This is the KFBK History section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by: Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
last update: 9/14/16

A Pictorial Tour of KFBK

KFBK history

Here are some images and recollections from the folks who worked at KFBK, the 50 kW flamethrower in Sacramento.

KFBK traces its history from the McClatchy family media companies. 

When the first thing that greets you in the lobby of the station is a facsimile of the center insulators of the towers, you know you are dealing with people who love radio.

Approximately  25 miles north of Sacramento, in the middle of a farming area, you can find the only two towers licensed in the USA as true "Franklin" antennas - KFBK

By stacking two half-wave antennas, KFBK has, perhaps, the highest RMS field of any station in the country - over 3500 mV/m at one kilometer - resuilting in nearly 100 kW of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) from a 50 kW transmitter.

Halfway up the tower is the insulated section.

On the left, notice the feedline comimg up the side. The RF is split and fed to each section.  There is a tuning network located here. 

At one time, regular trips were required by the station engineers to adjust the network.

This is an insulator, such as used between the sections of the tower. It was removed in 19xx, when the East Tower was rebuilt after a pilot flew into it. The remains of the original 1948 tower still lay in the field.


The actual feed to the tower is still accomplished with an open wire system

The feedline goes through a "screen" area, referred to as a bazooka, to match the line to the tower..

Here, Chief Engineer Ross du Clair is shown at the base of tower 1. The RF is sent up to the center point of the tower, and split there. 

Back at the transmitter building

KFBK - and McClatchy engineers - have always been in the forefront of technology. Much of KFBK's plant was originally designed and built by the McClatchy team. Some of their innovations helped shape the industry.

KFBK uses a DX-50, serial number 1, as their main transmitter since its installation in 1989.  It has proven itself a solid performer for many years.

A couple of comments about the KFBK page; that pile of iron in the field is mostly the old KOH towers from Sparks, NV. One job that McClatchy charged me with was getting those towers removed after they sold KOH and KOH had moved xmtr sites. The iron was brought to the KFBK site after dismantling. Some of the iron is from a former KFBK-FM tower in the downtown Sacramento area.


The Harris DX-50 is now the auxiliary analog-only xmtr. The main transmitter is a Nautel XR-50 IBOC transmitter. (The first IBOC transmitter at the station was a BE 50 Kw. It had a myriad of problems and BE engineers spent a total of 5 weeks on site trying to tame it. After the BE engineers went back to Quincy the transmitter self-destructed at 5PM on a weekday. The Nautel was ordered the next morning, along with an RMA from BE.)

The Nautel has had a few problems but works fairly reliably. Nothing beats the reliability of the DX-50 though. Current Chief Engineer Dave Fortenberry shares the picture at left, along with this one:


The phasor was built by McClatchy engineers.
Of course, in the old days, there was a complete workshop, with machinery to do everything from bend and shape metal to building the parts that kept the station on the air.

The Auxiliary transmitter is an RCA-BTA50-H1S

McClatchy engineers developed the "ampliphase" transmission system from a French design. It appears they built the first working example at KFBK, and sold the concept to RCA.

Before heading out to the studio, there is one more memento that needs to be appreciated.
This logo ... of the "Bee" ... the flagship newspaper of the McClatchy company, was drawn by Walt Disney.  Ross du Clair says it was one of the few times Disney did not continue to own the image. And although it is just a memory, the "MickeyPhone" has an honored place at the transmitter site.


My sincere thanks to Ross du Clair for sharing his time and knowledge of the KFBK site.