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ARRL Heritage Museum

The ARRL Heritage Museum


The ARRL Heritage Museum is comprised of several collections, including paper artifacts, photos, media, technical books and an extensive hardware collection. Volunteers have cataloged several thousand artifacts, which are being preserved for future generations.  

ARRL Historical Committee Chairperson:

Rod Blocksome, K0DAS, Midwest Division Director 

ARRL Heritage Museum Volunteers:

Michael Marinaro, WN1M, Historian; Archivist and Curator- Paper, Photographs and Media

Jonathan Allen, K2KKH, Curator, Hardware

Pete Turbide, W1PT, Vintage Radio Test Technician

Ray Thornton, W1YFF, Radio Restorer Extraordinaire

ARRL Staff

Bob Allison, WB1GCM, Assistant Laboratory Manager, Curator and Liaison to the ARRL Historical Committee. Bob is the contact person if you wish to donate equipment to the ARRL Heritage Museum: ballison@arrl.org

The Historian's View - Articles Submitted by Michael Marinaro, WN1M

 The History of Amateur Radio and the ARRL 

  Click on the above link!!

Michael Marinaro, WN1M has authored historical articles for several Amateur Radio related publishers, including the AWA, RSGB and the ARRL. He is a big fan of radio's first Amateur, Gulielmo Marconi.

Historical Happenings

Commemorative Special Event Reenacts 1921 Amateur Radio Transatlantic Reception     (2016)

Radio amateurs in the US and in Scotland have reenacted the first successful transatlantic reception of a shortwave Amateur Radio signal nearly a century earlier. Special event station N1BCG in Greenwich, Connecticut, and GB2ZE in Ardrossan, Scotland, completed contacts on SSB and on CW during the December 11 event. ARRL, the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), and the Radio Club of America (RCA) partnered to support the activity, organized by ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, and Clark Burgard, N1BCG, who loaned his history-rich call sign for the occasion. On December 11, 1921, in Ardrossan, Scotland, reception of a radio signal transmitted from an RCA test station — located in a small shack on the Greenwich, Connecticut, property of Minton Cronkhite, 1BCG — helped to usher in the age of global communication. In Scotland, American Paul Godley, 2ZE, clearly heard the signal using a receiver of his own design.

“These events are fun, because they’re timely, cause us to focus on the history and on the people who made history,” Gallagher said. “We were very pleased with the tenor of it and with the media coverage, and we were happy to make the connection with GB2ZE, although we would have preferred to have made it on 160 meters, where it would have been closer to the frequency used in 1921.” The 1921 transatlantic test, on CW, was conducted on a wavelength of 230 to 235 meters (about 1.3 MHz). The transatlantic tests proved the value of the shorter wavelengths — long considered worthless to long-distance communication.

Burgard spoke on 20-meter SSB with GB2ZE, operated by Jason O’Neill, GM7VSB, in Ardrossan. A bit later, ARRL Field Services Manager Dave Patton, NN1N, chatted with GB2ZE on CW. “After working GB2ZE on 20 meters, I was reminded of how much of a challenge the RCA ops had using 200 meters,” Patton said. “Hearing signals in Europe from across the Atlantic had to be a tremendous thrill for Godley and the others listening.”

The first message sent by Burgard from Greenwich to Androssan on Sunday morning repeated the original 1921 text: “252 AM No. 1 de 1BCG w-12, New York Date 11/12-21 [GMT] To Paul Godley, Androssan Scotland, Hearty congratulations Burghard Inman Grinan Armstrong Amy Cronkhite.” Patton repeated the message 30 minutes later on CW.

Describing the special event as “a rewarding experience,” Patton said the entire team worked together to build a Field Day-style station in wintry weather. He said the complement of equipment included a few “fully-armed vintage AM stations,” as well as such modern radios as a FlexRadio 6500 and an Icom 7700. Among the older pieces was a 1950s-era transmitter owned by rocker Joe Walsh, WB6ACU, of The Eagles. The antennas were simple dipoles.

“In about 9 hours of operating, we logged nearly 525 QSOs, with 106 on AM on 40 and 75 meters through conditions that were only fair,” Patton recounted.

About a dozen operators sat down to operate the Special Event station, set up near the site of the 1921 1BCG transmitting station. The special event drew the attention of news media, especially on the Scottish end of things, with BBC-Scotland producing reports on the Amateur Radio event.

To highlight the historical nature of the occasion, Godley’s grandchildren Bruce Godley Littlefield and his sister, Janice Taylor, visited the special event, and Littlefield brought his grandfather’s complete log books of the experiment, as well as numerous photos and letters from ARRL.

“We enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect the Godley history with that of ARRL and the Radio Club of America,” Littlefield said afterward.

Photo Gallery

  • Clark Burgard, N1BCG, was one of the organizers of the special event. [Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, photo] Clark Burgard, N1...
  • Clark Burgard, N1BCG, at the vintage AM station position. [Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, photo] Clark Burgard, N1...
  • Radio Club of America Board Member Mike Clarson, WV2ZOW (left), and ARRL Field Services Manager Dave Patton, NN1N, operate the N1BCG special event. [Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, photo] Radio Club of Ame...
  • Bruce Godley Littlefield and his sister Janice Taylor are grandchildren of Paul Godley, 2ZE, who was at the Ardrossan, Scotland, receiving station in 1921. Bruce Godley Litt...

Hardware Collection

The ARRL Evolution of Amateur Radio Exhibit: "Understanding the Past to Develop the Future"

Software defined transceivers, new software driven test equipment and the flurry of new digital gadgets and modes are exciting to look at and operate. As Radio Amateurs in a licensed radio service, one of our basic purposes, as stated in FCC Rules, Part 97.1b is, "(the) Continuation and extension of the Amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art". Clearly, many Radio Amateurs are actively engaged in advancing the radio art; new technology such as SDRs and the improvements made to more traditional transceivers are examples of work that has benefited all Radio Amateurs today. One could only imagine what Radio Amateurs will develop in the future!

While it's important to look forward to the technology of tomorrow, it's equally important to understand the evolution of radio equipment that was used by Radio Amateurs; from the earliest "spark days" to the dawn of digital technology. By delving into the past, one can learn to appreciate the hard work, determination and experimentation that brought us one step at a time, to the technology we enjoy today.

Visitors to the ARRL Laboratory can see our exhibit, "The ARRL Evolution of Amateur Radio Exhibit", part of the ARRL Heritage Museum, that features radio apparatus from the early 1900's to the 1980's. This exhibit is housed in a display room, formally a storage room for the Lab's obsolete test equipment and parts. In the Laboratory itself, visitors can see new technology, such as D-Star  and DMR repeaters, an SDR HF transceiver, the ARRL Laboratory Screen Room and whatever the staff is cooking up on the benches. At the ARRL Lab, you will find a balance of the old and new technology. While we look forward to the future, we also have a deep appreciation for the past.

This exhibit was developed by Bob Allison, WB1GCM, ARRL Assistant Laboratory Manager, with the support of the Board of Directors. Volunteers have cataloged the hardware collection, which is extensive. Only a part of it can be displayed at a time. Occasionally, there will be special pieces rotated into the display. Visitors are welcome to sit down and operate at one of the three operating positions, provided a valid Amateur License is presented.

 

The Gates BC-1T: "The AMbassador"

On March 24th, 2017, ARRL Laboratory Assistant Manager, Bob Allison, WB1GCM, and ARRL RFI Engineer, Mike Gruber, W1MG, made a trip to the National Capital Radio and Television Museum, in Bowie Md. Their mission: to pick up an vintage 1 Kilowatt AM broadcast transmitter on behalf of the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut. With the help of a handful of NCRTV museum volunteers, the 800 pound transmitter was loaded into a rental truck and transported to the ARRL Lab, in Newington, CT. There, volunteers from the VRCMCT unloaded it and rolled it into the ARRL Headquarters building and into the Lab, without incident.

According to the NCRTV museum staff, the BC-1T was found in Arizona. With a transmit frequency of 1340 kHz and some digging into FCC archives, it was determined that this transmitter was used at KPGE, in Page, Arizona. Though a bit dirty, the transmitter was mostly complete, except for its 833A modulator and final amplifier tubes.

VRCMCT volunteers wasted no time in starting its cleanup and by mid April, re-wiring of the power supply began. ARRL Building Manager Greg Kwasowski, W1GJK, ran a 30 A, 230 VAC serice to the transmitter, complete with a fused master switch. 

ARRL Repurposes AM Broadcast Transmitter For the Amateur Radio Service

Thanks to a joint effort by ARRL and the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut (VRCMCT), a classic Gates BC-1T AM broadcast transmitter will enjoy a second life on the Amateur Radio bands for occasional use under W1AW or under the ARRL Headquarters Operators Club call sign, W1INF. Spearheaded by broadcast engineer Dan Thomas, NC1J, VRCMCT volunteers restored the1-kW transmitter to operating condition, after obtaining it from the National Capital Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland. The VRCMCT will retain ownership of the transmitter, while the League houses, and maintains it on loan. The transmitter will be located in the ARRL Lab, and Assistant Lab Manager Bob Allison, WB1GCM, said the transmitter could be on the air as W1AW during such operating events as the AM Rally and the Heavy Metal Rally.

ARRL turned to AM guru and veteran broadcast engineer Tim “Timtron” Smith, WA1HLR, of Skowhegan, Maine, to handle shifting the BC-1T from 1340 kHz to the ham bands. Timtron not only has been an AM mainstay on 75 and 40 meters over the years, he’s engineered all manner of AM, FM, and HF broadcast transmitters in his extensive career. This combination of familiarity and experience made him a logical choice to handle the conversion to amateur use of the Gates BC-1T, which once transmitted country music from KPGE in Page, Arizona.

While a shift from the higher end of the Standard Broadcast Band to 160 meters alone might seem rudimentary, various stipulations added a level of complexity. First, the transmitter had to be modified as little as possible, retaining original components. That ruled out completely redesigning the circuitry. The 833 final amplifier tubes, better suited for broadcast-band use, would be retained as would the inductance-heavy tuning circuits. Another requirement — this one set by Smith — ambitiously called for the transmitter to function on 75 as well as on 160 meters.

The plan was to accomplish the conversion in two phases, with the first to be completed in a few days and include basic crystal-controlled functionality on 160 and 75. The second phase will include adding remote control, relay band switching, and external RF drive for frequency agility, to be completed later.

Each RF stage was converted, starting with the Colpitts oscillator — which offered two octal tube sockets to hold broadcast crystals, and a selector switch. As most veteran radio amateurs may recall from their Novice license days, an octal socket will accommodate FT-243-case crystals; in this case, only minor rewiring was needed. More complicated was changing out feedback and loading capacitors in the oscillator stage, along with the buffer tank circuit. The driver tank circuit was next. Removing one-half of the windings on the multiple tank, changing some connections, shortening long leads on RF bypass capacitors, and modifying the neutralization circuit were necessary.

The output tuning circuit proved to be the easiest to convert; parallel capacitors that enabled broadcast-band operation were rewired in series to resonate on the amateur bands. A spare inductor, not required for higher frequencies, was repurposed in place as a dc safety shunt. The modulator just needed only minor changes.

Initial tests conducted at 250 W on February 22 demonstrated the success of the modifications and marked completion of the first step toward a new lease on life for the BC-1T as ARRL’s flagship AM amateur band transmitter. “It took many volunteers and their resources to make this project come together,” Allison said. Eventually, visitors to ARRL Headquarters will be able to see the transmitter on the air and possibly use it, by advance request. Allison calls the BC-1T “The Ambassador.”

“It’s an ambassador for the AM mode, reaching out a friendly hand to radio amateurs old and new,” he said. — Thanks to Clark Burgard, N1BCG, and Bob Allison, WB1GCM

The Gates Transmitter is on the air during AM Operating Events, such as the AM Rally, European AM QSO Party, Electric Radio's Heavy Metal Rally, and the AWA AM QSO Party. It has made over one thousand contacts with other AM enthusiasts from coast to coast and across Canada.  

ARRL Video

A CLASSIC YOU CANNOT MISS: CLICK CAMERA ICON BELOW

GATES BC-1T Conversion to 160/75 M BY TIM SMITH, WA1HLR

Download

This is a classic story of Tim Smith (Timtron), WA1HLR and how he converted the Gates BC-1T that resides at the ARRL Laboratory

Donate To the ARRL Heritage Museum

Have an unusual piece of equipment that is historically significant to the history of Amateur Radio, or the History of the ARRL? Please consider donating it to the ARRL. We will preserve it. Contact:

Bob Allison, WB1GCM

ARRL Laboratory

860-594-0210, M-F 9 AM to 4 PM Eastern Time

 

Other Links

Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut

  • Located on 115 Pierson Lane in Windsor, CT, only 20 minutes north of ARRL Headquarters. Not just a radio museum, it features a large display of a variety of technical items from the early 1800's through to the early 1980's. Talk over antique telephones, hear Edison cylinder phonographs, watch scary Tesla Coils in action. This museum also has a working replica of a 1950 era radio studio. This self supporting museum is staffed entirely by volunteers.

Antique Wireless Association

New England Wireless and Steam Museum

K2TQN's Old Radio and Radio History Web-Site