The Big .43 Repeater 146.430 (+1 MHz offset) W3PHB/R
On Thursday June 7, 2012 PARA's Dynamic Duo, Dave AA3EJ and Filip AB3HK, finished up yet another repeater improvement project for the BIG 43 Repeater. They installed
the same audio delay board on the BIG 43 as they had previously installed on our 146.640 repeater. This new board is an add-on accessory for the repeater's CAT-200B
controller. Its function is to delay the audio, but it also has the added effect of eliminating the static crash at the end of each transmission from a user of the
system. And oh boy, this little audio delay board really did the trick! If you had paid any attention at all in the past, you know how loud that static crash has
been at the end of every transmission. Now the
only thing you hear is the courtesy tone.
So thanks Dave and Filip for yet another successful repeater improvement project. All of us will be enjoying the fruits of your labor for years to come.
The “Big .43 Repeater”™ is back on the air. On Wednesday February 1, 2012 the tower crew from ComPros was at the repeater site and installed
the new antenna. Also at the site was our own Filip AB3HK assisting and overseeing the installation process. All seems to have
gone according to plan and the repeater is up and running.
The new antenna is a 4-bay Telewave model ANT150D6-9. This 4-dipole array design allowed us to create a custom directional
signal in an attempt to fill in some of the nulls in our coverage area. Initial coverage reports are encouraging. Earlier
Mike WB3EQW was able to work the repeater from the West side of Clearfield while mobile with a nearly full quieting signal.
In the past the repeater did not reach into the Clearfield valley at all. If this is any indication, I'd say the new antenna
is doing its job!
The “Big .43 Repeater”™ is currently off the air. The problem is a faulty antenna. When tested with an SWR meter, it read a 9:1 SWR. Something is drastically wrong up there! One of our members has loaned PARA the funds necessary to purchase a new commercial grade repeater antenna. The antenna has already been ordered, but the loan will need to be repaid. The letter that was mailed is asking for your continued support of the .43 re-build project.
In Spring 2011 PARA officials outlined a plan to totally rebuild the “Big .43 Repeater”™. The plan was to rebuild it with top-notch equipment that will give us years of trouble free service. The repeater hardware has already been replaced. The antenna was to be the next stage of the project. We just didn't anticipate that it would fail before we were prepared to replace it.
A new Telewave ANT150D6-9 antenna has been ordered. It should be here sometime around November 10th. This 4-dipole array design will allow us to create a custom directional signal and fill in some of the nulls in our coverage area. But all this comes at a cost of $996.06 plus the mast and other associated installation costs. The loan I mentioned has allowed us to order the antenna. But we will need your continued financial support to repay the loan and finish the repeater re-build project.
Please consider how you use the “Big .43 Repeater”™ and what it means to PARA. If you are able, please send your contribution to PARA Treasurer, Jim Warg N3ONE, 215 North Front Street , Philipsburg PA 16866. With your support and participation, “The Big .43 Repeater” ™ will once again be a reliable resource for area hams.
After having installed the new HiPro R1 repeater at the repeater sites, PARA officials discovered that the repeater was still not functioning as flawlessly as expected. The repeater seemed to be responding to key-ups and would give a courtesy tone when un-keyed, but the user's audio was not being passed through as it should have. The repeater would transmit only after the user un-keyed and to everyone else this sounded like a static burst followed by a courtesy tone. In addition, when the repeater would operate normally, it would randomly stop working all together.
Filip AB3HK took on the task of diagnosing the problems and consulted with the repeater manufacturer for their suggestions. The first issue was the failure of audio to pass through the repeater. They quickly concluded that the issue was being caused by improperly shielded cables between the repeater and duplexer at the site. Based on their recommendations, PARA has ordered new double-shielded cables and will install them upon arrival.
The second issue was to address how the repeater, when it did work, would randomly stop working all together. It appears that the current antenna at the site has developed a fault which is causing the repeater to cut back transmit power and making it appear that the repeater is not functioning. This issue can be resolved by the replacement of the antenna with on designed for use on a tower with high-wind loading. PARA had planned to address antenna replacement in Fall 2011 to improve the repeater's performance. This project has now become a requirement to provide consistent service and will be moved to the front burner.
The new HiPro R1 repeater that PARA purchased was installed at the 146.430 repeater site on Saturday July 23rd, 2011. After leaving the site it was determined that the squelch needed some adjustment which resulted in a second visit to the repeater site on Sunday July 24th.
While preparing to install the new repeater we discovered that the club owned Henry repeater amplifier is not functional. This resulted in the new repeater being installed at the site with no amplifier. It's running barefoot with 30 watts output until we can get the Henry amplifier repaired. With the amplifier, the power output will be 100 watts.
This was phase 1 of the repeater upgrade project. There is still more to be done and we can now turn our attention to the next steps in the process.
Many thanks to Filip AB3HK who helped install the new equipment and to Dave AA3EJ who helped us test it out. And thank you to every PARA member who contributed financially toward the purchase of the new repeater. It was a group effort and something we all can be proud of.
PARA has outlined a plan to repair and improve the club owned and operated 146.430 (+1 MHz offset, PL 173.8 Hz) repeater. At the May PARA meeting it was decided to move forward with the fist phase of the project: Replacement of the repeater with a HiPro R1 repeater.
This move was prompted by the ongoing technical problems the repeater equipment has been presenting. The club was faced with the decision of either nursing along the existing equipemnt or replacing it with new equipment which should be trouble-free for many years.
Following the equipment replacement project, there are 4 additional stages to the improvement project. To view a copy of the improvement plan which was presented at the May 2011 PARA meeting, click here.
On May 15th PARA members Dave AA3EJ and Filip AB3HK finished
the installation of a Henry power amplifier on the 146.430 repeater. The
amplifier appears to be working as planned and will serve to improve the signal
strength in poor coverage areas. The amplifier is a Henry model C130A30/1
and will do 100 watts output drawing 25 amps. A rack to mount the apmlifier
in was obtained from PARA Member Ed K3EDD and a power supply was borrowed
from Mark K3ITG.
The amplifier was obtained through the efforts of Dave AA3EJ. Dave negotiated a
price of $290 with the previous owner, which is about half of what a new
unit would cost.
On Thursday April 23 the commercial tower crew was at the 146.430 repeater site and
replaced the 1/2" transmission line with a new section of 7/8" line. They also
replaced the exitsing antenna with a new one just to be certain we have covered
all potential problems. Early on Friday April 24th Dave AA3EJ went to the tower
site and turned the power back on. So as of about 10:30 AM, the repeater is back
on the air and seems to be fully functional.
Earlier today Dave AA3EJ and I visited the 146.430 repeater site. As most of you
already know, the repeater is still not functioning properly. Earlier in the
week, we measured the SWR with a meter that was not specifically designed for
the 2-meter amateur band. It measured the SWR at infinity, but we were unsure
of the accuracy of the meter we used. Today we had a meter which is designed
for the 2-meter band and it confirmed the results of the first meter. So what
I’m saying is that we have a problem with either the feed line or the ½ inch
hardline. Considering that the antenna is new and the hardline was recycled,
I’m guessing the hardline needs replaced or we have a loose connector somewhere.
While at the site, we turned off the repeater until this issue is resolved.
EchoLink is also turned off. The PARA weekly net will continue to be conducted
every Saturday night at 9 PM, but we will use the Nittany Amateur Radio Club’s
146.760 repeater. I’m sure there will be lively discussion about this at our
PARA meeting on Saturday. We will be working toward having a plan to fix this
problem ready for the meeting.
If you have tried the 146.430 repeater in the past couple of days, you surely
noticed that it was off the air. Earlier in the week Dave AA3EJ was at the
repeater site with Tom Pecosh, a local two way radio repairman. They did some
measurements of power output from the repeater. It was determined that, after
the duplexer, the repeater was putting out a whopping 0.8 watts.
Fast-forward to today when Dave AA3EJ was at the repeater site again, this time
accompanied by Scott N3XCC who built the machine for us. Scott re-tuned the
duplexers to tweak them as close to perfect as possible, but he noticed another
problem that fixed everything. Apparently when the repeater was installed at
the Rattlesnake Mountain site a coaxial cable adaptor was installed incorrectly.
Stupid mistake but it made all the difference in the world.
With the coaxial cable adaptor reinstalled correctly, it works like a champ.
Scott N3XCC continued to work the repeater as he drove out of town to his home
in Boswell PA (near Somerset). He was pretty much full quieting all the way to
Altoona. A little moble flutter now and then, but a real good signal. He was
last heard from the Sears parking lot at the Galleria Mall near Johnstown. His
audio was a bit weak, but still readable. So if it works from the Galleria Mall,
I’d say it’s fixed!
When you get a chance, give it a try. At one point we did turn on the PL for a
while. It appeared we were receiving something intended for the Waynesburg PA
repeater on the same frequency. But the PL is turned off right now. If we turn
the PL on again, the tone is 173.8 Hz.
On Wednesday December 3 2008 the tower company installed the new antenna at our
Rattlesnake Mountain tower site and the repeater equipemnt was installed at the site.
The repeater crew consisted of Filip AB3HK, Rich KB3QKR and John N3SPW.
Negotiations continue over a tower site on Rattlesnake Pike, PA 504, near Black
Moshannon State Park. Presently PARA officials are negotiating the details of a
lease agreement which would allow PARA to locate the 146.430 repeater at the top
of the 100 foot tower. This would put the antenna at 2,510 feet above mean sea
level and make it one of just a few regional repeaters.
On Saturday, February 23rd the 146.430 repeater returned to the airwaves. The receiver problem has been fixed.
Early this morning John N3SPW drove the machine down to Scott N3XCC's QTH near Somerset PA. He looked it over and came to the same conclusion Justin N3OG did. Moments later he removed to old receiver and replaced it with a new one. After some tuning he tested the receive sensitivity and I took it back to Philipsburg. Around 7 PM Jim N3ONE and John N3SPW installed the repeater again and initial reports indicate it is working much better than it did before.
Again, the PL is not currently turned on, but if noise becomes a problem we may go that route. If we do turn it on, the PL will be 173.8.
On Thursday, February 21st, Dave AA3EJ, Justin N3OG, Jim N3ONE and John N3SPW were at the 146.430 repeater site and ran the machine through some tests. Justin brought his personal RF test gear which allowed us to isolate the ongoing receive sensitivity problem.
At this point, it is taking a signal strength of -90 DBm to break the squelch on the repeater. This figure should be in the -115 DBm to -125DBm range. The preamp is operational and not the problem. We were able to trace the receive sensitivity problem to the main receiver board. The duplexer and all cabling were also tested to rule out all potential problems.
The repeater was pulled from service and the next step is to get it back to Scott N3XCC for repair. As you’ll recall, Scott is the person who built the repeater for us. Check this web site periodically for updates.
On Saturday February 16th at approximately 15:50 hours PARA placed the new 146.430+ repeater into service from a temporary antenna. We are currently fine-tuning the machine, but initial coverage reports are encouraging. The PL board is currently turned off. If noise becomes an issue we will turn on the input PL. The Control Operator is Filip KB3MAI. Check this web site periodically for updates.
PARA is in the final stages of building a new repeater which will serve the Moshannon Valley / Philipsburg area. It will be a 2-meter band repeater operating on 146.430 output / 147.430 input with a CTCSS of 173.8. As of January 30th PARA is waiting for a new TX crystal to arrive from the manufacturer. When that arrives, the machine will be given a final tune-up and placed into service.
Due to the cold weather the repeater will be temporarily located at Jim N3ONE's QTH in Philipsburg with a temporary antenna on his 100 foot tower. In the spring it will be moved to a permanent location which will greatly expand the coverage area.
The repeater consists of a GE Master II E radio which has been modified for duplex operation. The "E" version stands for extended chassis which originally contained a second receiver. The second receiver has been stripped out and that space is where the controller was installed. This is the 110 watt flavor of Master II radio which PARA plans to run at 75 watts. Temperature compensated crystals were ordered so it would have as little drift as possible, as well as the optional CTCSS board to allow CTCSS operation which can be remotely activated and deactivated. A CTCSS of 173.8 will be used on the output and, if necessary, on the input as well. The controller is a NHRC-4 basic controller. The controller won't talk to you or make coffee, but it will provide basic repeater features with CW ID. The antenna is a Diamond F22-A with 6.7db of gain. Feedline will be ½ inch hard-line. The duplexer is a Sinclair 4-can set and the power supply is a standard Astron RS35M.
Coordination of the repeater frequency pair has been applied for with the Western Pennsylvania Repeater Council (WPRC). We recently received word from WPRC that 146.430 does meet the minimum spacing standards for 2 meter band repeaters, although we do not yet have the official coordination paperwork in hand. This repeater will use a 1 MHz split, rather than the more typical 600 KHz split found on the 2 meter band. Some would consider this a non-standard split although it does conform to the current WPRC band plan as well as the ARRL optional band plan.
Here is a map showing the expected coverage from the temporary location: Temporary Location Coverage Map
Here is a map showing the expected coverage from the permanent location: Permanent Location Coverage Map
What did it cost to build this repeater? Click here
Repeater-- Built with a modified GE Master II E commercial radio
Duplexer -- Sinclair
Controller -- NHRC-4
Amplifier -- Henry model C130A30/1
Antenna -- Antenex FG-1443/FM-2 -- 3 db gain
Coax -- 7/8" hardline
50 watts output
0.18 microvolt receiver sensitivity
Here is a map showing the coverage area:
What did it cost to build this repeater? Click here
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