5ZB – Radio on the Rails

After publishing the January 2005 DX Times with the front cover photo of the North Otago Branch members visiting the Pleasant Point Railway Museum (see copy below) it was pointed out to me by Steven Greenyer and other members
that the callsign of the station that broadcast from a Railway Carriage around NZ was 5ZB and not 5ZR as printed. Thank you to Steven Greenyer for providing the information below.

The following is attributed to Robin Bromby from his book “Rails That Built A Nation”, published in 2003 by Grantham House. Robin was a League member in 1957-1960. Please note: The following may not be reproduced in part of in full unless by permission of the author. 

In 1939 the National Commercial Broadcasting Service, as the commercial state-owned radio stations were then known, was looking to expand commercial radio beyond the four main centres. It was therefore decided to convert a railway carriage into a broadcasting studio, complete with a three-man crew, a retractable antenna and 250 watt transmitter. The station was given the call sign of 5ZB, and the intention was to gauge the audience and advertising potential in various provincial towns of the North Island. The station went on the air in Rotorua in April 1939, and in 79 days covered 2,650 km of the NZR system.
Station 5ZB entertained radio audiences in Hamilton, Whangarei, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui, New Plymouth, Hawera, Wanganui, Palmers ton North, Dannevirke, Napier, Hastings and Masterton. More than 15,000 curious listeners inspected the mobile station during its travels. The 5ZB manager wanted to keep the station going, his plan being to have the carriage do three month-long stints in various locations. His masters, however, decided instead to gradually open permanent stations in various towns. Both plans were shelved due to the war.

In 1982 the Pleasant Point Railway and Historical Society refitted guard’s van F423 with vintage radio equipment, and some broadcasts were made from this rail studio via the local Timaru station, 3ZC.