Nauen Transmitter Station

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Preserved Nauen transmitter building, dating from 1920

Nauen Transmitter Station (German: Grossfunkstelle Nauen or Sender Nauen) in Nauen, Havelland district, Brandenburg, Germany, is the oldest continuously operating radio transmitting installation in the world. It was founded on 1 April 1906 by Telefunken engineer R. Hirsch on a 40-hectare property north of Nauen, leased from Fideikommissar Fritz Stotze. It operated as a longwave radiotelegraphy station through the end of World War 2, when invading Russian troops dismantled and removed the transmitting equipment. Since then it has been used as an international shortwave station. The original 1920 transmitter building remains.


25 kW quenched spark transmitter built 1906 at Nauen, showing large 400 μF Leyden jar capacitor bank (rear) and vertical quenched spark gaps (right)
Umbrella antenna of transmitter

During the early years of the 20th century industrial nations began building networks of powerful longwave transoceanic radiotelegraphy stations to communicate with other countries and keep in touch with their overseas colonies. These transmitted telegram traffic with Morse code at high speed using paper tape machines. During World War I long distance radio communication became a strategic technology; not only was it necessary to keep in contact with oversees armies and naval fleets, but a nation that didn't have radio could be isolated by an enemy cutting its submarine telegraph cables (as happened to Germany during both world wars).

The Telefunken company, founded in 1903 by radio pioneers Adolf Slaby, Georg von Arco, and Karl Ferdinand Braun, was (with its rival, Britain's Marconi Company) one of the two giant wireless firms of the age. Built by Telefunken, the Nauen station was Germany's first high power radio transmitter. Trial service was initiated on 9 August 1906, and operational service began on 16 August 1906 using a 25 kW quenched spark transmitter, which fed an umbrella antenna supported by a steel lattice mast 100 metres high, insulated from earth. Since the station had no commercial power, a 35 HP steam tractor was installed in the transmitter building, a light half timbered house, which powered a 50 Hz alternator producing 24 kW output power.

Arc transmitters were installed in 1909, which increased the range of the station to 5000 kilometres.

A radio link with the German colony of Togoland was established for the first time in 1911. In the same year the antenna tower was increased to 200 metres in height; however, this tower was destroyed by a storm on 31 March 1912. A temporary replacement antenna was suspended between two 120 metres high masts. This was replaced by a V-shaped antenna supported by five masts at end of 1912. In 1913 the first high power alternator transmitter was installed in the station. This was an early radio transmitter technology invented by Georg von Arco similar to the Alexanderson alternator, which generated radio frequency current using a rotating generator turned by an electric motor, but the output frequency was produced by a magnetic frequency doubler.

A large antenna, 1037 metres long, was installed on 10 February 1914 supported by a 260-metre mast and two 120-metre masts. A new modern transmitter building was also installed.

First World War and the interwar period[edit]

The site in 1931

After the beginning of World War I, the station became very important because the transatlantic cables leading to Germany were cut by the British Navy. During the war, the station was run by the German Admiralty. The British Radio Intelligence Service devoted much effort into intercepting and decoding communications from the station during the war.

In 1916, at the urging of Bredow, major additional development of the station took place. The antenna system was enormously increased in size and additional longwave machine transmitters were installed. In 1920 the main antenna, carried on two 260-metre and four 125-metre-high (410 ft) masts, was 2484 metres long.

At a right angle to the large antenna was a smaller antenna, carried by three masts, one of which looked like an electricity power transmission pylon. The last longwave transmitter was installed at Nauen in 1923. Shortwave transmitters were installed after 1924.

From 1918 to 1931 the station was run by Transradio AG. On 1 January 1932 the German Reichspost took over the station.

Although vacuum tube transmitters had long been the state of the art in the 1930s, the high power machine transmitters were again modernized in 1937.

Second World War and the post-war period[edit]

Long distance shortwave transmitting antenna at Nauen, 2004

In World War II, the VLF-transmitters served mainly to transmit instructions to submerged submarines. The station survived World War II without damage, but after May 1945 was disassembled by Soviet occupation forces. All technical mechanisms were dismantled and the masts of the station were blown up. Whether and where the dismantled transmitters were used in the Soviet Union is unknown. The Muthesius building was also planned to be blown up, but this was prevented.

The building was used for potato storage up until 1955 when the station began to install shortwave transmitters once again, first only for diplomatic communications, and then for foreign broadcast in 1958. Thirty-nine rhombic antennas were erected for transmitting.

In the 1960s one of the first rotating shortwave broadcast antennas was built nearby at the Dechtower dyke. This antenna, which still exists, has a height of 70 metres and it supports two antenna fields weighing 40 and 70 tons.

In 1972, near the rotating antenna, a shortwave curtain antenna was built and further transmitters went into service. Also, a new shortwave curtain antenna beamed toward South America was built.

After German reunification, all transmitters and antennas, except for shortwave broadcast, were switched off and dismantled.

Current status[edit]

A new shortwave broadcasting system consisting of four rotating towers and four 500 kilowatt transmitters was built by Thomcast Communications between 1995 and 1997.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°38′52″N 12°54′35″E / 52.647721°N 12.909772°E / 52.647721; 12.909772