Before commencing on the report I would really like to thank the chasers for their superb operating skills during this challenge, as I am sure it wouldn’t have been remotely possible otherwise. I was also impressed by the quality of the modulation from (I presume?) modern radios.
The Vintage Electric Handbag weekend opened an opportunity for something I really wanted to try for a long time. I originally planned to do this next year when the opportunity for gaining points on the summit of Hope Mountain came around once more. This is a rather special hill to me, some of my best DX has been worked from the mountain and also being my first SOTA experience.
My Dad 2W0KGP, a VMARS member is a prolific restorer of Vintage electronic equipment. I hold my interests in the other end of the spectrum within modern electronics, using all homebrew for my activations.
Dad - 2W0KGP Connecting power.
The 19 Set is fantastically clever in design that came about by a young engineer in his 20’s. We have been fortunate to put two 19 Sets into action over the years. One of them is an ex “REME base 52” Radio that was probably put on the surplus market in the 1960’s. This is used with the MKIII Power Amplifier for joining in on the Saturday morning VMARS nets. The other, is a slightly tatty tropicalised set that sat in the shed of a local amateur, unused and unloved for many years. It had been chopped about quite a lot and was really only suitable as an AM receiver when we acquired it. Luckily the ‘Tropicalisation’ which involved using PVC covered wiring instead of the usual cloth, and vast amounts of poisonous gunge to keep out the jungle humidity had kept it in reasonable condition. The set is denoted with a large yellow “T” on the front panel. The main object of the exercise was to use it as an ‘Outward Bound’set with its standard 12 foot whip and counterpoise and get a feel for how this wonderful workhorse of the WW11 British army actually worked in anger. SOTA has presented a terrific opportunity to do precisely this.
The Activation itself had two challenges, one technical the other operative. Power consumption was difficult to estimate. Plenty of time was in hand to work stations. But the power consumption of the 19 Set meant it wasn’t going to last long on a single 12Ah battery usually used with the homebrew Minima Trx. We needed more power, two 105 Ah service batteries actually borrowed from my dads motor boat provided this. Although I closed the activation on 10.5V the meter was more accurately reading 11.3V (sideways glance), QSB from the contest was the main issue.
Wireless Set No 19 , British twin Dyno, Roller tuner (Rare!)
On the clear brisk morning of the activation I was still in thought about antennas discussing various options with Dad, should we use the whip or the more sensible option of a sloping long wire down to the roller coaster tuner seemed to be the best solution. The 19 Set had recently had its case powder coated and it was looking like new !. The 35 Kg batteries took some bringing up with both of us carrying one at a time, as well as the accessories for the 19 Set. The wind was pretty fierce (30 knots plus) – even by my standards. Once everything was assembled the first thing to try was to tune the Tank on 80M and load up the long wire. Unfortunately this did not tune with either the variometer or the much sort after roller ! The whip was the only option – or so I thought. Setup was behind a slight hollow to shelter from the wind, slightly down from the trig.
Keeping that carrier steady
Operating time. I must apologise for the shouting!. There is something about a 19 Set microphone that makes you think your modulating it harder, not true really. You will notice I am using my laptop at the side of me with Hack Green loaded. This was a godsend of a tool. I could see when some inconsiderate contester splattered over the top of me so I could QRG, and I could exactly align the carrier. I could also see people missing me with their transmissions. Without hacking the 19 too much with temperature compensation, they drift by design. Thus I had to keep moving it back on. Also the Tank circuit needs retuning every so often as the LT falls. It really is a challenging set to operate, but by god is it fun!!
First station to call was G6MZX* on 80M, brief contact was made but soon lost. G4AFI was in the log on 80M, but this was soon proving challenging. I occasionally tapped some CW out “CQ” “CQ” to try and help get people centred. Then some inspiration came from Mark G0VOF* to move to 40M. I had dismissed this originally as being impractical due to the contest, but with Hack green to hand I could keep scoping out new locations – this worked brilliantly. Now what made the real difference shocked me, sometimes all that theory you learn in a degree about Z matching would tell you that attaching the long wire to the variometer with the whip still attached would throw the tank tuning out making an even worse match and no better signal – WRONG. The wire attached one call and wham, the callers came back in force. One of the reasons I love radio, you never stop learning.
I honestly wasn’t posing for this one !
G6WRW followed by a stream of other chasers soon entered the log. I got attacked by more contesters so I moved down a little to 7060. To my delight I worked Simon G4TJC who I had recently did a joint activation with, again with excellent modulation. Brian G8ADD also made it into the log which pleased me.
QRV on 40M
In the end nearly 20 contacts in two hours where worked, not bad for a radio set designed in the 1930’s and a 12ft Whip. Clearly a better antenna would have made life easier with the condx !
So from what seemed like totally ridiculous idea at first, turned into a fantastic challenge. A Pint in the local pub whilst the sun set completed the day. It really makes me proud to see the enthusiasm, patience and skill of SOTA operators. Well done indeed!