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Marley Hill Depot

Directorate of Telecommunications
Not a 9 to 5 Job

Bob Swann and Bill Roberts

One late afternoon Bill Roberts and I were detailed to prepare to go to Carlisle the next morning to service the Carlisle Fire service base station, which if my memory serves me right was a Pye 703 receiver and transmitter. Two of each, one set for main and the other for standby.

The equipment was housed in the base of the drill tower with land line control with a Pye PTC 411 unit in the control room.

So the next morning Bill and I signed in at 08.30 hrs and were on the road to Carlisle by 09:25hrs. We arrived about 10.30hrs and soon had found the fault and did a Preventative Maintenance (PM) on the whole station and also checked out a couple of fire engines.

We were just about to pack up for home when the fire control told us there was a phone call from the depot. We took the call, which informed us that they had a report that the equipment at Workington was faulty, could we attend to it?.

So, we set forth to Workington.  The equipment there was a Marconi HH16, the only one in the region and we did not have the manuals for it with us.  Luckily, when we got there it was an obvious fault, which we were soon able to rectify.

Whilst there, another call from the depot by land line (remember once we had crossed the Pennines we were out of touch with the Depot’s 96.3 MHz Scheme). This call told us that the Hill top site at Whitehaven was not transmitting and the Police control had done a bay change. Could we attend?

So off Bill and I went to Harris Dyke at Whitehaven to find the fault was the usual Pye 50 watt transmitter had blown the HT fuse so we changed the fuse and changed the two rectifier valves type U19s.  We checked out the rest of the equipment and made our way back to Carlisle police station to park the van whilst we went to a local café for a bite to eat ... for the time now was about 17.30hrs.

On our return to the police station we were informed Police HQ wanted a word with us. On making contact with the police control room we were told that they were having trouble with radio to Kendal!

So once again we set off to the Police HQ at Carlton Hall near Penrith.

On tests at HQ we decided that we should look at the hill top site at Penrith Beacon to see if the fault with Kendal was there as all the link paths fed into that site. But the fault was not there so on we went to Kendal police station, and then on to Scar Quarry hill top site. We cleared there about midnight.

By this time we were running very low on fuel. This was before the time of out stations/detachments and arrangements with the police for fuel.  On enquiries at Kendal police station we were informed there was an all night garage down the A6 just over the border into Lancashire. Luckily, Bill had his cheque book with him so were able to purchase fuel to get us back to depot, which we arrived back at about 03.30hrs.

We were both back on duty at 08.30hrs that day ... definitely not a nine to five job.

PS. Bill and I were not the only ones this happened to!

I think many ex-Directorate technicians will recall something along similar lines to this account during their time in the field.

Acknowledgement: Bob Swann

page updated: 17/08/23

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