Newcomb Weisenberger worked in KFI's engineering department for 33 years from 1947 until his retirement in 1980.
During his tenure - from Earle C. Anthony's time until after the station was sold to Cox Communications -. Newcomb saw many changes in the powerhouse station. He shares his memories with us.
You can email Newcomb here
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The tower’s story
July 16, 2004
The last and most important connection is made by the tower to the sky. Thomas Edison called this invisible conductor ETHER. I like to call it atmosphere, because it is so nebulous and is all around us here on our Earth-Sphere.
The tower and I both came to KFI during spring vacations in 1947.
It was decided that KFI would fell its old flattop antenna at Buena
Park and use its old 5000-Watt, WE, stand-by transmitter, while the new tower
was being installed. At a scheduled hour, the programming shifted to the
standby transmitter located at10th and Hope St. and the KFI signal
dropped from 50,000-Watts to 5,000-Watts. And at Buena Park the flattop
antenna was dropped to the ground.
Within twenty minutes the 5,000 Watt transmitter failed! A High Voltage filament transformer had burned out. At Master Control, I called BP and asked that they put the 50,000-Watt transmitter on the air as quickly as possible. An exasperated, Lyman Packard explained that they had just dropped the Flat Top and had drained the water-cooled tubes. We were on our own.
This happened three times, until we had lost each of the three phase Rectifier filament transformers.
NEW TOWER PLANTED
With that out of the way, and three new transformers in place, the new tower went up as scheduled. Section by section was added to the prepared insulated base.
The tower base, 57 years ago
Two sets of three guys each, held the vertical position of the completed tower. The top third of the tower stood self-supported above the top guying cables. The tower is not bolted down. It rests on a two or three-inch vertical pin that positions the tower on the base insulator. It stays there because the dead weight of the tower and the combined down thrust of the guying system amount to many tons. (In a word, Gravity.)
The War was nearly over but there was still danger to the tower. Other towers reportedly had been attacked. KFI was important to our Government. Soldiers were assigned to protect the site. They bunked in the boarded up garage. Powerful searchlights played on the cable anchors. After the soldiers, came civilian guards and after them, we were watched over by serious, guard dogs. So serious that they would attack us, too.
FLASH TO THE PRESENT
Now the year is 2004, 57 years have aged both the tower and me. The tower lights have been changed over and over again. Painters have climbed the 750 feet and traveled down the guy cables painting as they slide down to the ground. Lightning has struck repeatedly, static discharges arc over the spark gaps each week. Winds both cold and hot have shaken the tower. Its bolts must be retightened. (I am told that they loosen enough to be turned by hand.)
From having been the youngest KFI engineer, I am now in my late 80s and am the oldest. I am one of very few who remember Mr. E.C. Anthony, (owner and builder of KFI).
Over the years, I have visited the tower base and cleaned the large insulator over 500 times. And walked some 15 miles to do it. Now I am bent with age but the KFI tower stands with perfect posture, pointing to the center of the earth. (Note: Base insulators are only 4 inches thick. They are stronger because of the curve and being hollow!)
The tower sings a little song and dances to it. It has a life of its own, it is aware of the time of day and the month of the season. The wind strums on the heavily tensioned, cables. Humans can’t hear the tone. The tower shivers but our eye is not aware.
No one speaks of this, but the tower bows slightly, to the dawn and backs off from the afternoon sun. The tower stretches and relaxes. It shrinks a little when a cloud passes overhead.. It shrugs its shoulder and tires out, as it radiates KFI’s 50,000-watts.
For these reasons, KFI has installed all new guy cable and insulators and warning lights just because their tower is fifty-seven years old in 2004. We watched from a distance, not wanting to interfere with the riggers and to stay out of the potential “debris” field.
The March 2004 Change-Out was an historic event. One only lives to see this once and we would share it here. (Note: the following text and illustrations are the joint effort of your author, as well as KFI host, engineer Tony Dinkle, Chief Engineer, John Paoli, Magnum Tower’s Rigger Jack, former Chief Eng. Marvin Collins, Stanley Kelton, and always, the unmentioned, others like Harvey E. Smith who were both kind and helpful).
The premise: “To safely, support the tower while the old cable is removed and replaced by new cable. Using the present cable as a temporary cable, new cable is attached and tensioned in the very place the old cable had occupied.”
A man climbs a ladder rung by rung. He uses both hands! He holds “on” with one while he reaches above and grasps another rung. He never lets go, lest he fall. Riggers live this way every day. And in this way they changed KFI’s cables.
If the guy cable run is to act like a temporary cable, it must have two “hands”, double tie points, so the riggers grafted a second “hand” to each end of each of the six guys. This extra end becomes a supporting point while its partner is moved to a temporary tie point on the tower or ground anchor. The old cable becomes a temporary cable when it has vacated its tower tie points and is still supporting the tower. The new cable can now be installed, unencumbered.
The job requires carrying out these 14 simple operations, in this precise order. Lives depend on it.
(Please see Glossary) for explanation of terms and illustrations from the KFI site.
Place choker on old guy cable on tower.
1. Place choker on old guy cable on tower.
2. Using about a dozen clamps, clamp a pigtail onto the old guy near the end, just before it attaches to the tower.
3. Link the choker cable to the tower and temporally clamp cable together through the use of a comealong.
4. Dig out the dirt around the anchor and place a choker around the anchor.
5. Again, using about a dozen clamps, clamp a pigtail onto the old guy cable near its end.
6. Link the cable connected to the choker around the anchor together with the temporary pigtail through the use of a comealong. (This pulls the tower, visibly out of alignment.)
7. Put a slight tension on both comealongs so that the tension is removed from the pins at each end of the old cable.
8. Pull the pins from the tower end and the anchor end of the old cable.
9. Cut and remove each disconnected end of old cable. (To get them out of the way).
10. Pin the ends of the new guy cable to the, original, connections on the tower
11. Cut and connect the lower end of the new guy to the anchor turnbuckle.
12. Use the turnbuckle to adjust the tension of the new guy cable.
13. Slowly, release the tension on the old guy cable being held by the pigtails.
14. Remove old guy cables.
We assume that the new guying system will match the insulator placement and weight of the old system. All concrete anchors should be examined while dirt has been removed for this operation.
The Tower (or vertical radiator) is:
the most visible part of a radio station.
a transformer whose secondary is the sky.
a vertical bridge of steel connecting KFI to the sky. KFI crosses it 640,000 times a second, in both directions!
the launching point, silently taking a whisper in the KFI studio and shakes the skies across the Nation.
a perfect performer for 57 years. It has taken everything in its stride, including a brush by an airplane - a real hit that crashed the plane.
marked on the Navigation maps. Pilots take their direction from it, using its flashing red beacon and its steady 24-hour, KFI signal.
the most ignored part of the station.
The sky often charges the tower with brush discharge. This “static” electricity leaps harmlessly across the protective spark gaps at the tower’s base.
There are several theories about Transverse
Electromagnetic Radiation. It helps to use both the Quantum and Wave theories.
Engineers haven’t agreed on just what happens between the tower and the sky.
I think that when KFI feeds 50,000-Watts at the proper radio frequency, THE TOWER “brushes” it back into the sky, in the same manner that the sky feeds the tower. My Proof is that I have seen and heard both things happen.
As the new cable replaced the old, the guys seemed to disappear. As though the tower had no visible means of support. The March skies at Buena Park matched the new, steel color of the cables.
When the old rusty guys fell to the ground, never to be used again, they were chopped by an abrasive blade, into 4 and 5 foot lengths to fit into a dumpster. Now they are billets of steel weighing about 60 lbs. and so stiff that they don’t bend under their own weight.
Shortly the engineers noticed a man in the dumpster throwing cable bits over the side! Phone calls followed one another making competitive offers to buy the steel. More interest was shown the old, cut up, cable than the new cable in the sky.
(Cliché is an overused simile.) ”In Kenya, I saw vultures hopping around a downed Zebra hopping onto the carcass, just like the man hopped into the KFI dumpster for pieces of what was left.
When one stands near the tower and lifts his eyes to see the 750-foot flashing beacon, he will be just as comfortable to turn his back to the tower.
Be mindful as you might stand here, that you are standing on the same ground (earth) (dirt) that holds the guy anchors, supports the tower base and covers the vast underground carpet of metal, aptly named the Station Ground.
It is more complicated than this but the earth/sky impedance is reflected into the transmitter and becomes the load that accepts the 50,000-watt signal we call KFI. From a copper pad at the tower base 120 conductors buried at plow depth, radiate 360 degrees, at 3-degree intervals. These extend for at least as far as the tower is tall. (Some of these are now visible on the surface of the Buena Park parking area.)
It is fact that there are currents in the earth (ground), in the tower and “Standing Waves in space” (Just as natural as the unseen, coastal canyons that continue on below the ocean’s surface into its depths.)
Items to note:
|ANCHOR||The buried concrete block that secures the guy cable sometimes called The Dead Man because the buried cross member is of size and shape to entomb a body.|
|CHOKE||The self-tightening cable noose, wrapped around the above ground portion of the anchor, and the tower tie point.|
|CLAMP||The “U” shaped cable clamp that squeezes two cables together or a cable to its self, forming a terminal loop.|
|COMEALONG||(Hand Hoist) A hand operated jack that with each stroke, pulls the attached cable into tension in small increments.|
|PIGTAIL||A short length of cable, usually attached to something else.|
A smooth, solid steel, cylinder with a flat head. The other end is drilled for a cotter pin. This rigging pin closes the open face of a clevis or “U” shaped end of an insulator or cable end.
(One of the 1947 KFI guy pins holds down my desk! --Visitors welcome, free tours of KFI stuff!)
|SERVE||To wrap and strengthen the cut end of cable. This is to prevent splaying out and untwisting of cable strands and to attach proper terminal fixtures for its use.|
|SERVING||The preformed wrapping strands act to bind the guy cable more securely as strains come on the cable in use.|
|TENSIOMETER||A direct reading meter to indicate tension, in tons, of a cable in use|
|TURNBUCKLE||This is the fixture at the anchor with the long threaded steel rods. It is in line between the guy and the anchor. Free running nuts allow for considerable adjustment of cable length. Once up and tension-adjusted these will be used from time to time, to re-adjust for cable stretch and other movement|
The preformed wrapping
strands act to bind the guy cable more securely as strains come on the
cable in use.
(Rigger Jack said,” It acts like a Chinese finger trap.”)
|Notice the two, cone shaped,
parts. One is placed over the cut cable end to contain the cable strands.
The cone goes inside the wrapping strands and separates each one. (The strands can be seen resting each in its own bed.)
When under tension the two cones fit tightly to secure each strand from both sides.
The Stainless steel hose clamp squeezes the cable, close to the cut.
Guy cable is steel wire rope. Gaining strength
from the bundled strands the intense friction prevents slippage,
even when the cable is tested to failure. (The hand is grasping the “wrap network,”
on both sides we see the cable underneath the “wrap net.”)
|Older meters used a large
analog dial New ones are
digital with hand-held display.
Note: the meter is NOT in line with the guy cable.
Upper left are the clamps holding the pigtailed meter parallel to the guy.
The clevis below the send unit is drawn to measure the tension as it shifts to the meter.
(the guy portion across the meter will be slack during the reading )
The electric line
drops down to the hand held
digital read out.
new cable came cut to order for each guy, complete, ready to pin to the
insulators and the tower.
KFI’s new cable came cut to order for each guy, complete, ready to pin to the insulators and the tower.
This “Rigger” sketch shows the “decisive moment”. This is the pin drop (literally pivotal.)
|A. The old guy has been secured to the temporary tower connection.(clamping pig- tail)|
|B. The tower has been pulled out of line, relieving the tension and weight on the pin|
|C. Here the pin has been pulled, the original tower connection is vacated as the cable end falls away. (The Tower stands! Held by its temporary tie point.)|
|NOTE: There are three equidistant Guy Anchors, each supports two guys from two heights on the tower but from the same direction.|
The taller the tower the more stress on the support system. The higher placed guys feel the greater stress.
The KFI tower uses 1 ¼ “ cable for the top guys and 210 lbs. Insulators. Rated at 53-1/2 tons. The lower guys are one inch cable. The lower insulators weigh 116 lbs and are rated at 34 ½ tons.
The 57-year old tower base insulator is tested for 900,000 pounds. It is rated at 450,000 pounds. We estimate that it is working near its proper rating.
KFI accommodated the men on the tower by reducing the Radio Frequency power. The men came down in the afternoon drive time and power was restored to 50,000 Watts.
The Riggers are tower athletes. They are not men of steel nor do they have nerves of steel. They do approach the tower with respect. They bring, with them, safety concerns that require a safety factor of 4. Riggers carry with them, caution, that places each and every hand and foot hold all day long.*
"Space Men" on the tower with one leg out in space.
The last time I spoke with Jack, I had asked how he placed his own safety in the hands of the winch operator, as he walked away, he confidently, said, “He is my Brother.”
*Riggers slap their gauntlets, like hooks, over the rungs. They do not. hang on with a grip, so as to avoid dangerous hand cramps.
It stood for 57 years. But, now, like the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos of Alexandra, the Colossus of Buena Park is now history And we have lived to see it stand there in the field for nearly six decades, until it was knocked down on December 19, 2004
WHY THE BENIGN GIANT WAS ERECTED
This unnamed Colossus was called KFI. This tower was a fire red, beacon, as were the other giants before it .Not only a lighthouse, it also radiated powerful radio waves at 640,000 Hertz. The tallest structure in this part of the state, it was marked on flight maps as a homing reference for pilots.
This tall giant rose 750 feet, not to reach to God like the Ziggurats of Babylon, but to reach out thousands of miles in all directions, to us. It was dedicated to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.
Please let me share some interesting detail and mystery about this steel paradox. I have served here most all its life. I first came to KFI (as a young engineer) during its erection in 1947 The facts to follow may seem unbelievable, but I will continue to tell you the very truth.
HOW IT WAS ASSEMBLED
The tower though weighing, hundreds of tons, does not touch the ground. This giant is made to be part of the sky. It stands on one foot and that foot is made of clay *.It was assembled in the air, as would be a raft made of floating logs. When it is finished, it is already launched.
Again, though not part of the earth, it is bound to it with steel cable weighing one pound per inch! (This giant was a captive slave.) It was designed to stand at attention, erect through all weather, lightning and storm, for lifetimes to come. It is accurately pointed at the center of the earth. Although unattached, it is positioned by a steel pin that you could circle with your hand. Gravity holds it in place.
Here, let me plainly say: Electrically, this tower floated above ground (earth). Physically it didn’t touch the earth either, instead, though the tower is itself, a conductor, it rested on a non-conducting ceramic insulator.
“To touch the tower was akin to touching the sky.” The point being made is that the tower is like a floating airship, and as an airship is moored, the tower is bound to the earth by insulated cables. This is redundant, but must be understood, if one is to read further.
The towering giant, KFI, continued a dialogue with the sky. We really do not fully understand how it bridges its steel to the air. Do you?
HOW IT RADIATES?
As the tower is erected, it begins to ‘absorb’ power from the sky. Real power that can knock the man down who dares to touch it! (I have seen the arcs.) This is to help you believe this next statement. When 50,000 watts at 640,000 hertz are fed into this tower, the tower makes an intangible connection from steel to the air. (The standing waves measured on the tower can now also be measured in the air - I have done this) This much we know.
KFI radiates an Amplitude Modulated signal. It is a transverse electro magnetic wave. As is sunshine! Hold out your palm on a sunny day. The sun’s signal has passed through the frozen wastes of space and just as you feel it, a quantum bit of sun has stopped and turned into heat as you "receive" it. Radio has the same kind of magic.
It is not by chance that the Pyramid Builders worshiped the God Ra and that we now are speaking of Ra diation. At one point in time, they did not worship the bull but the sun disk between its horns,. Well, not really the disk but the sun the disk stood for. OK, not quite the sun either - actually the rays from the sun. Consider this hymn from that ancient time.
thou art on high,
Thy footprints are the day.”
We note this thought, for what is to follow - another mystery of the KFI Colossus.
I am a part of this and must speak of myself: KFI maintained a path from the Buena Park building to the base of its giant tower. Every Sunday midnight an engineer (for ten years -over 500 times- it was me) was sent down that dark path to the tower base. We carried clean white cloths to wipe the condensed, dew and dirt from the glazed ceramic tower base insulator. We had installed a large, two foot long, knife switch to "short" the tower to ground while we safely, touched it with caution and care.
Were we, mistakenly, performing obeisance to a giant icon? Were we making a pilgrimage to its foot? Were we government licensed acolytes, cleansing the clay foot? I have no answer except that there was no practical reason for this ritual! It was not done at other stations; it is no longer done but every year or two.
THE MIGHTY KFI COLOSSUS HAS FALLEN
SUNDAY DEC 19, 2004 - From the initial images, it appears as if a "hostile" aircraft entered KFI’s air space. A small rented airplane acting as if it were a manned missile precisely struck the tower near its top-flashing beacon, taking it down in moments.
Please note: We do not know the intention or set of circumstance that came about to take two lives and destroy this landmark. And are making no assumption when we say we are reminded of the Kamikaze pilots that dove down the stacks of our ships in WW2 and more recently when our own planes took down NYs proud twin towers. We are saddened by this freak event as all parties are at loss.
We say that the tower "is down." But it didn’t fall down. That is, not like a tree is felled, sprawled out its own length. After the fatal blow, it crumpled like a man, to his knees and again at his waist, and at last lay dead on its side. Actually, folded in nearly the human fetal position. It fell in much a reverse way from that in which it was erected. It crumpled and folded, and at last rocked up off its mooring pin and slipped to the ground, touching it for the first and last time in over 50 years. I didn’t care to visit the doomed site. But pictures show that another curious thing happened as the KFI Colossus died.
As the twisted steel writhed on the ground, the glazed ceramic foot seems to be unscathed! Perhaps even re-usable. Have you thought of a reason for this? I haven’t heard anyone speak of it. I will end this story with one obvious answer.
KFI, the radio station, is not dead.
The powerful voice is just whispering until a new tower will again
allow it to use its 50,000-watts to shake the skies across America.
Watch along the I-5 freeway, where we saw the old Colossus at Buena Park. There is already the concept of a new tower, identical to our late friend, standing where he stood. Perhaps, standing tall under the same, near new, support system KFI put in place only months ago. .
THE PARADOX OF THE BASE INSULATOR.
cannot speak of the KFI Tower without speaking of the base insulator.
know that the stretched molecules in worked, metal are elongated.
(Recently, I learned that it is not the stretching that weakens formed metal, it
is the compaction that takes place when the metal is bent.)
thru Roman ruins, I see intact portions of terracotta pipe and fragments of it scattered
in the soil from which it was taken. (This after 4,000 to 6,000 years.)
During this time, marble has crumbled and bronze has eroded away.
the downed KFI Colossus were to remain as it fell, it will be the base insulator
that retains its shape while the ruined tower will become a red stain in the
The story needs no hyperbole. Please take the full weight of the
adjectives in this 6th grade vocabulary. I am not a poet but an old
engineer writing to non-engineers. Between the lines, I hope you see a
wonderful time of life. Radio’s Golden Years. nbw
Answer: The ceramic, base insulators did not break because ...this was the part of the tower that moved the least. The safest place to stand while the tower was descending was by its base. (Then too the ceramic was trimmed with cast metal.)
*The Biblical O.T. Giant was made of metal with feet made of clay, (it also fell)
Through the thin wiping cloth, I became familiar with the smoothness and
imperfections of the insulator that indicated its texture. It felt cool,
an indication of its efficiency. I remember its delicate concave shape.
Designed to add strength against compaction. Not thinking that it was
hollow and only inches thick. When wiped, it was dark brown and reflective
of my flashlight. With that touch, I felt that I was part of this; power, stress
and history, content to be in awe of the mysteries I share with you.
Park in the 50,60s, and 70s was still rural. Many stars were in the sky with the
tower and quiet little animals moved in the dead grass at my feet. Horses were
pastured in the shadow of the tower.
locked the gate behind me to be sure that I was alone in the night We
treated the transmitter and tower as if they were ours. Mr. Earle C.
Anthony, (owner and builder of KFI) thought of us as his family and said that
KFI was part of it.
petty cash money was kept in a cigar box. The isolated, two-story building
seemed to be a lone, ship moored to the tall tower. The crew was self-motivated
and needed little supervision. Neighbors were acres away.
We seldom visited the 141 N. Vermont studios and the engineers working there, sadly, most of the Sales and Programming staff never saw the Colossus at Buena Park.
hear a broadcast of the sign's message
The original tower is shown still in the sky with Psalm 19:4 that was posted at 10th and hope streets when KFI was 5,000 watts and its antenna was a flat top, like a ship. This19th psalm became a 360-degree mural in the lobby at 141 N Vermont when KFI purchased the property. My old and fading photograph is left to reinforce an old and fading memory.
These other views are to show how the two parts of the base insulator fit together to position the tower (These are from the original tower and are shown as displaced after the crash down.) credit Marvin Collins.
open hole of the upper half, is shown horizontally. In use, it is vertical and
is penetrated by the vertical anchor pin, now shown vacant.
tower tragedy has exposed these once in a lifetime views. In 57 years, I had
never seen this naked pin. (To disconnect, the multi-ton tower had to un-fall
the height of the pin.) Rocking the rounded base to the point where it
slipped off the pin allowed this! years ago riggers manually positioned it
on to that pin! Notice the shiny ring of contact on the empty pin. (This
indicates a perfect weather-tight fit - no oxidation.)
Other parts of a radio station can be fixed or readily replaced. But this 750 foot, “Key to the Sky” must be patiently, fabricated, delivered and assembled at the KFI site.
|We wish to express our thanks to Newcomb Weisenberger for
sharing his memories and pictures with us. Long retired from KFI,
Newcomb resides in Signal Hill (Long Beach), California. He is pictured here with his late wife, Alma. They were married for 70 years, until her death in May 2009.