Orkney Wireless Museum

David VK3RU September 2018

Our younger daughter lives in Edinburgh and as a result, visiting Scotland has become a routine event at least every couple of years.  A long weekend at some remote island is always feature on our trips, Mull, Iona, Islay, Arran and this time Orkney.

Orkney is a great spot and like much of Scotland, full of history well documented back to the Roman era, but Orkney is special.  Special because it is right at the top of Scotland, pretty close to Norway and apart from really pleasant people keen to say Hi, it is also steeped in history.  Ancient old buildings from Neolithic times (Skarabrae village) and Maeshowe chambered cairn around 4000 years old.  Now that is older than the pyramids.  Plenty of WW2 wartime history too.  Including sunken vessels still visible and evidence of internment camps.

By sheer luck, we discovered that Orkney has its very own Wireless Museum in Kirkwall.  Now this is not exactly a large affair, but it does have a lot of equipment on display within a very small building.  

Upon entry I was engaged by the museum volunteer and we briefly discussed the various eras of radio equipment on display before we were interrupted by another visitor entering the museum.  As is often the case, his wife chose to sit on the park bench outside while her better half indulged in his passion for radio.  It turned out he is a former RAF radio technician who worked with aircraft navigation systems both as part of his military and later in civilian service.  Given both our backgrounds, you might imagine we had plenty to chat about whilst wandering about.

The museum contains the usual old domestic TRF and early Superhet receivers in lovely old timber cabinets but in the receiver area, the collection of portable broadcast receivers took my fancy.  All battery operated they ranged from the old Radiola plastic case maroon and silver valve rigs, small six transistor leather cased radios to much later but very capable all band Zenith and Sony units.

Just opposite the portable collection is the amateur station GB2 OWM with a setup comprising a Yaesu FT200 hooked up to an external G5RV.  The volunteer and my fellow visitor were not amateurs, but I was invited to fire it up.  Sadly the noise level was significant so I did not attempt to put the station on air.

There was quite a bit of wartime equipment on display, and in particular, I enjoyed viewing the RCA AR88 and Marconi R1155 receivers, both close to my heart.  More importantly was the matching Marconi T1154.  (Please let me know if you have one of these surplus in your shed).  The collection of AVO meters also took my fancy and photographs show this and a few other parts of the collection.

All and all it is a great way to spend an hour or so if you happen to visit Kirkwell.  You will certainly be made welcome by their volunteers.  If you do not have the opportunity to visit personally, the museum has a great website which includes a 360o walk through camera. Check it out.


Orkney Museum

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AR88 Radio and other items

Lancaster Radio

Selection of meters

SOE Spy suitcase radio

US RDF unit