1985: Description of ZLW site and buildings

By Chris Underwood, former Senior Technician, Wellington Radio ZLW

Photos and drawings are from a property evaluation report by the Divisional Architect, Property Division, Post Office HQ, and based on a visit to the station on 11 April 1985.

Entrance to the station was made by a very steep road which tested some vehicles. I can remember having to back up the hill in an old CA Bedford van, it just couldn’t make it in first it was so old and tired.

On the plan of the station the initially very steep road, to about the RO, leads in from the suburb of Northland. From the RO on, the road is not nearly so steep.

Main entrance of the RO building at ZLW in 1985.

Main entrance of the RO building at ZLW in 1985. Photo: NZ Post Office.

Except for the top of the hill, where the TX station and antenna farm is, the station buildings are built into the side of a relatively steep hillside which was thickly covered by regenerating bush. There was a foot track through this bush between the RO and TX building – a great shortcut on a fine day but slippery and dripping wet on a wet one.

The RO building changed very little, if at all, during the time I worked up there but the TX building was heavily modified. The original building was constructed from stone by convicts and had a certain rustic charm about it. When I first went there in 1965 the old building had already been extended to the south by a large concrete extension which just about doubled the size of the building. In 1965 the old stone part of the building held a power room and what had been the chief technician’s office (Ed Beckett was the last chief tech when the place was manned 24 hours a day) and part of the TX Hall.

Many of the old transmitters were still there along the west wall but not used and nor was most of the old equipment in the power room, things like large rotary generators. They still worked and sounded like the whine of a jet engine as they came up to speed.

Other small hut-sized buildings mainly used by the riggers were clustered to the west near the main door of the TX building. Some of these, especially the small stone one often used by the riggers as their lunchroom, can be seen in old photos.

Someone decided that as the stone buildings had no reinforcing steel in them that they were an earthquake hazard and a contract was let to tear them down. The Powers That Be and the contractor thought this would easily be done in a day once the gear inside was removed. This proved not to be the case and it took more than a week and a very large bulldozer to knock the old buildings over.

A new concrete emergency power room containing two air-cooled generating plants was constructed where the old stone building had been. It was joined to the concrete transmitting hall and forms the building shown in the attached photos and floor plan. Over all I think it is a little smaller than the building I first knew.

South end of the transmitter building at ZLW c 1985

South end of the transmitter building at ZLW in 1985. Photo: NZ Post Office

North end of the transmitter building at ZLW in 1985.

North end of the transmitter building at ZLW in 1985. Photo: NZ Post Office

Riggers depot at ZLW c1985.

Riggers depot at ZLW in 1985. Photo: NZ Post Office

When I returned as senior technician on the station in 1970 most of the old transmitters I remembered from 1965 had been replaced by new services using new transmitters. The JRC SSB small ships transmitters were then being installed at the time by one of my colleagues, Bill Jacob.

Plan of the Receiving Office at ZLW in 1985.

Plan of the Receiving Office at ZLW in 1985. Source: NZ Post Office

Plan of the transmitter building at ZLW in 1985

Plan of the transmitter building at ZLW in 1985. Source: NZ Post Office

Plan of the riggers' depot at ZLW in 1985.

Plan of the riggers’ depot at ZLW in 1985. Source: NZ Post Office

Site plan of Wellington Radio ZLW in 1985.

Site plan of Wellington Radio ZLW in 1985. Source: NZ Post Office. Click for larger version.