Thursday 31 December 2015

Hunting For NDBs In CLE 202 - Using Remote SDRs


If you've ever enjoyed listening to remote SDRs on the internet, then you might find this particular CLE of interest.

There really are some excellent receivers, with very quiet LF reception capabilities, being made available on the web ... all with just the click of a mouse!

If you have avoided previous CLE activities because of local noise issues, perhaps using one or more of these remotes will inspire you to give it a try ... but be careful ... hunting for NDB's can easily become addictive.

From CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), comes the following (detailed) announcement of this weekend's interesting event:

It is quite easy to listen to NDBs in different parts of the World using remote receivers via the Internet. If you are a fan of 'Live Listening' without use of recordings - this is for you!

I have chosen ten receivers to use, located in eight different radio countries.
Most of them should give quite good coverage of NDBs by day and by night.
A brief description of how to log in to the receivers is given at the end of
this email.

Start: Friday 1 January at 12:00 UTC
End: Monday 4 January at 12:00 UTC
(note the UTC start/end times, NOT your local midday)
Frequencies: 190 kHz - 1470 kHz
Remote Receivers - all of the TEN receivers listed below.
Target: A maximum of TEN normal NDBs logged from EACH receiver.
Try to include as many different radio countries in your log
as you can.

Eight Global Tuners ( ) located at:
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia *428 GLF
Grenoble, Rhone-Alpes, France 291 WS
Mojave Desert, Ridgecrest, California, USA 344 FCH
Odenwald, Hessen, Germany 292 NKR
Crema, Northern Italy 400.5 COD
Rimini, Italy 374.5 ANC
Rovigo, Italy 332 PDA
Vilhena, Rondonia, Brazil 395 VLH

Two WebSDRs located at:
University of Twente, Enschede, Holland *406.5 BOT
University of Southampton, Farnham, England 328 BLK

*As a starter for you, the kHz and Ident of a local NDB are given on each line.

LOGS (Please read CAREFULLY):

Please show your loggings in a SEPARATE GROUP for each receiver with
a line showing the LOCATION NAME OF THE RECEIVER before each group.
Please include on EVERY LINE of your log:

# the UTC date ( e.g. '2016-01-02' or just '02' )
# UTC time (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
# kHz - the nominal, published, frequency.
# Call Ident.

Show those main log items FIRST. Any other, optional, details such as the
NDB's location, etc. must go LATER on the same line. You could include
any UNIDs - e.g. separately if you already have ten loggings for that receiver.
It would be OK to include the same NDB more than once if it was heard with
different receivers.
As this is a special kind of CLE, any extra comments in your log on your
listening experience will be of interest.

REMINDERS: Only use the ten SPECIFIED receivers. Not more than 10 loggings
from any receiver - so 100 is the (impossible?) maximum loggings for the CLE!
Only LIVE LISTENING for this event. Start/End at 12:00 UTC, not your midday.
Remember that reception conditions will depend on the local time of day/night
at the receiver.

We hope to send the owner of each of the ten receivers a list of all the
loggings that we manage to make using it - several of the owners may
not know much about NDBs, so it could help to advertise our hobby.

Whether you are taking part in this event or not - A HAPPY NEW YEAR
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE Co-ordinator)


Go to and sign up for a free account.
You'll only need to choose a user name of 3 or more characters (almost
anything such as your call sign - I used NDBbk) and give your email address
for a password to be sent to you.

Choose one of the eight specified receivers when it is shown as 'Free'.
If available, one of the Italian receivers would be a good starter.
Read the brief information about it and then 'Open this receiver!'.
To start with, set a low volume (usually at the left hand side) and try these
settings: AM, Medium or Narrow, ATT, AGC and NB all UNselected.
The frequency selection is usually in MHz, so for 332 kHz you would enter .332
When you change any of the settings, including the frequency, there is a delay
of a few seconds for the change to take effect. Try CW settings as well as AM.

Please always look out for any messages in the 'chat' lines and give way
( 'Log out' ) if asked to do so (maybe by a Full User or by the owner of that
receiver). We have permission to use the receivers for our CLE as 'guests'.
Please try not to stay logged on to a particular Tuner for a long period.

Go to or
and read the advice (It would probably be easier to start with Twente).

Just as for the Global Tuners, you are invited to enter an Ident - name or
Callsign, etc. - in a box above the Waterfall.
You can begin listening right away.
To start with, set a fairly low volume (right hand side), type the desired
frequency in kHz, select AM-nrw and MAX in.
That should allow you to hear the suggested NDB for that receiver and you
can then enjoy improving reception with the big range of settings available.

In the big black area on the screen above, you can see the frequencies being
used and the Idents of maybe hundreds (for the Twente receiver) of the other
simultaneous users. You will probably recognise your own Ident there too
at the LF end - i.e down the far left hand side.


 These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event. If you are a member of the ndblist Group, results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

The very active Yahoo ndblist Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome.

You need not be an ndblist member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the ndblist or e-mailed to either myself or CLE co- ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above.

Please ... do give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Great Circle Map Generator

A recent 'year end review' posting in the Amateur Radio Weekly blog, reminded me of great little piece of online software that might interest a lot of hams. It is a very nice Great Circle Map Generator, centered on your specific location.

The map generator is the brainchild of Tom, NS6T, and can be found on his 'HAM STUFF' website along with some other interesting bits. The actual map generator can be found here.The user interface is simple and map generation times are fast. Anyone with a beam will likely be interested in this, should they not already have a great circle map for their present QTH.

I used my six-letter grid square identifier for centering the map. Depending on the 'distance' value used, one can tailor the map for local / regional work or for a worldwide setting.

This is the map generated for a distance unit of 500km and would be helpful for local VHF'ing:

This map was produced when a distance unit of 4500km was used ... nice for the 6m grid square hunter:

This worldwide map was produced with an input of 18000km:

Hopefully you might find the map generator of some value in your own shack.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Stew Perry Topband Challenge

Last night saw another running of the winter Stew Perry Topband Challenge.

This contest is unique in that the usual density of activity on the eastern side of the continent does not necessarily provide an advantage ... contest scores are determined by the distances worked and each QSO will have a different point score, depending on its distance. The exchange is a simple one ... grid locators only ... and from these, the point score for each contact is calculated. From my way of thinking, and many others that I have discussed this with, the 'SP' is one of the fairest contests there is, putting everyone, no matter where they are located, on an even footing.

Today's Sun (courtesy:
Unfortunately, mother nature, in combination with ol-Sol, conspired once again to provide some serious geomagnetic disturbance and conditions were anything but memorable ... the 'K'-index jumped to a stormy '5' right at sunset. I seem to be saying this a lot of late, but the sad fact is that sun has been extremely active and punishingly geoeffective as it winds its way down from a rather unnoteworthy peak. To add more mystery to this already quirky cycle, its downslide would make any 'normal', highly-active cycle, stand proud ... the strong slide down does not seem to match the wimpy low-level peak, observed a few years ago.

From here, operating in the 100-watt category, it was a struggle to work the normally easy single-hop stations, with no signs of the central states for several hours after sunset. Several east coast stations were worked towards midnight for the nice 12-point per QSO scores, but truth be told, almost all contacts were a struggle with many stations needing several repeats just to get the call or grid.

My half-sloper antenna and radial system is located right on the edge of the ocean, looking to the east, and its already low takeoff angle is enhanced with ~ 6db of sea (horizon) gain, making it a poor antenna for anything within the first-hop region ... after that it really seems to comes to life.

At 12:15 a.m., I pulled the plug, ending up with just 97 QSO's and 555 claimed points, way down from normal. Other claimed scores can be viewed on the website.

My best DX is usually JA but this time was KH6. The SP is always fun, but better conditions would have really made it a blast ... hopefully next year!

Thursday 24 December 2015

Season's Greetings


      Wishing you season's greetings, good health and happiness in 2016.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Tri-Tet Fun

courtesy: VK5TR

I spent a few hours yesterday, operating in the 'RAC Winter Contest'.

Originally, this contest began back in 1932, when QST excitedly announced a 'Canada-U.S.A. Contact Contest' to run in mid-January of that year.

The contest turned out to be extremely popular and has been run, in one form or another, ever since ... gradually becoming known as the 'VE-W Contest', sponsored by the Montreal Amateur Radio Club, and eventually by its modern name, with one version in July and a second in December.

As a teen-aged ham, the 'VE-W Contest' was always the highlight of the year as the contest format, much as it is today, made anyone with a 'VE' call as sought-after as AC4YN ... not the one in North Carolina!

Old-timers and DXers will remember the call, as it represented the rarest of all possible contacts at the time and only a very lucky few made contact with the low-powered station, high in the Himalayan mountains at the British mission encampment in Lhasa, Tibet, in the late 30's. Having an 'AC4' QSL on the wall anointed you bragging rights for life.

Another great aspect about the contest back then, as in most, was that stations exchanged real RST's and not the meaningless '599' of today's contest operation. It was always interesting to learn how my little station, nestled in the upstairs attic, was really sounding at the other end.

I decided to set up my homebrew 'Tri-Tet-Ten', 6L6 crystal oscillator, and give the contest a short try. Being unable to conveniently move around the band meant that I would be reliant on stations answering my CQs ... not something that normally happens with the little transmitter in typical contest QRM ... but the magical 'VE' factor would change all of that, I hoped.

I plugged-in the 15/20m plate coil and got out my old homebrew RF-sniffer / wavemeter. It was the first piece of gear that I built, as a new 15 year-old ham, and the poor man's spectrum analyzer has been in constant use ever since. Using the 40m crystal's third harmonic, I have found the wavemeter is the easiest way to avoid mistuning and quickly found myself with just over 5 watts of RF ready to go. A tune-up for 20m later, found the second harmonic producing about 10 watts of pile-up generating madness.

Nowadays, the rules have changed a bit, and 'VE-to-VE' contacts are worth more than 'VE-to-W' QSO's but for 'W's, the goal is still to work as many 'VE's as possible ... and call they did.

Over the period of a few hours, the Tri-tet did not disappoint, generating 206 callers, including PY, PJ and HP ... frequently generating pileups 4 and 5 deep. I didn't try 10m as by the time I got started, it was falling off and the 6L6's 4 1/2 watts of fourth harmonic output on 10m requires really good conditions to be heard very well.

Due to conflicts with other activities, this was the first RAC VE-W Party that I have operated in many years ... it's nice to see that apparently not much has changed since 1932!

Friday 18 December 2015

Chasing NDB's In The Haida Gwaii

Over the past two weeks, I have spent some time reviewing several Perseus SDR recordings sent to me by Walter Salminaw in Victoria, B.C.

Walter is a hard core, mainly BCB DXer, who has a winterized vacation home in the remote Haida Gwaii Archipelago region of north west British Columbia, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.

He has built several permanent antennas, including loops and various beverages, mainly favoring Asia, the Pacific and over-the-pole. Some of his BCB recordings reveal mind-numbing signals from all parts of Asia ... not S9, but S9+++ and simply amazing.

I had asked Walter for some of his files that covered the NDB band, during periods of good propagation, so that I might be able to determine if my selected list of Alaskan beacons were actually on-the-air or not. There are several NDBs in Alaska that seem to be active, according to FAA information, but have never been heard by NDB DXers. Using Walt's recordings, along with his NW-pointed beverage, allowed my to have a deep listen into Alaska and finally get some answers.

It was exciting to tune through the very quiet band, from a northern perspective, and to hear many of the more 'difficult' (normally weak here) Alaskan targets at S9 levels. Unfortunately, going through my list of suspects, turned-up no sign of activity from any of them and explains why I have never been able to hear them from here! Like so many regions around the world, it seems that the once huge network of Alaskan NDBs is quickly being phased out up there as well.

An unexpected side benefit of going through Walt's files, turned up several instances of beacons in the Canadian north, that had been reported shut down, several years ago. It was surprising to hear them still as active as ever. Additionally, one NDB in Alaska, unheard here for two years and thought to be gone for some time, was found to be still happily keying away.

I've sent these findings to the RNA database for updating ... but it would have been nice to hear some of my long-sought after Alaskan 'ghosts', which seem likely to have been off-the-air for several years.

I would like to thank Walter for taking the time to share his Perseus files with me and for his unexpected contribution to the RNA database. Here are a few of the log's highlights:

DD UTC kHz Call mi New Location
22 14:07 214 DA Dawson, YT, CAN ... RNA shows QRT as of 2008 ...0 deg bev best
22 14:07 236 JB 'Laberge' Whitehorse, YT, CAN ... RNA shows QRT in 2011 ... 0 deg bev
22 14:07 245 CB Cambridge Bay, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev best but betterr on ALA on 19th
22 05:35 266 GH Fort Good Hope, YT, CAN ... RNA shows QRT in 2006 ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 269 ZW Teslin, YT, CAN ... RNA show QRT early 2015 ... 0 deg bev
22 14:07 277 YLC Kimmirut, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 284 YOC Old Crow, YT, CAN ... only heard in AK, YT and Scandinavia ... 0 deg bev
22 14:07 287 WJ Deline, NT, CAN ... RNA shows QRT as of 2011 ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 290 YYH Taloyoak, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 326 VQ Norman Wells, NT, CAN ... RNA shows QRT as of 2012 ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 338 YPX Puvirnituq, QC, CAN ... the only PQ heard on your files ... 0 deg bev
22 14:57 346 N9 Tumbler Ridge Municipal Apt, BC, CAN ... RNA shows QRT as of 2014 ... nw bog
22 05:35 350 RB Resolute Bay, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev
21 13:56 352 RG Nikau - Rarotonga IAP, CKS ... nw bog
19 13:47 359 NDJ Bucholz AAF - Kwajalein, MHL ... nw bog but ALA NE/SW best
21 13:56 360 OX Iwo Jima, VOI ... nw bog
22 05:35 362 YZS Coral Harbour, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 378 UX Hall Beach, NU, CAN ... 0 deg bev
22 05:35 417 GBH Galbraith Lake, ALS ... RNA shows QRT as of 2013 ... 0 deg bev
In the meantime, it looks like our planet is due for two more CME hits later tonight or early Saturday morning and the relatively quiet conditions of the past few nights will likely be badly disturbed on LF for the next few days ... something that has been happening far too much this winter as it seems that most of the prime time DX season has been one continual blast from the sun after another.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

'29 BK QSO Party - Night #2

Weekend #2 for the 1929 Bruce Kelley QSO Party found propagation even poorer than the first weekend.

With the 'K' index rising to level 4 along with the arrival of high speed solar winds, it was an uphill battle once again. And as usual, the terrestrial winds were relentless at 60-90km/h here for the entire event ... the worst winds I have experienced during any previous BK's.

The new MOPA did not suffer from the same level of frequency jumping as my previously used Hartley or TNT oscillators but the high winds were still able to cause some melodic pulling of the oscillator. Apparently there is still enough trickle-down coupling from the PA to the oscillator when high winds cause sudden shifts in impedance or resonance of the antenna ... but generally I was much happier with the new BK transmitter.

This year's BK QSO total was the lowest I have had, with just 29 QSO's. A few more were added on Saturday night as well as early Sunday morning, including one QSO on topband.

KK7UV, Steve in Montana, can always be counted on for a clean-sweep and working him on 160m completed that task again this year. Steve's extensive fall antenna work has really payed off as his '29 signal was always impressive up this way. His 160m Hartley signal was a solid 579.

KK7UV - Hull Hartley
I later heard Steve working KBØROB who always has a nice topband signal as well, but there was nary as much as a whisper from Harold this year ... indicative of the very disturbed conditions.

Hats off to Bill, K4JYS in North Carolina, as once again his signal seemed to be the one most consistently heard here, on both 40m and 80m. Bill runs a single-wire off-center fed Hertz at 40', as described in December 1929 QST and it seems to work very well.

K4JYS - 210 Hartley
I arose at 0400 local time to try and catch any sunrise enhanced propagation from back east on 80m and was rewarded with four new contacts.

George, N3GJ in Pennsylvania was worked along with Larry, W2LB in New York. Larry's 5W Hartley signal was an amazing 559 and solid copy. His breadboard '29 rig is proof that it doesn't have to be pretty to do the job and join the fun!

W2LB - 227 5W Hartley
A few minutes later, KØKP and KØKCY, both in Minnesota, were added to the log before I shifted to 40m for a few minutes. It was there I found N2BE in New Jersey and W2LB once again.

Another one of the night's highlights was working Lou, VE3AWA, on 80m, who I had missed the previous weekend. So far, Lou and I have never failed to work each other on 80m but it was looking rather dire until his signal suddenly popped-up shortly before 8PM, keeping our record intact.

VE3AWA - 210 TNT
I wasn't sure if this year's smaller log was a result of very poor band conditions or just lower activity levels, but after reading a few summaries from eastern stations, it seems that activity was as high as usual. Hopefully next year conditions will be back to the undisturbed levels that have been so enjoyable during past BK events.

These stations were worked on weekend #2 ... Hartley oscillators having the edge once again.


       W7LNG  TNT  10w  OR
       W8KGI  MOPA  10w  NM
       N2BE  Hartley  10w  NJ
       W2LB  Hartley  5w  NY


       VE3AWA  TNT  10w  ON
       N3GJ  Hartley  9w  PA
       W2LB  Hartley  5w  NY
       KØKP  Hartley  10w  MN
       KØKCY  MOPA  10w  MN


       KK7UV  Hartley  10w  MT

Please do consider putting something together for next year's BK Party as more new activity, particularly from the western side of the continent, is always wonderful to see and adds much more excitement to the party.

You might find the three-part 'Building '29 Style' links on the right sidebar of some interest should you be planning on joining the fun and ... if you are looking for help, you will find many '29 ops willing to do what they can to get you BK-ready on Yahoo's AWAGroup. Everyone would love to work you next year!

Saturday 12 December 2015

Hooked Early


I still have a vivid memory of the day I discovered (and bought) my first QST magazine. It was in February, 1959, and I had recently turned 11 years of age.

It seems I was doomed from a very tender age and, as it turned out, there was little hope of recovery.

It was a Friday night and I had gone with my parents, as we did every Friday night following dinner, to the Eaton's department store in downtown Vancouver.

Eaton's had a new and modern supermarket-style grocery store on their bottom floor which stayed open until 9PM. As my parents did the grocery shopping, I would take the escalator to the 4th floor magazine racks and on that particular night, spotted the fate-determining issue hiding beside the Popular Electronics, Radio-TV Experimenter, Electronics Illustrated, Radio News, White's Radio Log and other nefarious radio publications designed, in part, to lure the allowance money from the pockets of wide-eyed youngsters like myself, already beginning to show symptoms of the dreaded radio-bug.

I recall debating to spend my small allowance on the costlier QST (55 cents) or the cheaper (40 cents) Popular Electronics. I found the technical-looking cover too overpowering, bit-the-bullet, and shelled-out for the QST ... that extra 15 cents forever sealing my fate.

As I sat in the back seat of the car (a '53 Chevy Sedan), waiting for my parents to finish their grocery shopping, I browsed through the QST. In truth, I understood very little but was particularly captivated with the station photographs in Rod Newkirk's "How's DX" column. One photograph in particular has remained in my memory through all these years, that of a young-looking "HS1JN" at the operating position from his exotic location in Thailand, along with Newkirk's equally enchanting description ... powerful stuff for a young mind eager to soak-up all of this new 'radio' stuff.

HS1JN's homespun 40-watt sender and S-40 receiver function faithfully on 20 c.w. in Bangkok where the OM is an officer in the Royal Thai Navy's research lab. After warming up on a fast WAC, HS1JN now aims for WAS and DXCC honors.

A recent internet search turned up snippets of information about the young Naval Researcher, Jamnong Saowanna, now SK, who eventually rose to the rank of Captain in the Thai Navy and was later instrumental in legitimizing amateur radio in Thailand. Apparently, back then, ham radio in Thailand had been unsanctioned and not officially approved by the government. HS1JN's original QSL also shows up, in the collection of K8CX, shown below.


Note that it's the same card shown taped to the front panel of HS1JN's homebrew transmitter in 1959. The K8CX card, for a 15m CW QSO with W6FMK in 1969, shows that OM Jamnong was by then running 500 watts along with a Collins KWM-2 ... quite a step up, but not nearly as alluring as his 'homespun 40-watt sender' and Hallicrafters S-40 receiver.

After absorbing as much as I could from my single copy of QST, I began making weekly visits to the downtown library via bus, every Saturday morning, as it was there that I discovered I could peruse their huge bound collection of QST magazines, and borrow the latest issues, just for the asking! As well, they had a stockpile of colorfully-covered Radio Amateur Handbooks that spanned the past two decades ... it couldn't get any better.

It was at this time that I changed my listening interests from the international shortwave broadcasters and began listening to hams on my old General Electric tombstone, particularly on 20m phone on weekend nights, as the band would be open all night long ... monster Cycle 19 had just peaked and propagation was nothing short of amazing.

   Between the February QST and the old GE, I never really had a chance.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Solar Cycle Trends and The Gleissberg Cycle


This month's Sky & Telescope magazine mentions an interesting study presented in a press release from the International Astronomical Union's 29th General Assembly held this past summer.

Frederic Clette (Royal Observatory of Belgium) and colleagues analyzed the past 400 years of sunspot records and found that the (previously believed) upward trend in solar activity is really a calibration error. They found instead, that solar activity has been relatively stable since the 1700s.

The IAU's summer press release goes on to say ...

" The Sunspot Number, the longest scientific experiment still ongoing, is a crucial tool used to study the solar dynamo, space weather and climate change. It has now been recalibrated and shows a consistent history of solar activity over the past few centuries. The new record has no significant long-term upward trend in solar activity since 1700, as was previously indicated. This suggests that rising global temperatures since the industrial revolution cannot be attributed to increased solar activity.

The results ... make it difficult to explain the observed changes in the climate that started in the 18th century and extended through the industrial revolution to the 20th century as being significantly influenced by natural solar trends.

The apparent upward trend of solar activity between the 18th century and the late 20th century has now been identified as a major calibration error in the Group Sunspot Number. Now that this error has been corrected, solar activity appears to have remained relatively stable since the 1700s

The newly corrected sunspot numbers now provide a homogeneous record of solar activity dating back some 400 years. Existing climate evolution models will need to be reevaluated given this entirely new picture of the long-term evolution of solar activity. This work will stimulate new studies both in solar physics (solar cycle modelling and predictions) and climatology, and can be used to unlock tens of millennia of solar records encoded in cosmogenic nuclides found in ice cores and tree rings. This could reveal more clearly the role the Sun plays in climate change over much longer timescales. "

courtesy: World Data Center - SILSO
The graph above shows the Group Sunspot Numbers (GSN) measured over the past 400 years following the new calibration. The Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715, when sunspots were rare and winters harsh, is clearly evident.

I found this graph particularly interesting with regards to long-term affects on propagation as it illustrates the upcoming predicted Gleissberg Cycle, the 'cycle within the Cycle' ... a period of several weak 11-year cycles in a row and lasting from 80-90 years ... great news for low-frequency fans but not so good for 6m diehards

Maybe we'll get one more humdinger before it arrives!

Monday 7 December 2015

'29 BK QSO Party - Night #1

Harold - KB0ROB

This past Friday night's wonderful propagation during the ARRL 160m CW Contest, pretty much went into the dumper for Saturday night's 1929 Bruce Kelley QSO Party, sponsored by the Antique Wireless Association.

In spite of the auroral-like conditions, with the K-index reaching level '5', the melodic tones from many of the old (and new) clunkers could be heard pounding out their annual 'CQ AWA' invitations.

Among my 19 contacts (8 on 40m and 11 80m), the highlight of the night was working W2ICE/1 in Maine on both 40 and 80m. In reality, this was Paul, N1BUG, operating Bruce Kelley's original 10 watt TNT, which rose to almost S9 levels on 40m, once the sun had set. The Kelley transmitter is moved to various locations each year, a new AWA tradition.

As well, Larry (NE1S), also in Maine, was worked on 40m with  his 10W TNT.

A new station for my '29 logbook was George (N3GJ), in Pennsylvania. George was managing 8 watts input to his version of a 1929 TNT.

When I first tuned-in, several years ago, to hear what these 1929 signals sounded like, two of the best sounding signals were coming from KBØROB (Harold), shown at the top, and KBØMM (Burt), both in Minnesota. I could hardly believe they were using era-appropriate rigs as their signals sounded as good as many modern rigs. Thankfully nothing has changed, as these two stations continue to hand out 'MN' using their well-built 'MOPA'-style time machines.

Scott, WA9WFA, the BK score-keeper in charge of logs, faded up briefly with his fine-looking Colpitts.

Here is a list of the '29ers worked so far, along with their rig style and DC power inputs.


       KK7UV     Hartley    10w    MT
       W2ICE/1    TNT    10w     ME
       NE1S    TNT    10w    ME
       VE7BDQ    Colpitts    8w    BC
       K7SF    Hartley    10w    OR
       K4JYS    Hartley    10w    NC
       WB2AWQ    Hartley    10w    NV
       N3GJ    TNT    8w    PA


       KBØMM    MOPA    8w    MN
       KBØROB    MOPA    9w    MN
       W7LNG    TNT    7w     OR
       K4JYS    Hartley    10w    NC
       W2ICE/1    TNT    10w    ME
       WA9WFA    Colpitts    20w     MN
       KK7UV    Hartley    10w    MT
       W9TFC    Hartley    10w    WI
       N2BE    Hartley    10w     NJ
       KIØDB    MOPA    10w    MN
       WØLGU    MOPA    10w    MN

As you can see, 'Hartley' construction takes a slight edge. Vintage 'handbooks' and magazine articles from the era, have always promoted the TNT as the best 'beginners' rig but in reality, the Hartley is much easier to build and to get working with a good-sounding signal. The TNT requires some finicky tweaking of the grid coil in order to have an equally stable-sounding note.

I'm happy to report that in spite of the very high winds (as usual), my new MOPA's tone remained virtually unmoving ... for the most part! This was its first real workout and after my first QSO on 80m, my frequency began making large jumps and suddenly sounding very unstable, along with fluctuations in power output. My initial thought was that one of the old original mica caps was starting to breakdown.

After disconnecting one lead of each capacitor (one at a time) and temporarily clipping in a modern substitute, I was no further ahead. I had originally isolated the frequency instability to the amplifier stage and there was only one thing left ... the amplifier's grid-leak resistor. It appeared to be slowly failing, by increasing resistance in jumps. The 12K resistor was now measuring ten times that value and quickly rising. A new 12K, temporarily clipped in place, cured the problem but it had cost me over an hour of operating time ... probably the best prop of the night as by the time I got back on the band, signals were weak and auroral-sounding.

Hopefully the bands will have mended themselves by next Saturday night, allowing some of the smaller eastern stations to make it back to the west coast for some memorable '29 'transcons'.

Saturday 5 December 2015

ARRL 160 CW / '29 QSO Party

'29 MOPA

I spent about five hours last night in the ARRL 160 CW contest, working 321 stations in 74 sections. Conditions were excellent, with my 150W sustaining long runs and big pileups. It reminded me very much of the old F2 days on 6m, running huge pileups of JA's. Unfortunately I'll not be able to continue tonight because of the conflict with the '29 QSO Party.

In reality, I may not be in that one either, as right on schedule the winds have picked up once again, with gusts to 83 km/h predicted throughout the day ... I'll be lucky if the power stays on for the QSO Party tonight. As well as doing their best to blow my antennas around and make my already shaky '29 signal sound even worse, these high winds all too often result in long power outages here in the Southern Gulf Islands ... my fingers are crossed, as they are every year at this time.


If I'm lucky enough to still have power, this will be the inauguration of my newly-constructed MOPA '29 rig ... a two-tube, Master Oscillator Power Amplifier. This rig will be much more 'wind-proof' than my previous mainstays, a single-tube TNT or the Hull Hartley. Both of these self-excited oscillators sound overly 'melodic' when directly coupled to an antenna swinging, or more often, blowing like crazy, in the wind.

If you ever wondered what the ham bands may have sounded like back in 1929, have a listen this Saturday as well as next Saturday night. You will hear some amazingly good signals being generated by these '29 state-of-the-art transmitters as well as some pretty awful sounding ones. It was the pretty awful-sounding ones that led to the crackdown for amateur radio in 1929 as hams were forced to clean up their act or suffer the consequences.

Activity will gather around 3550-3580 kHz and 7100-7125 kHz ... the second weekend will see some meet on the very low end of 160m for an hour, probably around 0400z. I hope some of you will be joining the fun as well, with your newly-constructed 'old' rig!