555 Asylum Street

The following photos were taken circa 1971 during the due diligence visit by Faith Center.

Basements of television stations often became a bone yard for old equipment destined to become antiques for those that are collectors. Here we have what appears to be an old black and white Dumont studio camera mounted on a camera pedestal.

More old equipment in the basement. On the left is an old 35mm film projector. In the background is what appears to be more old film chain equipment.

Racks of terminal equipment. Television stations have racks of various equipment such as video and audio monitors, amplifiers, video and audio processing, routing switchers and patch bays (similar to old time telephone operator plug boards) to patch audio and video signals around in case of last minute emergencies.

Rack of microwave transmitter equipment. This equipment sends the audio and video programming to the transmitter site on a point to point microwave radio link. There are two transmitters shown in a Hot-Standby configuration. If the primary transmitter were to fail a switchover would occur to the backup transmitter that is already powered up (i.e. “Hot”) and ready to go.

Building on 555 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT. This was the former home of the WHCT studios. The building was refurbished around the year 2000 which was after WHCT had moved out. This is a recent photo after refurbishing.

Main entrance of the WHCT studios. Note the advertisement of the show Gunsmoke aired on Saturday’s at 5 PM on the window on the right.

General Electric BC-31-B audio console with two ¼” cartridge tape machines mounted on top used for television productions.

Production video switcher in the foreground. Remote control for the video tape recorders and film projectors is to the left of the switcher

RCA TK-41 Color Television Cameras. The cameras were not only huge but extremely heavy weighing several hundreds of pounds each. These cameras were mounted an heavy duty pedestals so they could be rolled around the studio and adjusted up and down. The camera operator would position, aim and focus the camera at the subject.

These are the camera control units for the TK-41’s. Each tall equipment rack contains the “other end” of the camera’s electronics. These racks were all tubes and generated a lot of heat. Also note the number of knobs in front of where the Video Control Operator (VCO) would sit. The VCO would make adjustments to video levels to provide best looking picture possible.

An Ampex VR-1200 two inch tape videotape recorder (VTR) on the left with a partial view of another VTR on the far right. In the middle is a rack with switching and monitoring equipment that route various program sources into each machine.

Another Ampex VR-1200 VTR on the left. The VTRs were not only used to record local productions but also used to play back programming that would be shipped in from other program providers such as from the FBN studios in Glendale, CA. On the right is an RCA TP-7 slide projector used to project slides onto a camera to make video images.

In the foreground is an RCA TP-7 slide projector mounted on a piece of equipment called a multiplexer. The multiplexer has two mirrored shutters and selects one of three devices that will be shown into the camera. Typically a choice is made between a slide projector and two film projectors. On the left is an RCA 16mm film projector. On the right behind a shelf is a 35mm film projector. Feature length movies would sometimes be shipped in on 35mm film which is the standard for the motion picture industry.

Another view showing more clearly the 35mm film projector on the right and the Eastman pneumatic multiplexer on the left. The two mirrors in the multiplexer would move up and down using compressed air in a “guillotine” type fashion. The combination of film and slide projectors with multiplexer and camera was referred to as a Film Camera Chain. Click here for more information.

View of another film chain. Most stations had two film chains so they could seamlessly switch from one film to another. It also provided backup in case one film camera failed.

WHCT master control. The engineer in this area was responsible for what went on the air. They would start and stop the videotape machines or film projectors then switch them on air. Note the color monitors to the left and right of the clock. For network affiliates stations were required to join the network on time. This required close to split second accuracy. The clock in the photo appears to be a Western Union clock which was connected by phone lines to receive synchronization pulses from the US Naval Observatory.

Bernie Marston, FBN Chief Engineer, offers these comments on his first visit to WHCT:

I well remember my first trip to WHCT Channel 18 in Hartford, CT. Ten days previously I had fallen about twelve feet from a vertical wall ladder, landing on my back and sustaining a crushed vertebra and broken left wrist. After spending a week in the hospital, three days later I found myself on a plane with Faith Center Pastor Ray Schoch to evaluate the facilities of the television station that the owner RKO had agreed to donate to Faith Center in exchange for a tax deductible receipt. Pastor Ray had insisted that we fly first class in deference to my sore and aching back.

We were met at Kennedy Airport by Arnold Kaufman, the RKO Vice President in charge of disposing of the station and proceeded to Hartford in an RKO company limousine. The shock absorbers on the limo must have been shot because it was a very rough ride on roads damaged by the winter storms. I spent most of the trip supporting myself with my elbows on the arm rests to lessen the pain.

We toured and photographed the WHCT studio facilities at 555 Asylum St. with the assistance of the station manager and Howard Frost, the Chief Engineer. Then after lunch we toured the transmitter site on Deercliff Rd.in Avon, CT. It was then back to JFK for the flight home; a long, long day. My subsequent trips to Hartford were all under easier circumstances even if not so memorable.  

Bernie also recollects moving some of the equipment to FBN headquarters some years later:

I was just thinking about another Hartford remembrance; my trip home with the camera pedestals, etc. I left Hartford after lunch on a Wednesday afternoon driving a rented Hertz van. I got kicked off the Pennsylvania Turnpike because the van had no side windows, even though it was the same vehicle as a passenger van. I don't remember where I stayed that night. Thursday I got to Springfield, MO before noon, had lunch at Evangel College with Paul Crouch's brother and gave him some pointers on the campus closed circuit radio station. I think that I stopped somewhere in Oklahoma that night. Almost ran out of gas in Flagstaff, AZ. A few hours sleep Saturday night in Gallup, New Mexico and got home Sunday afternoon. When I turned the van in at Hertz in Glendale I parked it next to an identical vehicle with sequential Ohio license plates.

Oh well!

© 2010 W. Bernard Marston

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