~ In Depth Profiles of the Following Receivers ~
~ IP-501-A - Radiomarine Corp. of America - 1922 ~
~ Type 105-A - Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co. - 1932 ~
~ RAZ-1, CRM-46092 - Radiomarine Corp. of America - 1941 ~
~ RAK-7, CND-46155 - RCA-Andrea Radio Co. - 1944 ~
~ RBL-5, CNA-46161-B - National Co., Inc. - 1945 ~
~ RBA-6, CFT-46300 - RCA-Federal Tele.&Radio Corp. - 1945 ~
- Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co. - 1948 ~
Using Vintage Longwave Receivers Today
Regens and TRFs vs Superhets on Longwave
Non-Directional Beacon Stations in Nevada & NDB Station Log
by: Henry Rogers WA7YBS
Nowadays, SAQ is probably the best known Long Wave station since they periodically run the only operational Alexanderson Alternator in the world. The mechanical transmitter produces a 200KW RF signal on 17.2kc. The antenna system uses six 425 ft. tall towers supporting eight horizontal cables with six vertical drops. Each cross arm on each of the towers is 125 ft. across. SAQ was originally going to be built during WWI for communications to Great Britain, however delays postponed SAQ'c completion to1924. Communication to Great Britain and the USA was SAQ's primary use in the twenties and thirties. More radio transmitters were added to the facility over the years and by the late forties, Sweden was considering scraping the Alexanderson Alternator. Fortunately, it was instead preserved and maintained, eventually becoming a museum, as it still is today. SAQ operates twice a year. Once on Ernst Alexanderson's birthday and once on Christmas Eve. It is a challenge to receive SAQ almost anywhere in the USA today. Receiving a radio signal (CW) on 17.2kc requires an excellent location, a substantial antenna and, of course, a first class receiver. For more information on SAQ, go to their website at www.alexander.n.se
photo above: SAQ in 1925. From Radio Broadcast March 1925
Vintage Longwave Receivers
In Depth Profiles of Classic Longwave Receivers
Radiomarine Corporation of America
Commercial Shipboard Receiver from 1922
"Listening on longwave with a 1922, battery operated, regenerative receiver? You gotta be kidding!"
One has to remember, the IP-501-A was the commercial shipboard receiver that was built to the highest standards of the day. It was well-known for its superior performance and reliability. It is the "R-390" of the 1920s. This three tube receiver uses a three-circuit tuner with a regenerative detector and two transformer coupled audio frequency amplifier stages - not exactly the norm for a lot of radio receivers in 1922. What really sets the IP-501-A apart from the other three-circuit tuner regen sets is its incredible Antenna Tuner section that is entirely shielded from the main part of the receiver (which is also entirely shielded.) The Antenna Tuner allows exact tuning of the antenna's impedance so the load remains the same on the Secondary circuit. It's like having a built-in pre-selector. The only transference of signal happens by way of the small variable coupling coil located inside the Antenna coil. The fact that the receiver cabinet and front panel are entirely shielded results in no hand-capacity effects when the receiver is operated as an autodyne detector. This makes tuning CW super-easy. The Secondary Tuner has six frequency ranges from 1000kc down to 40kc and the dial is calibrated in meters. The Tickler coil is actually a variometer built into the Secondary coil form and includes load windings from the Secondary inductance to improve regeneration on the lower frequencies. The audio amplifier section is standard and uses two RCA interstage transformers. The audio gain is more-or-less controlled by the filament voltage and the operator can also select how much gain is required by using one of the phone jack outputs. The phone jacks also control the filament voltage to the tubes and only the tubes needed are in operation when that jack is selected. Maximum audio is from the AF2 jack which provides Det + 2 AF stages. In high noise level conditions or for very loud signals, AF1 saves the operator's ears by using just one audio amplifier. If the DET jack is used, only the detector tube is in operation - this would be for receiving local transmissions. Intended audio output is to Hi-Z earphones but the IP-501-A will drive a horn speaker loudly from the AF2 jack. To power the receiver up requires 6vdc at .75A for the filaments, 45vdc and 90vdc for the B+ requirements and -4.5 for C bias. The filament adjustment pot controls the A battery into the receiver and is used to turn off the receiver. Pulling the phone plug from one of the jacks will turn off the tubes but the meter will still show A battery voltage unless the filament pot is turned off. The tubes normally used in the IP-501-A were UX/UV-201A triodes. Operating any radio receiver that uses batteries for its power source can be a hassle and expensive unless you are all ready set-up to run battery receivers. Usually highly-filtered power supplies provide "close to pure" DC voltages to operate these types of receivers. I use a Lambda 6vdc 4A power supply for the A supply, a 1920s RCA Rectron B Eliminator for the B supply and a 4.5vdc battery for the C bias. Hi-Z earphones are necessary for the audio output and I generally us a set of 2200 ohms dc, Western Electric 518W 'phones. The IP-501-A also requires a fairly large antenna worked against a true earth ground for best performance.
||In operation, the filaments are set to about 4.5 to 5.0vdc using the panel meter as reference. Tuning is accomplished with the Secondary Condenser and then "peaking" the signal with the Antenna Condenser. Sensitivity is controlled by use of the Tickler. Since an adjustable resonance and load can be controlled by the Antenna Condenser control, the Tickler control can be set to one position and doesn't require too much adjustment per each tuning range. Selectivity is controlled by the Coupling control. Changing the settings of any of the controls will always cause an interaction in any regen set when it is used as an Autodyne Detector (oscillating regenerative detector.) When the IP-501-A is used as a three-circuit tuner with Autodyne Detector, the Coupling control must be set to "Critical Coupling" for best performance. This requires the operator to tune through the Antenna Condenser's resonance while listening for a "double-click" (and for the oscillating to stop.) If the clicks are heard, this indicates too much coupling. Continue to loosen the coupling and retune the Antenna Condenser until no clicks are heard at resonance. Now the Coupling is set properly. Large changes in tuned frequency will require minor adjustments to the Coupling setting. All tuning can usually be accomplished using just the Secondary Condenser control for tuning stations and then using the Antenna Condenser for adjusting the signal to maximum. Now and again you will have to slightly re-adjust the Tickler. For tuning in NDBs, the IP-501-A should be operated as an Autodyne Detector receiver. This provides a heterodyne so the NDB carrier can be easily heard. Regenerative detectors can become unstable at the oscillation point and good construction helps to stabilize the regeneration. The IP-501-A is very stable and easy to operate in the Autodyne set-up since that was one of its intended uses - to copy the CW from arc transmitters.|
I have had this IP-501-A since 1979. A ham friend sold it to me after he had traded a telephone pole for it. I have performed three restorations on the set over the years. The last one in 1984 brought the IP-501A back to full original configuration and appearance internally and very good restored condition externally. I used the receiver back in the 1980s with a 125' EFW antenna and tuned in all the normal AM BC stations one would expect. As far as Airport Non-Directional Beacons (NDB,) the only one I remember tuning in was SPK, located at the old Reno-Cannon AP. I remember SPK because they used to transmit voice weather with the MCW ID "SPK" in the background. I really didn't know how to get a lot of performance out of the IP-501-A back then. The AM BC performance was fine but listening to AM BC over a horn speaker gets boring after awhile. When I opened the museum in 1994, the IP-501-A was installed in a display case and it stayed in the case for almost 15 years. Lately, I had been thinking about trying something different, as a challenge to the performance capabilities of early regenerative receivers. Since the IP-501-A was the commercial receiver of choice in difficult environments and it had every indication of being the "best" of its day, I decided to give it a try. I used my ham antenna, a 135' tuned dipole, but with the feedline shorted. This would provide a vertical with large capacity hat configuration similar to the large "T" antennas of the twenties. Our initial tests turned up a small problem with the IP-501-A's circuit selector switch. We had no detector plate voltage but it was just a bad contact that needed a bit of cleaning and we were up and operating,...sort of. Lack of audio output was another easy fix. The bias SS power supply had failed and was at -25vdc, definitely in the cut-off region for UX-201As! I sub'd a battery for the bias and then the IP-501-A sprang to life. Before power-up, I had tuned the receiver to around 800 meters as a pre-set and, to my complete surprise, SX 367kc in Cranbrook, BC, Canada was coming in (this was at about 5PM local time in December.) I tuned in a few more NDBs and then decided to wait until about 10PM and try again. At 10PM, I received around 25 more NDBs tuning from 326kc up to 414kc. Best DX was the 2KW transatlantic beacon DDP 391kc in San Juan, Puerto Rico and most difficult was probably ULS 395kc, a 25W marker beacon located in Ulysses, Kansas. Impressive performance from a 1922 regenerative receiver. In a three week period during the winter, I logged over 100 NDBs using just the IP-501-A. Some of the difficult NDBs received were PN 360kc Port Menier, Anticosti Island, Quebec, YY 340kc Mont Joli, Quebec, YKQ 351kc Waskaganish, Quebec and IY 417kc, a 25W marker beacon in Charles City, Iowa.
A history of these early wireless receivers and the companies involved is included in our article "SE-1420, IP-501 & IP-501-A - The Classic Shipboard Wireless Receivers" - also included is an updated NDB log for the IP-501A that shows the incredible performance that can be achieved with early regenerative receivers - use navigation index at the bottom of this page.
Mackay Radio & Telegraph Company
Radio Receiver Type 105-A
Serial No. 32081
Commercial Shipboard Receiver from 1932
built by: Federal Telegraph Company
Mackay Radio & Telegraph Company was founded by Clarence Mackay, son of John W. Mackay, one of the "Big Four of the Comstock" fame here in Virginia City, Nevada. John Mackay initially made his fortune in Comstock silver but he later (1883) moved into telegraphic communications. Mackay, along with J. Gordon Bennett Jr., formed several telegraph communications companies to compete with Jay Gould's Western Union. Postal Telegraph Company (1886) was the best known, along with Commercial Cable Company (1884). Eventually, these companies, along with other Mackay-Bennett telegraph companies, had transoceanic cables across both major oceans. When John Mackay died in 1902, Clarence inherited the businesses. Clarence Mackay saw to the completion of the transpacific cable in 1904. Radio was added to the business end of things in 1925 to provide "radiogram" service to every area of the world. Mackay Radio was mainly interested in maritime communications which went along with the maritime radio-telegraph business. By 1928, ITT had merged with most of Mackay's business interests but the Mackay name continued on for several decades. Mackay Communications is still in business, located in North Carolina.
Federal Telegraph Company started out in Palo Alto, California mainly dealing in arc transmitters. At one time, Lee DeForest worked for the company but Frederick Kolster was the head engineer for most of FTC's history. FTC bought Brandes and created a new division of FTC called Kolster Radio Company specifically for selling consumer radios in the mid-twenties. FTC became involved with Mackay Radio in 1926 when Mackay bought a radio station that had belonged to FTC. When Mackay sold his interests to ITT, then Federal Telegraph was contracted to do most of the Mackay Radio work. Federal Telegraph moved to New Jersey in 1931 when it was purchased by ITT. For awhile ITT tried the consumer radio market with Kolster International but it was a short-lived venture. The name of Federal Telegraph Co. was changed to Federal Telephone and Radio Company in the 1940s.
photo above: The chassis of the Mackay 105-A. The rectangular box on the right side of the chassis contains the power input filters. The right side cylinder contains the RF choke while the remaining cylinders contain the AF interstage coupling transformers.
photo right: The underside of the Mackay 105-A. The lower coils are the Antenna Tuning coils and the upper coils are the Detector Tuning coils.
|The Type 105-A is a pre-WWII commercial shipboard receiver that dates from after the Federal Telegraph move to New Jersey since the ID tag lists Newark, N.J. as FTC's location. Later Mackay radios incorporate the year of manufacture into the first two digits of the serial number. It looks like this is also the case with the Type 105-A and, with the serial number 32081, this receiver was built in 1932. The circuit uses four tubes that are five-pin cathode-type tubes. It is possible to use type 27 or type 56 tubes and with an increase in the filament voltage, type 76 tubes could also be used. The frequency coverage is 1500kc down to 16kc in seven tuning ranges. Power is supplied by batteries. Like earlier designs for shipboard receivers, the Mackay 105-A utilizes an LC Antenna tuner ahead of the regenerative detector to increase gain and selectivity. An Antenna Series Condenser switch selects various value capacitors to match the ship antenna to the receiver input and a stepped Tone control provides some relief from static. The panel meter is a dual meter that normally reads filament voltage but B+ voltage can also be monitored by activating a panel switch. The left large tuning knob tunes the Antenna Condenser, the middle large knob controls the Regeneration Condenser and the right large knob tunes the Detector Condenser. The Mackay 105-A is built for shipboard use being physically stout and very heavy. Originally the receiver was probably in a metal cabinet but later it could also have been panel mounted in one of the Mackay Marine Radio Units that would have housed the majority of the radio gear for the ship.|
photo above: This is the radio room onboard the S.S. Manhattan, ca. 1938, entirely equipped with Mackay Radio and Telegraph Company gear. The Type 105-A receivers are flanking the central transmitter in the photo. The receiver to the right of the "right-side" Type-105-A is a shortwave receiver, the Type 104-B. This photo is from the frontispiece of Sterling's THE RADIO MANUAL, 3rd Edition, 1938.
|This Type 105-A was an eBay find that was purchased in October 2009. The receiver has vintage modifications that were probably installed during its life as a "shipboard receiver." The original concept appears to have been designed for exclusive DC operation. The Filament control has been bypassed since cathode tubes were now being used and since cathode type tubes are used, AC could be supplied to the tube heaters. However, AC voltage won't read on the panel meter since it doesn't have an internal rectifier - also the internal series resistor is burnt out for the B+ section of the meter. Additionally, there was a DC voltage input filter on the filament line that has been bypassed. I have examined this Type 105-A carefully and it appears that the five pin tube sockets are original (or at least vintage) but it could also be that the receiver was rebuilt at the factory sometime in its past resulting in professional looking rework and the patina of age appearing on the solder joints. The good news is that this Type 105-A is a working receiver. It operates very much like the IP-501-A in that the position of the regeneration control is dependent on how you set-up the Antenna Tuning. Though there is no coupling control, the interaction between the Antenna Tuning and Regeneration does about the same thing as setting the "Critical Coupling" on the earlier IP-501-A. The Antenna Series Condenser switch compensates for use of a single antenna length and adds to the range of the Antenna Tuning. The Tone Control knocks down the static noise on the LF and VLF ranges. At first, I used an old Signal Corps power supply that provides 6.3vac and regulated 135vdc to power up the Type 105-A. Using the 135' Tuned Dipole antenna with the feed line shorted at the receiver antenna terminal, I was able to easily receive all of the usual longwave signals using WE 509W 'phones for the audio output. Some of the NDBs tuned in were MM 388kc from Fort McMurray, Alberta, ZP 368kc Sandspit, BC for best DX but also consider SYF 386kc, a 25W marker beacon in St. Francis, KS. The VLF reception included the Navy NSRTTY stations in Jim Creek, WA (24.8kc) and Cutler Maine (24.0kc.)|
Update on Mackay Type 105-A Performance: The high noise level of the Type 105-A seemed to be limiting the reception of very weak signals. I finally decided to run the heaters on DC voltage which was a subtle change and hardly noticeable but very weak signal detection was improved. I was able to receive WG 248kc in Winnepeg, MB and RL 218kc in Red Lake, ON. Note that both of these NDBs are in the 200kc - 250kc part of the spectrum - a particularly noisy area. DC voltage on heaters does help on weak signal detection.
Additional Note on Set-up and Performance: I decided to try an entirely different DC power supply set up using a 6vdc 4A Lambda power supply for the tube heaters and a vintage B eliminator, the RCA Rectron, to test if the noise would be further reduced. The change was amazing! Apparently the old Signal Corps power supply wasn't filtered as well as the Rectron because now the MCW signals from NDBs have no distortion and the tone sounds like a good sine wave. Luckily, there happened to be a true CW station operating on 425kc during my test. This was probably an "events" type of operation of one of the old Point Reyes stations since the signal was very strong and was only "on the air" for about one hour. This CW also was very pure in tone. The operation and performance of the Mackay Type 105-A only seems to improve that closer one gets to operating it on pure DC (as original.) November 21, 2009
Radiomarine Corporation of America
RAZ-1 Radio Receiver - 1941
Serial Number: 65
CRM-46092, CRM-50092, CRM-20096
aka: AR-8503, AR-8503-P, RM-6
The Radiomarine Corporation of America was a division of RCA that specialized in the operation of RCA's Communications Stations and sold RCA-built equipment for both major communications stations and for shipboard installations. The AR-8503 was introduced around 1938 and was designed mainly for shipboard installations. A matching pre-selector was also included, designated as the AR-8503-P. Additionally, an AC power supply was offered, the RM-6. Although in an emergency, the AR-8503 could be operated from a battery pack the preferred method of operation used the RM-6 to supply the required 6 volts for tube heaters, +22 vdc for the detector B+ and +90 vdc for the amplifier plates. Sometime around 1941, the US Navy wanted to install the AR-8503 on some of their smaller ships and a contract was issued for a small number of receivers. "RAZ-1" designated a complete set of equipment that included the CRM-46092 Receiver (AR-8503) with the matching CRM-50092 Pre-selector (AR-8503-P) and the CRM-20096 Power Supply (RM-6.) The contract date was just five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec 2, 1941.
The CRM-46092 receiver uses four metal octal tubes in its regenerative circuit. The RF amplifier, detector and first audio are all 6K7 metal octal tubes while the audio output tube is a 6F6. The CRM-50092 preselector uses a single 6SG7 metal octal tube as a tuned RF amplifier. The CRM-20096 uses a 5Z4 metal octal tube for the rectifier. The CRM-50092 pre-selector receives power from the CRM-20096 power supply via a three foot long, three conductor cable that is connected to the power supply ground terminal along with the 6vac terminal and the +90vdc terminal. The CRM-46092 receiver has four tuning ranges covering 15 KC up to 600 KC. Three bandswitches - two on the receiver and one on the preselector - have to be utilized for changing tuning ranges. The National Type-N dials are scaled 0 to 100 and have a 180 degree layout. A tuning chart is provided in the manual to correlate the dial reading to tuned frequency. Coupling, Regeneration and Volume controls are on the front panel and the preselector also has an RF Gain control. Audio output is provided for a single audio stage or for full audio output via two telephone jacks on the front panel. Output is designed for the Western Electric 509W earphones and, although any Hi-Z 'phones will work, the 509W phones seem to give the best immunity to noise. The receiver case is shock mounted and is made of copper plated steel painted a grayish-brown color. The preselector case is made of aluminum and painted to match the receiver although it is not shock mounted. The power supply is a standard steel box painted gray. The front panels of the receiver and the preselector are machine textured aluminum that has been matte chromium plated.
|Left photo: The CRM-46092 chassis showing the large bee's
wax dipped coils and the sparse layout of components. The tuning
condenser is inside the shielded box in the center of the chassis.
Right photo: The CRM-50092 preselector chassis showing the tuning condenser and the 6SG7 RF amplifier tube. The RF coils are under the chassis.
I first saw this RAZ-1 in 1997 at the home of W3ON, John Ridgway. It was setting next to the SX-28 he was going to sell me (if I could lift it off of the table.) I asked John if he wanted to sell the RAZ-1, to which he replied, "You wouldn't take a longwave receiver away from an old Navy radioman, would you?" John was living in Galena, Nevada at the time but since he was 85 and now alone, he was moving back to Maryland. John lived to the age of 93, becoming an SK in January 2006. To my surprise, in the summer of 2006, I got a 'phone call from an estate agent who said that they had found a letter among John's papers that stated that he wanted his radios and parts to be sent to the "Radio Museum in Virginia City, Nevada." The agent was calling me to see if I really wanted any of "this junk." I told them I did. The estate paid to ship the parts and equipment back out west. The shipping of the 22 boxes was spaced out over about a six week period. In the 21st box was the RAZ-1. Shipping had caused one small problem, one of the largest coils had broken from its mount. The large buss wiring had kept it in place and all that was required was to glue the mount back together and screw the coil form back in place. I acquired the correct shock mounts from N7ID. I did have to replace the filter capacitors in the power supply for quiet reception.
The RAZ-1 is very sensitive and almost any station on LW can be tuned in however the lack of a calibrated dial makes this somewhat difficult if looking for a specific frequency just using the RAZ-1 dial alone for reference. Though I could use a heterodyne frequency meter if it is important to determine the exact frequency being received, I find it is easier to know approximately where I am tuning by listening to known adjacent signals. In other words, if the NDB MOG is zero beat (or being heard in the background) and I'm trying to copy another weaker signal partially obscured by MOG, I know that weak NDB is on 404kc or very close to it, since that is MOG's frequency. I can usually determine an unknown NDB's frequency within 1 or 2 kc by this method. The lack of any kind of limiter is sometimes a problem if local noise is present, however switching to the loop antenna has greatly reduced local noise. To reduce noise to a minimum, the Coupling is set very close to zero (0 to 25% maximum,) the Volume about 25% to 60% advanced, Regeneration right on the oscillation point (autodyne detection) and then signals are peaked with the the Preselector and then slightly manipulated with the Trimmer control. The Preselector gain is usually set to about 85%. These settings usually result in the best response of signal to noise along with the greatest selectivity. Although very strong signals are encountered from local or powerful stations, very weak MCW signals are the norm when searching for DX NDB stations. Usually, with several NDBs on the same frequency it is possible to slightly de-tune the loop antenna to one side or the other of the frequency and enhance one or more of the NDB signals for successful copy. I have logged more NDBs with the RAZ-1 than any other LW receiver. It can always be relied upon to pickup whatever is out there as long as reasonable conditions are present.
RCA-Andrea Radio Co.
Andrea Radio Co. CND-46155, RAK-7 Radio Receiver - 1944
Andrea Radio Co. CND-46156, RAL -7 Radio Receiver - 1944
The Navy wanted more modern LW, MW and SW receivers in the mid-to-late thirties so RCA provided the Navy with the RAK/RAL series. These new receivers had to be "bullet and bomb" proof, in other words, the ship had to take a couple of torpedoes, be sinking fast and the radio gear would still be working. The RAK/RAL series is just that - built like the battleships they served on. The construction is something to marvel at - so over-built, so heavy duty with no expense spared - it's no wonder that most RAK or RAL receivers still function with all original parts even though they are pushing sixty-five years old. The design concept was to provide maximum reliability by simplicity of design - and it paid off since the receivers were in use up until the end of WWII with their last service on board submarines.
The RAK, (aka CND-46155 by its Andrea/Navy designation, substitute "R" for the "N" for the RCA /Navy designation) covers 15kc up to 600kc in six tuning ranges. The tubes used were large six-pin type, 6D6 tubes for the two RF amplifiers, a 6D6 for the regenerative detector, a 6D6 for the first audio amplifier, a 41 for the audio avc amplifier and another 41 for the audio output. The power supply, CNV-20131, was a separate unit that used a 5Z3 rectifier, an 874 regulator tube and an optional 876 ballast tube. The 876 can be left out of the power supply if the AC power is stable and noise free. An internally mounted switch routes the 120vac to a different tap on the power transformer if the ballast is not required. If the ballast tube is installed it will be on regardless if it is used or not although less current is flowing through it when it is switched out of the circuit. When switched in, the 120vac actually is dropped through the ballast and a different tap on the power transformer is used (~70vac) thus providing the regulation of the AC to the transformer if the line voltage is not stable.
The RAK is designed for CW or MCW only. The receiver has a low pass filter that is permanently connected in the audio circuit to roll off the upper audio frequency at about 1200 hz. An elaborate audio avc circuit allows the user to limit the audio or noise peaks at an adjustable level. This was to allow the receiver to be used in heavy static conditions. Also a selectable audio bandpass filter was provided to enhance CW reception in noisy conditions. Voice can be received but it is severely limited on the higher audio frequencies making copy difficult. The manual states that another receiver should be used if voice reception is required - like the RAL. The tuning of the RAK is heavy duty, gear driven and the tuning dial readout is shown on two circular dial scales of 0 to 10 and 0 to 100. The actual tuned frequency has to be correlated with a graph that is in the manual. The receiver does provide a logging chart on the front panel for a "most used frequencies" reference. A frequency trimmer, an antenna trimmer, sensitivity and regeneration controls on on the lower panel of the receiver. The meters monitor audio output level in db and tube heater voltage. The RAL receiver is almost identical construction but has nine bands covering 300kc to 23mc. Additionally, the low pass filter can be switched out of the circuit for voice reception and a vernier frequency control is provided. Most of the concern about a stable AC line voltage was directed at the RAL receiver which itself can become unstable at high frequencies if the line input varies. Normally, the two receivers operated together through a control box (CND-23073) that allowed the radio op to monitor two frequencies simultaneously. The control box also could be used to switch the AC to the receivers on or off.
photo left: The RAK and RAL in use aboard a US Navy ship. Also, National RBL and RAO receivers far left, LM-7 frequency meter by the telephone handset and a Scott SLR-type receiver below the order binders.
|Nowadays, the RAK might be considered a very large, heavy receiver with a separate large, heavy power supply - both units built like battleships - be sure to provide an ample table for the receiver set-up. In my installation I have the power supplies for the RAK/RAL receivers bolted to the underside of the table. I provided for a space of about 3.5" above the supplies to allow good ventilation for the ballast tubes. I do run the power supplies with their ballasts even though it is probably not necessary. The actual difference in power consumption is significant - the ballast dissipates about 140 watts. I have run the receivers both with and without ballasts and I notice that the received noise seems to be less with the ballast in use. In actual operation, the RAK is a very sensitive receiver that spreads the LF tuning range over several bands. This bandspread action is nice for tuning in weak stations or trying to separate several stations that are on the same frequency - as many NDBs are. The major problem is that calibration is relying on the readout versus a graph and that graph is in the manual. The first thing to do is make a copy of the frequency graph to keep with the receiver. Next is to calibrate the RAK so the readout is fairly close to the graph. Then it is easy to keep track of where you are in the LF spectrum. If it is important to know the exact frequency, I use a heterodyne freq-meter set up. The audio avc will help with static crashes and to a certain extent, noisy conditions but if it is advanced too far it severely clips the audio with high distortion. The adjustable bandpass filters are almost useless. This is due to the high frequency chosen for the first audio frequency cut-off - 450hz. This may have been okay for true CW but that is seldom encountered anymore in the LF bands. All NDBs use MCW with a 400hz tone. The lowest setting of the filter works okay on NDBs but the other bandpass frequencies are even higher and so are not very useful. Due to the RAK's high sensitivity, noise levels can get out of hand rather quickly. The tuned loop antenna, with its high Q, really helps reduce the noise and increase the signal to noise ratio. Additionally, the Audio AVC can be used in severe conditions. The audio output is taken from the front phone jack. It is 600 ohms Z and, while the RAK will easily drive a 600 ohm speaker, many more weak signals can be copied using earphones rather than a speaker. I have tuned in all of the normal LF signals with my RAK-7. The best NDB DX were several in North-Eastern Canada and Puerto Rico's powerhouse transatlantic beacon, DDP. At lower frequencies, the RAK seems to get better and better with JJY at 40kc a fairly regular copy. The Navy RTTY signals around 20kc are always present. Like many of the WWII Longwave receivers, once the RAK is used regularly and the operator becomes used to its quirks, it "becomes" a great performer - it was all along, the op just has to "learn" his receiver.|
National Co., Inc.
RBL-5, CNA-46161-B Radio Receiver - 1945
|National Company also provided a great LW receiver for the Navy in WWII - the RBL series of regenerative receivers. Following the long Navy tradition of National providing NC-100A types of receivers - like the RAOs and similar HF receivers, the RBL series uses the same general appearance with a similar dial layout and a familiar band switching feel. Though the bandswitch looks like the RAO catacomb system, it isn't. The mechanism uses several large gears to simultaneously actuate two large ceramic switches to provide band changes. The RBL is the same approximate size as the RAO receivers so it was probably intended that they be paired up for coverage from 15kc to 600kc on the RBLs and 540kc to 30mc on the RAOs. Unlike the earlier LW receivers described above, the RBL has a built in power supply and has direct frequency readout on the illuminated dial.|
|The circuit uses a cascade of three 6SK7 RF amplifier stages. The detector is a 6SG7 regenerative autodyne detector
followed by a 6H6 audio limiter circuit followed by a
6K6G audio tube. The power supply rectifier is a 5U4 in early RBLs but later was
changed to a 5Y3G. Like the RAO, some RBL receivers were built by Wells-Gardner
Company. Heavy duty construction, ample shielding, copper-plated cabinet under
the black wrinkle paint are standard construction used in the RBL receivers.
They were normally bolted to a cushioned mount that attached to the holes in
the lower front and rear corners of the cabinet. Nowadays these mounts are
usually missing. Included in the circuit is an audio filter for wide or narrow
bandwidths (switch on left side of escutcheon below ON-OFF switch) and an adjustable audio limiter
(switch and control on right side of escutcheon.) The limiter is very well designed
and works wonders in reducing the static crashes while not distorting the audio
signal. The direct frequency readout on the dial is the major advantage of using
the RBL receivers and the accuracy is impressive considering the receiver's age.
The illuminated dial is quite a departure from the usual military LF
receiver. The lower controls (l to r) are gain, regeneration, bandswitch, antenna trim,
oscillation push button
and frequency trim.
This RBL-5 was acquired from a ham neighbor here in Virginia City. It required a little work before it was functioning to its specifications. The tubular antenna connection input that attaches to the box that bolts to the back of the cabinet was shorted internally so essentially whatever antenna was connected was shorted to chassis. Removal of the tubular connector and just running the coax through the box directly to the antenna and ground terminals fixed the problem. Also, there was a soldering job at the audio output transformer that was poorly done. Exactly what the object of the solder job was is not known but it probably was in search of the lack of output that was really caused by the shorted antenna input. Fortunately, no original parts were removed and only the connections to the audio output transformer were moved to incorrect terminals. We just returned everything to the original connections and then the receiver output returned to normal.
photo left: The chassis on this RBL-5 is immaculate and all original. RF section is on the right side of the chassis and the power supply, limiter and audio sections are on the left side.
I have logged a lot of NDBs using this RBL-5 receiver, primarily because the RBL-5 is easy to use, very sensitive, has direct frequency readout and the limiter functions quite well. The limiter makes long sessions of receiving comfortable since the static crashes are reduced to the point where they aren't causing headaches anymore. I take the audio output right from the earphone jack on the front panel running 600 ohm 'phones for best copy on weak signals. The NBDs normally copied are multiple stations operating on the same frequency, with two and sometimes three different CW identifications being heard simultaneously. Using the RF trimmer and the Antenna Compensator controls, it is usually possible to enhance one or the other of the MCW signals and identify the particular NDB, (the RAK and RAZ LW receivers also have this ability to manipulate the signal a little to enhance copy.) The RBL works particularly well with the tuned loop antenna and this provides the ability to add some directional characteristics to the reception. Additionally, the loop can be slightly de-tuned to allow enhancing NDBs that are on one side or the other of antenna resonance which can sometimes help with copy.
photo right: The underside of the RBL-5 is also immaculate and all original. The photo shows the multiple gears that drive the two ceramic bandswitches. Construction is first rate as expected from National Company. Note that the alignment trimmers are all clustered together. The bottom cover has a sliding access panel that allows the receiver to be aligned with the bottom cover installed - probably why the RBL-5 has such an accurate dial readout.
RCA-Federal Telephone & Radio Corporation
U. S. NAVY
CFT-46300, RBA-6 Radio Receiver - 1945
In the late thirties, it was becoming apparent that a replacement receiver was going to be necessary for the aging RAK series of longwave receivers. The new receiver design was going to blend the advantages of the TRF designs of the RAK receiver but eliminate the regenerative-autodyne detector in an effort to keep the leakage radiation on the antenna to a very low level that prevented enemy direction finding equipment from determining the location of the receiver. Additionally, the low-level of radiation allowed the receiver to operate in the presence of other receiving and transmitting equipment along with radar equipment without interference. In order to allow demodulation of CW signals a frequency tracking beat frequency oscillator (BFO) was incorporated into the design. The BFO design utilized a section of the main tuning condenser so the BFO tuning condenser was ganged to the main tuning. Since the new receiver was not a superheterodyne, the BFO had to track at 1kc above the tuned frequency allowing a 1kc heterodyne to be heard thus allowing CW to be readily copied. There were a couple of very good reasons for not designing the new LF receiver as a superheterodyne. First, was to provide complete coverage of the tuning range of 15kc to 600kc. Most IF amplifier sections utilized around 400kc to 500kc for the intermediate frequency, right in the middle of the most used portion of the medium wave band (as far as the Navy was concerned.) Operation of the IF amplifier at, for example 455kc, would eliminate a section of frequency coverage of about 20kc either side of the intermediate frequency. Some superhet LW receivers moved the IF above the intended tuning range (15kc to 600kc) but there were disadvantages to this solution to the problem. For example, the RBH receiver uses an IF of 1500kc but any transmitting activity around 1500kc will "leak into" the IF section of the receiver and cause heterodynes throughout the tuning ranges. Another problem was that fact that the conversion process in a superheterodyne creates a lot of internal noise in the receiver - not a real problem on HF or SW, but a serious determent to good LF performance. Regenerative and TRF receivers with no conversion required are very quite receivers when it comes to internally generated noise.
At $3000 each cost to the Navy, the new RBA receiver was certainly an expensive receiver but a look inside reveals the incredibly high level of electro-mechanical design and construction. The tuning range is from 15kc up to 600kc in four bands. The illuminated dial readout is direct in kilocycles along with a logging scale that uses two scales - one on the main dial and a separate "units" logging scale. The mechanics of the tuning system design allows for super-smooth operation. The Gain adjustment controls the sensitivity of the receiver but there is also a "tracking" gain control (also called the auxiliary gain control) that is geared to the main tuning. This allows a variable gain compensation to frequency tuned to allow a constant gain level across the tuning range of each band. To protect the operator's ears, since most operation would be via earphones, an Output Limiter circuit allows an adjustment of the maximum output of the receiver based on the setting of the Output Level control. The O.L. can be switched on or off via a toggle switch on the front panel. The O.L. could be used in high level static conditions or for unexpectedly strong local signals. Two meters are provided, one to monitor Audio Output Level in db and one to monitor the B+ voltage. Two levels of selectivity are provided, Broad selectivity rolls off the audio response at about 1300kc with an internal LP filter and the Sharp position is provided by a 1kc bandpass filter for CW in noisy conditions or in cases of interference. The audio output is 600 ohms Z and is intended for earphones although the RBA will drive a matched loud speaker if necessary. The separate power supply is the CRV-20130, which is the same power supply used for the 15 tube RBB and RBC superheterodyne receivers. The CRV-20130 provides the filament voltage and B+ requirements via an armored cable with heavy-duty connectors. The power supply will easily operate two RBA receivers for emergency conditions and two separate connectors are provided. The power supply has a cold-cathode regulator tube (OC3) and a HV rectifier (5U4.) The RBA uses eight tubes, three 6SK7 RF amplifiers, one 6J5 Triode Detector, one 6SK7 BFO, two 6SJ7 AF amplifiers and one 6K6 AF Output. Early versions of the RBA receiver were identified as C(FT)-46154 (FT would indicate that Federal Tele. & Radio Corp. was the contractor) while the later versions are identified as CFT-46300.
| photo left: Inside the RBA-6 receiver showing the top of the
chassis. All of the TRF coils are in the cylindrical shielded cans to
the left. The moveable covers on top of the cans allow access to the trimmers for
alignment. The two front coils are for the tracking BFO. Note the
gear-driven potentiometer coupled to the main tuning. This is the
auxiliary gain control that allows for constant gain across the tuning
ranges. Also note the shielded meters. The blue "dots" on the tops of
the tubes are my indicators that I have tested these tubes and they are
in good operational condition.
photo right: The underside of the RBA-6 chassis. Full shielding of each RF section is provided when the bottom cover is installed. The heavy-duty band switch uses ceramic mounts with .25" silver-plated contact buttons. All components are mounted on terminal boards or are mounted directly to the chassis.
|This RBA-6 is from a 1945 contract. This version is identical to the RBA-5
internally but the RBA-6 is a rack mounted configuration only and is painted smooth Navy
gray rather than black wrinkle. Judging by the condition of this receiver, it is
unlikely that it was ever put into service. It is all original except for the
substitution of an SO-239 UHF connector in place of the Navy coax connector for
the antenna input. The RBA-6 is an impressive performer with ample sensitivity,
direct dial read-out with illumination and a tracking BFO rather than
regenerative-autodyne detector. The tracking BFO actually works quite well for
finding the carrier on weak NBDs. The dial accuracy is excellent and allows
tuning the NDBs by frequency rather than constantly referring to charts or graphs. The LP
filter does limit the audio frequency response on BC stations but not to the
point where the voice is incomprehensible. The O.L. works quite well at limiting
the maximum output (which is usually due to static bursts) while not distorting the
signal. The RBA-6 is a first-class longwave receiver capable of receiving any of
the signals found below 500kc.
I have been using the RBA during the morning hours for late September through most of October 2009 and have found the receiver to be a phenomenal performer. I can usually separate LLD 353kc in Hawaii from local Reno AP NDB NO 351kc and this is using just a wire antenna and not relying on the directional characteristics of a loop antenna. That's amazing selectivity for a TRF receiver. I've probably tuned in well over 100 NDBs but so far only two were new copies and they were West Coast NDBs. The wire antenna I'm using is the 135' center-fed dipole with 43' of open feed line that is shorted together at the receiver antenna terminals. This antenna, while not really something I designed for LW, seems to work quite well with all of the LW receivers. Radio Rossii 279kc is received every morning coming in very strong - Russian LW station located on Sakhalin Island. JJY also can be received every morning on 40kc coming out of Japan. Noise is the only limitation on reception and for better noise reduction I have to run a loop antenna.
January 21,2010 - I finally got the RBA-6 up to the top floor of the house where it can be used with the six-foot loop antenna. I had tried using the loop antenna in the basement but the concrete floor and the rock foundation were a serious detriment to the loop's performance. The top floor of the house is actually about 30 feet above ground level and allows the loop to function quite well even though it is located indoors. The performance of the RBA-6 on the loop is amazing. The signals just jump out of a fairly quite background noise level. Much quieter than running on the wire antenna. Most frequencies seem to have at least three NDBs active and by tuning the loop I can usually enhance one or the other to allow copy. Quite an improvement in performance.
November 7, 2013 - QTH is now Dayton, Nevada and the antenna is a 300 foot long end-fed wire up about 50 feet. This antenna works quite well with the RBA-6 although the noise level is probably higher than using the loop. However, the actual ambient noise level is so low in Dayton that the 300 ft wire seems to provide better signal levels than the loop ever did in Virginia City. More info to come,... Nov. 8, 2013 0615 PST tuned in JJY at 40kc, very loud signal.
Mackay Radio & Telegraph Company
Marine Radio Receiver Type 3001-A
Commercial Shipboard Receiver from 1948
Mackay Radio & Telegraph Company was founded by Clarence Mackay, son of John W. Mackay, one of the "Big Four of the Comstock" fame here in Virginia City, Nevada. However, by the time this Mackay Radio receiver Type 3001-A was produced, International Telephone & Telegraph Co. had owned Mackay Radio for a couple of decades. ITT continued to use the Mackay name in their marine radio equipment up until just recently, 2006.
The 3001-A is a Longwave regenerative receiver covering 15kc to 635kc in four bands and although the design dates from around 1948 this receiver was built in 1952. The 3001-A was mainly for commercial shipboard (non-military) use where it could be set up as the main receiver or as the emergency receiver. These receivers were sometimes installed into Mackay MRU-19/20 shipboard radio consoles - two 3001-A receivers were normally used in these set-ups along with transmitters and other auxiliary equipment. The 3001-As were panel mounted when installed in the MRU set-ups. The receiver uses an AC-DC circuit and can operate on 115vac or on batteries. Various filament battery options were available with 6vdc, 12vdc and 24vdc being the most popular. B+ was supplied by standard dry cell B batteries when used. The receiver uses a four pin Amperite ballast tube along with six octal tubes. The cabinet has "knock-outs" all along the back and the bottom-rear to allow routing the various cables necessary for the installation. These would consist of the Main Antenna and Auxillary Antenna, the AC power connections, the DC power connections and an external earphone connection. A small built-in speaker provides for radio room monitoring but earphones would normally have been used by the shipboard radio operator. These type of Mackay receivers were used onboard ship for decades (a few reports indicate that some may still be in use.)
|photo left: Top of the chassis showing the Jones plugs that are for
the power and signal inputs to the receiver. The large resistor is for operation on
12vdc for the filaments.
photo right: The under side of the chassis showing the various coils and other components. This receiver was re-capped sometime in the past.
|This Mackay 3001-A was a ham swap meet find purchased in October, 2009. The design and construction of the Mackay 3001-A is obviously commercial and is no where near the "cost-no-object" designs and "over-built" construction that were used by the Navy. Still, the receiver is an impressive performer and has some interesting designs in the circuitry. Tubes used are 1 - 6SK7 RF Amplifier, 1-6J5 Detector, 2 - 6SJ7 AF Amplifiers, 1 - 6G6G Audio Output, 1 -35Z5GT Rectifier and 1 Amperite Ballast Tube. Interestingly, the detector input is also directly connected to the first AF amplifier since the 6J5 is acting like a diode. Each Detector coil has its own "tickler" winding which is routed back to the RF Amplifier's screen and is controlled by a 50K Regeneration pot. Selectivity is controlled by a combination of the RF Gain setting and the setting of the Regeneration - too much RF Gain results in very broad signals. Best performance is achieved using earphones with the AF Gain fully advanced and using only what RF Gain is necessary to hear the signal. Regeneration should be set for autodyne, but just at the oscillation point or slightly into the oscillation range - which ever gives the best signal. The Antenna Trim will somewhat manipulate the signal tuning and can contribute to successful copy on very weak signals. The purple (when illuminated) dial is certainly unique and provides a pleasant visual experience for "lights out" tuning. The vernier reduction action of the main tuning dial seems a bit fast at first but in actual use the bandspread is wide enough that the tuning rate works out just fine. The 3001-A is a great little receiver (weight is only about 35 lbs) with excellent sensitivity and it is capable of receiving just about anything in the LW spectrum. Besides all of the normal NDBs, this 3001-A also has received the LW BC station from Sakhalin Island on 279kc and also JJY 's pulse-coded time signals from Japan on 40kc. The Navy NSRTTY station from Hawaii on 21kc and from Cutler, Maine on 24kc both can received quite well. An impressive receiver that doesn't challenge your back to move.|
Using Vintage Long Wave Receivers
Some of the Signals below 500KC - Tuning around below 500kc offers some interesting challenges and a different kind of DXing. Nearly all signals encountered are either CW, MCW, RTTY or some kind of data transmission. There are virtually no voice transmissions except for foreign longwave BC stations. Here are some of the types of signals found below 500kc.
An enjoyable part of listening below 500kc is receiving the many different Non-directional Beacon (NDB) stations that are located at many airports around the world. Airport NDBs operate continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The transmissions are nearly always in MCW using a 400hz tone (1020hz was popular in the USA.) The NDB station will transmit its assigned call letters in International Morse every few seconds. The NDB ID usually is a three-letter combination that often bears some resemblance to the airport location, e.g., CHD in CHanDler, Arizona. US NDBs that use only two letters for an ID are usually "marker beacons" located at the beginning of a runway. Often, marker beacons are not listed on NAV-AID websites and therefore are sometimes difficult to identify. NDB transmitter power is generally around 25 watts in the USA, however there are some US regional NDBs that run up to 400 watts and a few coastal "transoceanic" and Alaskan NDBs that run 1KW to 2KW.
Canadian NDBs will follow their station call with a "key-down" signal until the call is sent again. This makes all Canadian NBDs easy to identify. Also, most Canadian NDBs run substantially more power than the typical 25W US NDB, so their NDBs usually put out strong signals. Sometimes Mexican NDBs will proceed the ID with a "long dash" - not "key down," just a long dash, (I have heard this on GRN several times but not on other Mexican NDBs.) NDBs can be found from 190kc up to 529kc although many NDBs are being displaced by powerful DGPS signals within the same part of the spectrum (generally signals from 290kc up to 325kc and 425kc up to 485kc are predominately DGPS signals.) Since the NDB signals are MCW, a carrier is always present on the assigned frequency. With the receiver BFO on, it is easy to locate the NDB carrier and then ID the station when the call is sent. Nearly always, there are multiple NDBs assigned to the same frequency so listening for different characteristics of the transmitted signal becomes part of the method of identification. Also, due to changing propagation, different DX NDBs assigned to the same frequency, will be heard during different listening sessions.
Once the NBD call letters are known, they can be checked against one of the NAV-AID websites. By entering the station ID, the websites will provide the NDB airport location, assigned frequency and sometimes the transmitter power. A good NAV-AID for USA and some Canadian NDBs is www.airnav.com . For all Canadian NDBs and worldwide NDBs, www.worldaerodata.com is a good source of information. These websites also provide a "double-check" that the NDB ID heard on a specific frequency is the actual station received since there are usually several NDBs with the same call letters but never are identical IDs transmitting on the same frequency. Eventually, a list will have to be maintained in order to know when "new" NDBs are received.
||There other kinds of beacon signals that will be received on LW.
Sometimes these are buoys that provide some navigation or hazard information in
bays, lakes and other waterways. Sometimes there are small coastal beacons that have taken
the place of lighthouses. Many times it is next to impossible to find
out the location of these particular signals that are obviously beacons
of some kind. If the MCW ID is not listed in the NAV-AID sites, it does
not mean that the signal received is not a legitimate beacon - the few
beacons are not listed on NAV-AID sites (only airport NDBs.) Even
legitimate airport NDBs sometimes are not listed in any of the NAV-AIDs,
like "marker beacons."
This can be an oversight or sometimes it's a new NDB (yes, there are
some new ones now and again - LYQ in Manchester,TN, for instance, just started up in
2008.) If the NDB heard is not listed in the NAV-AIDs, then try a web
search on the NDB ID or try some of the web NDB logs to see if other
listeners have heard the same station. Sometimes, though not too often,
complete information on the NDB is found by this method. Part of the interest in LW listening is receiving weird and
strange signals that are a challenge to identify.
NOTE: On the future of NDBs - Current US regulations state that if an NDB transmitter fails, the airport is not required to repair or replace their NDB station. Every month, more and more US NDBs are "retired" as obsolete technology since there are other more modern navigation signals available that are more accurate. However, many airports do select to maintain their NDBs as the operation costs are negligible and it provides a safety backup if the pilot has problems with his other air navigation equipment. It is up to the airport to decide if they want to continue to provide their NDB signal as part of a tradition of air navigation.
photo left: One of our LW receiving stations when in Virginia City - the WWII Navy RAZ-1.
|In addition to NDBs, there are foreign longwave broadcasting stations. These
are generally located in Europe and Asia and run incredible power levels. One
million watts of carrier power is common for longwave broadcast stations. Even
though their power levels are extremely high, the signal's propagation faces
severe losses and most longwave broadcasting is intended for regional service
only. Here in the western part of the USA, it is possible to receive a
few LW BC stations but those stations are never strong signals and rarely can the program be
enjoyed. The strongest and most often received station here is Radio Rossii, located on
Sakhalin Island (North of Japan) broadcasting on 279kc at a power level of one
million watts. During the winter months in the early morning (~5AM PST,) Radio Rossii is very strong (for LW BC) and can be heard playing Russian pop-jazz
music and reading their news service. These are always reports in
Russian read by alternating male and female announcers with a short
musical interlude between stories. Other LW BC stations are very weak and many times only the carrier can
be received, the modulated information being too weak to really understand or
"Lowfer" is a nickname for the LF enthusiasts that transmit 1 watt signals to 50 foot antennas in the 190kc to 160kc band. A license is not required to operate these transmitters because their effective radiated power (EIRP) is so low. The limitations have resulted in very clever ways of extracting very weak signals out of the noise in that particular region of the spectrum. QRSS, or very very slow CW, is one method used. It is so slow that a computer usually monitors the signal for several hours (all night) to assure that copy is possible. Other computer programs are also used to make possible copy of these extremely weak signals. Sometimes, when conditions are favorable, two-way human CW contacts do occur. Those are usually referred to as "Real Morse Communications" since so much on this particular band is computer driven and monitored for transmission and reception.
In other countries, 136kc is an amateur frequency that can be used for fairly high power transmissions. The limitations are not nearly as strict as in the "Lowfer" band. In the USA, 22 experimental licenses have been issued under the call WD2XSH/xx. These are licensed individuals that are carrying out experimental transmissions around 500kc (usually 508kc.) The limitations are 20 watts EIRP. About half of the 22 licensees have not gotten "on the air" but some signals can usually be found. In the West, WD2XSH/22 in Sweethome, Oregon is very strong and easy to copy. These signals are CW, not MCW.
Other LW signals are WWVB (60kc) and JJY (40kc,) both pulse encoded time transmissions. JJY will identify their transmissions in CW at 15 and 45 minutes after each hour. WWVB provides no identification. All Loran C stations used to transmit on 100kc. They were precisely timed signals used for determining position based on the propagation delay. All Loran-C stations were shutdown in 2010 in what was mainly a political move that eliminated the last terrestrial-based, long-distance navigation system in favor of satellite-based GPS navigation.
There are several computer programs available that will demodulate many of the data transmission-type LF signals and allow the user to "view" what kind of information is being transmitted. In some cases, weather maps and weather reports can be printed out from NAVTEX. SeaTTY is one such computer program.
SAQ, the Alexanderson Alternator located in Grimeton, Sweden, operates twice a year. Once on Ernst Alexanderson's birthday and once on Christmas Eve. The mechanical transmitter produces a 200KW RF signal on 17.2 kc and operates in the CW mode. Messages transmitted are usually greetings to listeners and relate to whether it's Alexanderson's birthday or Christmas. SAQ is difficult to receive anywhere in the USA. Upper East Coast USA is about the only location that generally can receive the transmissions, although one report of reception did occur in the Central Midwest one time. The difficulty has to do with the 17.2 kc frequency which to successfully receive requires a superbly quite location and an excellent-efficient antenna. Mostly, it's the noise and the fact that SAQ is a third of the way around the world that makes reception impossible in the Western USA.
GOOD NEWS! - 600 Meter Amateur Band Proposal - As of February 2012, there is a proposal to create a world-wide amateur band dubbed "600 Meters." Actually, the proposal is for 7kc between 472kc and 479kc. Initially 1 watt effective radiated power was proposed but there is some indication that maybe that will be raised to 5 watts EIRP - essentially the effective power radiated from the antenna. Since nearly all of the antennas that would be possible for most amateurs to construct would be short in relation to the wavelength, the efficiency of those antennas would be compromised. Therefore, even though the EIRP might be 5 watts, because of antenna inefficiency it might take 100 watts of RF input to achieve 5 watts of EIRP. There are other restrictions that mostly involve other countries where interference with NDBs might be a problem. Also, at the moment there doesn't appear to be any details about the modes of transmission that can be used. Likely, due to the nature of the wavelength, transmissions will be restricted to CW or data transmissions - similar to the 30 meter amateur band in the HF range. The whole proposal has to still go through several steps to become official so it looks like the earliest that amateurs might be able to use "600 Meters" will be early 2013.
As usual,...there seems to be a lot of opposition to having US amateurs operate below 1800kc. Here it is 2014 and still the 600M band is going nowhere here in the US. Canada has approved its use. I'm afraid that 600M is going to end up like the 500kc operations - only a few licenses for a few individuals - if even that. - H.Rogers July 2014
Longwave, or LW, is a general term used to identify wave lengths longer than 600 meters, or all frequencies below 500kc. However, to be more accurate, this region of the radio spectrum is divided into three sections. They are:
Medium Wave (MW) = 300kc to 3000kc
Dealing with the Noise
The Longwave part of the RF spectrum can be very noisy with intense static making copy difficult. In an extreme RF noise generating environment maybe all that will be heard is intense "buzzing" any where you tune. These factors can pose problems when using modern equipment to tune in LW signals but what about vintage gear? How vintage LW gear responds is dependent on the noise environment and the antenna used. Most WWII LW equipment will have some kind of noise limiter and also some filtering though they may be of little use against the types of noise encountered today. Fortunately, most of the noise found on LW is originating from our own houses. Light dimmer switches are notorious for producing an intense "buzzing" RFI on LW. Certain kinds of controllers that have neon pilot lamps (the orange glowing light) can also create RFI noise. Florescent lighting, computers and monitors also can produce RFI noise. Cleaning up our own houses for RFI noise is the first step towards successful receiving of LW DX.
Another noise producer are street lamps - not when they are operating correctly but when they are malfunctioning. Usually before the street lamp goes out altogether it will cycle on and off with a time interval of about 30 seconds to one minute on the start-up cycle. During this time intense RFI is emitted. Some receiver noise limiters can reduce the interference but early LW receivers with no filters are useless during the lamp's start-up cycle. Most of the time the failing street lamp will cycle on and off every couple of minutes, all night long. Normally, if you call the power company they will come out and replace the failing lamp. You will have to have the street lamp ID number that is located on the underside of the assembly by the lens and also the street location (the ID number is visible from the ground looking up.) Fortunately for LW listening, the most intense RFI from street lamps is located in the frequency range from about 450kc up to about 4000kc.
The time of the year and hour of the day are important to successful DXing on LW. Although in theory LF and VLF propagation is generally considered to be mainly ground wave, most NDBs are actually in the medium wave band (MW) which is 300 kHz up to 3000 kHz. MW does have both ground wave and substantial sky wave propagation characteristics. About the only NDB DX reception is going to happen at night and up to just before local sunrise. Below 100 kHz, ground wave makes up the majority of the signal propagation, however losses due to absorption are highest during the daytime so best signals are usually a nighttime occurrence. Sometimes sky wave will still happen in the LF part of the spectrum and this also adds to nighttime's advantage for better reception. Although you can receive the Navy RTTY VLF stations running around 20 kHz day or night, weaker LF stations, like JJY at 40 kHz, can only be received just before local sunrise and night west across the Pacific to Japan.
Due to the sun's position, its affect on the ionosphere and the intense noise generated by the sun's activity, winter nights are always best for reception on LF and MW (in the Northern Hemisphere.) Summer is plagued with countless thunderstorms that add intense noise to the LW spectrum - day and night. Usually by mid-September, the LW signals are getting better and the summer noise is becoming less bothersome. By mid-May, the noise is again increasing to the point where only the strongest signals can be heard. Therefore the LW listening "season" is usually considered to be between the Autumnal equinox and the Vernal equinox. Also, low noise LW conditions generally occur during sunspot minimum during the 11 year sunspot cycle. Increased solar activity, usually favored for HF DX, increases the band noise on LW. VLF is not usually affected by much of anything which is why it is used for 24 hour, worldwide military communications. The US Navy RTTY stations located around the world are always easy to receive with equipment that can tune low enough - 20kc up to about 50kc.
|| In the early days of wireless communications, all transmissions were on
longwave. After the signing of the Alexander Bill in 1912 moved the amateur
operation to 200 meters or below, experimentation into the shorter wavelengths
began. Ships and navigation remained in the longwave region, (even today most
navigation and submarine communications remain in the LW spectrum.) After
WWI, most receivers used were regenerative detectors with two-stage audio
amplifiers. Later, TRF stages were added ahead of the detector to further
improve weak signal reception. As designs
progressed, the superheterodyne did not immediately replace the TRF regenerative receivers on LW. At first, superheterodyne designs used rather low intermediate
frequencies that limited coverage of certain segments of the LF bands. For full
LW (typically 15kc to 600kc) coverage, the regenerative receiver had no such limitations. Later
designs moved the intermediate frequency above the LW bands to give complete
Regenerative receivers have some advantages over the typical superhet receiver on LW. For example, receiver noise - regen sets are quiet and don't add much noise to an already noisy part of the spectrum. The frequency conversion required in the superheterodyne creates substantial internal noise in the receiver that limits its weak signal ability on longwave. Also, since a minimal number of tubes are used in regen sets, thermal noise is at a low when compared to a large tube-count superhet. The regen set's ability to be set-up as an Autodyne Detector, that is to produce an oscillating condition without a BFO, is also an advantage. With a superhet it is necessary to use the BFO to set-up a condition where the carrier can be heard however the BFO in a superheterodyne can sometimes mask weak signals. Though most BFOs are very lightly coupled in early superhet receivers to prevent "masking" this is not always the case in modern receivers. Additionally, when the regenerative set is oscillating, it is doing so at the tuned frequency while a superhet, using a BFO, is actually providing an audible heterodyne by injecting an oscillator signal at the detector that is somewhere near the IF frequency. It is the level of the injection that is important to weak signal copy. Lack of Automatic Volume Control (AVC) in the regen sets is also an advantage as a high noise level can capture the AVC and decrease sensitivity. Normally, with vintage receivers, most CW listening is done with the AVC off for that very reason. Most superhet communications receivers will provide switchable AVC. However, some modern receivers, especially SWL portable types, do not have a switchable AVC provision leaving the listener at the mercy of atmospheric noise.
be be achieved by use of audio filters in later sets or by advancing the
regeneration control to the point where oscillation just begins in earlier
receivers. Many early receivers also provide a coupling control for
selectivity. By using the ear and listening for a particular tone frequency our
own brain can be a very effective filter although this does require some
practice to become proficient at. Another habit that old radio ops had was to copy
using earphones. This will allow hearing weak signals that are at the
"noise level" - of course static bursts can be almost painful at times when
using early sets without limiters. Keeping the 'phones slightly in front of the
ears is an effective method used by CW ops.
An interesting variation of the typical non-superheterodyne longwave receiver is the RBA series built for the Navy during WWII and later. These receivers use three cascade TRF amplifiers feeding a non-regenerative triode detector followed by three audio amplifiers - in essence, the typical TRF receiver of the late twenties. However, that's where the similarity ends. The RBA also uses a "tracking" BFO that tunes via an additional ganged section of the five-gang tuning condenser. This allowed the BFO to always be 1kc above the tuned frequency and provide the heterodyne necessary to demodulate CW. Also, the RBA featured a "tracking" auxiliary gain control that was gear-driven from the tuning mechanism and kept the gain level constant throughout the tuning range. The RBA was used by the Navy for about two decades and its superior performance illustrates what can be accomplished in TRF design when cost was not an issue - the RBAs sold to the Navy for $3000 a piece in the 1940s.
Now, all of this isn't saying that a vintage superheterodyne can't do a good job on LW reception. When specifically designed for LW, with low noise tubes and circuits, a superhet can perform quite well on LW when used with the proper antenna. However, many superhets just added a portion of a LW band to a receiver that was really designed for HF. These types of superhets are common and their LW performance is usually rather poor. There are exceptions with the National HRO (using G, H and J coil sets,) the Hammarlund SP-200LX (aka BC-779) and the RCA AR-88LF (aka CR-91) being noteworthy as high performance superhets that do a fine job on their LW bands. Also, there are quite a few really high-end, designed specifically for LW, receivers that were made for the military and for the laboratory. The Hammarlund SP-600VLF is one that is particularly favored by LW listeners since it has continuous coverage from 10kc up to 540kc. Unfortunately, it is a rather rare and expensive version of the SP-600. The Collins R-389 LW receiver is so rare and expensive that it is really more of a collector's receiver than anything else. The R-389 performance is usually considered adequate but not phenomenal. Many of the later superhets, like Watkins-Johnson and others, are in the same category as the R-389 - too expensive for the average LW listener. If the LW superhet user runs his receiver with a tuned loop antenna, he will find the signal to noise ratio is greatly improved and many times with these types of antenna, the superhet performs really quite well. The superhet limitations would be due to excessive BFO injection (required for good SSB demodulation) and AVC operation that can't be switched off which allows the receiver's gain to be controlled by the noise level. Most of the time, these functions are found on modern communications receivers and on shortwave portables, not on vintage receivers.
Selective Level Meters and Wave Analyzers as Longwave Receivers
Selective Level Meters and Wave Analyzers are test instruments that incorporate a tunable sensitive receiver with selectable filters and attenuators to drive a calibrated analog meter. These instruments are used for a variety of purposes such as measuring leakage or unwanted signal levels on transmission lines, testing response of various kinds of amplifiers, some types even provide a built-in signal generator for test signals. None of these type of instruments are designed specifically as Longwave receivers, however, some of them actually perform quite well in that function. I have used two Selective Level Meters as LW receivers, a Sierra Model 128 and a model made by Cushman. The Sierra 128 was a vacuum tube model and was fully operational with a good set of tubes and I had performed a full alignment. However, that particular model did not have a BFO to help locate weak NDBs. This made the Sierra 128 very limited in its usefulness as a LW receiver. I also had loan of another selective level meter made by Cushman. This was a solid-state model that did have an on-board BFO with USB and LSB capabilities. It didn't matter, I couldn't pick up any signals using it. The set's owner was also disappointed with the Cushman's performance as a LW receiver and he eventually sold it on eBay. By far, the best instruments for use as longwave receivers are some of the Hewlett-Packard Wave Analyzers.
|I happen to have the HP 310-A version in which the receiver tunes
from 1kc up to 1500kc. The 310-A also has selectable USB or LSB and AM detection
along with 200Hz, 1000Hz and 3000Hz selectable bandwidths. Lowest scale
sensitivity is 10uv FS meter reading (maximum signal level) although using this sensitivity depends on
atmospheric noise is present. With a tuned loop antenna, 10uv FS meter can
almost always be used. During high noise periods with a wire antenna, 30uv FS provides better noise immunity.
In the "Relative"
measurement position the sensitivity is adjustable for best response versus
noise. The HP 310-A is a late sixties to early seventies vintage instrument with
a mechanical counter providing the digital frequency readout. I find
that the performance of the HP 310-A is very favorably compared with any of
the vintage longwave receivers profiled above. The 310-A doesn't have a noise limiter
- mainly, because noise was one of the things the instrument was designed to
measure. However, manipulation of the sensitivity versus the atmospheric noise
seems to do pretty well for coping with the lack of a limiter. Since this is a
measurement instrument, no AVC is provided, so strong signals will over-drive the
310-A, especially when using a tuned loop antenna. Watch the meter and keep the measured signal level at about 75% to 95% of
FS with the Relative Gain control. I have received hundreds of NDBs from all over North
America on my HP 310-A, from DDP 391kc in Puerto Rico to LLD 353kc in
Hawaii. My conclusion is
that Selective Level Meters and Wave Analyzers are designed for finding and measuring leakage
in systems, measuring frequency response or
measuring unwanted signals on transmission lines and other similar applications.
Some of these instruments are useless as longwave receivers. Read up on any
instrument you intend to purchase for longwave reception and make sure others
have had success using it for that purpose. The first two instruments I tried
were of the "useless" variety, however the HP 310-A performs very well as a
photo left: The Hewlett-Packard 310-A Wave Analyzer. The mechanical digital readout is for receiver frequency while the long horizontal scale illuminates a red numeral depending on the sensitivity (max. signal) selected. The tags above the meter switch are USAF property identification tags.
Tuned Loop Antennas or End-Fed Wires
Though LW stations can be tuned in using almost any type of antenna, the "Tuned Loop" provides the user with low noise reception due to its high Q, high selectivity. Another advantage is the ability to null out noise if it is from a particular direction. Most man-made noise will be directional and can be nulled out. The selectivity of the loop will help with atmospheric noise by increasing the receiver's response to the tuned frequency and increasing the signal to noise ratio. The End-Fed Wire is generally any wire antenna that has no feed line - one end of the antenna connects directly to the receiver antenna input. Usually, EFW antennas are between 75 and 150 feet in length due to physical limitations of the user's property size. Much longer than 250 feet and the EFW might begin to exhibit "long wire" characteristics of improved directional gain off of the ends although this actually depends on the frequency that the antenna is being used to receive. Below 500kc, most EFW antennas are going to be "short" and exhibit none of the advantages of typical "long wires" used on HF. However, long (that is a few hundred feet long or so) EFW antennas do provide better signal to noise performance than the typical short EFW and in some quiet locations might out-perform a tuned loop used in a poor location. Extremely long, "Beverage antennas*" perform entirely different (much better) than the typical, short (for LW) End Fed Wire. The EFW's advantage is ease of installation and, even if the antenna is not tuned, it will still give a fairly consistent response throughout the receiver's tuning range. However, because of this wide response and lack of a feed line, it's susceptible to all kinds of noise - made man and atmospheric. While it's interesting to compare the two antennas, I have found that almost without exception a well-designed tuned loop antenna will always outperform a moderately short end-fed wire. This is especially true with more modern receivers - the newer the receiver's design, the better it usually works with a tuned loop antenna. Very early three-circuit tuner regenerative receivers (1920s) seem to be much happier with long wire antennas of various configurations rather than relatively small tuned loop antennas. However when using WWII or later vintage receivers, either regenerative or superhet, the tuned loop antenna provides the low noise and higher signal strength necessary for successful DX NDB station copy. Be sure to read the section below "Using a 300 ft. Long End-fed Wire up 50 ft." for performance evaluation of a long EFW.
*The Beverage antenna (developed by Harold H. Beverage of RCA) is a one to two wavelength long antenna that is terminated to ground on its far end with a 450 ohms non-inductive load resistor. The Beverage antenna is mounted fairly close to the ground with 3 meters specified, although not too much difference in performance is noted with heights from 6 to 15 feet above the ground. Any higher and the antenna will begin to pick up noise. Beverage antennas are directional off of the terminated end. If the 450 ohm resistor is removed the antenna will become bi-directional off of the ends. Beverage developed the antenna for low noise reception and competitive performance. Two wavelengths is the specified maximum length according to Harold Beverage.
Remotely Tuned Loop Antenna Design
My first tuned loop antenna was a ten foot in diameter octagon with 12 turns of 20 gauge stranded wire remotely tuned with variable bias supplied to MVAM-108 varactor tuning diodes. The bias control, or tuning, was located at the receiver position for ease of operation and the bias voltage ran to the antenna via RG-58U coax cable. Tuning range was from 135kHz to 400kHz and by shorting out a turn on the loop the upper end of the range was increased to 500kHz. A 9' diameter single turn pick-up loop was mounted inside the 10' loop and was fed directly to the receiver's antenna input via RG-58U coax. This antenna performed very well with WWII vintage regenerative TRF receivers. Though the 10' loop antenna provided great signals it had a couple of problems. First, due to its size it was non-directional. That might be considered an advantage since I didn't have to provide any method of changing where it pointed. Second, due to its size it had to be located outdoors where it was highly susceptible to strong wind damage. After repairing the wind-broken 10' loop several times, I decided to rebuild the loop into a smaller configuration. This would result in a stronger antenna and would also result in some directional characteristics. The new loop is a square with four foot sides and six feet across the diagonal. 17 turns are used in the antenna portion of the loop. A separate pick-up loop couples the signal energy from the tuned antenna where it is then routed to the receiver. I initially tried a single turn pick-up loop but found the signals were too weak. This was probably because of the very low impedance of the single turn, its physical length only being about 16 feet. I ended up using a three turn pick-up loop and found this gave much better performance. The pick-up loop is fed with RG-58U and connects to the receiver in use. The loop itself is connected to a small plastic box that contains the varactor diode board, connectors and a switch that selects the tuning range. The loop is tuned by varying the bias voltage (0 to +9vdc) on the varactor diodes. The frequency range is from approximately 195kc up to 440kc in two tuning ranges. This loop antenna is very directional and strong stations that are perpendicular to the antenna axis can almost be nulled out. Since this loop is relatively small, I have it indoors in the same room as the receivers. This location has eliminated the wind damage issue. Rotation is manual and since the upstairs floor is wood, I can set the antenna on the floor with no noticeable losses. In operation, signals received on this indoor 6' loop with a three turn pick-up are just about as strong as the outdoor 10' loop was and since it is directional it has the added advantage of increased signal strength when pointed towards the signal source.
Loop Details: The spacing of the loop wires is not especially critical. About
.25" seems to work fine. If the wires seem to get tangled, again, this doesn't
really seem to affect antenna performance much. The combs that keep the wires
separate are made of .25" thick oak and have sawn notches for the wire mounting.
The combs are held in place at the arm's end with glue and screws. To achieve two tuning ranges,
I use switched parallel varactor diode sets. The capacitance for a single
set is about 30pf to 300pf and a parallel set is about 60pf to about 500pf. The
switch is located at the antenna box which would be inconvenient if the antenna
wasn't indoors. I use a 9vdc transistor battery as the bias voltage source and a
ten turn, 10K pot with some limiting resistors to control the bias voltage to
the varactor diode junctions.
|Schematic for Loop Remote Tuning - Shown
to the right is a schematic for a very simple way to remotely tune a
loop antenna by using varactor diodes. As described in the section
above, this circuit can be built into a weather-proof plastic box that
can be mounted at the loop. RG-58U coax cable can be used to connect the
box to the remote tuning box that will be mounted beside the receiver. A
standard project box can be used for the remote tuning box.
Battery voltage is provided with a nine-volt transistor battery and
tuning is accomplished with a ten-turn potentiometer. The remote tuner
is also mounted inside a box for ease of operation. An "ON-OFF" switch
is provided to isolate the battery when the loop is not being used. The coax can be any
reasonable length. The longest I've used is around 50 feet with no
problems. You can use PL-259 connectors on the coax and SO-239 box
connectors on the remote tuning box and the loop box. The resistors and
the capacitor are not critical and only provide a filter for the bias
supply to the varactor diodes. I used three turns on the pick-up loop as
I found two turns didn't provide strong enough signals. Best results
will depend on the antenna input Z of your receiver.
To increase the lower end of the tuning range it is possible to switch in a fixed 500pf silver mica capacitor in parallel with the loop terminals. This will reduce the overall tuning spread but will lower the frequency bottom end by about 40kc or so. As shown, the loop tunes 240kc up to 440kc. With a parallel cap switched in, the low frequency is 195kc. If the parallel cap is added a double switching arrangement can be used for better isolation.
|Additional Loop Antenna Information as of Jan. 29, 2009:
I'm very pleased with the performance of the six-foot loop. I really think its
performance is at least equal to the ten foot loop that was mounted outside and,
many times, I think it's actually better. During the past two months (12/08 and
1/09) I have
logged over 100 new NDBs using the 6' loop. That's not total NDBs heard - it's just new NDBs I hadn't heard before. Best DX was YY 340kc in Mont Joli, Quebec at around 2500
miles. Also, in the other direction, LLD 353kc at Lanai City, Hawaii - also around
2500 miles. Greatest DX wasn't a new NDB for me - it was DDP 391kc in San Juan, Puerto
Rico at around 3500 miles - but DDP is a transatlantic beacon running 2KW - it's
not hard to receive. I think the main advantage of the six-foot loop is the
ability to point it in the direction of the stations and exclude other stations
that are perpendicular to the antenna axis. LLD is a good example since Reno's
NO is very strong and transmitting on 351kc and LLD is on 353kc. LLD is a
transpacific beacon running 1-2KW and would be an easy copy if NO was not a
local NDB. Fortunately, those two NDB
signal paths are physically about 90 degrees apart at my location so I can somewhat null NO and copy LLD by
pointing the loop SW. Signal levels on the six-foot loop are about the same as
the ten-foot loop was. The receiving limitations are primarily the atmospheric noise and
relative conditions, then local noise and finally the receiver's ability to
pull signals out of the noise. The RAZ-1 is very good at weak signal
Another Note on the Loop - I tried using the loop antenna in the basement and found that it didn't function very well there. This was probably due to the concrete floor and the rock foundation walls. Although the basement is 75% above ground, these large rock and rock-like structures certainly limit how well the loop can work. Indoors on the top floor of the house, 30' above ground, the loop is amazing.
Using a 300 ft. long End-Fed Wire Antenna up 50 ft.
UPDATE - Summer 2013: Since moving out of Virginia City with its severe RF noise and physical limitations on antenna size, I have now erected a 300 foot long EFW antenna that is about 50 feet high here in Dayton. I hope to use this for many types of reception but I'm especially looking forward to its LW performance. Since I got the antenna up in July 2013, I won't be able to really test how effective it is on LW until November or December 2013. I can say that on shortwave (75M and 40M) it provides about a 2 S-unit increase in signals over a 25 ft. high (at the apex) Inverted Vee antenna. I'll update this information during the winter LW season 2013-2014.
UPDATE - Oct. 2013: As of October 2013, with the LW season getting underway, I've started listening with the RAZ-1 receiver and the 300' EFW. The first listening session was testing from 600kc down to 20kc. Navy stations NAA and NLK were both "bombing in" here on 24.0kc and 24.8kc at about 5PM. It was still too early for any NDBs except FCH 342kc in Fresno and PBT 338kc in Red Bluff. Reno NDB NO 351kc has been off the air for several months now and may not be returning. The next morning at 6:30AM, I logged a new NDB within five minutes. DPY 365kc from Deer Park, WA was coming in fairly strong for a 25 watt marker beacon. We still have to check JJY at 40kc, Radio Rossii 279kc and a few other "test stations" to evaluate how the 300' EFW is working, but so far it seems to pull in signals pretty well with the signals well above ambient noise levels. I'm positive that the Dayton location is very quite compared to "noisy" Virginia City.
UPDATE - Nov 2013: As of November 6, 2013, I've switched receivers and I'm now using the Navy RBA-6 receiver with the 300' EFW. Another new NDB the first listening session, ICL on 353kc - a 25W marker beacon in Clarinda, Iowa. More to come,...
Non-Directional Beacon Stations in Nevada
"NO" - 351 Khz - Reno, Nevada - NDB for Reno-Tahoe International Airport
Located on 351 KC is the NDB for Reno-Tahoe International Airport. "NO" runs 25 watts and is a marker beacon physically located at the north end of the airport, in an empty lot, across the street (Mill Street) from the beginning of runway 16R. The antenna is only about 15 feet of vertical radiator with a capacity hat that is about 15 feet off the ground and about 150 feet long. The capacity hat is strung between two "not very tall" telephone poles. The transmitter and climate control equipment are located in and around a small building below the center of the capacity hat. The feed actually enters on the west side of the building through an underground conduit. Coverage is quite good considering the low power of the transmitter and the small antenna. Since "NO" is a marker beacon, it usually isn't listed on any of the NAV-AID sites - but it is operating 24 hrs a day, on 351 KC. About once a year, "NO" is "off the air" for a period of 2-3 weeks. Whether this is due to failures or scheduled maintenance is not known - the signal always seems to return after a few weeks.
NOTE: As far as I can tell, "NO" is the last operational NBD in Nevada.
OFF THE AIR
NO has been off the air for over three months now. This is the longest shutdown yet. Hopefully, NO will return to the air pretty soon. When in Reno last (end of Oct.2013) I drove over to Mill St. to look at the NO site. Everything is still there, the shack, the antenna. Everything appears normal but as of November 7, 2013, NO is still OTA.
No change as of July 1, 2014. Consider NO "Off The Air."
photo left: Taken from the rear of an auto dealership looking NE. John Ascuaga's "Sparks Nugget" towers are in the background.
NOTICE: AEC 209kc has been Off the Air since Sept.2009
"AEC" - 209 kHz - NDB for Base Camp, Nevada
AEC is on 209 kc and can be received here day or night, indicating that the transmitter might be running power higher than the 25 watts normal for NDBs. AEC is located near Warm Springs, Nevada on Hwy 6 about 60 miles east of Tonopah, Nevada. The site is called Base Camp. The antenna is an "inverted L" configuration with the shack located at one end near the pole support. From aerial photos it appears that there are a number of ground radials running out from a central location between the two poles. At one time AEC transmitted voice weather along with the MCW ID, however nowadays just the CW ID is transmitted. Base Camp is a US government controlled, fenced air field with a maintained runway and some minor support buildings. Though the runway was recently repaved, there are large "X"s painted at each end of the runway to indicate "as viewed from the air" that it is closed and not in use. Apparently no hangers are at the site. What the exact use of Base Camp is remains unknown, although once it was part of the Tonopah Test Range. Though some speculate it now has some connection with Groom Lake/Area 51, this is highly unlikely. AEC is not listed on any of the NAV-AID sites yet it is in operation 24 hours a day, everyday. It is listed on LF websites that show logs of received stations. As of September 2009, AEC is off the air.
photo left: AEC at Base Camp, NV - this great photo is by Steve McGreevy N6NKS, from www.auroralchorus.com
Other Nevada NDBs (Inactive)
EMC - 375kc - Winnemuca, NV - Off the air since
NDB Station Log 2006/7 - 2008/9
From Virginia City - The following are the NDB stations that I have copied from Virginia City, Nevada using only vintage, tube-type receivers. I have logged most of these NDBs using the 1941 RAZ-1 receiver, but I have also logged quite a few with the 1945 RAK-7 and 1944 RBL-5 receivers in the past. I have also logged some "newly heard" NDBs with the 1920 SE-1420, the 1922 RMCA IP-501A, the 1955 Collins R-390A (485-530kc only) and the 1940 Hammarlund SP-200-LX receivers. For the 2009-2010 season we have added the 1945 RBA receiver, the 1952 Mackay 3001A receiver and the RCA CR-91 receiver. The antenna was a 10' diameter remotely tuned loop that was destroyed by wind. Now, the main antenna is a 6' remotely tuned loop located indoors (as of Nov'08.) I have also found some new NDBs using various wire antennas. These NDB stations have been received during the 2006-7, 2007-8 and 2008-9 seasons. Stations are listed alphabetically along with frequency, location and power of the transmitter, if known. This log is always updated as new NDBs are copied. Total is 252 NDBs received from Virginia City.
New QTH for the 2013 season. We are now in Dayton, Nevada. The antenna used is now a 300 ft. long end fed wire up about 50 feet. New NBDs for 2013 season shown in Navy Blue.
Total as of Nov. 2013 is 257.
AA 365kc - Fargo, ND 100W
ADT 365kc Atwood, KS
AEC - 209kc Base Camp, NV
AL - 353kc - Trina, WA
AM 251kc Amarillo, TX 400W
ANR 245kc Andrews, TX
AOP 290kc -Rock Springs,WY-100W
AP 260kc Denver, CO 100W
AP - 378kc - Active Pass, BC, CAN
ATS - 414kc - Artesia, NM - 25W
AVQ - 245kc - Tucson, AZ
AZC 403kc Colorado City, AZ
BBD - 380kc - Brady, TX - 25W
BKU 344kc Baker, MT 80W
BO 359kc Boise, ID 400W
BR - 233kc - Brandon, MB, CAN
CC 335kc Buchanan AF, CA 25W
CEP- 278kc Ruidoso, NM 25W
CG 227kc - Castlegar, BC, CAN
CHD - 407kc - Chandler, AZ
CII 269kc Choteau, MT 50W
CIN - 397kc - Carroll, IA - 25W
CKP - 423kc - Cherokee, IA - 25W
CL - 515kc - Port Angeles, WA
CLB - 216kc - Wilmington, NC - 1KW
CNP 383kc Chappell, NE 25W
CRR - 245kc - Circle, MT - 100W
CRZ - 278kc - Corning, IA - 25W
CSB - 389kc - Cambridge, NE - 25W
CUH - 242kc - Cushing, OK - 25W
CVP 335kc - St. Helena, MT 150W
CY 353kc Cheyenne, WY
CYW 362kc Clay Center, KS 25W
DAO - 410kc - Ft. Huachuca, AZ
DC 326kc Princeton, BC, CAN
DDP - 391kc - San Juan, PR 2KW
DIW - 198kc - Dixon, NC - 2KW
DN - 225kc - Dauphin, MB, CAN
DPG 284kc Dugway Prov Gnds, UT
DPY - 365kc - Deer Park, WA - 25W
DQ - 394kc - Dawson Creek, BC, CAN
DWL - 353kc - Gothenburg, NE - 25W
EC - 217kc - Cedar City, UT - 25W
EKS 286kc Ennis, MT 25W
EL 242kc El Paso, TX 400W
ELF - 341kc - Cold Bay, AK - 1KW
ENS 400kc Ensenada, Mexico
ENZ 394kc Nogales, AZ 100W
ESY - 338kc - West Yellowstone, MT - 100W
EUR - 392kc - Eureka, MT - 100W
EX 374kc Kelowna, BC, CAN
FCH 344kc Fresno, CA 400W
FIS 332kc Key West, FL
FMZ - 392kc - Fairmont, NE - 25W
FN 400kc Ft. Collins, CO
FO - 250kc - Flin Flon, MB, CAN
FOR - 236kc - Forsyth, MT - 25W
FQ - 420kc - Fremont, MN - 25W
FS 245kc Sioux Falls, SD 100W
FS - 375kc - Ft. Simpson, NWT, CAN
GC 380kc Gillette, WY
GDV 410kc Glendive, MT 100W
GEY 275kc Greybull, WY
GLS 206kc Galveston, TX 2KW
GNC - 344kc- Seminole, TX - 25W
GRN - 382kc - Guerrero Negro, Mexico
GUY 275kc Guymon, OK 25W
GW - 371kc - Kuujjuarapik, QC, CAN
GYZ - 280kc - Guernsey, WY - 50W
HDG 211kc Gooding, ID 50W HE 245kc Hope, BC, CAN
HIN 275kc Chadron, NE - 25W
HJH - 323kc - Hebron, NE - 25W
HLE - 220kc - Hailey, ID - 50W
HQG 365kc Hugoton, KS 25W
IB - 209kc - Atikokan, ON, CAN
ICL - 353kc - Clarinda, IA - 25W
IKY - 429kc - Springfield, KY - 25W
ILT 247kc Albuquerque,NM 400W
INE 521kc Missoula, MT 400W
IOM 363kc McCall, ID 25W
ITU 371kc Great Falls, MT 100W
IY - 417kc - Charles City, IA - 25W
JHN - 341kc - Johnson, KS
JW - 388kc - Pigeon Lake, AB, CAN
K2 376kc Olds-Didsbury, AB, CAN
LAC - 328kc - Ft. Lewis, WA - 25W
LBH 332kc Portland, OR 150W
LD - 272kc - Lubbock, TX
LFA 347kc Klamath Falls, OR
LGD 296kc LaGrande, OR 25W
LLD - 353kc - Lanai City, HI - 2KW
LLN - 266kc - Levelland, TX
LU 213kc Abbotsford, BC, CAN
LV 374kc - Livermore,CA 25W
LW 257kc Kelowna, BC, CAN
LWT 353kc Lewiston, MT 400W
LYI 414kc Libby, MT 25W
LYQ - 529kc - Manchester, TN
MA 326kc Midland,TX 400W
MA - 365kc - Mayo, YK, CAN
MDS - 400kc - Madison, IA - 25W
MEF 356kc - Medford, OR
MF 373kc Rogue Valley, OR
MKR 339kc Glascow, MT 50W
ML - 392kc - Charlevoix, QC, CAN
MLK - 272kc - Malta, MT - 25W
MM 388kcFort McMurray,AB,CAN
MNC 348kc Shelton, WA
MNZ - 251kc - Hamilton, TX - 25W
MO - 367kc - Modesto, CA
MOG 404kc Montegue, CA 100W
MR - 385kc - Monterey, CA
MW 408kc Moses Lake, WA
NA - 337kc - Orange County AP, CA
NM - 278kc - Matagami, QC, CAN
NO - 351kc - Reno, NV 25W
NY 350kc, Enderby, BC, CAN
ODX 355kc Ord, NE 25W
OEG 413kc Yuma Prov. Gnds., AZ
OEL 381kc Oakley, KS 25W
OIN - 341kc - Oberlin, KS - 25W
OJ - 239kc - High Level, AB, CAN
OLF - 404kc - Wolf Point. MT - 100W
ON - 356kc - Penticton, BC, CAN
ONO 305kc Ontario, OR
ORC - 521kc - Orange City, IA - 25W
OT 378kc Bend, OR
OUN - 260kc - Norman, OK - 25W
OWU - 329kc - Woodward, OK
PA - 396kc - Snohomish/Ritts, WA
PA - 347kc - Prince Albert, SK, CAN
PBT 338kc - Red Bluff, CA 400W
PBY 259kc Kayenta, AZ
PD 230kc Pendelton, OR 400W
PDG - 327kc - Watsonville, CA - 25W
PG - 353kc - Portage, MB, CAN
PI 383kc Tyhee, ID
PN - 360kc - Port Menier, QC, CAN
PNA 392kc Pinedale, WY - 25W
POH - 428kc - Pocahontas, IA - 25W
PPA - 450kc-Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
PRZ - 407kc - Portales, NM - 25W
PTT - 356kc - Pratt, KS - 25W
PYX - 266kc - Perryton, TX - 25W
QD - 284kc - The Pas, MB, CAN
QQ 400kc Comox, Van.Is., BC
QT 332kc Thunder Bay, ON, CAN
QV - 385kc - Yorkton, SK, CAN
RA - 254kc - Rapid City, SD - 100W
RD - 367kc - Redding Muni, CA - 25W
RD 411kc - Redmond, OR 400W
RG - 350kc-Will Rogers World AP, OKC,OK
RL - 218kc - Red Lake, ON, CAN
RMD 204kc McDermitt, OR 25W
RNT - 353kc - Renton, WA - 25W
RPB - 414kc - Belleville, KS
RPX 362kc Roundup, MT 25W
RWE 528kc Camp Roberts, CA
RYN 338kc Tuscon, AZ 400W
SA 356kc Sacramento,CA
SAA 266kc Saratoga, WY 25W
SAK 515kc Kalispell, MT 25W
SB 397kc - San Bernadino,CA
SB - 362kc - Sudbury, ON, CAN
SBX 347kc Shelby, MT 25W
SC 271kc - Stockton,CA
SDY 359kc Sidney, MT 25W
SF - 379kc-San Francisco Intn'l AP, CA
SG 341kc Santa Fe, NM
SIR 368kc - Sinclair, WY
SKX 414kc Taos, NM 25W
SL 266kc Salem, OR
SLB - 434kc - Storm Lake, IA - 25W
SM - 230kc - Metre/Sacramento, CA
SOW - 206kc - Show Low, AZ - 25W
SRL - 270kc - Santa Rosalia, MEX
STI 333kc Mt. Home, ID
SWT - 269kc - Seward, NE - 25W
SWU - 350kc - Idaho Falls, ID
SX 367kc Cranbrook, BC, CAN
SYF 386kc - St. Francis, KS - 25W
SYW - 428kc - Greenville, TX - 25W
TAD 329kc Trinidad, CO
TF - 373kc - Pueblo, CO
TH - 244kc - Thompson, AB, CAN
TQK - 256kc - Scott City, KS - 25W
TV 299kc Turner Valley, AB,CAN
TVY 371kc Tooele, UT 25W
U6 - 360kc - Creston, BC, CAN
UAB 200kcAnahim Lake, BC,CAN
UK 371kc Kearn, CA
ULS 395kc Ulysses, KS 25W
UVA 281kc Uvalde, TX 25W
VC - 317kc - LaRonge, SK, CAN
VQ - 400kc - Alamosa, CO
VR 266kc - Vancouver, BC, CAN
VT - 332kc - Buffalo Narrows, SK, CAN
WG 248kc Winnepeg, MA,CAN
WL 385kc - Williams Lake, BC, CAN
XC 242kc Cranbrook, BC , CAN
XD - 266kc - Edmonton, AB, CAN
XE - 257kc - Saskatoon, SK, CAN
XH 332kc Medicine Hat, AB, CAN
XJ - 326kc - Fort Saint John, BC, CAN
XS 272kc Prince George, BC, CAN
XT - 332kc - Terrace, BC, CAN
XX 344kc Abbotsford, BC, CAN
YAT - 260kc - Attawapiskat, ON, CAN
YAZ 359kc Tofino,Van.Is., BC, CAN
YBE 379kc Uranium City, SK, CAN
YC 244kc Cranbrook, BC, CAN
YCD-251kcNanaimo, Van. Is, BC, CAN
YD - 230kc - Smithers, BC, CAN
YE - 382kc - Fort Nelson, BC, CAN
YEL - 276kc - Elliot Lake, ON, CAN
YHD - 413kc - Dryden, ON, CAN
YHN - 329kc - Hornepagne, ON, CAN
YJQ - 325kc - Bella Bella, BC, CAN
YK 269kc Castlegar, BC, CAN
YKA 223kc Kamloops, BC, CAN
YKQ - 351kc - Waskaganish, QC, CAN
YL 395kc Lynn Lake, MB, CAN
YLB - 272kc - Lac la Biche, AB, CAN
YLD - 335kc - Chapleau, ON, CAN
YLJ 405kc Meadow Lake, SK, CAN
YMW - 366kc - Maniwaki, QC, CAN
YPH - 396kc - Inukjuak, QC, CAN
YPL 382kc Pickle Lake, ON, CAN
YPM - 274kc - Pikangikum, ON, CAN
YPO - 401kc - Peawanuck, ON, CAN
YPW - 382kc - Powell River, BC, CAN
YQA - 272kc - Muskoka, ON, CAN
YQF - 320kc - Red Deer, AB, CAN
YQK - 326kc - Kenora, ON, CAN
YQZ 359kc Quesnel, BC,CAN
YSQ 260kc Atlin, BC, CAN
YTL - 328kc - Big Trout Lake, ON, CAN
YWB 389kc West Bank, BC, CAN
YWP - 355kc - Webequie, ON, CAN
YXL 346kc Sioux Lookout, ON, CAN
YY - 340kc - Mont Joli, QC, CAN
YYF 290kc Penticton, BC, CAN
YYU - 341kc - Kapuskasing, ON, CAN
YYW - 223kc - Armstrong, ON, CAN
YZA 236kc - Ashcroft, BC,CAN
YZE - 245kc - Gore Bay, ON, CAN
YZH 343kc Slave Lake, AB, CAN
ZF - 356kc - Yellowknife, NWT, CAN
ZP 368kc - Queen Charlott Is, BC, CAN
ZSJ - 258kc - Sandy Lake, ON, CAN
ZSS - 397kc - Yellowhead-Saskatoon, SK, CAN
ZT - 242kc - Port Hardy, BC, CAN
ZU 338kc Whitecourt, BC, CAN
Z5 - 274kc - Vulcan, AB, CAN
Z7 - 408kc - Claresholm, AB, CAN
3Z - 388kc - Taber, AB, CAN
6T - 362kc - Foremost, AB, CAN
USCG - Loran-C Master Station 'M' - 100 kHz - Fallon, Nevada
NOTE: As of February 8, 2010 the Loran-C system will begin its permanent shut down
On February 8, 2010, I tuned in Loran-C Master Station 'M' at 8:30AM PST and it was operating as usual. Tuning in later in the afternoon, at 5:15PM PST, Master Station 'M' had ceased operating. In August 2010, it was noted that Station 'G,' the last remaining West Coast Loran signal, was not transmitting.
Fortunately, we toured Master
Station "M" in July, 2007 and were able to take several photos of the
station including the Megapulse Transmitter and the Control Room -
photos and description below...
Above: The Loran C antenna from main gate. The mast is 625 feet tall with each side measuring about six feet across. The capacity hat is about 900 feet diameter and is formed by the 24 top cables drooping down to large isolators. The size of the installation can be compared to the street lamps near the base of the antenna and just visible is the roof of the station house.
Just outside of Fallon, Nevada is the U.S. Coast Guard Loran-C Station which provides a navigation utility for the Pacific Ocean and the West Coast. Loran-C is part of a world-wide system of navigation mostly used for sea going craft. The Fallon station is designated 'M' since it is the Master Control station for the other three West Coast stations designated 'Y' in Searchlight, Nevada, 'X' in Middletown, California and 'G' in George, Washington. These three stations along with the master station in Fallon allow navigators to determine their position by use of a special Loran C receiver that accurately measures the pulse characteristics of the received signal to determine station ID and then accurately measures the time delay of the precisely timed signal (based on a Cesium atomic clock standard) to determine the receiver's distance from the transmitter. By using the master station signal and at least one slave station signal, the receiver position is determined by timing the two wave fronts to determine their intersection point in reference to the receiver's location. If another slave station can be received then the calculation of intersection point becomes more accurate and likewise the receiver's position. Various corrections are incorporated into the computations to allow for skywave propagation (if any,) terrain (over land or over water) and other minute interferences. Three HP Cesium atomic clocks keep the accuracy of the system constant since correct timing to the nanosecond is essential for determining true position. The best accuracy of Loran C is about 50 to 150 feet.
The transmitter is running 400KW at 100 kHz. The antenna mast is 625 feet tall and 24 top conductors drooping down to large isolators form the enormous capacity hat for the system. The signal consists of a rapid, continuous "tick-tick tick..." centered at 100 kHz. The signal is actually a pulse train made up of eight pulses from each Loran C station. The Master 'M' station has an extra pulse in the train for identification as a "master." Timing is critical as every Loran C station is on 100 kHz and each station has to send its pulses at a precise time for the system to maintain accuracy.
The Fallon Loran C is easy to receive anywhere in the west. It is particularly strong in Virginia City as we have "line of sight" to the Loran-C antenna, even though it is nearly 60 miles away. This is because VC is on the east slope of Mt. Davidson at 6200 feet elevation and looking 60 miles east is Fallon at 3980 feet elevation. You can see Mt. Davidson from the Fallon Loran-C Station. The USGC station and antenna are located West of Fallon at the end of Soda Lake Rd. with a right turn onto Loran Rd. to the site.
Below are some photos taken at the station in July 2007.
Above: The Control Room with Signal Generators, three Cesium atomic clocks, signal and transmitter monitoring, alarms, communications with slave Loran stations. Everything has a duplicate for redundancy.
|Above Left: The 625' Antenna base stands on five ceramic
insulators. The entire weight of the tower and guy system is supported by
these 5" diameter insulators. The feed line is an air spaced coaxial feedline
housed in an eight-inch diameter PVC tube. The box at the
end of the feedline is the lightning arrestor. The output of the
feedline connects to the tower base with 2" diameter copper pipe. The
device to the left of the tower is a coupling transformer for the tower
lights - it allows isolation from the AC line if the tower is struck by
lightning. The ground connection can be seen at the base of the
insulators - four copper sheets 2 ft. wide and .125" thick are buried
and also connect to the radial system that is about 900 feet
diameter. For a scale to the size of this installation, the sides of the
tower are 6 feet across. The circular pads at the top of the triangular
section are for fitting spacers to hydraulically jack the entire tower up for
maintenance to the base mount.
Left: The Loran C 400 KW transmitter built by Megapulse. Most of the transmitter consists of sixteen drivers (eight panels on each side) that shape the final output signal. The station can operate with up to two drivers not working. Past the drivers is the output stage followed by the output coupler. The output coupler attaches to the feedline via two large cables. The incredibly large switching load on the transmitter power supplies results in a very loud audible representation of the transmitted signal.
Right: Looking into the rear of the transmitter bay. The red tags remind the technicians that 30,000 volts is present when the transmitter is operating. Also note the yellow sign regarding the noise present around the transmitter.
|Left: The output tank of the transmitter. One
inductor is hand tuned for a "rough" setting while the final tune is
accomplished remotely with the motor driven inductor. Below the
inductors is the solid state output magnacoupler. Large capacitance can
be used with solid state transmitters resulting in smaller inductors.
These inductors are about 10" diameter. The coils are wound with a cloth covered multiconductor cable.
Right: The output coupler stage. The loading inductance is adjusted with a special tool that fits onto the eccentric knob on the shaft. This allows adjustment with the panel installed and the transmitter operational. Below are the massive capacitors that allow the use of smaller inductors. For size reference, the inductor is about 10 inches diameter.
Note: These photos were taken of the standby units. The access doors to the operational units cannot be removed while the transmitter is running without causing a system shutdown. Even removing these standby unit access doors would have triggered an alarm had it not been bypassed in the Control Room prior to opening.
Thanks to USCG ET1 Chris Shanks for the tour of the facility.
Henry Rogers WA7YBS © November 2007, new info added Oct.2008, Nov. 2008, Jan 2009, Nov 2009
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