Lightship radio beacon

Jan the lightship man
22nd June 2008, 11:43
Hi, it's me again: trying to re-construct the radio room of my 1959 lightship.

The lightship used to have a beacon radio. I thought it would be a Marconi, similar to the original SSB telephony transceiver. But I was told Marconi never made one.

So I am trying to figure out what it could have been!
I know most of you never seen one (they obviously weren't installed on merchant ships) but hope one of you might be able to help.
Of course the radio beacons were (and still are) installed at most lighthouses as well.

Anyway, any help is welcome!


23rd June 2008, 02:06
Hello Jan. I operated a DF Radio Beacon on the Nab Tower lighthouse in Spithead, off the Isle of Wight. The beacon was only switched on during fog periods or when booked for ships to calibrate their DF receivers. I remember turning it on for the old Queen Mary to calibrate her DF on what turned out to be her final "liner" crossing of the Atlantic. Other lighthouses and lightships had beacons which transmitted continuously or at certain fixed periods.

The transmitter was quite large, being fully valve operated, and was quite simple to operate - an on/off switch as far as I recall. It operated on a frequency in the low 400 kc/s range I think. It broadcast a signal consisting of a two letter ID (sent in morse), followed by a couple of long dashes. It was not SSB as only morse was used. SSB was a thing of the future then anyway.

I can't remember the name of the manufacturer, but Trinity House may be able to help with some technical details. Have they still got their maintenance depot at Blackwall in London? I think there may be a museum there.

Where was your lightship stationed? The frequency and characteristics of the signal would have been published in the Admiralty List of Radio Signals Volume 4 (I think), also the ITU List of Radiodetermination Stations (or something like that).

Hope this helps a little. Good luck with your project.

John T.