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Grimeton Radio Station

A unique world heritage site

 

For Sweden, the First World War caused great difficulties in keeping in touch with the outside world, especially over long distances. The majority of the international telegrams went through cables that were both vulnerable and expensive to maintain. The radio transmitters that were in Swedish ownership were only suitable for shorter distances. Once peace came, they began to look for solutions that would prevent them from ending up in similar situations in the future.

In 1920, a proposal came to the King. The Swedish Telegraph Agency would invest in primarily making the connection across the Atlantic, to the United States, wireless by building a new, so-called "large radio station". Such a direct link was considered to help promote business deals and government affairs that concerned the large country in the west, but also facilitate contacts between the many Swedish-Americans and the old homeland. The proposal was well received and presented to the parliament, which voted to push for funding. The Swedish Telegraph Agency then started looking at possible radio systems and finally chose one that was provided by Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The reason was that these more or less had a monopoly on radio transmissions to and from the US East Coast, and by using their systems from the beginning, the risks of possible compatibility problems would be reduced. The fact that it was the Swedish-born inventor Ernst Alexanderson who was behind the system did not make matters worse.

"In every place it was persuaded according to old custom, neither Gustáv nor I were so very persuaded... We were mostly towards noon, when 4-5 peasants were visiting, in a very pleasant atmosphere."

Excerpt from engineer Nils Norén's account of the land negotiations

The fact that the new large radio station would be built on the Swedish west coast was immediately clear as they wanted as short distance to the USA as possible while the signal could go free for Norway, Denmark and Scotland. This meant a location in central Halland and the exact location was determined in the autumn of 1922 after the seconded engineer Nils Norén visited a number of potential sites in the area. The choice fell on a number of fields in the parishes of Grimeton and Hunnestad that lived up to the demands made and after a series of wet negotiations with the landowners, they managed to secure the area on behalf of the Telegraf agency. Construction began into the new year and two years later, in the winter of 1924, the station was completed.
On December 1, 1924, the station, which was assigned the call sign SAQ, was put into operation and almost immediately accounted for 95% of Swedish telegram traffic to the United States. They also managed to reduce transmission times, and in May 1925 it took an average of only 17 minutes from the time a "regular" telegram was submitted to Sweden until it was received at RCA in New York. The high speeds made it possible to make full use of the window where the Swedish and American office hours overlapped.
 
The two original long-wave transmitters from RCA came to be used extensively until the late 1930s and a bit into the 40s, despite the fact that at that time they had received competition from modern and more efficient short-wave transmitters. These were placed side by side with the old machines and in 1945 they accounted for almost all traffic that went via Grimeton. Nevertheless, they chose to keep the long-wave transmitters in reserve much thanks to their reliability. One of these was scrapped in the 1960s, but the other was allowed to remain and can be viewed in the station's transmitter hall. Despite its centenary, it is still in full working order.