Thursday, February 10, 2022

6BTV downed in storm. Beware of cheap 'para-cord'.

The 6 band trapped vertical was downed during a series of storms with sustained wind speeds of over 90MPH with gusts over 100MPH being recorded around the UK. 

The antenna was fitted with 6 guy ropes with 3 about 1/3 of the way up and 3 about 2/3 of the way up the antenna the two groups of guy lines were equally spaced around the antenna and secured to large fence posts and one of the small sheds. This appeared to be holding up and working well during the first two storms. Unfortunately as the third storm was reaching its peak at least one of the guy lines snapped initiating a complete structural collapse of the antenna. The bottom section of alloy tubing was badly bent with two of the upper sections and one trap also damaged in the collapse. 

The guy lines used on this antenna were made from the same so called 'para cord', green woven outer covering containing 11 individual strands.  The same cord was also used for stringing up a few wire antennas that survived the storms only to be brought down the following week as we got battered by another storm with high winds and heavy hail. 

Beware of cheap 'para-cord' !  There are many products available that are sold as para cord or shock cord that may be fine for light duty use but simply do not have the tensile strength to be reliable in  harsh weather conditions.  I have repaired the damaged trap and straightened out two of the three bent sections of tubing, The bottom tube section was the most severely bent and will most likely have to be replaced. 

I will be investing in some proper heavy duty, high strength, 'tried and tested' para-cord from a reputable supplier of antenna hardware when the vertical is reapaired and re-erected in springtime.

Like many things, going for the cheap option may do the job under low stress conditions, but will inevitably fail when conditions deteriorate. It is simply not strong enough to handle elevated stress and high peak loading during storm conditions. 

I should have known better but instead of waiting until I could get some good quality high strength cord I used the cheap stuff that I already had in a rush to get the vertical on air. 

Learn from my mistake. Use proper high strength para-cord or proper guy rope from a reputable supplier and avoid the cheaper options found online. 

73 de MM7WAB, Hairy Paul, Ayrshire, S.W.Scotland. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

6BTV up an running.

 6BTV now under test.

After several delays I eventually got everything together and a break in the weather long enough to do something!   There had already been much pondering about shortest feeder run possible while keeping coax out of the way, getting the fatter coaxial into the shack would be a struggle. And of course, where would be the best place to put the six band trapped vertical that could meet this feeder criteria and be realtively easy to add counterpoise/ground radials to as required without causing too much disruption.

It ended up almost in the middle of the back yard, on an existing timber post that was 'over engineered at the time for no aparent reason'  

Fixed the antenna base plate to 4x4in timber post with six 3 in screws. 
Feedpoint about 3ft above ground level, Belden 9913 coaxial from antenna feedpoint to Joint-Box outside shack window. 

 Assembled antenna laid on long bench and roughly adjusted traps with Nano-VNA knowing they all change when up in the air.  This usially gets You somewhere close on a few bands but some will need a bit of a tweak to get them just right for the part of the band You will be working. This may seem like a bit of a pfaff at the time but it is all part of the process to make the antenna work as efficiently as possible on site. After measurments and some testing, adjustments are done one band at a time, working from the highest frequency down until all traps are adjusted and each band is tuned for your specific use. 
When deploying a trapped antenna each section has to be tuned, in sequence, on site for best results so the antenna has to be easy to drop for adjustments. Final tuning can sometimes take many drops and a fair bit of time to accomplish good results. It depends on what radios you are going to run on it and how You prefer to run Your station. 

When using radios tha do not have matching devices, eg; Yaesu FT707s and the like it is best to have the antenna resonant with a good 50 Ohm match for efficient energy transfer. Always best to actually tune the antenna rather than use an ATU to load the antenna system to match the radio.  

Note: Adding ground spike, counterpoise or ground radial wires has significant effects on antenna behaviour, feedpoint impedance and resonance, so make sure all connections are good before final tuning. Adding another 'ground line' means cheeking each band again and adjusting where required. 
In general adding ground radials improves efficiency but they can de-tune the antenna too, so always best to check. 

  In my case two para-cord guy lines get released and two backed off a bit to release all tension that may impede lifting.Antenna is then lifted off base pole and, lowered to ground, tilted down and laid on long bench for adjustments. It took me a few hours to get 10,15,20 and 30m just right before losing daylight and about an hour the following morning to get 40m and 80m a bit better.

I am currently running comaparative tests using FT8 narrow band digital mode on HF bands. 

Switching between 3 antennas, (only two on 80m, 40m)

G7FEK homebrew wire. 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10
DX Engineering 6BTV,  80, 40 ,30 ,20 ,15 ,10
A99 (upper element of center fed vertical)  30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10

When I am not operating the FT8 station, it will be receiving and reporting to pskreporter map.
When left unattended the station is connected to the 6BTV under test.

All grounds and radials will be disconnected during some tests.
Currently running with one 10m ground radial to W.N.W. 


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Paul Godley Transatlantic Centenary Special Event Station, Ardrossan.

 Special Event Station - GS2ZE - GB2ZE - GB1002ZE - Ardrossan - 11-12 Dec 2021

First we have to look back to the times when massive, high powered, expensive spark transmitters were used on very long wavelengths for long distance communication and it was believed that shortwave frequencies were of no practical use other than for short range local transmissions.


G. Marconi managed to get a single letter 'S' across the Atlantic on 5th December 1902 from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada to Poldhu (Cornwall) in England using a high power longwave spark gap  transmission.  For the next 19 years longwave transmitter and receiver stations were developed and used to send messages across long distances using enormous antenna systems and high power spark transmitters.  It was believed that signals could not be sent long distances using shortwave frequencies.


In December 1921 Paul Godley 2ZE received the first complete CW message sent by an amateur radio station across the Atlantic ocean on shortwave frequencies. This proved that long distances could be covered on shorter wavelengths without huge, high powered commercial radio transmitters. 
 The test results also proved that CW transmission was a far better mode than the spark gap systems in use at the time.  From 1922 many longwave spark gap transmitter stations were decommissioned and replaced with CW equipment as messages could be sent and received using smaller, cheaper more reliable stations running less power that generated less interference than the noisy spark gap systems. This began a new era in radio communications technology.

1921 Transatlantic Test shortwave receiver station at Ardrossan.

On 9th December 1921 Paul Godley 2ZE set up a receiving station at Ardrossan, Scotland. The receiving equipment used was a Paragon regenerative receiver, Type DA-2 detector-amplifier and a superheterodyne receiver with external beat oscillator. The receiver system used a total of ten tubes (valves) The radio equipment was housed in a tent, with an oil lantern for light and an oil stove for heat. A Beverage wire receiving antenna almost 1,300ft long was strung up 12ft above the ground over a series of poles carriying standard Post Office pattern insulators at 125ft intervals from the tent stretching down the seaweed covered field towards the sea. The phosphor bronze wire was grounded through a variable non-inductive resistance, the ground plates consisted of four lengths of iron pipe buried 4ft in the ground where they reached water. 

He spent the next few nights following the transatlantic test time schedules with an official listener, Mr D.E.Pearson, District Inspector of the Marconi company. They were listening for signals transmitted across the Atlantic ocean from selected amateur radio stations in America. 

At 02:52 GMT on 12th December 1921 Paul Godley received a complete CW message on 1.3MHz (230m) that was sent by 1BCG located in a farmers field in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Transmitter was running 990W into a T-cage antenna, 100ft long and 70ft high with 30 raised radial counterpoise wires each 60ft long. This may seem like a large antenna system and a lot of power but this was considerably smaller than the antennas used by longwave stations and with less than a kilowatt this station was using a fraction of the power normally used for longwave transmissions at that time. 
Up to this point it was believed that it was impossible to use shortwave frequencies for long range communication.

The successful reception at Ardrossan was reported by Paul Godley and Mr Pearson, a message containing the report was sent back to America via the high power, long wave Marconi transmitter station at Carnarvon in Wales where it was transmitted across the Atlantic to the longwave station at New Brunswick, America. 

The transatlantic tests continued until December 16th and more reception reports were returned. Several British amateur stations sucessfully copied CW signals from American amateur stations including, 1AFV, 1BCG, 1UN, 1RU, 1ZE, 1XM, 2BML, 2FP, 2ZC, 2ZL, 2ZU.  

100 years later. . .


A Special Event Station station was set up within one wavelength of the original location at Ardrossan. This was set up and operated by members of the Kilmarnock and Loudoun Amateur Radio Club  from 12:00 GMT on Saturday 11th December to 12:00 GMT on Sunday 12th December 2021.

The station was set up at short notice with equipment gathered together by KLARC members. We ended up with four HF sets on site. Two HF stations were operated at the same time, taking care what bands they were operating on to avoid causing each other QRM or desensitization of the receivers. We also had VHF/UHF and network assisted stations on site during the 24 hour event.

Working Conditions
It was cold & wet with bitter icy winds overnight at the Ardrossan Special Event Station site. This was  expected for December on the West coast of Scotland and everyone had dressed accordingly, although I did manage to fill my boots with icy water about 2am on sunday while we were stringing out a linked dipole antenna in the dark. The van provided shelter from wind & rain for equipment with a convenient table that was just big enough to fit two HF stations. A third 'portable' HF station complete with PSU, ATU, radios etc built into a self contained unit on wheels (Very neat 'shack in a box') was also used on Saturday evening. The 160m station and a VHF station were set up in cars parked beside the van, 240V AC power was provided by two generators, one powering equipment in the van, one for stations in other vehicles.   

There were three monoband vertical antannas (30m,20m,17m) A multi-band horizontal 'linked dipole' strung between two small mounting poles with central pole mast to elevate the mid point providing a slightly inverted V configuration. The central pole-mast also carried a VHF colinear attached to the top. The linked dipole was held away from the mast attached to a pulley rope. This allowed for the antenna to be dropped and raised quickly for making band changes. This arrangement also made it easy to change over to the top band antenna at night for 160m operation.

 While the 160m station was operational the linked dipole was moved and temporarily erected to the west of the site. Center feed point lofted using extendable pole arrangement with wire sloped to 3ft poles at outer ends. After struggling for a while on 80m we dropped the antenna, unplugged 80m link and pushed it back up in the air to run 40m.  

At this point there were four stations operating simultaneously, the top band station on 160, two SSB HF stations , FT8 station working on 30m and the network radios operating via WiFi mesh and 4G bridge into MB7IAE connected into the FreeSTAR network. 

FT8 digi-mode
During the event the FT8 narrow band digital mode station was mostly working 30m as this was the most stable band throughout the 24hrs of operation at the site. Despite the poor HF band conditions the KLARC team managed to make many good contacts across the Atlantic and had QSOs with stations spread out across four continents. 

FreeSTAR network
We also made over 130 contacts with stations over the FreeSTAR network while operating with the GS2ZE special event callsign. Some of those who made contact over the network had no HF capability due to restrictions at their QTH or were unable to make contact on HF due to poor propagation conditions and were very happy to make contact with the Ardrossan centenary special event station using network assisted communications through linked repeaters, gateways, personal hotspots and software/apps on various platforms connecting a diverse range of  technologies.​ Several stations were also tracking our band changes reported over FreeSTAR network and trying to reach us on HF. 
We made contact with operators using many modes including DMR, WiresX, YSF, NXDN, P25, reflectors, Digital and Analogue gateways & repeaters, network nodes and ops using software solutions including, allstar & PiStar nodes/hotspots, echolink, droidstar, dudestar, peanut etc.. 
I know using network assisted communications at a Transatlantic event may seem odd to some. 
The reasoning behind it is that there are many licensed amateurs around the World who have restrictions at their location and cannot have an HF station on the air. Many landlords, housing associations and even some town planning departments do not allow antennas to be erected or fixed to structures at all !.  Working stations with special event callsign GS2ZE over FreeSTAR network at least gave some of those HF restricted operators a chance to make contact with the site during this historic event using whatever equipment they have available. 

 It only took a few minutes to deploy Inrico T320 (with high gain antenna for 4G data connection) and have Hytera PNC380 , Inrico TM-7 (MK1) and Android tablet connected with FreeSTAR connection live.  With over 130 contacts over the system in the limited times available I am happy that I set up the FreeSTAR station at this event. 

I used a few other systems during the event to keep in touch with friends, clubs and networks. The Inrico T199 (top right in above picture) screenless 16 chan network radio was handy outside when it was raining, (most of the time) The TM-7 was used in the van as it is 'not so waterproof'. The Hytera PNC380 (bottom right in above picture) is also waterproof and was used when I wandered off to the beach, and go beaten back by the harsh icy winds.

 Telegram, Zello and even Zoom (running on another T320) came into play a few times reporting band changes and receiving reports from stations hearing us on HF. 

I think we made best use of the technologies available to us, from throwing RF along a wire for CW on 160m to DV (Digital Voice) over 5GHz mesh and 900/800MHz data link into Global networks. It is all part of the ever broadening spectrum of equipment, modes and methods available to experiment with.

Many thanks to all those who worked GS2ZE, GB2ZE & GB1002ZE at the Ardrossan site on this historic occasion.

Please visit Kilmarnock and Loudoun Amateur Radio Club  for more information including links to videos and photos from the centenary special event stations site. 

73 de MM7WAB/2ZE (GS2ZE at Ardrossan event) 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Network Assisted Communications for HAMs

Network assisted communications for amateur radio operators. Making good use of avaiilable tech.

     Amateur radio repeaters and networks.

As licensed amateur radio operators we have access to stand-alone repeaters as well as repeaters and gateways linked by various forms of network infrastructure. Amateur repeaters and gateways are owned and operated by amateur radio operators using licensed amateur radio bands/frequencies. 

There are thousands of repeaters and gateways into networks exclusively for licensed amateur use around the World. There are amateur radio transponders / repeaters on satellites and even the International Space Station has a VHF/UHF cross band repeater for licensed amateur operators. 

Some repeaters and gateways have backup power so they can remain operational during times of power failure, but the vast majority do not. The range and coverage provided by amateur repeaters and gateways is limited and there are large areas where there are no amateur communication services available. 

    Extending coverage using existing 'non-amateur' infrastructure.

The largest network of radio gateways in the World with the greatest coverage available to the public has to be the global mobile telephone/data network. It is comprised of millions of 'cell tower' sites around the Globe with over 1.5 million in the UK alone. Each cell tower site is effectively a multi user radio gateway installation linked into Global network communications infrastructure. Some people seem to think using the cellular phone/data networks is 'not radio communications' but they are indeed mistaken. The cellular networks operate using radio frequency energy propagated through free space, which by definition is most certainly radio communication. It is correct to say this is not technically Amateur Radio as it does not use licensed amateur radio fequencies/bands but it can be put to good use by amateur radio operators to communicate to/from locations where there is no access to licensed amateur radio repeaters or gateways. The vast majority of cell sites are operated as primary communication systems with full backup power and multiple network connections providing reliable global communications most of the time. 

Of course in times of major disasters or when the network infrastructure fails for some reason an independant self powered amateur radio station will often become the primary means of emergency  communication, as long as the operator has prepared for such an event and has backup power available.

    Make good use of the technologies available.

It makes perfect sense for amateur radio operators to make use of this vast network of supported infrastructure to communicate when they are in areas that are beyond amateur repeater / gateway coverage or have restrictions that prevent them erecting antennas and using amateur radio equipment.

This is where mobile phones, network radios, tablets, laptops and other portable devices connected to the Global communications networks via cell tower sites and WiFi access points or hotspots can be used with a wide range of software / mobile device apps allowing the user to stay connected to the amateur radio networks gateways and repeaters around the World. 

Using software / applications such as Echolink, Peanut, IRN(teamspeak), DroidSTAR(Android & iOS), DudeSTAR(PC), DVswitch, and many others the licensed amateur operator can easily be connected to amateur networks and communicate with other licensed hams using a wide range of equipment almost anywhere on Earth. The coverage is expanding rapidly with the deployment of satellite internet  

    Communicating with multiple modes across multiple networks.

One of the most innovative networks that provides inter-linked communications between licensed amateurs using a wide range of modes, networks and equiuipment is the FreeSTAR network. This brings together a diverse range of technologies such as DMR, Dstar, YSF, WiresX, NXDN,  P25, IAX, M17 and network linked analogue repeaters and gateways. 

 Have a look at for more informations and details of how to connect with whatever equipment You have handy. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery Disaster Memorial.

MM7WAB/P working other licensed amateur radio stations from the commemorative cairn enclosure at the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster site on Sunday 13 June 2021. Many thanks to the stations that worked me on 2m FM simplex and via the FreeSTAR network during this activation.

(Location NS6097 1250). KNOCKSHINNOCH CASTLE Colliery

Location: New Cumnock
Types of Coal: House and Steam
Production Commenced: 1944
Year Closed: 1968
Year Abandoned: 1969
Workforce: Average 578 : Peak 755
Peak Year: 1956

Shaft/Mine Details: 2 shafts, 187m and 128m deep

Details in 1948: Output 900 tons per day, 264,600 tons per annum, stoop and room working. 580 employees. 3 screens for dry coal. Baum (Simon Carves) type washer. No baths, but canteen available. Steam powered cranes and machinery. Electricity from public supply. 
Pithead baths were added in 1949, and also served neighbouring pits.

The photographs below were taken on 1st day of activation, Sunday 13th June 2021.

Clear signage at road end of pathway.

Pathway suitable for wheelchair or mobility scooter access.

The enclosure has a wide gate for ease of access and is well cared for.

The commemorative cairn at the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster site.

Sighting pillar showing headings and distances.

View towards crater site over the sighting pillar.

Detail of the stone at front of memorial enclosure.

View across location of the crater.

The disaster occurred on 7 September 1950 when workings driven too close to the surface allowed a peat basin at the surface to burst into the mine, the ensuing inrush trapping 129 miners underground, of whom 13 subsequently died. Most of the trapped men were heroically rescued through workings connected to the neighbouring Bank No. 6 Colliery. 

The accident occurred about 7.30 p.m., whilst the afternoon shift was at work, on Thursday, 7th September, 1950, when a large volume of liquid peat suddenly broke through from the surface into the No. 5 Heading Section of the Main Coal Seam. The inrush started at the point where the No. 5 Heading, which was rising at a gradient of 1 in 2, had effected a holing at the outcrop of the seam beneath superficial deposits and had made contact with the base of a large natural basin containing glacial material and peat. The liquid matter, rushed down the steeply inclined heading and quickly filled up a large number of existing and abandoned mine tunnel drifts and roadways as well as several working places. This inundation of liquified peat /moss cut off the two means of egress to the surface from the underground workings of the Knockshinnoch Castle colliery.

There were 135 miners working underground at the time. Six men working near the main shaft bottom quickly escaped to the surface by way of the downcast shaft before it become blocked, while 116, with all means of escape cut off, found their way to a part of the mine then unaffected by the inrush, leaving 13 persons missing. The 116 men trapped below ground were rescued after an incredible rescue effort by miners and rescue teams from as far afield as Edinburgh and Liverpool lasting more than two days. 

The 13 men who sadly lost their lives in the disaster were;

1. John Dalziel, 50 Loader Attendant
2. James D. Houston, 46 Coal miner
3. Thomas Houston, 40 Coal miner
4. William Howat, 61 Switch Attendant
5. William Lee, 48 Coal miner
6. James Love, 48 Coal Miner
7. William McFarlane, 36 Coal Miner
8. John McLatchie, 48 Shotfirer
9. John Murray or Taylor, 33 Coal Miner
10. Samuel Rowan, 25 Coal Miner
11. John Smith, 55 Coal Miner
12. Daniel Strachan, 38 Fireman
13. John White, 26 Coal Miner

Further information:

Scottish Mining site page: (enquiry, reports and extensive information including links to newspaper reports of the accident, rescue and recovery operations.)

The Rescue: Timeline and information on the rescue of 116 trapped miners:

Video footage of a news report on the disaster from British Pathe news:

Pathe News clips:

Canmore site information link:

The disaster was dramatised in 1952 with the release of the British film, 'The Brave Don't Cry', starring John Gregson, Alex Keir and Fulton Mackay.

. o 0 O 0 o .

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Proper use of "BREAK" call on amateur radio.

Many amateur radio operators are heard calling "Break" incorrectly. 

 Break should only be used to signify there is high priority / emergency traffic. For example, a QSO is in progress between two or more stations and another station needs to report an accident, incident or other emergency situation that requires assistance.

When the station currently talking stops transmitting the station with the accident report or emergency traffic should key his transmitter and call, “Break" The other stations should immediately acknowledge the breaking station and allow them to pass the urgent traffic.

The term break in amateur radio communications is commonly misused by new operators and old-timers alike. These operators often incorrecly use a "Break" call as a signal that they wish to join the ongoing conversation, use the frequency to make a contact or to simply make their presence known. For these types of interruptions the operator should simply wait for a gap between transmissions and give their call sign once. When the operators using the frequency are at a suitable breaking point in their conversation, they will acknowledge the new station and call them in.

 Most amateur radio operating guides instruct to only use a "Break" call in an emergency or life threatening situation. Many amateur radio clubs, groups and repeater systems have operating procedure guidelines that amateur station operators should follow. These are guidelines and not rules or laws, they are proper etiquette. Operators who do not follow proper etiquette are often frowned upon or ignored by other stations.

To avoid any confusion calling "Break" should only be used in urgent or emergency situations. 

If You wish to 'break in' to an ongoing conversation, and there is No accident or emergency assistance required, You should simply give Your callsign once and wait patiently for one of the stations to bring You in. 

If the frequency, channel or repeater You wish to call on has no current traffic a "Break" call should only be used in an emergency situation to alert other stations that there is an accident, incident, emergency or life threatening situation requiring urgent assistance.

When calling "Break" in an emergency You should be prepared to give information relating to the type of emergency, the location of the incident and state what assistance is required. This information will enable stations receiving Your emergency Break call to pass the required information to emergency services or other organisations that can provide the required assistance.

73 de MM7WAB

Friday, February 5, 2021

Amateur Radio Protocol & Procedures - Why do so many get it wrong?

 It is amazing how many experienced amateur radio operators seem to have forgotten the basics. 

Simple things like getting callsigns in the right order during a QSO or when calling a specific station.

You only have to listen for a short time on the amateur radio bands to hear stations giving their callsign followed by the callsign of  the station they are calling or handing it back over to during a QSO. This is of course the wrong way round. When in QSO or calling a specific station You should first give the callsign of the station You are calling followed by Your callsign. It is easy to do this correctly and there is no reason to get it wrong. 

Giving impossible signal reports is also becoming more common. 

Anyone who has listened to the amateur bands during a contest will be well aware of false 'You are 5/9' signal reports.  I have heard many poor excuses for why this is done during a contest and it seems to be generally accepted that fake signal reporting is fine during a contest. 

Whatever excuse is used during a contest there is NO good reason to give false signal reports the rest of the time. If You were Really being received as a proper 5/9 (Readability 5 = Perfectly clear and understandable) there would be no reason to be asked a second time for Your callsign or to repeat information. 

Incorrectly using QRZ instead of CQ when calling for a contact.

Calling on amateur bands for a contact by giving Your callsign followed by QRZ instead of CQ is a very common mistake. QRZ and CQ have specific meanings! QRZ should NOT be used instead of CQ.  QRZ should only be used AFTER a station has called You. QRZ means "who is calling me" 

These mistakes (and many others) are heard every day from supposedly experienced operators who should know the correct procedures and protocols. There is no sensible reason to get the basics wrong. 

I have often thought that there should be some sort of refresher course every few years to remind operators of the correct operating procedures and protocols as this would help them to correct their bad habits and do it right.  

Look up the Amateur Radio Q codes and use them properly, it is easy to use them correctly & there is no reason to get it wrong. 

If it is worth doing at all it is worth doing it Right.

73 de MM7WAB