Secure Site Login


Shore Station KPH Call Sign to Return to the Airwaves on October 8


Nearly 20 years after shore station KPH in California went dark, that call sign will be back on the air on Saturday, October 8, for a commemorative transmission, opening the doors to the public for the occasion. KPH will be operating from its original home on its original frequencies using its original transmitters, receivers and antennas, “and even some of the original operators!” said Richard “RD” Dillman, W6AWO, of the Marine Radio Historical Society (MRHS). Dillman explains that KPH began as station “PH” in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in 1905.

“It moved to several locations after the earthquake, ending up in Marin County north of San Francisco in 1920 with transmitters at the 1914 Marconi transpacific site in Bolinas and receivers at the Marconi receive site in Marshall,” Dillman recounted. “In 1946 the KPH receive site moved to the short wave transpacific receive site at Point Reyes, with transmitters still in Bolinas. It continued to provide radiogram service to ships at sea until 30 June 1997, when the license was sold to a competitor. With the license went the iconic call KPH.”

Dillman said the MRHS began restoring the station in 1999 and obtained another commercial call sign, KSM, continuing to operate the KPH facility on KSM frequencies to provide service to ships. “But, of course, we wanted to get back the KPH call and the KPH frequencies, so the station would be exactly as it was when they closed the doors in 1997,” Dillman told ARRL. That became a reality a few months ago, when the MRHS concluded an agreement with the current KPH licensee to add the Bolinas and Point Reyes sites to the license. That gave the MRHS authority to once again use the KPH call sign and frequencies.

“The crack MRHS Transmitter Department has shifted all the KSM transmitters back to their original KPH frequencies, retuned the antennas, tested the keying and advise that all will be in order for the resumption of KPH service,” Dillman said. Doors will open at the RCA receive site in the Point Reyes National Seashore at 1900 UTC. It’s hoped that Ray Smith — the operator who signed KPH Bolinas/Point Reyes off the air in June of 1997 — will do the honors. KPH will then pick up the thread and resume operations, just as it did for so many decades. Dillman said KPH will provide the same services coast stations always have — radiograms to and from ships, high seas weather, and news of interest to the maritime community.

KPH transmission frequencies will include 426, 500, 4247, 6477.5, 8642, 12808.5, 17016.8, and 22477.5 kc. KPH and Amateur Radio station K6KPH will be on the air every Saturday and Sunday. KPH will monitor 500 kc and ITU HF channel 3 for calls from ships, as well as on 4184, 6276, 8368, 12,552, 16,736, and 22,280.5 kc.

Amateur Radio station K6KPH will be in operation as usual, listening for calls on 3550, 7050, 14050, 18,097.5, and 21,050 kHz. K6KPH has remained operational throughout the history of the restoration project, “giving amateurs a chance to work the last remaining commercial Morse code coast station,” Dillman said. K6KPH uses the original KPH transmitters, throttled back to 1.5 kW, antennas and receivers.

KSM will cease normal operation after October 8, but on that day, several KSM transmitters will remain on the air to provide information about the switch to KPH. KSM CW frequencies for October 8 and possibly on some subsequent Saturdays will be 6474, 12,993, and 22,445.8 kc. According to the MRHS, the KSM transmitters on those frequencies “will all be vintage heavy iron: 1950s vintage RCA K and L sets and the 1942 Press Wireless PW15.”

“When we began our project we would never have believed this day would come,” Dillman said.