Pennant Hills Radio Station

Sister Station to Applecross

by Neil Yakalis

Applecross, on the Swan River in Perth, is about to celebrate their Centenary on 30th September 2012. With this in mind I decided to research its sister station Pennant Hills.

With the help of Brian Woods, who worked at Applecross, I was able to locate & visit the exact site of this land mark radio station. Both stations were built from similar building plans. Pennant Hills was officially opened on 19th August 1912 with Telefunken contracted to supply the equipment & the PMG operating it. It boasted a 400 foot mast with ten 120 foot masts circling it connected in an umbrella formation.

The Navy took over operation of the station during WW1 handing it back to the PMG in 1918. In 1922 the contract went to AWA Ltd until after WW2 when OTC took over operations in 1946. In 1927 2FC (Farmer & Company) broadcast from the site. The 40 acre Pennant Hills site closed on 3rd  December 1955 following transfer of equipment to the newly built 700 acre Doonside site. However the old station was retained as an emergency back up until the completion of the Olympic Games in Melbourne in November 1956.

Former policeman Harry Clay, who retrained as a technician to work at Pennant Hills, won the contract to transport the transmitters to Doonside in his own truck. Today the property is owned by St Gerard’s Carlingford Catholic Primary School. All that remains is the transmitter hall & one of the massive concrete guy anchors. The old transmitter hall has had extensions built all round & is now their school hall. The concrete anchor sits in a corner of the play ground & according to staff is now heritage listed. Access to view the location at the rear of the school is from the sports field car park.

This is at the end of Roselea Way off North Rocks Road Carlingford. Aerial photo of the station when in AWA ownership is from an original painting hanging at Telstra’s Ningi Radio Station with the staff houses having the red roof tops.

The picture below of Vince Sim working is probably taken at Pennant Hills & was kindly provided by Brian Woods.

Further information & pictures at


13 thoughts on “Pennant Hills Radio Station

  1. The clue to the originality of this building is its unique roof ventilation system. Designed 100 years ago before air conditioning was invented. Roof top louvre windows were opened by long cords to allow the rising hot air to escape. The 1912 Applecross building used the same design. However unlike Applecross, all the other Pennant Hills buildings & staff houses have been demolished. These first communication buildings were the foundation stones of our telecommunication beginnings in OTC. Shorter range radio stations were also built in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide & Hobart. Following the tragic loss of life when the Titanic sank on 14th April 1912 the world was ready to embrace the introduction radio safety aboard ships.

    • The Pennant Hills station managers house was the last to be demolished only in recent years on the corner of Cumberland highway and North Rocks Road. The house site is now vacant. I remember Jack Creswick telling me about the time he lived there. If you want to see how the site looked in 1943, google “six viewer”, hit six Lite viewer, accept conditions,, hit “place names” button, type in “sydney”, then highlight sydney in the drop down box. a pix of sydney cbd will appear. hit the vista icon in the control box top rhs and a option box will appear. hit “1943 sydney suburbs” and you have a google earth type viewer of sydney 1943, a time capsule and a work of wonder.

  2. Yes I remember seeing that house being demolished but didn’t realise at the time its significance to AWA & OTC. It appeared to be resumed by the Dept of Main Roads for intersection improvements. Alan Ritchie told me the staff houses got a free shared power feed from the station. However if too many appliances were turned on they all suffered frequent brownouts.The alternative was to pay & connect to the grid but they were all happy to put up with the power shortfalls. One staff member even built a large tuned circuit inside his roof tuned to the carrier of nearby 2FC. From this he ran some free lighting. Today we once again worry about the cost of power! Then there was the station mascot, a large rat. Staff caught it & painted its side & let it go. One day some executives from AWA H.O. came to visit the station. The cleaner polished the floor to a brilliant shine before their arrival. The execs arrived & the rat came out of his hiding. The staff were amused as it tried to run away but could not get traction on the slippery floor. The execs were startled at seeing 2FC painted on its side. Many of us remember Jack Creswick, he was the OTC Training School in its original form long before Paddo got its formal training setup. i would love to hear some of the stories about Jack as he was a unique character.

    • Jack always liked to do things differently and he worked out that he could bypass a lot of traffic riding his bike to work through the storm water canals and a few drains. This worked like a treat until one day his front wheel jammed in an expansion joint in the concrete catapulting jack over the handlebars and onto a mess in the storm water drain! I’m not sure whether Jack continued the drain shortcuts and just took more care, but it was one hell of a scare for him! Sydney water never really structured their drains for bikes.

    • Yes, Jack was a character, 2 examples spring to mind. He had an obsession with OTC dustcoats.For whatever reason, he decided that it was his job to ensure that every tech on duty was wearing his OTC issued dust coat. I liked to wear mine when I felt a bit cold. Remember the white ones. We had to go see Reg, the storeman once a week and change for a freshly laundered one. This was in the days before storemen were deemed to be surplus to requirements and an unnessary expense. Out went Reg and every section had to get in their own supplies. Keep it simple, stupid was not a saying followed by our admin.
      The other thing I especially remember about Jack was an ongoing dispute about the layout of locker rooms. Jack had been working at Broadway, where he rode his bike and I was at the ISTC on level 5 at Paddo. Level 5 at the time wasn’t densely populated so some of us would take the 3 lockers per cabinet and use them for our blankets, pillows, book and assorted gear. I had swung my cabinet around so as to make an alcove at the end of passageway in the locker room. Jack was transferred from Broadway to Paddo, might have been filling Chris Bulls position. Next thing I noticed when next on duty was that the lockers had been neatly lined up as per regulation, so I just shoved them round back into the correct position. And so it went on for quite a while. There were no names on the locker so Jack never spoke to me about it but someone told me that it was Jack doing the re-arrangements. Something to do with in case of fire, being able to exit a room in a straight line!!! It reached the point where I had every yellow/white pages directory on level 5 in my 3 lockers, all topped up with those hugh heavy computer printouts that we used to store in covers. Boy, was my locker heavy but I couldn’t stop Jack. I thought of ramsetting it to the floor but never got around to it.
      cheers Terry

    • In 1968, level 6 at Paddo was empty except for 2 rooms outside the lifts and lunch room where eventually the telex exchange control room and toll tickettting was placed. I guess works were installing the crossbar, but that was on the Oxford street side of the building, the old FIR-FAY repeaters and the SNORs and queing equipment. Those 2 rooms were Jacks training school. The SCG side of the floor was empty and was being used to unpack and test the new KDUs for the message gateway telegraph system. They had big sheets of aluminium foil pasted on the wall. Apparently, every 40 secs or so spurious charactors would appear on the KDU screen. It turned out to be due to the radar at the airport. Even many years later, if you happened to watch the radar antenna while holding the phone handset, you would hear a slight blip if you knew what to listen for.

  3. Hello Robert and ex OTC people,
    I’ve stumbled across your wonderful site because I’m researching the family tree, and hence trying to get more background on what my grandfather actually did for a crust. The family all knows he worked at OTC but no one can put their finger on exactly what he did.

    My grandfather, or Pop as he was so well known, was Vince Sim, who sadly passed away in 2002 at 92 years of age. I have great memories of the staff houses at Doonside, the tennis court, the parties, fooling around down at the creek etc which is why it’s been good to stumble on this site full of great photos and anecdotes.

    So if any of your visitors could shed some technical light on what Vince actually did at OTC (I know he was at Pennant Hills and moved out to Doonside) it would be greatly appreciated.


    Phil Dickson

      This life history of Vince was penned by his daughter Pam for her father’s memorial service and we are indebted to the family for permission to publish same.

      Vince Sim was the eldest of four children born to Beatrice and Daniel Sim on 23 November 1910 at Peak Hill. The family lived at Peak Hill, with a short time spent in Dubbo, until Vince was about 10 years of age when they moved to the inner city and then out to Carlingford. Vince’s schooling took place in Peak Hill, Forest Lodge and Carlingford. His happiest childhood memories were associated with Peak Hill playing with younger brother, Ron and following his grandfather, Papa, around the Government Tank agistment property of which Tom was the manager. He remembered with deep affection his grandparents, Tom and Kate, especially their love and guidance administered firmly but fairly.

      After the family moved to Adderton Road, Carlingford, in 1922, Vince found himself living next door to the grandmother of his future wife, Thelma. They married in 1937 and had five children, two daughters and three sons.

      When he was 14, Vince left school and joined AWA in Spring Street Sydney. Vince was a pioneer in the world of radio communications and continued as a wireless technician with AWA and then with OTC when AWA was absorbed by them, going to Tech to obtain his qualifications. He worked shift work for many years, firstly at Pennant Hills and then at the Transmitting Station at Doonside. He stayed with OTC until he was 65, making 50+ years of service.

      In 1974 Thelma suffered a life threatening case of meningitis but thankfully survived and she and Vince retired to Mermaid Beach in December 1975. Here they lived in their own unit quite close to the beach until Thelma suddenly died in May 1983, aged just 71. During their time together at Mermaid Beach Thel and Vince enjoyed two overseas trips for which the family was grateful they had been able to do together. After Thel’s death, Vince continued to live by himself in their unit and despite being severely affected by glaucoma, was able to manage his independence until the end.

      On 5 December, his brother died and Vince went to Sydney to attend the funeral on Monday 9th December. Sadly Vince never made it to the funeral – instead he was rushed to Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick in the early hours of 9 December suffering a brain stem stroke, which took his life on Sunday, 15 December 2002.

      A devoted family man, Vince is survived by his five children, 11 grandchildren and 9+ great grandchildren as well as a brother and sister.

      PS. This is an excerpt from a paper we found re Vince’s retirement dinner. -Vince started with AWA in 1925 as “general boy” in the Sales Accounts department, becoming part of OTC’s technical staff when the Commission was founded in 1946.(Vince was then a senior technician, having been transferred to AWA’s technical division way back in 1926).On August 31,1975, Vince, by then technical officer grade 2, had completed 50 years’ service in overseas telecommunications.

  4. Vince told me he started work at age 14 in Melbourne from memory. He was a telegram messenger which he delivered on push bike. I don’t believe he did any war service but you can check the roll yourself at Vince may have been a radio operator with a first class ticket before he became a technician repairing radio equipment. He was one of my two TO2 supervisors, along with Alan Ritchie when I started work at Doonside in 1969. When Vince retired in the 1970’s he had clocked up a full 50 years service & received a gold watch. One of the few to achieve that as most employees who started work at age 15 achieved only 49 years service such as Ces Mills at Bringelly. We lived next door to Vince & his wife Thelma at Doonside before he retired & moved up to Mermaid Beach Qld. We visited them up there a few years after they moved north.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s