Trains don't silence 'Voice of Lake County' broadcast from Metra station
WRLR broadcast from Metra station in Round Lake Beach
Freight trains rumbling within feet of Studio B don't silence "The Voice of Lake County." They're considered part of the character of community radio station WRLR.
"You'll hear it sometimes," explains Bish Krywko, founder of WRLR 98.3 FM and president of the one-of-a kind operation broadcasting from the Metra commuter station in Round Lake Beach.
"If it has a lot of engines, you'll feel the vibration," he said. "We told our DJs, 'Don't apologize for the train.' That's kind of the charm we have."
Announcements on Metra's North Central Service to Antioch, which shares tracks with CN, also can intrude on broadcasts. But that, too, is part of the whimsy of the only radio station in the world located in a train station, as assertion Krywko said has been thoroughly researched.
"It has been suggested that we see if we can get recognized by Guinness (World Records) for this," he said. "We just might after we see what that all entails."
And don't start with the "radio station" unveiled Monday by Chicago officials at the newly renovated CTA Red Line station at 95th Street. Krywko described that as "an artsy DJ booth" and not a bona fide broadcast station, as it has no radio license and the music is played only on the intercom speakers.
WRLR is on the air 24 hours, and when live programming is underway, the shade on the never-used ticket agent office is raised. But the action isn't confined to the 8-by-9-foot Studio B, which was opened in February.
The station lobby is welcoming and bathed in natural light. In the center, an area rug, two chairs and a couch offer comfortable seating for commuters or station listeners.
Plans are to decorate the lobby with railroad-related appointments, including the history of the CN and Metra lines as well as "Rock'n Railers" -- music artists who are or were known to be model railroad hobbyists, according to Krywko.
The lobby also will serve as the nonprofit station's "green room" to conduct interviews with bands or community groups to promote their causes.
An introductory open house is planned for Saturday, June 29, during the Round Lake Beach's annual Beach Fest.
Krywko went to deejay school but didn't pursue the craft. But he maintained an interest in the industry, and while driving home one day in 2000, he heard on the radio that the Federal Communications Commission was introducing a new, low-power, local radio service.
WRLR debuted in September 2005. Until February, it offered live and automated broadcasts from the former police station in Round Lake Heights.
Wanting to expand its geographic reach and signal strength, the station reached an agreement with Round Lake Beach to put its antenna on the village water tower.
The signal now is more robust and can be heard from Kenosha County to Lake-Cook Road and west to McHenry, expanding the potential audience from 200,000 to 400,000, according to Krywko.
An agreement to relocate to the village-owned train station followed, with pending plans to renovate a former village well house on Cedar Lake Road into a main office and larger Studio A. Studio B would remain the showcase, Krywko said.
The well house is in a designated redevelopment area and the village has offered $10,000 in renovation funds to assist in the conversion, according to Village Administrator Dave Kilbane.
The move fits with a plan to enhance and improve the Cedar Lake Road business corridor and transportation gateway, he said.
"We believe that both locations offer the community and radio station expanded programming opportunities and greater exposure," Kilbane said.
The village has been a station supporter since its inception, and Mayor Rich Hill is on the board of the nonprofit RONDARADIO Inc.
The all-volunteer staff ranges from first-time amateurs who want to give broadcasting a try to those with some professional experience. None are paid nor told what to play.
They include Lindenhurst resident and Air Force veteran Frank Tarczueski, who offers an eclectic throwback mix of hand-picked favorites on the "Music Matters" show from 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays.
"He's the only deejay who will play a polka," Krywko said.