Eagle Tower – Stuart Gandy

Eagle Tower 1980

Photo by Stuart Gandy, no reproduction without permission.

The photo is of the Eagle Tower, it was taken in 1980 in the Pebble Mill car park. This vehicle was used by the Comms department at Outside Broadcasts. It had a 60 foot mast that was raised and had a microwave dish on top that was used to transmit the programmes back from the OB to a receiving point. The Comms engineers needed a good head for heights as they had to climb the mast to position the dish correctly. It was usually driven by one of the many Pebble Mill ‘rigger/drivers’ as they were known.

Stuart Gandy

Paul Grice, added the following comment on Facebook: ‘It’s interesting to think that these were the mainstay of OB transmissions until satellite technology took over in the 90’s and that they only transmitted over line of sight which meant some OB locations might need three midpoints to get the signal back. Here’s to the people who spent many a happy day stuck on a remote hilltop.’

Richard Taylor left the following comment: ‘I would hasten to add that we didn’t actually climb all 60 feet of it! The first stage was 30 feet, the mast was telescopic and rose from the centre of the first stage. It was all done by hydraulics, the engine gearbox being locked in to a hydraulic pump mode first. After the first stage was raised to the vertical, we’d climb up the fixed vertical ladder, through a small trapdoor and onto the platform raising the safety rails.

The radio link components had to be manually hauled up, using a hoist arm, and bolted into place. Once all was fitted together the tower could then be raised and panned remotely from the ground.

I remember giving David Robinson, an EM then, cause for concern at a Grand Prix rig. The tower chassis had been extended lengthwise for some reason, and the shuttle valve to convert prop shaft motion from driving to pumping would jam. The solution was to get into the chassis and “help” it with a long screwdriver. All perfectly safe, wouldn’t do it otherwise, but David was concerned because the engine was still running, and someone could have knocked it into gear accidently. Not with a burly Rigger Driver guarding the cab, they couldn’t!!’