in Part 2
in Part 3
in Part 4
WWII Radio Communications Equipment - Part 1
U. S. Navy Shipboard and Shore Communications Equipment
Navy Department - RCA, Andrea Radio Corporation (for RCA)
Designed for the Navy by RCA in 1935, the RAK and RAL receivers were intended to replace the Sylvania-built RAG and RAH receivers designed in 1933. The RAK/RAL cover the same frequencies as the RAG/RAH and are about the same approximate size. Although the Navy had RCA design superhets for both LW and HF (the RAA and RAB from 1931) there seemed to be a reluctance to use the superhet on VLF or LF and the Navy receivers that followed were all TRF with Regenerative Detectors or TRF with Tracking BFO (or heterodyne detector) receivers until after WWII. The RAK and RAL were used in various shipboard applications (also submarine) up through WWII. The two receivers were ruggedly built and reliable in their design simplicity. The RAK is a six tube TRF receiver with regenerative detector that covers 15 kc up to 600 kc in six tuning ranges. The RAL is also a six tube TRF receiver with regenerative detector but covers 300 kc up to 23 mc in nine tuning ranges. Tube line up is the same for both sets with four 6D6 tubes and two type 41 tubes however the RF amplifier sections are somewhat different in each receiver. The RAK uses autotransformer style RF coils while the RAL uses standard RF transformer style coils. Both receivers use a dual dial readout (0/100 with one rotation incrementing the 0/10 one digit) that must be correlated to a graph in the manual for tuned frequency.
Each receiver has its own separate power supply, the CND-20131, which provides power through a ten foot long cable that connects to a terminal strip inside the receiver. The power supply uses a 5Z3 rectifier, an 874 regulator tube and an optional 876 ballast tube that was supposed to be used when the AC line voltage was subject to fluctuations (can cause instability in the RAL receiver at higher frequencies - usually >10mc.) The AC supplied on ships wasn't always stable and fluctuations could occur with just about any switched load on the line. The 876 ballast compensated for the fluctuations in the AC voltage. Meters on each receiver monitor the tube heater voltage (right) and the audio output (left.) The RAK receivers were intended for CW or MCW reception only as a low pass filter is permanently connected in the circuit to limit the upper audio response to about 1200 hz. The RAL had the option of allowing the low pass filter to be switched out of the circuit (switch in "BROAD" position) and can therefore can be used to receive voice transmissions along with CW and MCW signals. An elaborate audio AVC system is employed in both receivers that was a common RCA circuit that performed as an "output limiter" to cope with atmospheric noise, static, lightning bursts and to limit overloading from strong signals. A selectable audio frequency narrow bandpass filter system is also employed in each receiver that allows the operator to switch to various audio frequency tone ranges to enhance a specific CW note for better copy during noisy conditions (or interference.) The audio output Z is 600 ohms and is intended to drive earphones (but it will drive a 600 ohm Z speaker quite well.) The RAL and the RAK receivers were designed to work together through a separate control box CND-23073 that allowed the operator to monitor two frequencies simultaneously (each receiver tuned to different frequencies with the audio from each combined) and also to control power to each receiver. Navy designation for RCA-built receivers will use CRV prefix with the same numbers for identification. Prefix CND was used for Andrea-built equipment.
The RAK and RAL receivers are surprisingly good performers and interesting to operate. The RAK is a first-class longwave receiver and can easily pick up NDBs from all over North America, WWVB or JJY (Japan's LF WWVB equivalent at 40KC) along with LW BC stations (I used to receive Radio Rossii from Sakhalin Island 279kc before it and most other LW BC stations went off the air in 2014.) Any of the VLF Navy MSK stations worldwide are easy to receive. The RAL is also an excellent TRF receiver that will function quite well on the HF ham bands providing good quality audio for voice signals. For stable copy of CW or SSB signals on 20M and shorter wavelengths the 876 ballast tube should be installed in the Power Unit. Frequency fluctuations when tuning stations above 10mc are not noticeable when receiving AM signals, only CW or SSB signals will exhibit some slight frequency fluctuations with power line voltage changes. SW BC and AM BC can also be received with reproduction quality that can easily be considered good communications-grade audio. The RAK-7 and RAL-7 pair shown in the photo are from 1945. There was also a RAK-8 and RAL-8 produced with Magnavox as the contractor. (See "Vintage Longwave Receivers - Part 1" webpage for an in depth article about these receivers.)
RAO 6, 7 & 9 - National continued on with the Navy contracts building the RAO-6, 7 & 9 (the designation RAO-8 ended up not being used.) RAO-2 and RAO-6 receivers will have an ID from National of NC-120 located on the crystal filter control nomenclature plate. The first couple hundred RAO-6 receivers had S-meters and were very similar to the RAO-2. But, the majority of RAO-6 production receivers were set-up for panadaptor and didn't have the S-meter but did provide a rear connection using a SO-239 UHF receptacle for the panoramic adaptor hook-up. The USN identification of the panadaptor version RAO-6 was CNA-46187-D.
The RAO-7/9 receivers were even more robust in construction and had increased shielding to further allow their use with other shipboard equipment without interference. The audio output Z remained at 600 ohms. The RAO-7/9 eliminated the S-meter in favor of panoramic adaptor connections as most versions of the RAO-6 did. The RAO 7/9 simplified the maintenance of the receiver by designing the chassis so that it was easily removable from the cabinet (handles were added to the receiver front panel to assist removal.) The cabinet itself was redesigned for better shielding and easier mechanical construction by making it a one piece unit. The early RAOs had used a separate shock mount cradle system but the new cabinets mounted the shocks directly to the bottom of the cabinet further easing construction and maintenance. The RAO-7 & 9 receivers are physically larger than the earlier versions with full 19" rack width panels although the receivers are not designed for rack mounting since the copper-plated steel (painted black wrinkle) cabinet was part of the shielding necessary. The earlier RAO versions are 17.5" wide, with an integral panel-cabinet-chassis construction that requires major disassembly to service or repair.
Navy Department - Bureau of Ships - Radiomarine Corporation of America
RAZ-1 (AR-8503, AR-8503-P, RM-6)
RAZ-1 was the Navy designation for a group of equipment consisting of a four tube longwave TRF receiver with regenerative detector, a matching one tube preselector and a one tube AC power supply - all built for shipboard use. The Navy number for the receiver is CRM-46092 but it was also known as the AR-8503 in commercial applications. The AR-8503 was in use as early as 1938, mainly in commercial shipboard radio rooms. The receiver circuit uses one RF amplifier, a regenerative detector and two stages of AF amplification. The one tube preselector is Navy number CRM-50092 or commercial number AR-8503-P and the AC power supply is Navy number CRM-20096 or commercial number RM-6. Tuning is from 15 KC to 600 KC in four bands. The Preselector was used to reduce regenerative signal radiation to the antenna in addition to increasing sensitivity and selectivity. The National Type "N" dials are 0-100 scaled with 180 deg. rotation and a calibration chart is included in the manual . The RAZ-1 could be operated from batteries if necessary. The receiver and preselector panels are beautiful machine-textured aluminum with a matte-chromium finish. The receiver case is copper-plated steel under the gray wrinkle finish and uses "shock-mount" feet that were screwed to the operating table, (the pre-selector and power supply were normally screwed directly to the operating table.) The Navy contract is dated December 2, 1941 - just five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The RAZ-1 equipment shown are all assigned identical serial numbers - SN:65. Performance of this operational RAZ-1 is incredible with an ability to extract weak signals out of the noise that is impressive. NBDs from all around North America, LW BC stations and Navy VLF RTTY stations from around the world are easily received. Output is to a set of Western Electric 509W earphones as recommended in the manual. (See "Vintage Longwave Receivers - Part 1" webpage for an in depth article about this receiver.)
RBA, RBB & RBC Series
Considered by many military radio collectors to be the ultimate in WWII receiver design, the RBA, RBB and RBC receivers were "cost-no-object" in design and construction. The resulting performance was so good that these incredible receivers were still in-use by the USN (in some locations) two decades after WWII ended. Today, many vintage military radio amateurs use either the RBB or RBC as their station receiver while long wave enthusiasts consider the RBA one of the best vintage low-frequency receivers available.
Navy Department - Federal Telephone & Radio Corporation (for RCA) - RBA Series
In the late thirties, it was becoming apparent that a replacement receiver was necessary for the aging RAA series of superhet longwave receivers that were initially designed in 1931. Also, the Navy was still using the RAG (1933) and the RAK (1935) LF receivers in some installations. RCA's and the Navy's new design was going to blend the advantages of the TRF designs of the RAK with the TRF and non-regenerative detector with tracking BFO of the RAG. For shipboard operation an effort to keep the radiation on the antenna to a very low level that prevented enemy DF of the receiver location was necessary. Additionally, the low-level of radiation allowed the receiver to operate in the presence of other receiving and transmitting equipment and radar without interference. In order to allow demodulation of CW signals a "tracking" beat frequency oscillator (BFO) like that used in the RAG was incorporated into the design. Since the new receiver was not a superheterodyne, the BFO had to track the tuned frequency, providing a 1kc heterodyne which allowed CW to be readily copied. There were a couple of reasons for not designing the new LF receiver as a superheterodyne. First was to allow complete coverage of the tuning range of 15kc to 600kc. The 1931 solution to this problem had been the expensive RAA receiver that used four different IFs and BFOs to allow complete LF coverage. The second was that the conversion process in a superheterodyne can create a lot of internal noise in the receiver - a problem when operating in an already noisy slice of the spectrum.
Navy Department -
Radio Corporation of America
In 1939, the Department of the Navy contracted with RCA to build the ultimate military communications receiver. The design was to replace the aging RAB superhet receivers with new receivers of the same rugged construction but with much more modern design and performance capabilities. RCA utilized input from engineers from 17 other companies during the design phase of the new receivers. By 1940, the RBA, RBB and RBC were ready for production. The RBA was a TRF LW receiver that matched the RBB and RBC in size and power requirements (description above.) The RBB and RBC were double preselection superheterodynes using 15 tubes plus a 991 neon bulb voltage limiter in the antenna input, a 6-8B Ballast tube for the Local Oscillator heater and the separate CRV-20130 power supply also used two tubes, a 5U4 rectifier and a VT-105 (0C3) regulator - 19 tubes in all. The RBB receiver covers 500kc up to 4.0mc in four bands and the RBC covers 4.0mc to 27.0mc, also in four bands. The Local Oscillator's filament is operated from a 17vac tap on the power transformer through the 6-8B ballast tube also the LO's plate is operated from the regulated 105vdc supply. This design effort allowed the RBB/RBC receivers to exhibit very little drift. >>>
>>> Three IF amplifier stages were used along with a three step selectivity control, a noise limiter control and a switchable audio bandpass filter. Since the AVC could not be on when receiving CW signals, an Output Limiter circuit could be switched in (CW-OL) to keep static bursts or unexpected strong signals from overloading the receiver or the operator's ears. An adjustable squelch control called a "Silencer" was also included. The construction of the receivers were as much as possible alike allowing many of the same parts to be used for each model. There are some tube and component differences in the preselector section of the RBB/RBC but the IF/AF section is identical for either receiver. Three panel meters provided monitoring of Signal Level in db, Audio Output in db and B+ in volts dc. The audio output was designed for 600 ohm Z earphones and up to 20 pairs could be connected in parallel, (who knows why but that's what the manual indicates - 30Z ohm load.) Some of the later RBB/RBC receivers will have an additional 6AB7 tube installed along with a SO239 connector on the back of the receiver. This was an amplified IF output source generally used for a panadaptor. An internally mounted switch allowed the operator to select this IF amplifier output function if desired. The entire cabinet was mounted to the operating table by four shock mounts.
Unlike many earlier USN receivers, the RBB/RBC had accurate direct frequency readout dials that were illuminated and there was also a "power on" pilot lamp. The CRV-20130 power supply was connected via a heavy-duty, "armored" (metal braided) cable with huge nine-pin MIL connectors. Although the CRV-20130 power supply does provide two connectors to allow operation of two receivers with only one power supply, this was considered as "emergency only" operation. When operating two receivers from one power supply, both receivers will be "ON" regardless of which receiver's power switch is activated. The load of both receivers on one power supply drops the B+ voltage and the filament voltage by about 10 percent but any decrease in performance is only slightly noticeable. Super-smooth tuning with large, easy to read dials that are masked for band-in-use readout make the RBB/RBC series a pleasure to operate. The 600 ohm Z audio output will easily drive a matched loud speaker but the design intent was for earphone operation so don't expect thunderous volume. Sensitivity and selectivity are typical of the best designs of the day. >>>
|>>> The 1940 selling price (to the government) for these incredible
receivers was $2400 each - a staggering amount of money. An internal
examination shows why the price was so high. These rugged, over-built
receivers had to withstand the constant mechanical vibration while at
sea in addition to the mechanical shock of firing multiple 16" guns
(along with firing all of the other artillery present on battleships.)
Also to be rugged enough to hopefully be able to withstand the shock of
a possible torpedo or bomb hit and still keep communications operating.
Since the ship had to supply its own power, the receiver circuitry and power supply stability had to withstand the
severe power fluctuations that happened when gun turrets were rotated.
Additionally, everything had to have maximum shielding to prevent stray
emissions from the LO getting to the antenna and also to allow the RBB/RBC to operate in the presence of other receivers, transmitters and
radar without interference. In many instances, the RBA/RBB/RBC receivers
were so well-respected and their performance so good, they not replaced
with more modern receivers until the mid-1960s - a testament to their magnificent design and construction. Shown in the photo above
is the RBB-2 on the left and the RBC-3 on the right - both built by RCA.
The McMurdo Station Radio Room photo shows three receiving stations. The nearest
(#3) is using rack mount type RBB and RBC. The next station back is set
up with three RBB/RBC receivers and one RBA receiver. The furthest
station back is using two RBB/RBC receivers and one RBA receiver.
Using either the RBB or RBC as the receiver in a vintage military amateur radio station requires some thought since neither receiver has any standby function, either on the front panel or remotely. Most USN operations had the receivers and transmitters on separate antennas and operating on "split frequency," that is, one receive frequency and a different transmit frequency. Most ship daily operations were in the receive mode only anyway. To use the RBB or RBC as a station receiver will require good isolation between the transmitter and receiver if they are using the same antenna. A dow-key relay will switch the antenna and some dow-key relays have an extra switch inside the coax barrel that further isolates the receiver. Other military type transmitters will have their own internal send-receive relay. Usually, isolation is good on these types of TR relays and some will ground the receiver contacts when in transmit. Check your transmitter's TR relay, if you're going to use it, to make sure that it does ground the receiver antenna input when in transmit. If you're going to use an external TR relay then utilize the auxiliary contracts to achieve a "receiver antenna input ground on transmit." There is a neon bulb and some other protection circuitry but grounding the antenna input is good added protection. As to muting the receiver, in CW there's no need and the receiver can act as a CW monitor. In AM, the gain control will have to be reduced to mute the receiver if you're using a loudspeaker. When using a headset, you'll probably hear yourself but you probably won't experience feedback. There are other methods to achieve "mute on transmit" but that would require internal additions to the the receiver and then a control line would have to be brought out the back of the receiver. Not necessary and it only compromises the receiver originality.
Since almost every vintage photograph of a shipboard radio room shows the following mechanical device as equipment necessary for radio communication, here's a write-up on the 1942 Underwood Mill
Underwood Elliot Fisher Company
Model S I I Communications
"Mill" Typewriter - 1942
As seen in vintage B&W photos of Navy radio receiving set-ups, the radioman always had a typewriter directly in front of him for providing "hard copy" of incoming messages. These weren't normal typewriters however. They were referred to as a "Mill" and, although based on civilian models, these typewriters had special size fonts that featured all capital letters (either lower case or upper case are capital letters,) a numeral one (1, not a lower-case L,) a slashed zero (Ø,) minimal punctuation on the keyboard and side chrome trim that's painted black.
The mill was used to copy all incoming radio messages or orders. During WWII, all USN or fleet communications messages were sent in CW International Morse as encrypted five-letter word groups that had to be decoded to read the message. The radioman didn't do the decoding, he only copied what was sent. The hard copy of the message was then taken to the decoding room. The actual encryption code changed everyday. The first five letter group identified the encryption code used and that same five letter group ended the message. Intercept worked differently since it dealt with enemy transmission monitoring. Some later (Cold War era) intercept installations had special metal platens installed on the mills to prevent previously typed "top secret" messages from being read by looking at imprints on the platen. Also, some installations had continuous feed paper supply that was sprocket-driven fed by the mill.
NOT ALL mills were used by the Navy. ALL branches of the military had uses for these special typewriters.
Navy Dept. - General Electric - RBD (CG-46132)
The RBD receiver was used with the TCX transmitter as low-power, two-way communication equipment intended primarily for small open boats or launches. The TCX provided CW at 32 watts output power and Voice at 9 watts output power. Antenna was a 24 ft. whip. The RBD receiver was a seven-tube superheterodyne that provided continuous tunable frequency coverage of 1.5mc up to 12 mc in four tuning ranges with an additional four crystal-controlled, fixed-frequency receiving channels that could be selected with a front panel rotary switch. Crystals were inside metal cases that resemble metal octal tubes and plug into octal tube sockets on the receiver chassis. A headset output was provided as well as a separate loud speaker output - both with individual output level controls. The circuit uses single preselection (one RF amplifier stage) along with a converter stage (mixer combined with LO in one tube) and a separate oscillator for the crystal controlled channels. Three IF amplifiers operate at 915kc. A combination BFO and Detector/AVC tube is used in the circuit. A single 6V6 provides the audio output. The bottom cover had shock mounts installed. Power requirement is +12vdc for the tube heaters and +220vdc for the B+. A dynamotor set-up could be provided for either +12vdc or +24vdc input. There was also a power supply available for either +110vdc or 110vac operation. Remote operation was possible using a 30 foot long cable provided with the equipment. The RBD (and the TCX) were not produced in large quantity and the serial numbers only go up to 500. The contract dates from 30 June 1941 however the "acceptance" tag is dated in 1944. The RBD shown in the photo is original finish with black wrinkle finish front panel and top, olive-drab sides/back and bare aluminum bottom cover.
Navy Department - Bureau of Ships - Hammarlund Mfg. Co., Inc.
MODEL RBG, RBG-2 - TYPE CHC-46140
The HQ-120X receiver was a good seller, so just before WWII began, the Navy decided that they could use a relatively small receiver that had a lot of usable features. The intended use was for shore stations and other applications where the LO radiation from the antenna wouldn't cause interference to other radio equipment. Of course, the "Navy" HQ-120 would have to be built with more robust components and some of the ham-features would have to be eliminated, or at least, modified. The resulting receiver was the RBG/CHC-46140 and the first contract was NOs 87147 from June 14, 1941. The actual contractor was General Electric Supply Company (Washington D.C.) who, in turn, had Hammarlund design and build the RBG and the RBG-1 receivers. The contract for the RBG-2 was NXss 20831 from January 5, 1943. With contact NXss 20831, the USN worked directly with Hammarlund to supply the receivers. From collected serial number data, it appears that between 1500 and 2000 RBG-2 receivers were built. Highest observed serial number from a RBG-2 (so far) is 1473.
The RBG and the RBG-2 are virtually identical with only minor changes to the S-meter housing style, some panel nomenclature and the size of the panel data labels. The RBG-1 was for operation on 25 cycle 115vac. The RBG band spread was modified from ham band calibration to frequencies that the USN needed. Band spread calibration is for the top four bands, so Band 3.2-5.7mc has BS cal'd 4.00-4.60mc, Band 5.7-10mc has BS cal'd 8.00-9.60mc, Band 10-18mc has BS cal'd 12.00-13.60mc and Band 18-31mc has BS cal'd 15.0-18.0mc. The square-flange bakelite S-meter of the HQ-120X was replaced with a metal case, Super-Pro Carrier Level meter that included the arbitrary "1 to 9" scale that was used on the then current Super-Pro models (the 200 Series Super-Pro.)
The RBG tube types were upgraded from the HQ-120X to use all single-end tubes (except the converter tube, a 6K8) and the circuits were slightly redesigned which ended up reducing the total tube count to eleven. Audio output impedance was changed to 5000 ohms Z (it had been 6 ohms Z in HQ-120X.) Components were mil-spec with oil-filled paper caps for power supply filters, potted transformers and chokes along with tub caps for bypass applications.
The "data plates" aren't actually removable tags. The data is embossed as part of the front panel nomenclature. The serial numbers are stamped into the panel. With the "militarization," the RBG-2 chassis is about 2" deeper than the HQ-120X had been. The 8" loudspeaker and cabinet were part of the RBG package and identified as CHC-49154.
Shown to the right is the artwork picture of the RBG from NAVSHIPS 900,004-JB, the Instruction Book for the RBG, RBG-1 and RBG-2 receivers. This artwork shows the shock mount in very good detail and how the receiver mounts into the cradle using the side thumbscrews. One side handle is shown in this artwork. Also shown is the CHC-49154 eight-inch loudspeaker with 5000Z ohm matching transformer installed in a black wrinkle finished cabinet. Note the nomenclature on the Antenna Compensator control is different on the RBG than on the RBG-2. Note that the S-meter is a full-glass front style (early 200 Series Super-Pro style meter) where the RBG-2 has the later style Super-Pro meter. The other difference is the size of the data labels with the RBG labels being much wider than the dial escutcheons while on the RBG-2 the labels are about the same width as the dial escutcheons.
The RBG receiver was only used at shore stations or in the direction finding equipment designated as DAW (RBG receiver and DF gear in a large truck.) The minimal shielding and high LO leakage to the antenna prevented the Navy from using the RBG as a shipboard receiver. Generally, a single preselection front-end will result in images becoming apparent around 10mc if the signals are strong. With a careful IF/RF alignment and proper adjustment of the Antenna Compensator along with using a resonant antenna, image-free reception is possible up to about 15mc. Most of the USN shore uses were much lower in frequency where the RBG did a fine job. A reasonable size and weight with incredible "bench presence" make the RBG an excellent choice for a vintage military radio receiver.
||RBG-2 Repair, Rebuilding and
- The iron used in the RBG receivers is from Chicago Transformer
Company. All of these are high-quality, potted-types of transformers and chokes. The resistors, on the other hand, are IRC brand
and many of these have likely drifted in value over the past 75 years. Be sure to
check the resistance values for tolerance (most were 10% components but
20% is acceptable.) I had to replace six resistors in SN: 519 and some
of those had drifted 100% in tolerance. Six large, chassis mount,
can-type capacitors are oil-filled paper dielectric types used
as power supply filters. These are very reliable units and should only
be replaced if they are leaking oil or are defective. Most of the bypass
capacitors are multi-units in tubs. These are probably also oil filled
and seem to be very reliable. The easiest way to verify these caps for
leakage is to measure the voltage drop on the associated resistor. If
excessive, likely the capacitor is the cause. I didn't find any
defective in SN: 519.
The 5000Z audio output impedance is high enough that any loudspeaker with a single-ended audio output transformer can be used. An original LS-3 is suitable (8000Z) and I've also used the National MCS-8 (7000Z) although the Audio Gain will have to be advanced slightly when using these loudspeakers because of their higher impedance. The Hallicrafters PM-23 (5000Z) sounds very good and the original CHC-49154 also sounds pretty good. Both of these types of loudspeakers provide a good impedance match. If you use 'phones, the impedance is 600Z ohms at the PHONES jack.
SN: 519 had an inoperative crystal filter. The filter itself was found to be mis-wired internally. The crystal filter had been worked on sometime in the past and had certainly not functioned since that time. The wiring problem was probably due to the very similar-looking color codes used on the type of wires used in the entire receiver chassis. All of the wire insulation is white with very small, various color tracers that can hardly be seen. Any troubleshooting involving tracing of the wiring should also be carefully rechecked against the schematic and verified with an VOM.
Alignment is very easy but the LO high end is adjusted with compression trimmers so don't expect the alignment to stay put very long. Also, the inductor adjustments use a compression threaded spring washer to adjust the tension on the L slug threaded adjuster rod. Many times these loosen when the L adjustment is made. Be sure to check these spring tension adjusters and tighten as needed (I found several had loosened.) The 18mc to 31mc band is fraught with images so be sure to keep the signal generator at the lowest possible input level to avoid mistaking an image for the proper frequency adjustment. Check the tracking from 18mc to 31mc. If you're aligned to an image the tracking will not be accurate. If the receiver tracks closely on the top band, you're aligned correctly on that band. Once RF tracking is aligned, the dial accuracy is very good. It was spec'd for 1% of the highest frequency on each band and it achieves this easily.
|Performance - Overall, the RBG-2 performs quite well up to about 18mc. It's an
excellent receiver on 160M, 80M and 40M. Signals on 20M are down a bit
but copy is usually pretty good and there normally are very few (if any) images
(a yagi or other directional gain antenna would really help 20M
performance.) The top band (18-31mc) is limited in both sensitivity and
image rejection. Trying to use the RBG-2 at these
frequencies, other than for casual listening, would absolutely require a resonant antenna with some gain, like a yagi
or a quad. IF Bandwidth is pretty narrow, I'd guess it's
around 4kc at -3db down. The crystal filter works quite well at narrowing
the bandwidth even more. Audio reproduction is fairly bassy due to the
narrow IF bandwidth. If a wider bandwidth would be desired, then the IF
section should be sweep aligned. Overall, a very nice receiver with great
visual appeal for a vintage USN military radio station.
NOTE: I've used RBG-2 SN:519 many times as the station receiver when operating on the amateur mil-rad nets on 75M. It's an impressive performer on 75M with ample sensitivity and lots of selectivity. Audio output quality is quite pleasant and easy to listen to for long periods of time. The one minor issue is the lack of a remote standby and that requires the user to manually operate the SEND-REC switch for the standby function. But, the impressive bench presence, overall great performance, its small size and fairly light-weight (~60 lbs) more than compensates for the lack of a remote standby.
Navy Dept. - National Company, Inc. - HRO Junior Variants
The Navy found little use for S-meters or Crystal Filters so the HRO Junior receiver, which lacked these features along with amateur bandspread coil sets, was a good receiver to start with to create what the Navy needed for various communications and monitoring functions. First, the Navy wanted an HRO that would tune continuously from 50kc up to 30mc. The Navy was especially interested in uninterrupted tuning in the 400kc range. This required National to re-engineer the HRO IF section to tune at 175kc and also to modify the LO coils in the coil sets that were supplied with this variant of the HRO Junior designated the RAS. Seven coil sets were supplied with the RAS that allowed coverage from 190kc up to 30mc with complete coverage of the 400kc part of the spectrum. The RAS was installed into a 36" tall table rack that also included a coil storage unit and power supply. Sometimes a loud speaker panel is also installed in the rack. Most Navy HRO racks didn't have loud speakers because nearly all reception was done using head sets. If you run across any "orphan" coil sets that have the coil assembly insulator marked with the number range of 5,6,7 or 8, these are 175kc IF coils and they are for the RAS.
The RBJ is a similar HRO Junior variant that covers 50kc to 30mc with nine coil sets. Frequency coverage is actually 50kc to 400kc and 480kc to 30mc. The 80kc gap in the frequency coverage is around the IF of 456kc. The RBJ is also installed in a table rack.
Shown in the photo to the left is the RBJ-2 receiver from an artwork illustration in the manual.
Navy Dept.-the Hallicrafters Co. - RBK series (S-36 and S-36A) VFH Receivers
The RBK Series of VHF receivers were produced for the USN by Hallicrafters. The RBK started out as what was essentially Hallicrafters' upgraded S-27 model, the S-36 (actually a new designation for basically the same model.) The RBK tunes from 27mc up to 145mc in three tuning ranges and will receive signals in AM, CW or FM. The IF is 5.25mc and two selectivity positions are provided, Sharp and Broad. Audio output is a pair of 6V6 tubes in P-P with 500 ohm Z and 5000 ohm Z outputs on early receivers. A 600Z ohm balanced output was added to the later S-36 at the front panel phone jack with selectable CT ground using rear chassis terminals. A four-position switch is used for the Tone control with Low, Normal, High Fidelity and Bass Boost positions. Toggle switches are provided for BFO, ANL and AVC. 15 tubes are used and features three acorn-type tubes in the front end, 956 RF amp, 954 mixer and 955 LO.
All of the earlier RBK receivers use the S-36 receiver circuit (the IF tubes are standard ID and the filter capacitor is a square multisection unit) but the tuning dial bezel will have "S-27" embossed on it. It's generally believed that Hallicrafters used up all of their S-27 bezel stock before switching to the S-36 bezels. Even the RBK-1 Navy manual artwork shows the S-27 bezel on the receiver and IDs the receiver as the S-27D. The Hallicrafters S-36 manual also shows the S-27 bezel in the receiver artwork. By the RBK-8, a different S-meter was being used that had a white scale and was non-illuminated. Later versions were designated as "S-36A" and this identification was also embossed on the later dial bezels. Some of the very late RBK receivers may have what appears to be an extra RF amplifier tube, however this is the "re-radiation tube" (a unity-gain buffer stage between the antenna and the RF amplifier stage) for increased isolation to reduce LO radiation leakage to the antenna. The "re-radiation" stage was required for certain countermeasures applications and many of the RBK receivers were used with panadaptors and various other equipment for enemy radar signal analysis, on shore, airborne and at sea. The panadaptors had to be compatible with the 5.25mc IF that the RBK used.
|It's possible that S-36 models used by the Army Signal
Corps won't have military data plates on them and are identified by
a metal Hallicrafters identification plate mounted to the left of
the dial bezel and the presence of Signal Corps acceptance stamps. It's
also likely that some S-36 models were used in
civilian government applications,...airports for instance where there
were a lot of VHF activities that had been going on since the
late-thirties (airport towers used both HF and VHF in the early forties, also
beacons were on 75mc in the early-forties.) It's likely these models would
also have the Hallicrafters ID plate. The Hallicrafters ID
plate was eliminated on the S-36A and subsequent post-WWII versions.
The following are some of the identifying characteristics of the S-27, S-36 and S-36A.
S-27 Model has IF tubes shown as "industrial tubes" 1853 (6AB7), 1852 (6AC7) and the standard 6SK7, frame-type power transformer, two individual filter chokes in power supply, filter capacitor is a standard round multi-section type electrolytic mounted on top of the chassis, 6C8 dual triode for phase inv/1st AF tube, the dial bezel will have S-27 embossed, the band switch knob is a small round knob with a skirt, S-meter is illuminated and has a yellow scale and is mounted behind the front panel with a small bezel, 500Z and 5000Z audio outputs only (the S-27 is covered in Rider's XII.)
S-36 Model has IF tubes shown in the standard designation as 6AB7, 6AC7 and 6SK7, frame type power transformer, two individual filter chokes in power supply, filter capacitor is a square package multi-section mounted on top of the chassis, early S-36 has the 6C8 tube but later S-36 uses 6SL7 tube, early S-36 will still have "S-27" embossed on bezel and band switch will be round knob with skirt, later S-36 will have "S-36" embossed on dial bezel and will have the skirted bar knob on the band switch, S-meter is the illuminated, yellow scale type on most versions but very late versions were fitted with a non-illuminated, white scale meter that's mounted to the front side of the panel, two upper panel holes (for cabinet) between main and logging dials and between logging dial and S-meter, later S-36 will have a 600Z ohm balanced audio output line at the phone jack on the front panel with terminals on the back chassis apron with selectable grounded CT in addition to the 500Z and 5000Z outputs (the S-36 is not covered in Rider's)
S-36A Model has same IF tubes as non-A, uses a potted power transformer and a single unit dual filter choke that's mounted on top of chassis, square multi-section filter capacitor, 6SL7 phase inv/1st AF tube, location of the two 6H6 tubes changed, late versions will have "S-36A" embossed on dial bezel with skirted bar knob for the band switch, non-illuminated white scale S-meter mounted to the front of the panel (not the yellow scaled S-meter mounted behind the panel and a small bezel as in the S-27 and S-36), controls for AF gain, Tone, Send-Rec switch, BFO pitch relocated, only one upper hole (for cabinet) between main dial and logging dial, engraving ID moved from S-meter area to upper left panel area and metal ID plate eliminated, advertising artwork shows that cinch-plug not used to cover S-meter adjustment hole, the audio output includes a 600Z ohm balanced output at the phone jack on the front panel with terminals on the rear chassis apron for selectable grounded CT in addition to the 500Z and 5000Z outputs (the S-36A is covered in Rider's XV)
Most of the engineering upgrades were incorporated into the receivers as they were built on the production line. It's common to find an early version of the receiver that has one or some characteristics of the later version. Also, normal production methods would generally result in most existing stock being used up before new stock was installed on new production however intermixing of stock was also common, so all versions of the receiver may have a few characteristics of earlier or later versions.
The RBK series followed the S-36 to S-36A circuit evolution so expect the contract date on the RBK to somewhat determine what circuit variations will be encountered. The change to the S-36A would have happened by 1945. The installation of the "re-radiation" tube would be near the end of WWII and would continue on in the post-WWII RBK versions. Civilian S-36A receivers didn't use the "re-radiation" tube.
The RBK/S-36 somewhat followed the typical Hallicrafters SX-28 "physical evolution" in that early versions will have the shallow textured finish on the front panel while the later versions will have the very heavy textured finish on the front panel. Also, early versions use the open-spoke tuning knob while later versions have the webbed-spoke tuning knob. The band switch on the S-27 used a skirted round knob that was changed to a skirted bar-knob on the later S-36. As mentioned, by mid-1945, the S-meter changed and was the same as the meter used on the R-44/ARR-5 receiver. Very late versions, like the RBK-16 (shown to the left,) have a non-textured panel that's painted smooth gray finish with three rack notches per side rather than the two per side found on earlier versions. The Tone, the BFO pitch and AF gain controls along with the Send-Receive switch were all relocated and the data plate mounted where the Tone control had been. Also, the "S-36" and "h" logo embossing on the dial bezel along with the panel engraved "hallicrafters" and receiver ID were eliminated. The RBK-16 shown has the re-radiation tube installation. This receiver is also fitted with a very late version of the S-meter featuring a convex front cover. These very late versions of the RBK were actually built on post-WWII contracts,...1952 in the case of the RBK-16 shown.
I have two versions of the RBK/S-36,...the RBK-1 shown in the top photo with a 1943 serial number of H-166844 with "S-27" embossed on the tuning dial bezel and a second version with "S-36" on the bezel but it's apparently a civilian-airport model with the late-1944 serial number HA-8187, shown to the right. HA-8187 was just acquired ($20 out of a large storage unit in Carson City - Oct 2021) so I haven't had time yet to do a "clean up" and "check out" although under the dirt, dust and sticker residue it appears in decent shape (refurbishment write-up is included below.)
On the RBK-1, unfortunately, H-166844 was formerly owned by a ham-ster and, while he didn't destroy the RBK-1, it does have some non-original holes in the back apron of the chassis and had a "mounted on the chassis" audio output 500Z/8Z matching transformer (that I removed.) When acquired in 2003 (free - out of a backyard shed in Gardnerville, NV,) I put it back to original and got it functioning. I was able to receive FM-BC quite well, Reno Area Air Band traffic (~136mc airplanes as they few over Virginia City) and there was some 10-11 meter activity also. The RBK/S-36 was designed for a 75Z ohm antenna and the manual suggests either a "cut to frequency" dipole or an end fed wire antenna. The RBK-1 seemed to pick up more VHF signals using a large wire antenna rather than a small dipole antenna. I didn't perform an IF/RF alignment on the RBK-1.
HA-8187 Inspection - Nov 26, 2021 - The S-36 wasn't secured in the cabinet so the chassis was pulled out to make moving easier. Since this came from a huge workshop that was being used for storage, there was considerable dirt on the chassis. I used a large paint brush to remove the loose dirt. I needed to dismount the front panel so all of the knobs, switch nuts, control nuts and mounting screws were removed. >>>
|>>> I had wondered about the four tag screws and the pan head
panel screw that was installed and would have been under a tag. With
the pan head screw removed the countersunk hole for a flat head
screw assured me that there had originally been a Hallicrafters
identification plate mounted there (also, once the panel was
clean a "shadow" of the original ID tag was apparent.
I had a proper vintage S-36 ID plate to be used on this receiver.)
The S-meter had to be disconnected before dismounting the front panel. Once the front panel was off, further cleaning could be performed. I stripped the front panel of all remaining parts and began cleaning to remove the adhesive tape residue. The tape residue came off with WD-40. I cleaned the panel with WD-40 followed by Glass Plus (to remove the WD-40 residue) and then polished the panel with a dry flannel cloth.
The tuning dial bezel cleaned up with Glass Plus and dry flannel cloth wipe down. There are four pencil hand-written notations on the bezel that indicate the "Air W" frequency (about 120mc) and three other air nav frequencies in the 70mc region (logging scale notations - not actual frequencies.) I left these pencil notations on the bezel since they are part of the history of the receiver that show it was used at an airport. Another airport-use indicator an obvious "non-original" part which is the filter capacitor block. It's a semi-professional installation, which means it's much better work than a ham would have done but not at the level of military depot rework. That's typical of airport technician rework,...a little better than average but not at factory or mil-depot work. During the rebuild I came across other indications of "amateur level" rework such as "junk box" mismatched replacement capacitors but the most indicative "ham-stering" was the BFO problem that was caused by an added (and unnecessary) 5pf trimmer added to a parallel LC that already had two adjustments to the same LC combination. Additionally, the trimmer installation created a solder bridge on the 6J5 tube socket,...real ham-ster work. My conclusions are that some of the repairs were performed by airport technicians and others were probably done after the receiver had been sold as surplus. >>>
|>>> An operational "worrying factor" are the 13 Micamold
capacitors under the chassis. These are original components so
they are 75+ years old which in the Micamold "expected
usability" time-frame is beyond ancient.
The three obviously newer replacement capacitors indicate that three Micamolds had
failed in the past. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I
replaced all of the .01uf capacitors, Micamolds along with the replacements
that had been installed in the past.
AC power cord is dried-out and cracked. IRC and ERIE resistors, so they will all need to be checked for value (unbelievably, all resistors were in spec.) Very small crack in main dial plastic window which difficult to notice.
Other minor issues,...the S-meter needs a lot of work,...plastic lens is loose and resting against the meter scale. There's a very small missing piece at the bottom of the scale and from that small notch location is a crack in the meter scale material (illumination required to see how badly the crack shows.) Lots of black electrical tape wrapped all around the meter housing which is probably to cover up the typical "split like an onion" condition that's typical for spun-brass meter housings. Meter scale is pretty worn but should be okay with a careful cleanup.
The knobs are a little oxidized but should cleanup okay. The white tape residue came off the front panel very easily and it was easily removed using WD-40 from the two small bezels.
Cabinet is very dirty but it's slightly bent in the top-front but it's not badly scratched overall so it should cleanup nicely. Straightened up nicely.
Pulled all of the tubes and cleaned the chassis with WD-40 followed by Glass Plus. Cleaned the oxidized condenser box cover with a brass brush and WD-40 followed by a Glass Plus clean up.
|Nov 28, 2021
- Reassembled the S-36. I had to straighten the front panel
since there were bends that prevented the panel from setting straight
against the chassis and the side gussets. Cleaned all of the knobs. The
oxidation was minimal and easily cleaned off with WD-40 and 0000 steel
wool. This has to be done very carefully and gently to prevent removing the very thin black
coating while still cleaning the nomenclature and the surface problems.
Following the WD-40 treatment, the knobs were cleaned with Glass Plus
and polished with a flannel cloth. The vintage screw boxes turned up a 10-24 FH blade screw for the mounting screw
that is located under the Hallicrafters ID tag. Also, one other
pan head 10-24 that was needed for the other missing panel screw
(found in the box of used Hallicrafters' screws.) Four NOS trim nuts were needed
for the toggle switches because someone in the past had
tightened them to the point where I had to use a
WD-40 soak and vise-grips to remove them which, of course,
damages the trim nut beyond reuse. These are just trim nuts and only
need to be "finger-tight" because the toggle switches are
actually mounted to the chassis, not the front panel. A search
through a parts-box of miscellaneous items and I found a perfect
cinch-plug for the S-meter adjustment hole (and it was already
painted black wrinkle finish.)
I tested all of the tubes and all of them tested "like new." This is somewhat common in gear that was used commercially and serviced regularly. Probably the receiver had been recently serviced just before it was pulled from active duty. If it was used after it had been sold surplus, it was used very little. Even the "acorn" tubes in the front end (954, 955 and 956) tested good. One has to be careful installing the 954 and 956 since they can fit into the socket two ways. The longer part of the tube faces forward towards the front panel (or, always install the "short" end of the tube going into the socket.)
Nov 29, 2021 - Disassembled S-meter and reinstalled the plastic lens into the housing. Cleaned lens and dusted the scale. Reassembled but rather than using tape to cover up the "split onion" housing, I used one wrap of 16 gauge TC and carefully twisted the wrap to tighten all around the split housing. The "twist" was located at the bottom of the meter to be out-of-sight and the TC wrap was painted black to further hide this clamping method. Installed the S-meter. Installed four good condition-used toggle switch trim nuts (finger tight, of course.)
Quickie Test - This tests just the tube heater voltage with load and the power transformer. I just pull the rectifier tube and power up the receiver. Without the rectifier tube installed, B+ won't develop. The HV AC can be measured between pins 4 and 6 on the rectifier socket (measures about 600vac.) I leave the receiver on for about 15 minutes to see if the power transformer develops any heat which would indicate a problem with shorted windings but after the time period the transformer was still cool to the touch. >>>
>>> The next step is to reform the electrolytic capacitors which tests and conditions them for use "at voltage." All resistors are given an "in-circuit" check. This will usually show the over-all condition of the resistors. If several have drifted in value, then heat in the form of leaking bypass capacitors would be suspected.
Power up had nothing but typical thermal noise. Rocking the band switch resulted in some FM BC stations being received on a ten foot long "test antenna." Since the receiver probably hasn't been powered up in decades, it will take some time to clean all of the controls for good contact and noise reduction.
Nov 30, 2021 - Used De-oxit and a small paint brush to clean the band switch. This was a tremendous help for the receiver that now functions on all three bands. Cleaned all of the other controls and switches.
Dec 1, 2021 - Cleaned and straightened the cabinet. Reconditioned the wrinkle finish with a 3 'n 1 oil rub. Installed the receiver into the cabinet. Considering that most of the parts are original, the S-36 operates pretty well (not for long.) Of course, FM-BC has extremely strong signals that are easy to receive even on a ten foot "test" antenna.
Dec 9, 2021 - I debated on whether or not to do this but eventually my curiosity won out and I replaced all of the Micamold capacitors (also, the fact that the 2nd IF screen bypass Micamold shorted within 25 minutes of powering up the receiver probably had some influence on the decision.) Surprisingly, there really wasn't a significant improvement. A little less distortion but signals still seemed lacking. I decided that the S-36 probably hadn't been aligned in decades and had certainly "kicked around" a lot since that time. The 5.25mc IF alignment was way off and the IF realignment really boosted the output level. The FM Discriminator was also off since the IF had been so far off. I imagine that back in the 1940s the FM Discriminator was particularly difficult for service technicians to adjust but, with modern lab-quality test gear that can readout frequency exactly each and every time a frequency change is made, finding the balance setting is easy. The RF tracking was way off on Band 1 but not too bad on Band 2. Band 3 only has a RF trimmer adjustment so the factory-set tracking was pretty good. The only signals that are powerful enough to result in images are from the FM-BC band and result in tuning some FM-BC stations "out of the band" when using a large end-fed wire antenna. It turned out that the IF/RF Alignment was what was necessary to get the S-36 sounding good on FM-BC and picking up air traffic above the FM-BC band. I guess the new caps helped a little,...at least the power transformer runs pretty cool now. I used a PM-23 for the audio reproducer connected to the 5000Z output.
FM BC in the Forties - One thing to consider about the S-36,...at the time the receiver first became available, Armstrong FM was just beginning to broadcast (experimentally by 1939, officially in 1941.) This early FM was on 44-49mc approximately (top end of Band 1 and bottom of Band 2.) Above the Armstrong FM band, around 60mc, was experimental "wide-bandwidth" AM broadcasting (Band 2.) During WWII, the FCC notified Armstrong and the other FM broadcasters that after 1947 the 44-49mc FM band was going to be eliminated and the frequencies used for TV broadcasting (actually Channel One, which was never used.) The new FM band would be approximately 88-108mc and would start up in 1946. During part of 1946 and most of 1947, both FM bands operated concurrently (Zenith actually offered a couple of 1947 model entertainment radios that covered both FM bands.) After 1947, all FM BC in the USA was on 88-108mc (Band 3.) Luckily for the owners of the S-27 or S-36 and even the S-36A models, either or both FM-BC bands could be tuned when they were concurrently broadcasting.
Performance - FM-BC in NW Nevada is a landscape of country music stations, rock&roll/hip-hop stations and various types of talk stations - in other words - just like AM-BC but with better fidelity yet still unlistenable program content. Other then FM-BC, all other types of transmissions on the frequencies covered by the S-36 are going to be sporadic at best. The 6M ham band, at one time, was used for Radio Controlled model airplane flying around here. The VHF-TV translators around here aren't in operation anymore so no more VHF-TV audio (VHF Ch.2 up to Ch.6 were below the FM-BC band.) In Dayton, I'm located quite a bit further away from the Reno AP flight path than I was in Virginia City BUT so far I've heard several transmissions on the Air Band which is about 118mc to 137mc in the USA. I copied an Air Canada flight coming into Reno on 136mc so there are some interesting signals at the top of Band 3. On a "contest weekend," I copied a fairly strong SSB signal on 10M calling "CQ Contest" and several 27mc CB heterodynes. Lots of beacons or frequency markers between 30mc and 45mc. Supposedly, 27.5mc up to 49mc is the "Business Band" with lots of Forestry Department user frequencies and also some water and power company user frequencies but I haven't copied any voice transmissions in the Business Band,...at least not yet. To successfully use the S-36 or RBK receivers, a little research into what VHF frequencies are being used in the area would certainly help to locate some of the sporadic transmissions. Also, using a resonant antenna would probably increase signals for specific portions of the frequency spectrum covered by the S-36.
Navy Dept. - National Company, Inc. - RBL Series
National produced the RBL series of longwave TRF regenerative receivers for the Navy during WWII. The RBL uses a seven tube circuit covering 15 KC up to 600 KC in six bands. The tube line up consists of three cascaded 6SK7 RF amplifiers, a 6SG7 regenerative autodyne detector, a 6H6 audio limiter with a 6K6G audio output tube and the 5Y3G rectifier (5U4G in earlier RBLs.) Unlike the RAO that it resembles, the RBL receiver's bandswitch does not operate a moveable coil catacomb, instead an intricate set of gears simultaneously actuates two large ceramic bandswitches. Also unlike many of the WWII longwave receivers, the RBL series has direct frequency readout on the tuning dial. The receiver also included a selectable "broad" or "sharp" audio filter and an adjustable output limiter for operation during intense static conditions. The limiter control was very well designed and works wonders at reducing static bursts. Audio output is via the earphone jack on the front panel and is for 500-600 Z ohm 'phones. Heavy duty construction through-out and the entire receiver is fully shielded with a cabinet that is copper plated under the black wrinkle finish. The RBL-5 shown in the photo is from 1944 and its excellent original condition is matched by its first-rate performance. The RBL-5 is a great performer, capable of receiving NBDs from all over North America, world-wide LW BC, WWVB, JJY, Navy RTTY and almost all other types of signals in the LF spectrum. The contractors for the RBL Series is similar to the RAO Series in that National built certain versions and Wells-Gardner built other versions. Also, like the later RAO receivers, the RBL-6 used a 19" front panel and was mounted in a larger, one-piece cabinet for ease of maintenance. (See "Vintage Longwave Receivers - Part 2" webpage for an in depth article about this receiver.)
National Company, Inc. - RCK-N for US Navy (unofficially)
National had been building receivers for airport communications since 1932 with their contract for RHM superheterodynes. The HRO was destined for airport use but its many accessories, such as multiple coil sets, separate power supply and speaker seemed to limit its popularity as an "airport receiver." In 1936, National introduced the NC-100 "Moving Coil" Receiver. Only a speaker was required and the receiver was easy to use and very durable. By 1937, National had introduced the RCD, an NC-100 especially made for airport communications use. That was followed by the RCE that had further refinements to airport use. The RCF and the RCF-2 came along in 1940.
During WWII, Navy airport ground-to-air communications required some changes to the standard National Co. Airway Communication Receiver. The Navy wanted more than just the 200kc to 400kc band that had been standard for Airway receivers. National added 400kc to 800kc to allow full use of that part of the spectrum, particularly complete coverage of the entire 400kc to 500kc band. The remaining HF bands cover 2.5mc up to 23.5mc, again, slightly different than the standard National Co. Airway receiver but probably tailored to what the Navy airbases needed. The RCK-N wasn't built on a specific Navy contract. Possibly, National offered the RCK-N to any airport users that required increased LF and MW coverage and the Navy just happened to be the major user during WWII.
12 tubes are used in the RCK-N with no S-meter or carrier level indicator supplied. The C.O.N.S. switch is a "Carrier Operated Noise Silencer" that acted as a squelch control allowing the receiver to operate only when a carrier was present. Since the receiver covers 200kc to 800kc continuous, the IF had to be moved from the standard 457kc (for all other National Co. Airways receivers only) up to 1560kc. Audio output uses a single 6V6 into a 600Z ohm load. The entire Airway communication receiver line continued with the RCL that featured a two-position bandwidth switch. After WWII, RCK and RCL receivers were rebuilt into the RCP and RCQ receivers by specialized contractors (not National.) The last National Airway receiver was the RCR from 1948 and it was based on the NC-240CS receiver.
The model letters RCK seem to have been concurrently assigned to both the Airway receiver by National Company and to a Navy VHF four channel receiver built by Scott Radio Laboratories. National's assignment of "RC" for all of their Airway and Airport receivers had been going on since the RCD receiver in 1937. RCK was National's next identification assignment when this receiver was released. Apparently, National was aware that there was a Navy RCK version but rather than reassign different letters, National added a suffix "-N" to differentiate their RCK-N from the "official" Navy RCK VHF receiver. As stated, the RCK-N wasn't an official Navy contract but the Navy was probably the main intended purchaser.
Navy Dept. - General Electric - TAJ-19
TAJ transmitters were found on most larger Navy ships during WWII. Though the Navy catalog states that they were for cruisers or destroyers, they were also used on most large Navy ships for Medium Wave and Low Frequency transmission requirements.
This TAJ-19 was left in my driveway back when I was still operating the Western Historic Radio Museum in Virginia City. I had a telephone call some months before from a ham in Washington state who was "cleaning house." He said the next time he was down in Nevada he'd drop off some equipment that had been used at Grand Cooley Dam for guided tours and public address. I never thought too much about it since it sounded like it was audio gear that was mainly for parts. I really stopped thinking about it after I didn't hear anything for a month or so. Months later, I was coming home from running some errands and there in my driveway was a seven foot tall rack full of audio equipment like rack tape players and speaker panels. Also, a pile of audio cables and miscellaneous other types of PA-type audio equipment. To the side of the audio gear was the TAJ-19. The fellow had mentioned an old Navy transmitter that might be good for parts but not what type it was. It was odd that the guy didn't "hang around" town since it was Virginia City and there were all types of distractions (maybe I mean attractions) to pass some time. Not to mention, I had only been gone for a little over an hour. Perhaps he was in a hurry and just "dumped" the gear and left. Anyway, I never heard from him again.
Now, this TAJ-19 isn't complete. It has been severely scavenged for parts over the years. I'd estimate that around half of the transmitter is missing. But, the cabinet and the panels are excellent and complete with knobs, meters, switches and even all of the data plates. Only the very bottom front panel is missing. The sides, back and top are all present. The various chassis are present. Even a couple of the 860s are still installed but the 861 is gone. So, while this particular TAJ-19 will never again be operational, if another TAJ-19 ever showed up around here, who knows? Maybe between two of them, one functional transmitter could result. Of course, Medium Wave and LF CW for the amateur is somewhat limited with only two bands approved at this time - 630M and 2200M. 630M or 472kc to 479kc allows CW and data operation with a 5 watt EIRP limitation. It's not as low of power as one would think. Due to the inefficiency of most ham antennae at low frequencies, the effective radiated power can be rather low even though the input power is relatively high. Think of a dummy load. You can input a lot of power and it radiates very little. Most antennae on 630M are something like the dummy load. The typical ham antenna on 630M would have about 400 watts RF input before the EIRP would be about 5 watts. So, there may be hope for an operational TAJ-19,...if one can figure out how to power it up without the shipboard power and the motor-generator set-up. A fairly large homebrew AC power supply is the most likely solution.
U. S. Navy Shipboard and Shore Entertainment Receivers
SLR-F Receiver with BFO
E. H. Scott Radio Laboratories, Inc. - SLR Series, RBO Series
During WWII, Scott Radio Laboratories was contracted to design and build a type of military marine entertainment receiver that had very low Local Oscillator radiation or leakage to the antenna system. Scott advertising of the time indicated that the Navy was concerned with the possibility that enemy submarines could tune in a superheterodyne receiver LO signal and determine a ship's position with direction finding equipment. The Scott ads further stated that enemy DF equipment was sensitive enough to detect LO signals up to 100 miles away. While this all may have been theoretically true, the primary reason for the installation of low radiating receivers onboard ships is that any receiver has to operate in the presence of the several other receivers, transmitters and sometimes radar equipment that would also be in use on the ship. None of the receivers can cause interference with ship equipment and they must be able to perform their function without interference from other ship equipment. The USN specification was "less than 400 pico watts" was to appear on the antenna from local oscillator leakage. The "Scott Low Radiation" Receiver, or SLR, was built to operate in such a shipboard environment with no interference. The Scott SLR receivers tuned the standard AM Broadcast band and two bandspreaded Shortwave bands. They were designed as a stand-alone receiver capable of high quality reception and wide range audio reproduction via its powerful push-pull 6V6 output stage.
Scott Radio Laboratories, Inc. - SLRM Marine Receiver
The SLRM is a twelve-tube shipboard receiver that operates on 115 volts AC or DC. The construction is unusual in that aluminum is used for chassis, the shielding and the cabinet. This reduces the receiver's weight significantly - weight is around 50 lbs. Single pre-selection is used with two IF stages. An ineffective BFO and a clipper-type Noise Limiter are provided. Selectable bandwidths are available. The RF gain is controlled by the AVC when MOD bandwidths are selected but the RF gain becomes a manual control if CW is selected. Frequency coverage from .54mc up to 18mc. Push-pull 25L6 tubes for the audio output. The 1629 "eye tube" only operates when AVC is controlling the receiver sensitivity in MOD modes. In CW, the 1629 will remain "on" but the "shadow" will not respond to signals since the AVC is disabled. The panel speaker is 5" in diameter but there is a multi-impedance-taps output transformer for external loads. The panel speaker can be turned off if an external speaker is used. Onboard the ship, the audio output would have been connected to distribute the receiver output as necessary.
Performance is quite good for AM signals. In the HF bandwidth AM BC signals or strong SW BC signals sound great if a large diameter, matched external speaker is used. The SLRM was primarily an entertainment receiver, not a communication receiver.
On the downside,...there will be many problems encountered when operating the SLRM. The seriousness of these issues is dependent on the user's expectations. Images will become very apparent around 15mc. SSB and even CW performance is extremely poor, in fact, these modes are impossible to demodulate. The SLRM may as well not have a BFO since it doesn't function adequately. The BFO tube is only running +10vdc on the plate (check the manual, the 220K ohm plate load resistor significantly drops the B+) and then the BFO circuit is electrostatically-coupled to the detector which results in a totally useless BFO. It's likely that because of the SLRM's single pre-selection circuit and all-aluminum construction there was more RF leakage than the <400pW specification when the BFO was operating (turned on.) Scott obviously intentionally reduced the BFO output until the RF leakage was <400pW probably figuring that the SLRM was going to be for shipboard entertainment where the barely-functional BFO wouldn't be missed anyway. Nowadays, it's very easy to replace the 220K BFO plate load resistor with a resistor value around 4.7K which will increase the plate voltage on the BFO tube to around +85vdc. This increases the rms voltage of the BFO output to the point where SSB and CW demodulation is possible. An additional improvement would be to couple the BFO through a 10pf capacitor to the second detector. This would result in a standard BFO circuit for the SLRM. The RF Gain would still have to be reduced to the point where the signal to BFO injection ratio provides good demodulation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Another significant problem is the SLRM's AC-DC power input which MUST NOT be operated with the original 3-wire "twist lock" plug and a modern grounded (3-wire) AC power plug connected directly to the house AC line. To do so will connect the line return power wiring directly to chassis which prevents the dial lamp from lighting and takes some of the bias voltages to chassis. Modern house AC wiring has neutral connected to ground (at the breaker box) and this will conflict with the receiver power input wiring that assumed the two AC lines would be "floating." To safely operate the SLRM (or any AC-DC receiver) requires the use a 1:1 isolation transformer. This provides the "floating" two-wire AC plus separate chassis ground that the SLRM design anticipated. The isolation transformer should use a three-wire cable/plug on the input side. The input side ground pin should be wired directly to the transformer's output socket ground pin only. The AC output of the isolation transformer winding will be "floating" which allows the use of the original three-wire power cable and twist-lock plug that grounds the chassis but not either of the "floating" AC lines. The original power cable on the SLRM used a three-wire "twist-lock" (actually, two wires and a shield-ground) which can still be used if powered with an isolation transformer set-up as described. Be sure to have an "ON-OFF" switch on the AC input to the isolation transformer. This can also be operating the isolation transformer from a switchable three-wire power strip. If the isolation transformer is left connected to AC and to the SLRM, then the two line bypass capacitors will be passing a small amount of reactance AC current to chassis ground - even if the SLRM is turned off (check the schematic.)
TecRad LRR-5 from 1945
Technical Radio Company (TecRad) - LRR-5
Technical Radio Company was founded in San Francisco, California in 1937 by Clayton Bane and George Weiss. Bane was an assistant to Frank Jones at Western Wireless, Ltd. (1932 to 1934) where he helped install the first two-way radio system at Alcatraz Federal Prison. Many of Bane's crew at Western Wireless went onto work at Eitel-McCollough (Eimac) but Bane went on to form his own company called Technical Radio Company. TecRad (as it was sometimes called) became a prime contractor for the U.S. Navy building high quality shipboard entertainment receivers and a couple types of small transmitters. Only a few companies built Navy acceptable shipboard entertainment radios since there was a strict requirement that no more than 400 pico-watts of LO leakage was allowed on the antenna. TecRad claimed that only 100 pW was present on the antenna with their receivers. Scott Radio Laboratories built the SLR and RBO receivers that are the most common of the "low radiation" WWII shipboard entertainment receivers but TecRad also produced their versions during the war designated as "LRR" with numeral suffixes from 1 up to 6 (LRR = Low Radiation Receiver.) The TecRad receiver shown is the Model LRR-5 from May 1945.
The LRR-5 is typical of the WWII shipboard entertainment
receivers in that robust, high fidelity audio is delivered to selectable
multiple output impedances (six impedances from 16 ohms to 800 ohms)
since many ships had various kinds of audio loads depending on the size
and layout of the audio distribution within the ship. A front panel
speaker switch is provided to allow disconnecting specific speaker lines
depending on how the ship's speaker system was wired. Most systems
probably had the speaker switch wired to allow the local radio room
speaker to be disconnected while the ship's audio system remained on. 15
tubes are employed in the LRR-5 including an 0C3 voltage regulator and
push-pull 6V6 audio output tubes. Also, a 6E5 cathode ray tuning
indicator tube is provided. The frequency coverage is typical of
shipboard entertainment receivers with the AM-BC tuned with Band 1, Band
2 tuned from 2.0mc to 6.5mc and Band 3 tuned from 6.5mc up to 18mc.
Also, a very accurate logging scale is provided. Single preselection is
used along with two IF amplifiers with three selectivity bandwidths
available. A phonograph input is also provided. Like some of the Scott
Radio Labs' SLR/RBO receivers, a BFO is included - just in case the
receiver might be needed for CW reception and a Send-Receive switch is
provided - just in case the receiver had to be used for two-way
communications. Unlike the Scott receivers, the LRR-5 includes separate
RF and Audio Gain controls thus when the BFO is tuned on, the RF Gain
must be reduced and the Audio Gain increased for proper CW reception.
In 1948, Clayton Bane stated that due to some personal reasons and due to the fact that his building lease was not going to be renewed he was closing down TecRad. According to Bane the company was profitable but there was also some difficultly in that the Navy wanted TecRad to remain exclusively a Navy Contractor and not be able to produce for the civilian market. Bane went on to form a successful advertising business. Bane died in 2003.
Minerva Corporation of America - W117 "Tropic Master"
The Minerva Tropic Master is an eight-tube receiver that covers AM-BC and provides one Shortwave band, 5.5mc to 18mc (there are some minor variations in the shortwave coverage with different production runs.) The cabinet is metal and features a fold-down front cover along with a carrying handle. The Tropic Master is an AC-DC powered receiver. There were two circuits used with the earlier version having push-pull 50L6 tubes and a series-parallel filament string. This version could also be modified to use two 25L6 tubes by changing the filaments to series making the entire string a series load. NOTE: The schematics in Riders VOL. XV have several errors including the 50L6 filament connection. The later circuit uses two 50A5 tubes and a 35Z5 rectifier. The P-P audio seems a bit much for the small built-in PM speaker. Four controls provide Volume and ON-OFF, Tone, Band Select and Tuning. The rear panel of the cabinet has a door to allow access to the power cord and the antenna terminals. The Tropic Master didn't have enough shielding to be used onboard ships as the LO leakage would have exceeded the minimum acceptable level of 400pW on whatever antenna was used with the receiver.
Minerva advertised that they had supplied the Tropic Master to the military (both Navy and Army) as a "Morale Radio" - that is, a radio primarily for entertainment in barracks or other shore locations. Apparently, a few Tropic Masters did serve in that capacity as there seems to be enough first-hand accounts to believe Minerva's advertising was essentially true. Certainly though, the majority of Tropic Masters were sold post-WWII. The selling price was $75 and many were sold out of the PXs at various military bases during late-1945 and through 1946. The Minerva W117 schematic in Riders' VOL. XV is dated June 1945 and this data shows the two different versions that are documented. There are apparently other minor variations that were incorporated into the receiver circuits but these were not documented.
The Crosley Corporation - REO
Crosley seemed to have most of the WWII contracts for the smaller "Morale Radios" destined for shore use. Though the Scott SLRs and RBOs along with the TecRad LRRs could and were used aboard ships, the smaller radios were generally designed to be less expensive and this usually resulted in excessive LO radiation which prohibited their use aboard ship. Though some of the more elaborate "Morale Radios" for shore use were sometimes found in metal cabinets (like the Tropic Master above,) the REO is housed in a wooden cabinet that is painted Navy gray. This simple radio covers AM BC only. The controls are left to right, Volume, On/Off and Tuning. The Navy wanted to be sure that every user was aware that the REO was strictly "land use only" and provided a large red warning tag stating so ("Unsafe Radiation Limits" refers to the radio's Local Oscillator signal radiation from the antenna and elsewhere in the circuit since the cabinet provides no shielding.)
WWII U. S. Navy Contractor Designators
|During WWII most U.S. Navy equipment built for the war effort was manufactured or assembled by contactors. Many times the items built would be a specific product model of a particular company and would have exactly the same company parts and same assembly techniques but the item was assembled by a contactor company. The contactor-built equipment had to meet the same specifications and therefore most of the time the equipment performs exactly the same as another example built by the original manufacturer or another contactor. Each contactor or component supplier had a specific letter identification that was incorporated into the specific model number. The first letter is always a "C" then the following letter or letters identify the particular company. So, if a piece of Navy radio equipment is ID'd as CFT-43600, then that piece of equipment was built by Federal Telephone & Radio Corporation. Below is a list of designators used for some of the popular contactor and component supplier companies during WWII.|
|CAN - Sangamo
CAW - Aerovox (capacitors)
CAY - Westinghouse
CBN - Central Radio Labs
CBV - John E. Fast & Co. (capacitors)
CBY - Aircraft Radio Corp.
CCR - Bendix Radio (div. Bendix Aviation Corp.)
CCT - Stromberg-Carlson Co.
CD - Cornell-Dubilier (capacitors)
CDC - Dictograph Company (audio reproducers)
CEX - Emerson Radio & Phonograph Corp.
CFD - Federal Mfg. & Engineering Corp. (test gear)
CFN - Farnsworth Television & Radio Corp.
CFT - Federal Telephone & Radio Corp. (ITT)
CG - General Electric
CHC - Hammarlund Mfg.
CHH - Arrow-Hart Hagerman (toggle switches)
CHL - The Hallicrafters Co.
CHS - Hygrade-Sylvania Corp. (vacuum tubes)
CJB - J.H. Bunnell Company (telegraph equipment)
CJC - Howard B. Jones
CKP - Air King Products Co., Inc.
CKR - KEN-RAD (vacuum tubes)
CLF - Littlefuse Labs
CLT - Lundquist Tool Co. (telegraph keys)
CMA - P.R. Mallory & Co. (capacitors)
CMC - Clarostat Mfg. Co. (potentiometers)
CME - Radio Manufacturing
Engineers, Inc. (RME)
CN - NEMS (National Engineering Machine Shops)
CNA - National Company, Inc.
CND - Andrea Radio Corp.
COL - Collins Radio Company
CPN - Panoramic Corp.
CRA - Utah Radio Products Co. (audio reprdcrs & xmfrs)
CRC - RCA (Vacuum Tube Division)
CRV - RCA-Victor and RCA Mfg. Co.
CSF - Sprague Specialties Co. (capacitors)
CTD - Tobe Deutschmann Corp. (capacitors)
CW - Western Electric Company
CWQ - Wells Gardner & Company
CWS - Stewart-Warner
CYM - Yaxley-Mallory (switches, jacks)
CZC - Scott Radio Laboratories, Inc.
CZR - Zenith Radio Corp.
|NAVY-RADIO.COM - For the most detailed information WWII Navy gear and on all types and all vintages of Navy radio equipment, radio stations, vintage photographs - go to www.navy-radio.com Nick England's incredible Navy-Radio website has the most information available.|
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