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Transmitter site becomes historic communications centre

The shortwave transmitter at Schwarzenburg before it became a museum depot

(Keystone)

The site of a former shortwave transmitter near Berne has been converted into a huge depot for the storage of historic postal and telecommunications equipment.

Two years ago, the Schwarzenburg transmitter - used by Swiss Radio International for its worldwide broadcasts - was dismantled after local opposition to it on health grounds, and all the heavy equipment inside its adjoining building was removed.

The building was then taken over by the Museum of Communication in Berne to store some 10,000 objects which had previously been kept in depots scattered around the country.

They include old letter boxes, parcel delivery vans, post buses and telephone exchanges, as well as television equipment dating back to the 1950s.

One of the most impressive vehicles is a 1971 Cadillac, once used for official functions by the federal minister of transport and communications.

"It took three months to transport 3,500 square metres of postal and telecommunications history to Schwarzenburg," said the museum's operations manager, Thomas Zumbrunn, "and we are delighted with the result."

Although the depot is not open to the public, occasional guided tours can be arranged. A recent open day there attracted over 1,000 visitors who live in the surrounding area.

"They were impressed not only by the scale of the whole operation here, but by the fact that nearly all the equipment is in good working order," said Zumbrunn.

"Most of the equipment is restored and maintained by retired people who used to work for the postal and telecommunications sectors."

The Swiss postal service and Swisscom have donated nearly all the objects to the museum, which now has easy access to them for special exhibitions.

by Richard Dawson


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