VAR Beacon
antenna weather covercounterpoise to provide a good ground planeLlanherne HouseHobart Towerpower-housetransmitter hut

Two of the last Visual-Aural Range (VAR) beacons in service in Australia were at Devonport and Hobart, Tasmania. The photo above shows the VAR at Hobart/Llanherne airport. In the background stands Hobart Tower with Llanherne House, after which the locality is named, adjacent. Click here to see how this beacon was depicted on aeronautical charts.

The Hobart VAR is a typical installation with it's characteristic elevated counterpoise and dome over the Alford loop antenna elements. The building on the left contained the transmitters whilst the building on the right was the power-house, housing generators to operate the beacon in the event of a mains power failure. The power-house is all that remains today of this installation, as seen in the photo below taken on 25 May 2011. The view is similar to the one in the photo above, but vegetation now obscures the view of the Tower and mountains in the background.


Many VARs such as the one at Mangalore, Vic., (below, in 1954) had a box-structure instead of a dome covering the antennae. Click here to see the Mangalore VAR approach plate.

Compare these beacons with the first VAR beacon installed, at Essendon in 1947: and with the unique Cowes VAR.


antenna weather covercounterpoise to provide a good ground planewater tanks

A standard VAR installation comprised:

  • A steel structure, usually 30 feet high, of square section of 12 ft sides. On top was a circular counterpoise 35 feet in diameter. Access to the counterpoise was via a steel ladder.
  • A building to house the radio equipment, measuring 18 feet by 15 feet. This was a fibro structure, with a ceiling 10 feet high. On one outer wall was a ventilation fan. The windows were sealed, and the fan provided a filtered air supply. The building dimensions and the layout of the electronic equipment inside were identical to that suggested in the manufacturer's handbook.
  • A power house to generate 240V power in the event of the loss of mains supply.
  • A water tank to collect rainwater from guttering around the building/s, as these beacons were often in remote locations without a reticulated water supply.
  • Field monitors.


Click here to read more about the technical and operational aspects of VAR

(Photos: CAHS collection)

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