Rail Riding Radio


Most of us have multiple hobby interests and it’s always fun when we can combine them into a single event. Besides being an Amateur Radio operator, I’m lucky enough to be a locomotive engineer on the North Shore Scenic Railroad out of Duluth, Minnesota. We use VHF radios for railroad work, which would seem to limit opportunities to combine ham radio with railroads. Not true! Our railroad is part of the Midwest’s premier Lake Superior Railroad Museum.While volunteering at the railroad, I’ve been involved in several radio projects. Recently, several local amateurs helped to design and install a repeater system for the 30 mile rail route. The system is used by train crews to communicate with each other as well as train dispatchers.

In 2011, I became curious as to how an HF station might operate from a moving passenger train. Many ham operators design and test their equipment to operate in harsh emergency conditions. Those operating conditions are never the same and never predictable. Operating “railroad mobile” would be another opportunity to adapt HF gear to an environment that was certainly not designed with long range communications in mind. A modest test involved a simple 20 meter wire attached to some existing insulators on a rail car’s roof. A small group of operators made some good contacts and seeded the idea for a railroad mobile club.

Presidential Portable

In 2012, a small group got together and created the North Shore Scenic Railroad Radio Club with call sign NSØSR. Our goal is to sponsor at least one mobile event each fall for an entire day, operating as a special event station. This gives us an opportunity to design and test new antennas while operating in a very temporary and restricting environment. Using backup power for multiple stations in close proximity was also required as only 34 V dc train line power is available.

These 100 year old 34 V wires didn’t run through the entire train and power was only available when the engine was operating. The portable generator allowed us to position our stations wherever it was convenient and to keep them operating when the train was idle.

On October 6, 2012, we operated from the old Duluth Missabe & Iron Range Railway Presidential Support Car W24. This early 20th century Pullman car has a large baggage area perfect for group gatherings. Large doors offer great views and fresh air. There is also a small seating area where operators can relax and soak in the “clickety-clack” of the ride as they enjoy a bygone era. Private state rooms were used for operating both 20 and 40 meter stations. These rooms allowed up to four operators to assist in radio traffic and logging while sitting in 1920s comfort. High back Pullman chairs and large windows transported them back to the era of elegant railroad travel.

The rail car’s roof has three heavy-duty steel conduits welded along the length of the 85 foot car. These were installed when the 105 ton passenger car underwent renovations in the beginning of the 20th century to include such amenities as electric lighting. Our group used this conduit to attach an “X” bracing of 2 × 3 inch pine boards. Nine of the X braces were installed along the coach, allowing for both the 20 and 40 meter dipoles. Air choke baluns were placed on both ends of the coax runs, which were dropped down the side of the coach into the radio rooms. Due to height restrictions, our dipoles were limited to being no more than 3 feet off the roof. The total antenna height above the rail head was around 18 feet.


The Radio Network that Allowed Communication with Submarines

From: Interesting Engineering 

What do you do when you need to communicate with a crew of 50 sailors submerged in a submarine in an undisclosed location across the world’s oceans? That was a difficult question to answer for Navy leaders in WWII.

Radio waves don’t easily travel through saltwater, which meant that getting active communication with a submarine crew meant making the submarine surface an antenna. This was the obvious solution, but it made a previously covert submarine now a visible target.

The solution to the problem
Engineers tasked with finding a more covert solution soon discovered that radio waves with low frequencies, around 10 kHz, could penetrate saltwater to depths up to around 20 meters. They realized that if the transponders on submarines were switched to these frequency ranges, then they communicate with leadership on land.

The problem with this idea was that creating and broadcasting these low-frequency radio waves required massive antennas. Essentially, the lower the frequency of a radio wave, the longer and larger the antenna is required to be

Engineers honed in on a range of frequencies lower than 30 kHz for submarine communication. The wavelength of these frequencies were roughly 10 kilometers or more, meaning that engineers would need massive antennas. The only way to produce these frequencies with such a high range was to use a massive system of antennas with massive amounts of power.

Nazi engineers seeking to communicate with their fleet of U-boats designed the Goliath antenna network in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. After construction, it was operated during World War II and had a transmission power of up to 1,000 kilowatts. For comparison, that’s equivalent to the power draw of 500 average American households.

The Goliath Radio Transmitter
The Goliath network would regularly transmit frequencies between 15 kHz and 25 kHz. It was powerful enough to reach any German submarine located anywhere in the world submerged up 20 meters. The only time communication was hindered was when German U-boats were navigating deep Norwegian fjords.

Read The Full The Full Story Here

Maine Bicentennial Special Event

special event to mark Maine’s bicentennial will take place during Statehood Week, March 16 – 21, with the on-air event extending to March 22. Volunteers around the state will be on the air with special event call signs from the nine counties that existed in 1820, when Maine became independent of Massachusetts: W1C (Cumberland); W1H Hancock; W1K Kennebec; W1L Lincoln; W1O Oxford; W1P Penobscot; W1S Somerset; W1W Washington, and W1Y York.

Three other special event stations will be K1J Jameson Tavern in Freeport; K1P Portland, and K1B Boston, in recognition of their contributions to Maine’s Statehood.

CW, SSB, and digital operation will be continuous on HF, VHF, and UHF for the duration of the event. The event is sponsored by the Maine Bicentennial Special Event Committee.

Additional information is available on the event website.

South Orkney Islands


The Perseverance DX Group is organizing a team of experienced DXpedition operators to activate the South Orkney Islands (IOTA AN-008) from approximately Feb. 21, 2020 through March 5, 2020.  South Orkney Islands is currently #16 most wanted on Clublog.

The team will be QRV from Signy Island on 10-160 meters, SSB, CW, RTTY and FT8. Located at 60 degrees south / 45 degrees west, we expect temperatures to hover around freezing most of the time, with constantly changing conditions of wind, rain, snow and occasional sunshine.

The team will erect two extreme weather tents for radio operations, sleeping and eating.



It was 2 am on a cold and wintry 13th of December in 1926 when electronics wizard John Stroebel threw the switch that sent power surging through the tiny, home-built 50 watt transmitter set up in the basement of his Wheeling, West Virginia home. Upstairs, from the Stroebel parlor, that first WWVA broadcast crackled triumphantly over the air waves, while crystal set owners patiently endured noisy static to listen to that initial history-making radio transmission.

WWVA launched the new year and the new decade of 1950 with a significant change in programming. On January 2nd, the station began 24 hour operation, its strong nighttime signal now carrying all through the night to the millions of WWVA listeners throughout the Northeast and Canada.


The Green Bank Telescope

UPDATE – Currently closed to the public.

Scientists come from around the world to use the Green Bank Telescope, because it is the most accurate, versatile, large dish radio telescope in the world. Its suite of receivers covers 100 MHz to 100 GHz in frequencies, its processors can spot nanosecond timing differences in data, and it observes under radio-quiet skies. The Green Bank Telescope can be used to do chemistry, physics, radar receiving, and astronomy and has no equal in the world.

With spring and summer around the corner it would be a good time to visit Greenbank and nearby is Cass Railroad. The Snowshoe resort offers very reasonable rates in the summer after the skiing season plus there are motels and B & B’s in the area. Greenbank is an easy and scenic drive from Pittsburgh approximately 4 hours.