight feet above the floor and was supported by long porcelain standoffs. Don and I used a Sawzall to cut pipes that came through the floor. It was a very well built site. It would take me years to appreciate it. Marv's twin-dime crystal oven was legendary. The ovens were as big as beer cans.

"The old 317 was beautiful with some lights out. The mercury vapor rectifiers had a purple glow. Very dynamic when modulated. Occasionally a jug would arc over making the loudest slap I've ever heard. This sound reminded you, you were at KRLA and reinforced your respect for high-voltage.

 

The GE was later replaced with a more "modern" console, and more cart machines were added.
Robert Leembruggen recalls: "The new console was stereo. He had an aluminum frame built and brought it to the transmitter site. We drilled and tapped it with 10x32 threads. Each cart had its own stereo matrix decoder. Inside each decoder chassis we put in a switch that would take the cart off program and into cue. The program side of all eight carts was passively mixed through repeat transformers. All eight of the carts would reset an ESE timer. KRLA was Kahn stereo. In the 5.25 rack panel below carts 1 & 2 was Don's tail chase logic for the eight carts. I had cut out the text of a Heart'n'Soul of Rock'n'Roll bumper sticker and slapped it on. Below that was Don's beveled remote panel for the two Ampex reel-to-reels used for canning news and phoners. The ITC SP carts ran and ran. Remember Cetec's 8-channel stereo console. It sounded pretty good.

"KRLA was a playground for audio processing. Just about everyone who had a new box took it to KRLA for a test drive. Chris Hayes and Gregg Ogonowski did more for KRLA's sound than anyone."

Pulling up stakes and moving on.....

Because the station was required to send most all of its power to the west, the site was eventually abandoned as the station was unable to maintain its directional requirements from El Monte. The new site is said to be much more stable electronically, although the ground itself - a former landfill - has a lot of subsidence problems..
In 1987, a new site was built, in Irwindale. Here, a new directional array was installed and proved.
Peter Haas comments: "When Irwindale was constructed, a night array nearly identical to the original KPAS/KXLA array was installed, 135, 135, 135 and 135, except that 20 kW was approved for night..

"The Irwindale DA-D protects 1130's 10 kW DA-D using a local minimum, not a null. The nulls are towards the San Gabriel mountains, where, presumably, no one of importance lives."

Overhead view of the Irwindale site.

Four towers in-line form the night pattern, with the fifth (NW of the center of the in-line) and tower 1 being used in the daytime..

Chris Hays recalls:"When Greater Media purchased the station, the new Irwindale site was built in a year. A new 317C2 was installed. The Collins was brought over to maintain redundancy when the site was placed into full time operation. The reason was that the Collins literally could be loaded onto a truck, driven over, and hooked up in one day's time. Next, the older 317C2 was brought to Irwindale as full power backup. The 10 kW half of the old Continental was sold to a broadcaster up north. One of the principals at that station was former KRLA DJ Jay Stevens. I don't know what happened to the 50 kW portion. The towers are gone. The plans to build an auto mall were killed by the Army Corps of Engineers who had final say over that flood plane. The only tower left is a cell site on one end of the field. The building is still there. If you look closely when you drive by, you can see the concrete pads where the towers used to stand."

The Nautel ND-50 transmitter with the Continental 10 kW auxiliary on the left.
Chris Hays recalls: "Greater Media eventually decided to go with a more efficient transmitter, so the original 317C2 was sold and a new Nautel ND-50 solid state transmitter was installed. It was the primary until 2006 for Radio Disney (KDIS)."

This is the control panel on the KDIS phasor

The Nautel XL-50 transmitter
Serial #1

Installed 2006

The KDIS phasor sits between the old Nautel ND-50 and the XR-50

In 2009, KDIS continues on 1110 as the West Coast headquarters of Disney Radio.

Everyone who worked at KRLA remembered Jack Reeder (1913-1984). He was the original engineer
and, until he retired, ran the station under good times and bad.