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The ultimate wireless connectivity: Radio hams in Caister prepare to go global for Marconi

PUBLISHED: 14:33 12 April 2017

Weatherman and NARC member Jim Bacon at the Caister Radio Station during a previous International Marconi Day. Picture: Steve Nichols

Weatherman and NARC member Jim Bacon at the Caister Radio Station during a previous International Marconi Day. Picture: Steve Nichols

Free for editorial use - Steve Nichols 07899 992389

Norfolk’s radio amateurs will attempt to contact other hams around the world to chime with a global event.

A postcard showing the original Caister Marconi Wireless Station in the early 1900s.A postcard showing the original Caister Marconi Wireless Station in the early 1900s.

As part of celebrations to honour radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi they will try to connect with as many stations as possible to win an award.

The Norfolk Amateur Radio Club (NARC) will be running an all-day special event station at Caister Lifeboat Visitor Centre on Saturday April 22 to commemorate the village’s original Marconi Wireless Station, established in 1900.

The station was in a house in the High Street known as Pretoria Villa and its original purpose was to communicate with ships in the North Sea and the Cross Sands lightship. Last year on International Marconi Day the radio amateurs managed to contact more than 200 hams in 36 countries including Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Canada.

They were also thrilled to get as far as Japan and Alaska using Morse code and about the same amount of power as a light bulb.

Other sites with historical links to the Italian inventor will also be setting up, including those at Poldhu in England; Cape Cod Massachusetts; Glace Bay, Nova Scotia; Villa Griffone, Bologna, Italy and many others.

NARC will run two stations at the boathouse – one using speech (telephony) and the other Morse code (telegraphy).

Any radio amateur making contact with either station can request a special card with a photograph of the original Caister Marconi Wireless Station on the front.

Organiser Steve Nichols, said: “Any visitors will be made more than welcome. In addition to the radio stations the Visitor Centre will also be open, which offers a fascinating insight into the remarkable history of Caister Lifeboat.”

Further history of the original Marconi Wireless Station

The Caister station was connected by land line to Great Yarmouth Post Office and the Caister Coast Guard Station.

According to local historian Colin Tooke the main aerial mast behind the house was 150ft tall, the aerial wire being suspended between this and a slightly shorter mast situated on land where Lacon Road was later built.

The large front room of the house contained the main apparatus and was also used as the operating room.

The engine for charging the accumulators was in a shed next to the house and the accumulators themselves were housed in a specially-constructed annex.

The officer-in-charge also lived there.

The range of communication was 150 to 200 miles on the long wave (600m) and 100 miles on the short wave (300m).

In 1909 all the Marconi coastal stations were taken over by the Post Office.

In 1911 the Caister station was used to train lightship men in the use of telegraphy equipment.

In January 1915 the telegraph equipment on the Cross Sand lightship was transferred to the Parlour lightship and the Caister station was changed to ‘general working’ and not used for ship-to-shore work.

Public use of the telegram facility provided at Caister was suspended for the duration of the First World War.

In 1921 plans were made for the reinstallation of wireless on Trinity House lightships, but this time the new wireless telephony was to replace telegraphy (Morse).

New technology made the Caister station out of date and it finally closed in 1929.

The masts were taken down and a few years later the house became the village police station.

About Norfolk Amateur Radio Club

The club has more than 100 members, a strong history dating back to the 1950s and has a very active calendar of talks, events, special event stations and courses.

It meets at 7pm on Wednesdays at the Sixth Form Common Room, City of Norwich School, Eaton Road, Norwich, Norfolk.

The programme alternates weekly between talks or club challenges, and informal meetings with Morse tuition, electronic construction and “Bright Sparks” events for youngsters.

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