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The last views of a landmark; AFTER 78 YEARS VISIBLE FROM MILES AROUND ON THE WARWICKSHIRE SKYLINE, RUGBY RADIO STATION'S MASTS ARE BLOWN UP - WITH A DELAY CAUSED BY HUNGRY RABBITS.

ONE of Warwickshire's most famous landmarks has disappeared forever after eight masts at Rugby Radio Station were blown up - despite a last minute hitch caused by rabbits!

Bosses at British Telecom finally took down eight of the 12 masts, which dominated the skyline near the M1 and A5 on the border of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, on Saturday night.

Explosives were detonated under the 820-foot high masts, which crashed onto the surrounding fields.

A specially-invited audience of about 70 people, included former and present employees and local councillors, went along to watch a part of history vanish from sight.

BT bosses originally intended to blow up the masts in two second intervals as soon as darkness fell.

The first explosion, which took place at 10.15pm, demolished three of the masts but the operation was halted with the final five still standing.

Engineers blamed the hitch on rabbits, which had nibbled through plastic tubing carrying explosives from post to post.

The problem caused a 3 1/2 hour delay, with the final mast being felled at 1.50am.

Traffic on the A5 was stopped briefly while the explosions took place and a Northamptonshire police helicopter monitored the site from the air to check for people or stray livestock on the site.

The masts, which are lit up by red lights that can be seen for miles around at night, were built in 1926 to provide radio communications throughout the last century.

Modern technological advances meant many of the services operated there were superseded by satellite communications during recent years.

BT bosses are still considering the future of the 1,600 acre site.

Proposals include a mix of housing and business, together with a conservation area or marina.

Former BT employee Bob Goodall, of Langton Road, Rugby, worked at the site from 1948 to 1991.

He said: "I never thought the masts would go. You could see the red lights from the motorway and you knew you were coming home.

"They were a landmark."

Andrew McCrae Thomson, of Stanley Road, Rugby, who worked as an engineer at the site, said it was "diabolical".

He said: "I would like to see them kept - I always thought they would be here permanently.

"We will miss watching for them when we are travelling."

Electrician Sean Mahoney, of Southfield Road, Rugby, scaled the masts to fit the famous red lights.

He said: "It's so strange to see them coming down.

"It would be good to keep a couple forever."

Rugby borough councillors Alan Webb (Lab, Brownsover) and Bill Sewell (Con, Hillmorton) both said it was a sad day for the town.

Cllr Sewell said: "My wife's grandfather brought her mother to watch the masts being erected and now all these years later we are watching them go.

"A lot of people will miss them."

The massive clean-up operation, lasting around six weeks, is set to start today.

Atomic clock masts remain on site

FOUR of the masts will remain standing for the next few years.

These include the two which support the aerial which transmits the time signal for the national atomic clock, which provides the accurate time for radio controlled clocks.

The 820 foot masts are taller than Blackpool Tower, which stands at 520 feet, or the BT Tower in London, which is 620 feet. They are 430 feet shorter than the Empire State Building in New York.

The felled masts equate to more than 1,500 tons of steel more than two kilometres in length. The steel will be taken to the European Metal Recycling Company's Coventry depot where it will be cut for scrap or recycled.

BT bosses opted to fell the masts in June to capitalise on the light evenings for workers. The operation was held at night to lessen disruption or risk of accidents for drivers on the M1 and A5.

Sound-proofing measures were used to minimise the noise of the explosions to that of a thunderclap.

Six thousands metres of plastic "shock tube" was used to link the explosives, which were detonated by a hand-held machine the size of a mobile phone.

A once-vital service became outdated

THE construction of the masts started in 1924, with the site officially opening in 1926.

It grew into one of the largest aeronautical maritime operations in Europe, providing ship-to shore communications by high-frequency radio.

Louis Mountbatten and Edward VIII were among its first visitors.

The first commercial transatlantic telephone service was run from Rugby in 1927, costing pounds 15 for three minutes.

The next 30 years saw the station expand to provide up to 100 telephone channels around the world. Telegraphy was transmitted for the Post Office telegram service and was also used by press agencies.

In the 1980s, the emphasis of the station turned to communications for ships.

Maritime services ceased in May 2000, leaving the original telegraphy and time signal services.

On March 31, 2003, the 16 kHz Very Long Wave transmitter - the service that first started on the site - closed for good.

CAPTION(S):

AMAZING: Workmen prepare for the explosions (below), one mast falls (above) and (top) a panoramic view; HUGE PROJECT: The main building under construction (above) and (below), an inverted tripod being put into position. There is a ball and socket which supports the mast, and underneath it a massive insulator of granite; PREPARATIONS: Mole ploughing in earth wires in 1925
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 21, 2004
Words:893
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