… And the formation of The Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association (LEARA)
The initial writing of this history was in 1996. While some neighboring paragraphs in this history may seem to jump back and forth or describe unrelated happenings, the best format seemed to be keep the history in chronological order as much as possible. Also, there have been several updates to this history as time has passed. I have decided NOT to change the verb tense of various items which were present tense at the time of writing but are now past tense. All the content of this history is believed to be correct, but there are no guarantees. The text which follows may be reproduced provided it is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author as the source. If any person reading it has either additional information or corrections to make, please forward them to the author. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people for making contributions to this project; either as suppliers of additional information or as proof readers: Marv W8AZO, Charlie WA8WUU, Fritz K8WLF, Al K8EUR, Dave WB8APD, Gary W3DTN, Al W8HYG Tom WA8BTN, and Dave KD8TWG.
Many of the dates of importance were verified using packing lists from International Crystal Mfg. for crystals purchased either for the equipment to make a new system operational or for the radios I acquired to use it. The oldest of these packing lists are from early 1960 when I first received my ham license.
In the Northeast Ohio area, communications for Cuyahoga County Civil Defense (CD) was probably the start of two-meter VHF-FM activity. Around 1957 the U.S. Government purchased crystal-controlled General Electric commercial two-way FM equipment operating on 145.26 MHz for Cuyahoga County CD. This included: two specially-outfitted school buses for use as mobile command posts: thirty to forty 25-watt tube-type vibrator-powered GE mobiles, about a dozen tube-type dry battery-powered packsets or “portables” (hardly handhelds, as each one weighed about 15 pounds and had about ½ cubic foot volume which consisted of about half electronics and half batteries inside a steel case) and: about ten base-station radios on 145.26 Mhz. Each CD bus and the land-based command sites were equipped with a 5kw Onan generator for ac power. This equipment was used for drills, weather disasters and other emergencies as well as general hamming, (and fortunately never for communications in case of the big bomb). Involvement with CD was the main thing that gave an introduction to many of us who were to be involved with VHF-FM. While the fixed-station sites did not require much work on equipment, there was always something to be done with the CD bus equipment – – at least for those of us who wanted to find an excuse to go to “the bus”. Monday nights were bus nights. We added new (to us) equipment, changed wiring, maintained what was there (since it was full of tubes) or simply swept and dusted. The most fun thing we did was to take the bus to a parade and we went as far as downtown Cleveland from North Randall, where the east side bus was garaged. We also participated in hospital emergency preparedness exercises and, just like today, sometimes went to a site and passed no traffic. The people running the exercise said they found our presence useful but it surely was (and still is) difficult to understand how.
In addition to the above, Cuyahoga County Civil Defense main control was located in the basement under the clock tower of Highland View Hospital. When I first became involved with RACES and ham radio, this facility was already in place. It gave us access to the top of the clock tower and a place to not only locate radio equipment but also antennas on one of the highest profile sites in the immediate area. This in itself was probably one of the things that promoted VHF-FM communications at least in northeastern Ohio….. the available space and permission to install anything we wanted without having to ask permission and, at that time, computers, solid-state ballasted lamps and other electronics that now generate more and more noise did not exist so the receivers there could hear far better than they would be able to now.
This location was large enough to have a place to store (warehouse) in addition to other equipment, at least fifty recycled Link Communications lowband two-case mobiles and all accessories that were donated to us by the East Ohio Gas Co. Conversion of these to six-meters was possible with a fair amount of tinkering and some did wind up getting converted to 53.58 Mhz (the then six-meter RACES frequency) with a lot of coaching and some hand written instructions written by Ed Reilly.
I would like to mention that at this point in this VHF-FM history, (1960’s) the person who held the position of chief radio officer for Cuyahoga County RACES was Ed Reilly, W8OKE. His involvement along with our ‘home’ at Highland View hospital was very instrumental in not only allowing us to have permission to place the Cuyahoga County repeater at the various locations where it was …. which changed from time to time, but is the same person who coordinated various exercises and engineered changes to the various pieces of old FM equipment we were given so they could be operated in the ham bands. He was interested enough in promoting ham radio that he gave me a ride to the events at main control before I was old enough to have my own transportation. Many years later, he was involved with repairs and maintenance of the 147.015 repeater. He engineered various changes to the repeater and antenna system when there was need to do so. In memorium, his callsign has been obtained to identify the 147.015 machine.
There was also activity on six-meters FM aside from RACES – – even in the mid and late fifties. Because technician class amateurs were only permitted to operate in the 52.5-54 MHz portion of the band and most of us experimenting with six-meters were technicians, the very first FM activity in the Cleveland area was on 52.5 MHz using equipment with wide band (15 kHz) deviation. Actually there was no transmitter deviation limiting circuitry. These transmitters may have been as wide as 25 kHz and the receivers would accept this wide amount of deviation so it didn’t matter. No one else was on another nearby frequency to be bothered and the transmitter didn’t chop out of the bandpass of the receiver. 52.5 MHz was the lowest and therefore easiest frequency an old piece of commercial equipment could be converted to. A group of amateurs in the Shaker Heights area which included Marv W8AZO, Pat W8GRG, Ned W8GKS (SK), Jim K8QOT, Ron W8BBB (SK), John, K8IYM, John K8QNE, Rich W8GNI, and Bill K8SGX, (after receiving my license in Jan 1960) converted their own equipment. These were most of the core membership of Heights Area Mobile (HAM), a group active on six-meters FM in the late fifties and early sixties. Later we realized that all of our transmitter lower sidebands were outside the band edge (52.5) but almost coincidentally the rest of the country was getting started on 52.525 so we moved there. The first pieces of equipment were obsoletepolice radios donated by the Shaker Heights Police Department (their technician was also a ham). Most of the old 2-case GE, Motorola or Link equipment being used was so agile that the crystals in use could be moved up 25 kHz to the new frequency. The really old army surplus FT243 crystals that some radios could use were in openable holders and could be removed and lapped down (to raise the frequency) by scrubbing them on a glass plate with a small amount of household cleanser and water. Many old low-band radios did not have a padding capacitor to adjust the crystal frequency simply because it wasn’t necessary.
A source of equipment for hams to purchase to get on FM was another problem in the early sixties. One of the earliest hamfests where equipment was available was at the Angola (Indiana) Hamfest. This ‘fest was the work of the amateurs of the Tri-C College radio club, W9BF. Northwest Electronics from Chesterton Indiana (near Chicago) brought a truck full of old mostly Motorola equipment to one of the hamfests for sale. For you old equipment buffs, it was 30Ds and 50Ds (receiver in one box and transmitter in another) with an occasional 80 or 140D thrown in. In case any of you think you don’t have enough space for your mobile now, the trunk mount part of a 60 watt 140D measured 6x16x21″ and weighed about 50 pounds. Power consumption of this type radio was about 3-5 amps when receiving and 25-30 amps when transmitting and that doesn’t include the 250 amp inrush when you key the mike and the dynamotor is getting up to speed. Believe me, it dims the headlights and you don’t do this a lot of even receiving with the engine off if you want to start the car later. Then you had to run the power and control cables under the floor mats and seats and mount the control head and speaker and drill through the firewall to connect the 2-gauge “A” cables (both positive and ground) through the 50 amp fuse in the ‘hot’ lead to the battery. Some vehicles had positive ground. Also many of the old radios were 6 volt so you had to rewire the tube filaments to series/parallel and replace the vibrator power supply power transformer and the dynamotor (this motor-generator puts out the 400-600 volts for the transmitter PA tube(s).
If you were converting a lowband radio to six-meters as many of us did and your radio was 30-36, or 36-42 MHz split, you also had to cut all the air-wound coils and change the loading caps on all the other tuned circuits. This was frequently a cut-and-try procedure until enough radios of the same make and model were converted until there was some history of what to do. When you were all done, the radio might have some oscillation or low drive to the transmitter final amplifier or poor sensitivity or “birdies” in the receiver. Now what do you do? While some of the equipment for sale was old enough to have loktal (a special metal based octal tube that locks into its socket and was intended for high vibration service like that found in a vehicle) tubes in it. At the time, it was only about ten years old and for those of us fortunate to get something moved to the amateur band and tuned up correctly, we had a lot of fun without repeaters. It was only low and high-band. (Commercial low-band is considered 25-50, high-band is 136-174 and UHF is 420-512 Mhz). There was nothing old enough on UHF to be available surplus. In fact in the early sixties, UHF was only minimally in use for two-way communications. The equipment sold then, is now so old, heavy, and large (all tubes) and wide-band, it doesn’t even show up at today’s hamfests.
It is probably worth noting that these really old radios had NO filter in the output of the transmitter so a radio on any lowband split could be modified to six meters. Radios made after about 1965 or so had PA filters in them and converting one of these filters from 30-36 Mhz to six meters was a difficult enough task that a low split radio was usually overlooked in favor of something on a frequency in the high split of 42-50 Mhz. Not only would its filter pass six meters but often, the radios merely needed to be re-crystalled and retuned.
The power consumption of the radio is one of the main things that made the Leece Neville Company well known in the fifties and sixties. Among other products, they manufactured quite large automotive alternators (rectifier and regulator external to the machine) which would keep your battery up while using this type of radio in public-safety service, as well as for those of us who had more than one radio in our trunk tuned to some amateur channel. It was a real prize, for those of us who had them, to find a used Leece Neville alternator.
To give some perspective of public safety radio band usage and crowding at the time, Cleveland Police (CPD) radio dispatch used a repeater with the input on 37.34 and the output on 37.18 for the entire city — one frequency pair. Although the repeating function wasn’t supposed to be used unless there was an emergency (according to FCC Rules & Regulations), all police calls were considered to be an emergency so the repeater was always functioning. The input they used was on a tower where a newer replacement for it still stands, known as the Schaaf Rd. tower. You can still see it as you drive along I-480 past the CPD Schaaf Rd radio site — it is the old tower — the taller one has the new ‘800’ antennas on it. Although there was also a receiver on the Highland View Hospital clock tower building, they had better coverage of the city from Schaaf Rd. The transmitter was at 2221 Payne on one of the two towers at the CPD headquarters building. As for logging, you might ask, everything was logged with a Soundscriber®. It was a unit manufactured for continuous logging purposes. This audio logging tape recorder used two-inch wide tape similar to that used by the original 1960s transverse-scan broadcast video recorders (RCA VR1000) and, at a m-u-c-h slower rate. The tape heads swept across the tape to make a single-channel recording and a reel of tape lasted only twenty-four hours. The quality of the reproduction was useable but that was about it. Using current technology, the preferred method of recording is to convert the audio to a digital format. This provides the best signal-to-noise ratio and allows the longest recording time on a much narrower tape.
There has always been a general need and desire for better communications. In 1958 or 1959, the first ham radio repeater in the area was constructed and installed by Dick Jedlicka, W8PVQ and friends. The transmitter which put out about 300 watts (on 145.26) was in the clock tower at Highland View Hospital. Because this building had the Cuyahoga County Civil Defense main communications control center in it, the people who worked on the repeater (and were CD members) had access to install equipment and antennas there. All the transmitting and receiving equipment was tube-type throughout. The GE Progess-line® receiver on 145.68, along with a preamp and a cavity resonator, were sheltered from the weather in a big wood box located on the catwalk of the green water tower on “the hill”. The system operated in the middle portion of the band where most of the AM users were, and our high powered FM activity was certainly not appreciated by the amateurs who heard its really loud signal there. Most of the two-meter activity was from 145.0 to 145.4 since, again, most equipment in use was converted military surplus and the higher in frequency you went, the harder it was to make the conversion work and many of the 2-meter operators were technician class. At the time, we were only permitted 145-147 Mhz operation.
On July 1, 1962, we provided communications for ‘operation S.O.S. Which stood for Sabin Oral Sunday—the day the entire population of Cuyahoga County was to be vaccinated against polio. We had many CD member radio operators go to various locations throughout the county to perform various tasks related to the distribution of the vaccine and other supplies. I was stationed at Mt. Sinai hospital. On Dec 22, 1978, we provided communications for the various agencies who transported all of the patients from Highland View Hospital to other county hospitals when Highland View was closed.
There were also very specific rules regarding the type and maintenance of the user radios for the repeater since it was a part of Civil Defense and as will become obvious to the reader of this narrative, there were long periods of time when the repeater was not operational. This was mainly due to either a lack of monitoring stations or locations to place either the transmitter or receiver. First, the user was required to be a member of (Cuyahoga County) RACES It was a requirement that the frequency, deviation, and power output of any user’s transmitter be checked every six months. Logging of use of the repeater was required both of the individual operator as well as the repeater and the recorder recorded the first ten seconds of every transmission. You were required to say,” this is (your callsign) signing into or out of (the repeater callsign) followed by the 24-hour time so the repeater also could have a log. We never actually transcribed any of these recordings but they were stored and could be made available to the FCC if required. My list dated September 1965 showed thirty-five users. The repeater was also constantly monitored (as they are supposed to be today but seldom are) and if there was no monitoring station available, it was turned off.
The receiver and transmitter were connected together by a run of surplus tar-covered army field-phone wire. We pulled the wire through the steam tunnel that interconnected the Highland View and Sunny Acres hospital complexes and then connected to unused “house pairs” of their phone systems. It is also of interest that the repeater output was on the simplex frequency and the input channel was 420 kHz higher. These frequencies in particular were used because they were assigned RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) channels and the repeater was originally installed for RACES communication. These were both excellent locations, but the problem of climbing 100 ft or so up the water tower made servicing the tube-type receiver that ran 24-7 most inconvenient (and it seemed to develop some type of problem 3 or 4 times a year). Most of the activity was confined to Monday nights around 8:00 when the weekly CD drill was held since this generally was the only time the repeater was on. This type of activity generally did not draw newcomers to FM. There was little enough activity and no one else to control the repeater; so when Dick left the area in 1962 to join the service, repeater operation was discontinued.
To comply with the then-stringent FCC regulation regarding keeping a log of all operation of every ham station (and a repeater is considered a station), all repeater usage was tape-recorded. The FCC relaxed their requirements and this practice was eventually amended to only recording phone patches in the early eighties and finally totally eliminated a few years later. However, in these days of “dirty” transmitter or sometimes purposeful interference, the information recorded could be of use toward eliminating the situation.
Some simplex activity on 145.26 MHz continued since many of the county-owned radios were installed in RACES members’ private automobiles. There was also some CD activity on six-meters on 53.58 MHz with old two-case Link and Motorola equipment. Other hams had radios on 52.525 MHz, which was and still is the national calling frequency, but did not have any connection to CD. Operation on either 52.525 or 53.58 with the same transmitter was not easy because the transmitter would not cover a frequency spread that wide. This necessitated those of us who wanted to operate on both 52.525 and 53.58 to have two six-meter radios. Also, most of the radios of this vintage did not have factory installed provisions for more than a single frequency transmit or receive.
Since amateurs have always basically been people who would not tend to let a good thing (repeater) be inactive, the now off the air transmitting equipment was gathered and reassembled in the CPD Headquarters 5th floor generator balcony and connected to an antenna placed on one of the two towers on the roof (at 2221 Payne Ave). This made the equipment accessible to an on-site operator for control, monitoring, and repairs. It also provided a location where a phone line for interconnect was available. Since many of the CPD radio operators were also hams, in addition to having 1st class radiotelegraph licensees, (Ed Kissel, Al Ondrecek W8LJI, Ralph Folkman W8AF, Charlie Lohner W8RN, John Van Blargan W8VBU, Dave Eisenberger K8KEM (the main force behind getting and keeping the repeater) and Cy Whittingham (I’m not sure if he was a ham but he always seemed to be there when you called on the phone). Their jobs included sending and receiving 2, 4, and 8 MHz CW traffic (before the creation of LEERN), and to be immediately available to fix the main police radio transmitter if it required service. Their presence allowed the repeater to always be monitored so it could be operational 24 hours a day. The receiver was moved from the rather inaccessible water tower to a location actually right behind the clock in the Highland View Hospital clock tower. Many problems with lack of current metering and limiting of the screen supply for the 4CX250 amplifier and a lack of understanding of how important this is, resulted in several destroyed final tubes and eventually led to shutting this system down (again).
Due to lightning strikes and wind, antennas on top of the old clock tower transmitter site also developed problems although when they were working, the coverage pattern and general performance were well worth the repairs necessary following an occasional lightning or wind attack. After an unsatisfactory antenna change one Saturday, it was decided to drive back to “the hill” late in the same evening and connect the transmitter back to an old antenna. It proved to be the errand just in time – – the following morning the Palm Sunday April 11, 1965 tornadoes touched down in Pittsfield and the repeater was used for emergency communications pertinent to the disaster. It is interesting to note that with the mobile equipment in use at the time, Pittsfield was about at the limit of the repeater’s coverage in spite of the fact that the signal was considerably better than is currently provided on .76. At the time, the best sensitivity receiver along with a good preamp was about 6 to 10 dB less than that easily obtained today and for the most part, the tube and vibrator-powered radios only had 25 watt transmitters. Since there was no surplus UHF equipment for links, there were no remote receive sites. In fact, a remote receiver was not even a consideration at that time.
At one point, there was interest in having an alternate CD main control site and we relocated one of the GE base stations to Hiram College. I’m not sure what type of antenna we installed there but we were not able to maintain reliable communications with Hiram from ‘the hill’. By today’s standards, it would be no problem but with the lesser capabilities of the equipment of the day, it didn’t work reliably.
During the winter of 1966-67, I repaired the old power amp. The previous General Electric ET-1 exciter was replaced with a GE Progress Line® transmitter (still all tubes). The system was sophisticated enough that the transmitter on “the hill” was capable of being operated as a repeater or a direct base station with remote control at Cuyahoga County CD Headquarters at 4200 S Marginal Drive. I built and still have a turn off/on box that counted the number of rings on the phone. Since the repeater input was 145.68, I chose 6 or 8 as the number of rings to count on the phone so when you wanted to turn the repeater on, you would call the phone and let it ring 6 times, hang up, recall the phone and let it ring 8 times and hang up. To reverse the process, you would call and let the phone ring first 8 times, then 6 times and the repeater would turn off. Not terribly reliable, but with its dozen-plus relays, it usually worked after a try or two, and control could be accomplished on a phone which was only attended during the day. The box had local on and off buttons on its front for local use and mimicked the operation of the phone-line remote by putting about 100 volts d.c. on the line. The Cuyahoga County Radio Club was formed around this operation with callsign WA8TZQ and trustee Ed Reilly, W8OKE. Regrettably, the number of volunteers for operating the control diminished from no more than two or three at best to zero so operation again reverted to “Monday Nights” or emergencies. In the months to follow, the CD office was closed and with it went the important control station.
Slowly, various stories about repeaters operating in the 146 MHz portion of the band began to be heard. Much of the activity was centered around the General Electric two-way radio manufacturing and engineering facility in Lynchburg, Virginia and the hams who worked there. As early as 1963, there were rumors of several hundred users on a 146.34-.94 repeater in Lynchburg in comparison with our relatively few on 145.26. The activity in Virginia kept spreading and finally arrived in our area, perhaps in 1963. The first new simplex was on 146.94 and its popularity quickly spread to Cleveland. It was a welcome change which would eventually alleviate the continuing interference problems caused by the repeater on 145.26. In the late 60s, there was almost no activity in the 144-145 or 147-148 MHz portion of the band because those portions of the band were not available to technician class licensees.
Earliest records of the FM Hybanders Club are from March 1968, about a group interested in a privately-sponsored two-meter repeater in the Cleveland area. Several of the hams involved with this venture were the previously mentioned central station Cleveland Police Radio operators and the technicians from the CPD 49th St garage. This included those who hammed on the low-bands. The repeater was put on the air under Greg Nasiatka’s callsign K8VFL with the input on 146.88 and the output on 146.40. It had a homebrew all relay logic autopatch interface which did not actually decode, regenerate or use Touch-Tone® (Bell System’s name for Dual-Tone-Multi-Frequency or DTMF) to perform any functions other than connect or disconnect the patch itself, was located at the receiver site in Seven Hills. This was one of the first Ohio Bell Telephone areas with operational Touch-Tone® service at the time. The machine and frequency pair was re-coordinated to 146.28-88 under the callsign of WB8CRV in August 1970.
To give an idea of the difficulty of converting and then using commercial two-way equipment for amateur use, the operators in the ’70s on two-meters in Lorain County purchased crystals for their radios for 146.98. Many of them would not warp onto frequency so the frequency they operated on, since there were no ‘channels’, was 146.979. They moved to 146.34-.76 once the repeater was established.
From acquaintances made with these hams on six-meters FM, some of us residing in eastern Cuyahoga County had an increasing interest in relocating their repeater equipment from a site in Lorain County that was not as good as Highland View and Sunny Acres Hospital. Since the equipment would cover Lorain from its new location, it was agreed to move it in early 1969. Coverage was excellent from “the hill”. The transmitter’s power output was about 400 watts. With antenna gain, it produced 4000 watts ERP (effective radiated power).
In 1969, it was decided to form a club around another new repeater with input on 146.34 and output on 146.76. To help support and coordinate the repeater, the Lake Erie Amateur Radio Club was formed. I made the mistake at the meeting of saying if we are going to form a club, the first person to be elected needs to be president and I was nominated and unanimously elected to the office of president. With charter meeting held on 27 May, 1969 with 10 members present: Howard Baker K8NHR, Ken Bobel WA8YJW, Mike Cross K8JLO, Marv Grossman W8AZO (secretary), Dick Hartwig K8TEC west VP, Fritz Hemrich K8WLF, Bill Hess K8SGX (president), Don Nelsch K8EIW (east VP), Jim Pracker K8QOT (treas), And Chuck Rennolds WA8WUU. These first meetings as well as the meeting where the club was finally formed were held at many locations with the charter meeting held at the Holiday Steak House (no longer in existence) on old Route 6 and 2 in the Vermillion/Lorain area. Since many of the original members of the club and the old GE equipment came from Lorain County, this was a natural geographic area for meetings, although a bit far for eastern Cuyahoga county residents.
Al Amster W8HYG filed for a license, WB8CQR, which was dated effective November 19, 1969, permitting the club to get a station (the repeater) into operation. Again, the transmitter was put at Highland View Hospital on the same floor where the tower clock mechanism (all mechanical) and dial were. We were permitted to have the receiver in the corner of the elevator machinery room where we relocated it after removing it from the water tower, but were told to keep it out of the way so it was placed in a corner behind the exposed flyball governors and motor-generator. The bonus was a good location for the receive antenna and a nice short transmission line to the receiver. At the transmitter, there were places where pigeons could get in through broken glass in the clock face. They would fly around along with their friends the flies – – millions of them – – dormant on their backs all over the place in the winter and buzzing around your head and in the equipment in the summer.
Sometime, in about 1970, there was a fire in the upper dormitory floors of Highland View Hospital under the clock tower and, although there was relatively little structural damage to the building, the power (damaged in the fire) which also ran the transmitter was turned off. This necessitated running a 250 ft extension cord all the way from CD headquarters in the basement to the transmitter. After the fire, there was no heat or lighting in the upper part of the building so it was brrrrr in the winter and you always needed a flashlight to get through the hallways and up the long metal stairs to the top floors in the day or night. After the fire, rain leaked in and eventually damaged the upper portion of the building to the point that it was decided to tear it (and our transmitter site) down. The clock itself was salvaged, repaired, electrified, and moved to Lakeland Community College (Route 306 @ I-90), where it can still be seen.
First attempts at identifiers were archaic by today’s standards. The first voice identifier used on WB8CQR (.76) was a magnetic recorder/player that used a round plastic disc with a piece of 1/4″ magnetic tape glued to the edge of it. It revolved one revolution per ID (maybe 5 seconds). It accomplished the required task but inconsistencies in revolution speed, tape-to-head contact changes and temperature variations made it sound lousy. Finally, in Feb 1970, it was replaced with a solid state CW identifier designed by K8EIW and was connected to an all-discrete-transistor control card I designed and built, which started an ID and provided hang timer and repeater timeout functions. This new identifier and controller, which I also still have, used RTL logic and a 150-germanium-diode matrix (not easy to program or repair).
Through our previous contacts with the hospital during the days of Civil Defense we were given permission to move our equipment into an unused ventilator penthouse on the roof of the Sunny Acres Hospital building after the closing of Highland View. On the minus side, the 400 pounds of transmitter and cabinet had to be moved from the now-closed clock tower to its new site – – all by “armstrong” because the power had been shut off to the entire building—including the elevators. It was neither small nor light and had to be lowered out of the tower by block and tackle. It was moved on 27 May 69 and taken to the two-way radio repair shop of Allan Communications on Miles Rd, where I rebuilt it. During the modification to exchange the obsolete, inefficient and hard-to-find 4-125 finals for 4CX250s, I determined that the power supply had been hit by lightning which destroyed the plate transformer. We replaced it with a “pole pig” (almost indestructible at least for our use). In 1970, the tube type (Motorola Sensicon® ‘A’) receiver was finally replaced with a Motorola Motrac® (solid state) receiver that was purchased from K3SVO. This new receiver had a factory PL® decoder in it so we could start guarding the system when necessary. Continuously tone-coded squelch system (CTCSS) became a reality. Now used as a generic term, ‘PL’® (Private-Line), a registered trademark of Motorola, Inc., is the name given to equipment originally designed by Motorola incorporating a sub-audible (below 300 Hz) tone-coded squelch system. Among others, GE calls it Channel-Guard® and RCA called it Quiet-Channel®.)
Another persistent problem was the transmitter interfering with the receiver partly because the receive and transmit antennas were horizontally separated by only about ½ mile. At this point, transmitter amplifiers did not have filters between the amplifier output and the load. The overall result of running relatively high power was desensitizing the receiver – – worst with a weak signal. When a weak signal keyed the repeater, the transmitter would key and desense the receiver to the point where the receiver could no longer hear the signal, the repeater would time out and shut off, but then the signal would reappear – – a cycle known as “pumping”. In the fall of 1970, I purchased a couple of 220 MHz military surplus cavity resonators and modified them to two-meters and installed them between the receiver and its antenna to “suck out” the transmitter noise. It solved the problem. This now sounds like relatively a simple problem to fix and is automatically taken care of if a duplexer is used, but at the time, each one of these difficulties was another obstacle to be overcome for which we were not familiar with the proper cure. It all took time, ingenuity and, in some cases, a monetary outlay. Frequently, analyzing this type of problem requires borrowing test equipment that wasn’t readily available then so we had to get help from those who had access to it.
Probably the most significant thing that happened to VHF-FM, at least in the early 1970s, was a large-scale introduction of two-meter equipment, manufactured specifically for amateur use. Prior to about 1971, the only affordable equipment available was used converted commercial equipment. That was all there was. The Inoue Varitronix IC-2F with one transmit power level of ten watts and maximum of six crystal-controlled channel capability, was among the first radios soon to be followed by the IC-20, Regency HR2 and the Standard 826 (all of which were crystal controlled). Dycomm power amplifiers were frequently used since radios typically put out only 10 watts. The RP synthesizer was about the first synthesizer on the market. It was not a radio just an additional piece of equipment which could be connected to an existing radio in place of all the crystals. There were no amateur handhelds available at the time and Icom, Kenwood or Yaesu were far from being on the market. There were only limited amounts of not-very-portable battery operated ‘portables’ and they were not really within the price range of the average amateur. Some of these 1970s-vintage portables had tube or hybrid (part tube and part solid state) transmitters to go along with the solid state receiver. This either meant high voltage batteries or T-power to get the high voltage.
The first approach to guard on repeaters was frequently by audible tone-burst rather than sub-audible tone-guard or PL®. Again, the sub-audible encoders and decoders needed that would stay on frequency and keep working were surplus Motorola equipment. Many operators without tone encoders tried whistling up the repeater. This turned out to be only fair, at best. These early radios did not meet the carrier frequency stability of commercial equipment either and were often off-frequency. This might not have been a problem if your repeater receiver was of similar wide bandwidth but .76 always incorporated a commercial receiver of one type or another. The problem also changed as the ambient temperature of the vehicle’s trunk changed. Early commercial two-way radio equipment was trunk-mount. The radios were close enough to frequency to key the repeater when at one temperature, but somewhat off-frequency at another temperature so the audio was distorted at times. The manufacturers solved this problem by putting the crystals inside ovens that ran at about 180º. They worked well once warmed up but took about ten minutes to stabilize their temperature. On the .76 repeater, I built a metering circuit to monitor the frequency of an incoming signal and if it was off more than a preset amount (about 1.75 kHz), the transmitter would not key up.
Since the repeater transmitting equipment in use had come from the Lorain area, an alternate input was installed on the old Infirmary Rd (Lorain County) water tower to give better receiver coverage in that area. While great in theory, it did not work out very well. Keep in mind that all the equipment was tube-type and required at least yearly attention even when working the best. With little test equipment available, it was not only difficult to set the frequencies so the UHF link receiver and transmitter would match but the transmitter also would not stay up to power with its less than new expensive 6907 tubes in both driver and final. It was finally shut off in 1972.
In the summer of 1970, hams from the Ashtabula area purchased several used GE Progress LineⓇ radios at the Rochester Hamfest to build a repeater and to have mobiles of their own. After questioning hams in the Cleveland area, the frequency choice they made was 146.34 input and 148.88 output. This was OK but remember that 146.88 was the input of the .88/.40 repeater and when .88/40, .34/.88 and .34/.76 were all on the air at the same time, the sound obtained on all three repeaters sounded like the complaint you get when you accidentally step on your cat’s tail and the repeaters involved would tend to key up each other and lock up on the air. Still not sure, to this day, what was causing what but it surely did not function properly. The cure was to move the Ashtabula repeater to .34/.76. With directional antennas and pattern shaping, the Cleveland and Ashtabula repeaters were made to not interfere with each other. The transmitter overlap area was about from Routes 44 to 528 along I-90. This was perfect for both user groups.
In the winter of 1970, there was a huge nationally-attended meeting in Westchester PA (near Philadelphia) at which the current 600 kHz split plan (used by commercial repeater users) was explained and adopted. The meeting was chaired by Gordon Pugh, W1JTB and assisted by Gary Hendrickson, W3DTN. Implementation of this concept solved many problems and made channelized operation possible; .88/.40 was moved to .28/.88; .34/.76 was moved to .16/.76 and the early Red Cross repeater with 146.46 input and 146.82 output was moved to .22/.82. There was much discussion among those of us who attended the meeting whether everyone at the local area clubs would go along with the concept and purchase at least one new crystal, but it seemed to work and was universally accepted and implemented.
Practically immediately to follow in the Cleveland area, an area repeater coordination meeting was held at the Hospitality Inn @ Bagley Rd and I-71. Repeaters represented were WB8CQR 146.34/76 Cleveland, W8IOO 146.34/76 Youngstown which was first operational in 1968, WB8CRV 146.28/88 Cleveland, K8EUR 146.34/76 Ashtabula, and WA8TTO 146.46/82 Cleveland. At this meeting, different PL® tones were first agreed upon for Youngstown, Cleveland and Ashtabula. There was discussion of UHF repeater pair assignments. Two MHz splits were originally agreed upon with the understanding that 5 MHz might be the final choice. The decision was also made to continue to keep 146.94 open as the simplex channel. The best records available indicate the Ohio Area Repeater Council (OARC) was not yet formed at this time but meetings of various repeater groups with George Cryder W8LGL who was the trustee of the Central Ohio Radio Club were held in 1970. The first OARC meetings were at the audio-visual facility of Ohio Wesleyan University where George worked. Among documents substantiating this are questionnaires about the statistics of NE Ohio repeaters.
At this point, there was another Ohio user of 146.76 – – Newcomerstown. To keep base stations from accessing the wrong repeater, base station inputs were agreed upon and installed on repeaters; in Cleveland (146.37 which was later changed to 146.355), Newcomerstown (146.325) and Ashtabula (146.235). Nice idea but not spectrum-efficient and when frequencies became scarce (!!!) and 146.34/94 was put on the air, the channels were too close and stations interfered. It was a good idea in theory; but in practice, it did not work. Because of off-frequency transmitters accessing the wrong system, the idea was abandoned.
With the purchase of a new Motrac® receiver and good propagation paths between Detroit and Cleveland, particularly when the band gets ‘up’, having a PL receiver became more desirable. To most of us who were repeater technicians but not involved with commercial two-way radio on a commercial basis, the task of getting PL® to work correctly and not be audible was a real learning experience. Soon the still in use 110.9 Hz PL® for Cleveland and 100.0 for Detroit was implemented. To further try to keep Detroit’s and Cleveland’s hams out of each other’s repeaters, an anti-100 circuit was connected to the .16 receiver in Cleveland. If a signal from Detroit was heard and it had 100Hz PL® and the repeater was in carrier squelch mode, it would purposely not be transmitted. We were still in a transition period from carrier squelch to PL® repeaters and there was more than a little resistance to having the repeater receiver in guard all the time.
The next feature to be added to the repeater was Touch-Tone® access using a Western Electric 247B-KTU (DTMF decoder) and control circuit designed and installed by Pat Shreve, W8GRG. By mid-1976, the circuitry was fully operational. This allowed turning on or off any of the repeater’s features from a remote site and access to an autopatch (which was not received with 100% approval in the beginning) and finally the feature of 9-1-1. At the time however, 9-1-1 was not available in the Cleveland area. Our original 9-1-1 dialed the Beachwood Police dispatcher. This arrangement was made because, at the time, Beachwood Police dispatched for Warrensville Township (W8AZO was the Township’s police chief) and that was where the equipment was (and still is) located. At first, the autopatch was enabled only at night for emergencies. This was the very beginning of a ‘controller’ and although the circuitry was all gate-level logic and had to be rewired to alter the program, it gave us the remote control abilities we desperately needed.
With the advent of more and better equipment, interest increased in UHF and a repeater was constructed in 1971 on 449.95/447.95. It was one of the first in the Cleveland Area and in spite of a lot of controversy was moved to a standard 5 MHz split in Jan 1981 to comply with the standard band plan. Around this time, the amateurs involved with Lake County CD erected a repeater with input on 53.70 and output on 53.46. A later difference of opinion about moving it to a better location and raising the power led to the start of the ‘Backbone’ repeater on 52.92 and 52.68 which is still operational.
In 1972, for the best interest of the club and the members of its board, the club was incorporated under Ohio laws. In that year, FCC Docket 18803, which governed amateur repeaters and remote base stations was issued. All repeaters had to be re-licensed with special regulations and a repeater WR-callsign. Repeaters like .16-.76 had to reduce power from the previous level of 4000 watts to 400 watts ERP. Topographical surveys were required to justify the amount of ERP and antenna patterns and gains had to be provided for each system. The days of covering as much area with a given repeater as you could get with a lot of power were at an end. In the summer of 1973, LEARA completed re-filing and the new callsign of WR8ABC was received. Many potential repeater operators instead of going through the aggravation of filing either did not ever construct their repeater or those with little following went off the air. These repeater callsigns were revoked in 1980 but we decided to retain the WR callsign as a vanity call.
In 1973, after many ideas and proposals, Bill Lightfoot K8ZMF (now silent key) started the first official LEARA publication and it was called the “Repeater ABC’S”. After the merger of .76 and .88 in 1974/5, the name was changed to “Spirit of .76 and .88”. In 1976, an Addressograph offset duplicating machine was purchased and moved to WB8APD’s basement, where the newsletter was printed. Another press was procured in 1980 and was in use until about 1991 when the schedules of the printer and publisher could not be coordinated. Most of the time, the newsletter is printed by Marv, W8AZO through the courtesy of Allen Telecom with an occasional trip to a commercial duplicating agency when Marv or Allen can’t accommodate it.
To further promote the interest in amateur radio and the concept of hamfests, the Cleveland Hamfest had its first swap/sell meet in 1975.
At this point in the development of two-meters FM, examination of an old listing of repeaters in the northeast Ohio area showed all repeaters listed in two columns on one side of one page – – about 55 total. There were no UHF repeaters. There was no activity on tertiary channels and there were no assignments in the 144-145 or 147-148 MHz section of the band. Dues for LEARA were $12 per year. Top sirloin dinners at the Brown Derby meeting place were $3.65 and an invoice showed a 12AX7 (tube used in the GE exciter) was $1.37.
Continuing problems seemed to plague the .76 transmitter. With the power output of the 400 watt amplifier turned down to 100 watts and the Motorola Motran exciter able to supply 35 watts (which was about twice too much) to drive the final and no easy way to turn it down, many output transistors were blown at a cost of about $15 each. (By the way, they didn’t replace themselves either.) This failure mode invariably occurred on the night of the club meeting. In the winter of 1973, the transmitter was replaced with a Motorola B53MPB IMTS (mobile-telephone) continuous duty base station. The 8560 tube this transmitter uses as the final amplifier tends to degrade quickly when the heater is continuously operated at full recommended voltage which is a problem Motorola never addressed. I learned from analyzing the circuit used in a GE amplifier power supply that raising the voltage during transmit and lowering it during standby greatly increases the tube life. I incorporated their idea into the new transmitter’s tube heater circuit. Because of its minimum down-time, it was the main transmitter until the summer of 1995.
In the winter of ’74/75, access to the site of .88 became almost impossible. In order to keep a system on the channel, a repeater was temporarily set up at the .76 sites. Representatives of both .76 and .88 had been discussing a merger of the groups and it became a natural thing to do as members common to both groups worked more and more on the same problems. When the concept was placed before the membership of both groups, it was adopted overwhelmingly at the December 1974 joint meeting. At about the same time a new high-rise office building was being constructed in Lakewood. It was a logical place to install .88 so there would be a repeater on the East Side and one on the West. A new (at least to us) GE Mastr® commercial two-way base station was procured and assembled in the configuration of a repeater for the new site. Access to the location of the repeater at the new site was 24 hours.
Interest in 220 MHz became increased and in April 1979, the club decided to purchase and install a repeater on 220 Mhz also at Lakewood Center North. Getting operational on the band for the individual ham also became easier with the advent of greater radio availability. At the beginning, a bulk purchase of ten Clegg radios was made and later another purchase was made of forty Midland radios. In 1982, the experimental 223.34/224.94 owned by W8GRG was purchased by the club and moved to the .76 transmitter site.
In the fall of 1977, the .76 repeater 9-1-1 circuit was connected to call C-MED (Cuyahoga County’s Emergency Medical Dispatch facility) directly. .88 was arranged similarly by 1982. This would provide a no-delays direct connection to law-enforcement or medical agencies when needed.
The next step was a natural, too – – being asked to provide communications for the largest public service event in the history of Ohio – – the Swine Flu program in October 1976. Thousands of people were inoculated against the flu. Stations were set up at all points involved and communications was provided for the Cleveland Academy of Medicine that administered the program.
Communications was provided for the first Heart-a-Thon by LEARA in the summer of 1977. It was to provide a link between the Cleveland Police, U.S. Marines, C-MED and the Cleveland Area Hospital Association.
On December 2, 1978, a couple dozen hams were used to assist the Ohio National Guard, as well as various law-enforcement and ambulance personnel to relocate all of the patients from Highland View Hospital to its new location at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital. The hospital on “the hill” was then closed permanently; but our repeater equipment remained.
Growth of the organization increased from less than 100 members in 1974 to about 525 in 1979. In the summer of 1978, the first club-owned PO box was opened to not only facilitate receipt of mail but to provide a place to send/receive mail that was not associated with any particular individual.
A continued increase in weather spotting assistance by hams which began as early as 1976, produced a continuously-increasing necessity of providing some form of communication path between a directed SkyWarn net and the National Weather Service (NWS) in Cleveland. The concept of what is now known as the “blue box” was developed and installed by Pat Shreve, W8GRG at NWS Cleveland in Feb 1979. This box enabled the weather service personnel to push one of two buttons on the box when weather was being reported and a ham was not at NWS yet. It would send either • • – – • • (?) for I do not understand/please repeat or • – • (R) for roger or I copied your transmission. For his various contributions to weather-related communications, in that same year, Pat was given the NWS award for ‘civilian of the year’.
The continuing desire to both modify existing repeater control commands and add new ones was the main driving factor that led to the 1981 purchase of the ACC RC-850 controller to control the 146.76 repeater. In 1987, power at the old Highland View Hospital building was disconnected and the location for the .16 receiver lost. The repeater equipment was all moved to the transmitter site and connected to the antenna through a new duplexer.
The move of Cleveland Hamnet to the basement of WB8APD occurred during 1987. This was the beginning the continual expansion of the hardware and software of this now well-known BBS (bulletin board system).
The National Weather Service announced in 1987, that NEXRAD was coming and, finally in March 1990, additional communications for severe weather spotting would become necessary. Implementation of the new NEXRAD doppler radar allowed subsequent closing of various NWS locations. The decision to perform the link function on six-meters to get reports from and to Erie PA, Mansfield, Akron/Canton and Toledo to NWS Cleveland on six-meters was made. Although all original multi-county-wide nets would continue to function as before, they now needed to report their findings to Cleveland. This distance in some cases is over one-hundred miles and needs a very wide-coverage repeater. Although some coverage problems exist between Cleveland and Toledo when there is a storm front between them, the six-meter backbone system works quite well and a simulcast transmitter system is in the works which will hopefully solve the lack of coverage in Toledo. After all the work making and installing this equipment, it never worked as expected and the project was abandoned.
After several outages and a rebuild of the .88 repeater transmitter still failed to make it reliable, the repeater was upgraded from a GE Mastr® to an all-solid-state GE Mastr-II® base station in the spring of 1994. Also, in that year, I modified a solid-state (Motorola Mocom 70®) transmitter for .76. The modification included mounting the power amp on a much larger fan cooled heat sink and mounting the exciter on a separate chassis rather than keeping it in the original mobile chassis. A GE EF-5 amplifier with more power can be switched on for better coverage during SKYWARN nets was installed as part of the same transmitter upgrade project.
In the summer of 1996, it was decided to regain use of the WR8ABC callsign for the LEARA repeaters. The license was applied for and received as part of the FCC program that allowed reissuing old callsigns.
During 1997 the most outstanding changes to LEARA and its repeater equipment were a: the voter on .76 was changed from a Hall to a Motorola Spectratac® and the UHF receivers which feed the voter were changed from GE Mastr-pro® to Motorola Micor®, and b: the west 220 MHz repeater was replaced after the original unit was declared no longer serviceable. As part of slimming-down the repeater features that were most ‘pranked’, some of the emergency autodial numbers were turned off. Direct dialing of the numbers is still possible. All the problems associated with the introduction of area codes ‘330’ & ‘440’ required considerable repeater controller program changes.
Probably, the number-one new and hard-to-solve difficulty facing all land-mobile two-way radio in today’s busy overcrowded radio communications world, is interference. It is not economically-advantageous to outfit transmitters with combiners and other equipment that would minimize interference. Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase of transmitters bothering receivers in totally unrelated services and bands. Much of this interference comes from the new higher-powered 900 MHz paging transmitters, now much more in use. The relative lack of support by the FCC, resulting from their continually-shrinking staff as well as FCC deregulation further reduces the chances of finding and curing interference.
2007 summer/fall. After more than fifty years having access to Sunny Acres and Highland View hospitals for repeater sites, the final eviction from Sunny acres was upon us. At that time, we did not have a place to relocate the repeater and through much modification to the hardware by many people, the then current system, while operational, was in no condition to relocate or relocate to a place where size and neatness mattered. So….I decided to build a completely new repeater. A new Arcom controller was purchased to run the repeater and it has not been too much of a headache. The transmitter I built consists of two paralleled PA assemblies from 100-watt Motorola Syntor X® mobile radios mounted on a heatsink from a Motorola 800mhz 100-watt PA. The unit puts out about 175 watts. Its exciter is a low power Mitrek® with the output power set down and then run through a 3db pad. The receiver in the radio is the receiver for the main input. The radio was modified so the transmitter and receiver can run simultaneously. The PL® board is of the solid-state type rather than the one that uses tuned electromechanical resonators (known as PL® reeds). The solid state board of this type can be modified to send and receive PL® at the same time. The whole site is generator backed and we have batteries on the repeater to bridge the time between power failure and generator startup.
While it’s nice to have a receiver also connected to the antenna through a duplexer, a problem has arisen with the tower lights when they were converted from incandescent to led’s. If the transmitter is on the air and the lights are off, all is ok. If you disable the transmitter and the receiver tries to receive a signal while the lights are on, also all is ok. BUT, if the tower lights are on while the transmitter is keyed, a noise is generated, most likely by the new led tower light ballasts, which results in the receiver going to a very desensitized state. After trying to further analyze the problem and possibly find a fix, it was decided to stop using the local receiver and another location close to the hill has been located to place a receiver.
The UHF link receivers I chose are Motrac®‘M’ style because of their size, availability, and quality even though they are forty years old, and have been adapted to new controls and connections so they plug into slots like post office mail boxes. This conserves lots of space in comparison with the previously used Micor® receivers. Home-made mounting, yes, functional, yes, commercial looking like the previous arrangement, no. Oh well. The whole system needed to be revised so it would fit inside one cabinet instead of the three we had spread into with the previous arrangement.
The entire unit is powered by a HP6260B power supply……modified so it will put out 13.8 volts. This supply although very large and weighs about 80 pounds, is completely serviceable whereas a newer and MUCH lighter switching regulator supply, if it develops a problem, becomes trash because service documentation is not available. The HP supply is also analog rather than switching technology so power supply switching noise does not exist. By the way, the repeater transmitter power supply needs to output a continuous almost 40 amps when the repeater is on the air and when several hams are having a conversation using the repeater, the transmitter is basically on the air continuously.
Through diligent work of N8AUC, we managed to get the new repeater onto a county communications tower still on the same hill where the two hospitals were so coverage is very similar.
In the summer of 2011, I rebuilt the 146.88/444.7 repeaters. The VHF repeater and UHF repeaters are both Motorola Mitrek® radios. The UHF repeater is a 30-watt radio with a large heatsink mounted to the under side of the drawer. The VHF radio has had the power ampllifier removed from the radio chassis and mounted in an old GE 900 Mhz 100-watt power amp fan cooled heatsink. The controller was replaced with an Arcom controller and the entire cabinet rewired so all three repeaters and their control equipment would fit into a single cabinet. The VHF and UHF repeaters are usually linked together. The system is also connected to IRLP and while it worked for a while, there have been difficulties keeping the phone line operational and connected so it has spent a lot of time not working. We hope to fix that issue.
There has also been an attempt to have a slow-scan net on ’88 but there have been relatively few interested and there is currently a digital net on ’88 following the weekly FM voice net. There do seem to be at least a few hams who participate.
In the late part of the 2013-2014 winter we were advised that the 444.7 repeater wasn’t working correctly. Analysis with an Anritsu Sitemaster® revealed that the antenna or a connection to it was bad. The club trustees decided to replace the antenna if that is the problem and keep the repeater on the air. Cost of a commercial replacement antenna will be more than $500. Upon investigating the issue, we found the feed line disconnected from the antenna. The pigtail connected to the bottom of the antenna had broken off. We dismounted the antenna and repaired the pigtail thus avoiding the cost of a new antenna.
Any time you have a voted repeater that is not fully commercial (using phone lines, a T1 carrier, or microwave link – all of which provide a continuous connection from the receiver to the voter) there seem to be problems with misvoting. This is most likely due to minor variations in either audio levels or frequency response differences from one input to another. This situation presented itself on the 146.76 repeater and there were several attempts by the previous club president to fix it. Unfortunately, his method of repairing it first by replacing the voter and then making several modifications to the link receiver audio connections which caused more problems than they fixed, led to a lot of disconnected wires and a completely non-functional repeater. Coincidentally, and with no knowledge of the previously mentioned situation, I decided to resign my position of club repeater mechanic but have made the offer to help the new tech Dave, KD8TWG with problems he encounters. Meanwhile, putting things back the way they were and doing some fine adjustments cured most of the problems.
We also have have obtained permission to install an input at a location fairly close to the hill and which should give close to the same coverage that the hill input would be providing if it worked without interference. That project has yet to be completed.
Winter 2016-7. The LEARA radio club purchased a Yaesu System Fusion® repeater and we finally went to the Lakewood site a couple times to install it. Upon getting to the site the second time I noticed the windstorm that had been a week or so before had bent the mast of the 146.88 DB224 antenna. It will now need to be replaced at a fairly expensive price. (Cost of a steeplejack not included) The final connection of the Fusion repeater went well and it is currently operational. It is on the same frequency pair that the analog repeater occupied 449/444.7. The decision to disconnect it from ‘88 repeater was made and at this point operates only in the digital mode. There has been at least some discussion that if it is reasonably possible, to connect the new UHF digital repeater to ’88.
The club newsletter was started in 1973 and continues to this day. It is written by a club member who makes this their main contribution to the club. In the beginning it was printed in Dave WB8APD’s basement. As of about 2009 and the increased use of the internet, its distribution is now primarily electronic. In the day of assembling the paper printed version, we had fold and staple nights in WB8APD’s basement once a month.
This concludes the history of repeaters and associated VHF activity in the Cleveland area that I am familiar with. I have elected to not mention other probably very good and active repeaters because I don’t know any of the particulars about them, and was not involved with their construction. There is one exception however and that is the 147.015 repeater located in Newbury.
In 1985, the owners of WENZ found it necessary to erect a new tower for their transmitter because one of the legs of the old (approximately 330 ft.) tower had rusted to the point where the whole tower was in danger of collapse and actually in the end, instead of someone climbing the tower and unstacking it, they elected to fell it to avoid having anyone injured. The new tower proposed and is what was actually constructed is 735 ft. high and has about 15 ft. of transmit antenna mounted on top. The then assistant EMA director in Geauga County was Ron Eging, KA8YNO and I’m not sure how I wound up contacting him but……..when I found out through him that the new tower was going to be constructed, I asked if there was a chance of the station allowing ham (repeater) antennas to be installed on it. I am not sure what the progression of contacting the station was but the answer turned out to be that they would welcome us.
I contacted a friend who was able to acquire a continuous length of 7/8” Andrew Heliax® which makes three transmission line runs from the blockhouse to the place where the ham antennas are located. (about 680 ft) Even better for us, the company (Warmus) steeplejacks, the company that erected the tower mounted all of our antennas and ran the transmission lines….all for free.
The first antennas (2) were installed one on either side of the tower which seemed like a good idea at the time….we didn’t have experience with antennas on a tower with a five-foot face. We soon realized that while the machine worked well in lots of locations, it was completely unusable in Chagrin Falls, which isn’t all that far away so, the present arrangement of four antennas was put up. They have provided a much more circular pattern. The only problem is that in order to connect four antennas to a feedline you need three two-way splitters. They were good when installed but are somewhat fragile and were either broken by climbers working on other equipment or fatigued by wind and poorly fastened transmission lines. Anyway, when they are not intact, coverage is poor, and the transmitter gets unhappy. To prevent future transmitter output transistor failures caused by bad antennas or splitters, I installed an isolator. This device acts like an RF diode. Reflected power goes to a resistor load not back to the transmitter. There have not been any problems for a while and hopefully things stay that way.
Last update Mar 11, 2017