Rocky Mountain Ham Radio Communications Trailer

T h e
Spec t ru m Mon i tor Amateur, Shortwave, AM/FM/TV, WiFi, Scanning, Satellites, Vintage Radio and More
Volume 1 Number 5 May 2014
Ham Radio Communications Trailer
Amateur Radio Digital Voice Operating
The Art and Science of Kit Building
QRP: Radio Fun without a Fortune
The Heathkit “Lunchbox” Secret
T h e
Spec t ru m Mon i tor
Amateur, Shortwave, AM/FM/TV, WiFi, Scanning, Satellites, Vintage Radio and More
Dear TSM 4
RF Current
Rocky Mountain Ham Radio Communications Trailer 11
By Wayne Heinen N0POH
When a ham club decided to build their own communications trailer, they learned more about what they would
do differently, if they ever had the chance to do so. That chance came sooner than they might have expected and the
result is a well-designed, multi-functional operations platform that serves the club’s diverse needs.
Digitally Speaking: Amateur Radio Digital Voice Operating
Cory G B Sickles WA3UVV
Amateur radio operators have been at the forefront of technology for over 100 years. For the last few years
many hams have been exploring the world of digital voice communications. From HF to VHF and UHF, what has
been done with analog transmissions is now being done digitally, with a few extra and interesting differences.
Radio Hobbyist’s Guide to Kits 22
By Neil Goldstein W2NDG
Most readers remember the halcyon days of kit building dominated by Heathkit, Knight-Kit and other long
gone kit companies, but whose products continue to be heard on the air and revered. Times have changed and
so has kit building, but the essence of kit building remains; a chance to build your own equipment, save money,
experiment and learn about electronic fundamentals. Neil Goldstein surveys the terrain of contemporary kit
QRP – Radio Fun Without A Fortune26
Bob Patterson K5DZE
Many hams, particularly new ones, don’t understand the advantages that QRP (low power operating) offers:
smaller, more portable and less expensive rigs. Nor do many understand that dropping power output doesn’t
necessarily mean disappearing into the ether. Longtime QRP operator Bob Patterson explains how it’s done.
It Started with a CB
By Rich Post KB8TAD
TSM’s resident radio historian, Rich Post, looks at the development of Heathkit’s famous Lunchbox
transceivers for 10, 6 and 2-meters that started life as CB radio sets. Find out who was really behind the original
design of these extremely popular transceivers.
2 The Spectrum Monitor May 2014
Scanning America 36 Amateur Radio Astronomy
By Stan Nelson KB5VL
By Dan Veeneman
The LWA Antenna for Radio Astronomy
NOAA WX, NIST Time Transmissions, Scanning
Morgan County West Virginia
The Longwave Zone Federal Wavelengths
41 By Kevin O’Hern Carey WB2QMY
Amateurs on Longwave
By Chris Parris
Agency Close-Up: BATFE
Adventures in Radio Restoration Utility Planet 45 By Marc Ellis N9EWJ
The Crosley Fiver Restoration Continues
By Hugh Stegman NV6H
Monitoring the Crimea Crisis
The Broadcast Tower Digital HF: Intercept and Analyze 48 By Doug Smith W9WI
How Many are Too Many?
By Mike Chace-Ortiz AB1TZ/G6DHU
Monitoring Global Aviation Activity with HF
Antenna Connections Datalink
By Dan Farber AC0LW
Center Post: More Adventures with the Big Dipole
HF Utility Logs
Hugh Stegman and Mike Chace-Ortiz
TSM Bookshelf Amateur Radio Insights 53 Recommended Reading for TSM Readers
By Kirk Kleinschmidt NT0Z
Radiation, Resonance and SWR: Comparing Apples TSM Writers’ Group to Boomerangs!
Radio 101 By Ken Reitz KS4ZR
Getting Your Ham Ticket: How Hard can it Be?
Radio Propagation By Tomas Hood NW7US
The Antenna is the Key! (Part 1)
The World of Shortwave Listening By Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL
The Amateur/Shortwave Connection
The Shortwave Listener By Fred Waterer
How SW Covers the News; Christian Music
Writers for The Spectrum Monitor welcome your comments. To contact any of
the writers whose material you find in this issue, use the email address found
with each column or feature article. Most writers also write regularly for
their own blogs, the locations of which are found in the above “TSM Writers’
Group” section of the magazine.
Cover Story: CommTrailer 2011 on display at the PPRAA Megafest in Monument
Colorado. The satellite dish is in its deployed position and the custom-built hollow
aluminum channels with the vertical antennas are mounted near the edges of the roof. The
fiberglass junction box for the antenna feed lines and one of the two heating/AC units are
nestled between the two aluminum channels. Photo courtesy of Wayne Heinen N0POH
The Spectrum Monitor is published monthly by Ken Reitz KS4ZR at 1403 Holland Creek Road, Louisa, Virginia 23093. The entire
contents of The Spectrum Monitor are copyrighted 2014 by Ken Reitz, Publisher. All rights reserved. Copying or distribution of any part
of this publication in any manner, electronic or paper, is prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher. Brief quotes
used in reviews are permitted, provided that attribution is given. Regular subscriptions to The Spectrum Monitor are $24 for one year (12
issues) and are available from If you are not satisfied with your purchase you may receive a refund for the
remaining issues on your subscription by contacting the publisher: [email protected] Your refund will be made in the manner in which
the purchase was made. If you would like to write for The Spectrum Monitor please send an email to [email protected] and
ask for our writer’s guidelines. The Spectrum Monitor makes every effort to ensure that the information it publishes is accurate. It cannot
be held liable for the contents. The reader assumes all risk in performing modifications or construction projects published in The Spectrum
Monitor. Opinions and conclusions expressed in The Spectrum Monitor are not necessarily those of the publisher.
May 2014 The Spectrum Monitor 3 Rocky Mountain Ham Radio
Communications Trailer
By Wayne Heinen N0POH
(All photos Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Ham Radio. Additional photos may be seen at
n 2006, a loosely-knit group of amateurs known as Rocky Mountain Ham Radio determined
that they had a need for a mobile communications trailer. For years they had been operating
in the ARRL June VHF QSO Party from a variety of commercial sites that some of the members
were affiliated with. As some of the sites were sold, they lost their privileges and eventually
ended up in eastern Colorado at Cedar Point near Limon in grid square DM89. They had a good
horizon, access to power, but no real operating venue except their campers. The group decided
that an operating trailer was needed. This would be dedicated to the contest operation 24/7 and
the campers would serve as sleeping and relaxing quarters for those that we’re not “on duty”
They started with a stock Pace hauling trailer, eight feet
wide, sixteen feet long and seven feet high. This trailer’s roof
was beefed up to allow them to walk on the roof by adding
supports in the ceiling. Insulation was added to keep cool air,
supplied by an added RV AC unit, in the trailer. The walls
were finished with hardboard that was carpeted for sound
deadening and three operating positions were created on a
Formica counter top surface mounted on the wall opposite
the doorway into the trailer.
Provisions for an AC power entry, battery
charging capability and battery operation, as well as an
Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) for the logging
computers was incorporated. RF was accommodated using
portable towers for the Yagis and the feed lines entered
through a bulkhead at the front of the trailer and were routed
to the operating positions.
The Rocky Mountain Ham Radio contest trailer made
its contesting debut in the 2006 ARRL June VHF QSO
Party. The trailer made its first public appearance as a public
service support venue at the 2006 Denver Marathon and its
first showing to the amateur radio community at large at the
2007 Aurora Repeater Association Swapfest. It was quickly
sought after by a variety of amateur radio groups on the
Front Range looking for a command and communications
post for everything from the Arapahoe County Fair to
support of a joint exercise with Arapahoe County ARES,
City of Aurora, and Buckley Air Force Base. The trailer
also served as the communications center for the MS Bike
Colorado 2008 Ride.
Fast forward, over a period of years: money was spent
and upgrades were made that morphed the contest trailer into
a full-service communications venue. The computers were
upgraded, satellite TV was added as well and satellite Internet
connectivity and VoIP telephone service. In the spring of 2009
it was featured at the Rocky Mountain ARRL Convention
“HamCon Colorado” and a year later at the Rocky Mountain
ARRL Convention in Casper Wyoming. Wyoming’s
Homeland Security was so impressed that they made an offer
to Rocky Mountain Ham Radio to buy the trailer, after some
negotiations a price was agreed upon and a tentative delivery
date was set.
Now dubbed CommTrailer 2006 the culmination of
four years of, “You know, the trailer would be better if…”
and “Wouldn’t it be nice to have…” would now begin to
become a reality. The investment of time and money into
CommTrailer 2006 was over four years, the return of the
investment and the amateurs’ labor would be immediate.
One purpose of this article is to show everyone that an
amateur radio communications project can be put together
with more than one purpose in mind and, even though it
costs money, those who want to enjoy multiple aspects of our
amateur radio hobby can and did create a venue that allows
for the full spectrum of amateur radio to flourish in the field.
Looking at the initial investment in CommTrailer
2006, in was rather large. However when compared to other
expenses that we make in the name of our hobby; it’s all
relative. These days high end transceivers cost thousands
of dollars and many amateurs are investing in campers and
recreational vehicles to spend time away from their covenant
controlled communities in order to enjoy their hobby, a
May 2014 The Spectrum Monitor 11 CommTrailer 2011 on display at the PPRAA Megafest in Monument
Colorado. Mike KØGUR is standing next to the PodComm in the
back of the trailer. The satellite dish is in its deployed position and the
custom-built hollow aluminum channels with the vertical antennas are
mounted near the edges of the roof. The fiberglass junction box for
the antenna feed lines and one of the two heating/AC units are nestled
between the two aluminum channels.
full service amateur radio venue like the Rocky Mountain
Ham Radio CommTrailer 2006 becomes a very reasonable
CommTrailer 2006 was a good start. It had been
originally designed as a contesting venue, then morphing
into a true communications center. There were times when
the retrofitting for emergency and public service became
difficult and some compromises that had to be made were
just barely acceptable to all the types of operating that were
undertaken with it. What would it be like to design a new
trailer, CommTrailer 2011, to specifications that take in
ALL the aspects of amateur radio communications, as well
as making it a “full service” unit for on-site work with the
served agencies of our ARES partners?
At the same time that Wyoming’s office of Homeland
Security was acquiring CommTrailer 2006 for use by their
amateur radio operators, the Veterans Administration in
Salt Lake City Utah was interested as well! As it turned
out, Wyoming acquired CommTrailer 2006 and the Utah
VA office made a deal with Rocky Mountain Ham Radio
to supply the materials required and Rocky Mountain Ham
Radio would construct a trailer for them. The proceeds from
the sale and the construction project created the opportunity
to create CommTrailer 2011. This first thing to be addressed
in the creation of CommTrailer 2011 was the new trailer
to be ordered from the factory. CommTrailer 2006 was
an “off the lot” trailer that was then retrofitted to meet the
12 The Spectrum Monitor May 2014
RM Ham Secretary, John Maxwell WØVG, as the trailer was delivered.
needs of the group. Many of the items that were retrofitted
into CommTrailer 2006 would be factory installed. The
first improvements were easy to name; a larger operations
area; a higher ceiling, reinforced roof with two precut and
sealed AC holes for more cooling capacity; fully insulated,
sheathed walls and ceiling, two side-access doors instead of
one, fold down rear access, and an enclosed tongue area are
the highlights of CommTrailer 2011’s shell. Adding these
items meant a base price increase of a few thousand dollars
for the new shell, but saved many weeks of tedious retrofit
that had gone into CommTrailer 2006.
The front tongue area was enclosed and became the
“equipment bay.” One problem with CommTrailer 2006
was that the electrical and auxiliary electronics were all
installed under a counter in the front of the trailer. In addition
to being unsightly, it was not all that secure. The front
tongue enclosure has its own door and an interior wall was
built to isolate the unilateral 8-foot by 5-foot area from the
main 8-foot by 20-foot operating area. This area houses the
electrical power equipment; servers, RF feed lines, exterior
coax bulkhead, antenna switching and patching, cleaning
supplies and more.
Much of the layout was “engineered as you go.” One
consideration was to make CommTrailer 2011 capable of
having two separate rooms that would allow two operating
positions in each space. This also would accommodate
activities where a small meeting/conference room could be
made available, which could be totally isolated from the
main operating position.
Each room is approximately 7.5-feet by 9-feet, with
a door between them, and a “pass-through” port which is
located in the wall separating the operating positions in the
Table 1 Communications Equipment
ICOM IC-2100H w/KPC-3+
Motorola XPR-4550
Motorola XPR-4550
Yaesu FT-857 w/ SGC MAC-200 Tuner
Motorola Astro XTL-5000
Kenwood TM-D700
ICOM IC-7000 w/ SCS PTC-IIUSB SGC 237 tuner
Digital Voice Access Point
Statewide Public Safety DTRS
HF SSB / Pactor
1.2 GHz D-Star/FM/Digital
Table 2 PoDCom – Portable on Demand Communications
Tarheel Vertical
20 Commercial Analog 5 watt HT’s w/chargers
HF SSB/Digital
Power Supply
6 m - HF Antenna
two rooms. There is a carpeted hardboard shutter that fits in
the pass-through when the rooms are closed off. The door
and shutter are removable and are stored in the utility closet
when CommTrailer 2011 is opened into a single room. The
overhead cupboards extend throughout both rooms and have
ample space for storage.
An idea that was incorporated from the inspection of
many public safety communications vehicles was washable
white board doors. These are really handy for notes and
temporary labels that can be used to keep all personnel up to
date with the activities of an exercise or deployment. They
were custom made and utilize recessed locking hardware to
ensure that the doors remain closed during transport.
The AC power in CommTrailer 2006 was supplied
through AC mains or a generator through three 20-amp
dedicated outlets as well as a 15-amp UPS outlet for the
computers. This was adequate for the three positions when
the trailer was conceived and built, but not as more and more
functions and equipment were added.
CommTrailer 2011 is powered by 50 amps at
120/240VAC, feeding a 20-circuit panel. There is a 20-circuit
“sub-panel” that is fed by a MagnaSine true-sine wave
inverter, capable of providing 3,000 watts continuous power
from 12VDC batteries. The battery plant is made up of four
Optima Group 31 batteries capable of delivering 400AH
of emergency backup. These batteries are charged by the
internal 125-amp charger in the MagnaSine inverter. The DC
distribution is a custom-made Alpha Power Products power
distribution panel with individual AirPax breakers for each
Every station is powered by an 80A breaker feeding a
RigRunner 8012 80A distribution panel. This arrangement
eliminated the UPS and provides very flexible power sources
that will allow CommTrailer 2011 to function in the various
available configurations that have presented themselves over
the years, from generator to available mains to relying on
batteries for operation of all aspects of the trailer.
CommTrailer 2006 had Motorola Commercial UHF and
Commercial VHF units. These radios cover Amateur VHF/
UHF FM along with 150MHz and 450MHz Commercial and
LTR trunking bands. An ICOM IC-735 was utilized for HF.
There was an Icom IC2100 high-power VHF used with a
KPC3 Plus attached to a Magellan GPS unit running APRS
and after D-Star became available on the Front Range of
Colorado, a UHF and a 1.2 GHz D-Star radio were installed.
CommTrailer 2011 has morphed over the years and
the compliment of radios has been adjusted for both service
usage and performance. A variety of services including
aeronautical and the statewide Digital Trunk public safety
radio were added when, in deployments with Colorado
ARES, it became necessary to have communications with
the State EOC. A complete list of the installed radios is in
May 2014 The Spectrum Monitor 13 A large portion of the members of Rocky Mountain Ham Radio in front of the CommTrailer 2011, as it was displayed at “The Swapfest” February 9th
at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton Colorado; the third anniversary of its first public outing.
Table 1. CommTrailer 2011 can also deploy with additional
resources including a cache of twenty 5-watt HTs and a
Portable on Demand Communications (PodCom) unit.
Details of the PoDCom are contained in Table 2.
The first trailer had six vertical antennas, two HF and
four VHF/UHF antennas that were through-hole mounted
on the roof and were pretty much dedicated to the radios
mounted in the overhead cabinets. CommTrailer 2011
has antennas for the installed radios mounted on hollow
aluminum channels that were custom-designed and built to
mount on the roof. NMO mounts and LMR-100 coax lead
to a junction box on the roof where the cables are fed to a
patch panel in the equipment bay. The patch panel consists
of coax from the operations area and the antennas on the
roof-terminated with BNC connectors. Coax jumpers allow
the antennas can be routed to the appropriate radio in the
operations area.
In both CommTrailer 2006 and CommTrailer 2011
contesting equipment is brought in and placed on the ample
work station desktops. Radios operating in the amateur
bands, from 6-meters through 1296 MHz and 10 GHz, are
supplied by the operators. Power levels range from close
to a kilowatt on six meters and two meters to a few watts
on 10 GHz. Antennas are Yagis mounted on temporary
towers and a high-gain dish antenna for 10 GHz. There is a
bulkhead panel in the equipment bay that allows eight coax
connections to the tower-mounted antennas, jumpered to
N-Connectors at each of the four operating positions inside.
CommTrailer 2006’s PC compliment originally
entailed Pentium III units mounted at each of the three
workstations; they ran Writelog contesting software, which
was networked for the ARRL June VHF QSO Party. They
were eventually upgraded to Pentium IVs and wireless
Internet provided access to real-time weather monitoring
and email service. One drawback of this system was that
any software upgrade would, of necessity, have to be
14 The Spectrum Monitor May 2014
Operating Position 2 - left to right: Kenwood TM-D700 Face (radio in
cabinet), IC-A100 Aircraft Band transceiver, Astro XTL5000 (Colorado
Digital Trunk Radio System unit on loan from OEM), Motorola Converta
Com for XTS-2500.
RM Ham Vice President, Scott Taylor WØKVA, wiring the DC distribution
panel in the equipment bay.
AC power on a smaller scale Honda EU6500is 6.5 kW gasoline generator. It is stored under Position 5. Note also the fire extinguisher. There is
one in the front section, rear section and equipment bay.
installed on three separate PC’s, another is a PC that became
corrupted or had a corrupted application would be down
until time was available to rebuild it in whole or in part.
CommTrailer 2011 computer systems are “Thin Client/
Server” systems that utilize very small computers tasked
only with general I/O tasks. These are slaved to a server
running the chosen operating system in the rack, mounted
in the Utility Closet. This server utilizes Citrix XenDesktop
to provide services to the “thin clients.” This gives us the
ability to tailor each operating position’s PC as needed for
the task at hand and keep a copy of the template for each
operating systems PC. In the event that something gets
corrupted or we need to change the capability of the PC at
a given operating position, we just pull out the appropriate
template, quickly copy it to that operating position’s PC and
we’re ready to proceed. There is also a second backup server
that is a mirror of the main server. If we lose the main server
it is a fairly easy task to switch the clients to the backup
CommTrailer 2011 is equipped with both satellite
Internet access and satellite TV. The Internet connection
allows VoIP telephones, one at each operating station and
access to many on-line services including real-time weather.
The TV can serve as a source of local news and weather,
as well as international news and entertainment when
CommTrailer 2011 becomes the “rest and relaxation” vehicle
for deployments, such as the Arapahoe County Fair where
the mission includes roving assignments in Colorado’s hot
August sun.
The members of Rocky Mountain Ham Radio spent
upwards of 500 hours in the construction of CommTrailer
2011 and take pride in participating in the various
deployments of the trailer for training in exercises,
displaying as an attraction at area hamfests or in the
original activity that led to the creation of the original
trailer; contesting. Using the call sign WØKVA, the Rocky
Mountain Ham Radio group placed seventh overall in the
2013 ARRL June QSO Party’s Multi-Operator category.
PodComm: Top shelf: Two MFJ speakers. Second shelf: Kenwood TMD700 unit with separated faceplate, Powerwerx SS-30DV power supply.
Third shelf: LDG Power Meter, Yaesu FT857, LDG Z-11PRO Tuner.
Fourth shelf: Pull out tray.
About the Author
Wayne Heinen’s introduction to radio came from his dad,
Bill W2SIC (SK). He became an avid SWL and BCB DXer,
joining numerous clubs including the National Radio Club,
where he serves on the Board of Directors. First licensed in
1991, Wayne currently holds an Extra class amateur radio
license. He became active in many amateur radio clubs in
Colorado, and has served as an officer, repeater trustee and
hamfest chairman with the Aurora Repeater Association. He
serves as Treasurer for a variety of amateur organizations
including Rocky Mountain Ham Radio, Cherry Creek
Young Amateur Radio Club, Arapahoe County ARES, and
the Colorado Council of Amateur Radio Clubs, Colorado’s
frequency coordination body. He’s an avid VHF+ contester
and grid chaser, as well as a founding member of Rocky
Mountain VHF+ ( Wayne has previously
written a variety of feature articles for Monitoring Times
the most recent ones being “A Trailer for All Seasons,”
about RMHam’s CommTrailer 2006 (December, 2008), and
“Frequency Coordination in the Amateur Radio Service”
(May, 2009). Wayne can be reached at [email protected]
May 2014 The Spectrum Monitor 15 Com-Trailer Server Rack
From top to bottom in the server rack (left):
1 – Thermostat
2 – Pico Station 1 w wireless access point
to 5db ant on roof
3 – DVAP
4 – Antenna Patch Panel
5 – Satellite Modem
6 – Satellite Tracker
7 – Wi-Fi for inside trailer
8 – Craddlepoint MBR-1200B Auxiliary
9 – Terabyte Network Attached Storage
10 – Back end of 48-port HP Ethernet
11 – Ethernet Switch Patch Panel
12 – Monitor
13 – Keyboard
14 – Station 5 Server
15 – Main “Zen” Server
16 – Two 6” Monitors
17 – UHF ATV demodulator
18 – Demodulators for ATV
19 – Dish Network satellite receiver connected to a King Dome Sat dish on roof
20 – Custom DC Power Distribution
21 – 4 Optima Batteries
16 The Spectrum Monitor May 2014
Errata Page – by Wayne Heinen N0POH “Some last minute changes caused a couple of miscues which, as you say, otherwise
the article reads very well. Thanks for doing such a great job with the article. I've already
heard from several readers who found the story interesting. I'm sure it will inspire other
clubs to do likewise.”
Ken Reitz KS4ZR Publisher, Managing Editor The Spectrum Monitor Page 12 Upper Left: This is the photo as it should have appeared File: PPRAA_2013.jpg CommTrailer 2011 on display at the PPRAA Megafest in Monument Colorado. Mike KØGUR is standing next to the PodComm in the back of the trailer. The satellite dish is in its deployed position and the custom built hollow aluminum channels with the vertical antennas are mounted near the edges of the roof. The fiberglass junction box for the antenna feed lines and one of the two Heating/AC units are nestled between the two aluminum channels. Page 12 Upper right File: Inside 2011.jpg Should have had this this caption Scott WØKVA looking inside CommTrailer 2011’s shell. Just positioning the server rack to start laying out the equipment bay partition. This photo belongs to the caption “RM Ham Secretary John Maxwell WØVG as the trailer was delivered” Page 15 Left This photo should have ran with the printed caption Caption AC power on a smaller scale Honda EU6500is 6.5 kW gasoline generator. It is Stored under Position 5. Note also the fire extinguisher. There is one in the front section, rear section and equipment bay. Should have had this caption ‐ Full AC power when we need it is supplied by a Whisperwatt 25 kW Diesel Generator