Blaw-Knox towers and Nashville

Scott Fybush
Thu Mar 17 13:50:09 EDT 2011

Doug Drown wrote:
> The WLW tower is the one seen on "WKRP in Cincinnati." It's immense. Back
> in the '60s, when I saw it, it dominated the whole city skyline. Probably
> still does. 

A little clarification: the tower on Chickasaw Street that was seen in 
the WKRP opening sequence belonged to WLWT (or "WLW-T," if you prefer), 
the erstwhile TV sister station to WLW. It was indeed a dominant 
presence on the city's skyline...until WLWT built a taller tower right 
in front of it. The old tower was torn down a couple of years ago.

There are three TV towers in close proximity on that ridge just north of 
downtown: WKRC-TV 12, WLWT and WCPO-TV 9.

The WLW radio tower cannot be seen from downtown Cincinnati; it's in 
Mason, about 25 miles to the north, and it does dominate the skyline out 
there, such as it is.

The engineering principles of the time dictated that "high-power" 
stations (anything above a kilowatt!) be located at a considerable 
distance from population centers to avoid overloading the very 
non-selective receivers of the time. That's why WBZ built its high-power 
facility out in Millis in 1931, and why the initial NBC and CBS New York 
high-power AMs were built far out of town, CBS at Wayne, NJ and NBC at 
Bound Brook NJ (WJZ) and Bellmore, Long Island (WEAF).

I think Dan may have somewhat overestimated the number of Blaw-Knox 
"diamond" towers that ever existed. There were certainly several 
prominent examples that no longer stand, including CBS' WABC tower at 
Wayne and the WCAU tower in Newtown Square, PA, outside Philadelphia. 
But those were all very, very early in the history of vertical AM 
radiators, and the diamond-shaped tower proved to be very expensive to 
build and maintain, with no particular technical advantage over the 
simpler square- or triangular-cross-section guyed or self-supporting 
towers that became the industry standards.

And the adoption of the vertical radiator was by no means immediate; as 
late as 1947, there were still prominent network O&O 50 kW stations 
using T-type longwire radiators. (KPO/KNBC in San Francisco may have 
been the last to convert; WEAF was also quite late in the game.)

I don't believe, in the end, that there were ever more than perhaps a 
couple of dozen Blaw-Knox "diamond" towers.

> Blaw-Knox is still in active existence as a heavy equipment manufacturer. I
> saw a fairly new Blaw-Knox bulldozer just a short time ago. It took 
> me by surprise.  -Doug

The nameplate was sold several times over the years, and now apparently 
belongs to Volvo Heavy Equipment.


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