31 July 2012

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The flow has reversed.  For a long time artifacts were flowing out of the RCA transmit and receive sites.  There was no malfeasance involved.  Things on their way to the dumpster were intercepted.  Equipment no longer needed was given a new home.  But slowly over the last several years many of these items have been taken out of storage in barns and attics and returned to their old home by those who understand that we are conducting a serious project of historic preservation.

We may talk about other items that have returned home in future issues of the Newsletter.  Today we are going to tell you about two Atalanta receivers.

The Marconi Atalanta is uncommon in North America.  But it was in service on ships and at coast stations around the world... including KPH.  It is a MF/HF receiver intended strictly for commercial application.

We knew that an Atalanta was in service at KPH through a photo of Bill Meloney at Position 1 with the Atalanta in the background.  Bill deserves an entire Newsletter to tell his story.  Suffice it to say here that he was beloved by all and was one of the best Morse operators KPH ever saw.

Bill Meloney at Position 1 with the Atalanta.  Also noteworthy is the RCA CRM-R6A receiver in the rack to the right.  Below it is the preselector for the HRO-500 and the HRO-500 receiver below that.  The '500 was the first solid state receiver to arrive at KPH.  Note also the cubbyholes above the center console for operator's keys. 
We have this idea that some day we will re-create a vintage operating position with all the equipment and auxiliary items we see in the historic photos.  That's why we went on a search for a Marconi Atalanta to replace the one seen in the photo above.  After a year or so one was offered for sale on eBay - at a price befitting its magnificence.  But we swallowed hard and made the winning bid.  And indeed the Atalanta that arrived - undamaged we are happy to say - was worth every penny.  What a beauty!

The eBay Atalanta, a thing of beauty.  Note that the band spread is calibrated for the HF marine bands.  The key ring in the control to the right of the main dial is a design feature.  You tug on it to pull out the control when setting the band spread.  Being British it has its own quirky features - such a chassis that is at B+ potential! 
So we had our Atalanta, even it it wasn't the original KPH Atalanta.  We figured that receiver was gone forever.  But then fate and destiny took a hand.

Another significant KPH artifact was transmitter BL-11, the back up transmitter for MF.  We knew where it was.  But we couldn't get it.  So we bided our time.   And finally it came to pass that we could get BL-11 and return it home.  Richard Dillman writes of the day he went to pick up the transmitter - and of the KPH Atalanta:

"I was grubbing around in the basement of this place in the half light.  I found BL-11 and strapped it to my dolly.  But on my way out I noted a square shape on the floor on the other side of the basement.  It was just a silhouette but I immediately knew what it was - the KPH Atalanta."

Dillman was right and we got not only BL-11 but the original KPH Atalanta as well.  It was quite a day.
The original KPH Atalanta, unambiguously identified by the note pasted to the upper left of the band spread dial, as seen in the Bill Meloney photo. 
The pasted on note shows the band, frequency and logging scale setting for the primary calling frequency in each HF marine band. 

Both Atalantas have been gone through by MRHS member Tom Harris of Pear's Repairs.  He went so far as to make special tools for the alignment of these receivers.  Both are ready for service.

By the way if you have a classic receiver - be it a home entertainment or communications receiver, you could do no better than to contact Tom.  His work is expert and meticulous.  Click HERE to visit the Pear's Repairs Web site.

Make a Donation

Sometimes we're able to re-acquire KPH equipment as we did with the original Atalanta.  Sometimes we have to pay significant sums to acquire relevant vintage items.  Can you help us in this effort?  If you're a True Believer and can make a contribution to The Cause it will be most appreciated.  And remember, we're all volunteers so 100% of your contribution goes directly to purchase the items needed to keep the transmitters and receivers working and the antennas in the air.  






It's hard to believe now when transmitters are so accurate and stable but it wasn't so long ago that broadcasters and other transmitter operators contracted with companies providing this service to have their frequencies regularly measured.  While known mainly for its communications activities, RCA Communications was one of the biggest companies providing a frequency measuring service.


Advertisement for RCA's frequency measuring service in Broadcasting magazine for 1941.  Note that the phone number for the station at Point Reyes is 5-W! 


The frequency measuring stations were co-located at the large RCA point to point receiving stations, primarily Riverhead (on Long Island) and Point Reyes.


We have the 1937 Point Reyes antenna plan on the wall in the operations room at the Point Reyes receiving station.  Among many highly directional fishbone and rhombic antennas for the point to point service may be seen three 1800ft "wave antennas" (Beverage antennas) with two more proposed.  These were used for AM "standard broadcast" reception.  In addition there are dipoles and other antennas specifically dedicated to the frequency measuring service. 






Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea... let's go to press with the KSM and K6KPH report for report for Saturday 28 July 2012...

Three ops were once again on duty.  And two pieces of commercial "revenue traffic" were handled with two different ships.  It's starting to feel like the old days!

Ops on duty were Mike Payne (MP), Rick Wahl (FW) and Richard Dillman (RD).  In the report below R1 and S1 mean one received and one sent message.  Messages are noted in the KSM log in this way, as they were at KPH.  The numbers in the left column are the times of the contact (in GMT).  The numbers in parenthesis are the frequency band used.  Here are the stats:

28 July Position 1 K6KPH (MP):

1847  N6XS (7)
2009  W4HAY (21)
2110  K6DXU (7)
2124 W7WF (7)
2220 K6TRW (7)
2243 K6HPX/M (7)

28 July Position 4 K6KPH (FW):

1853 K2RP (14)
1905 W7DK (14)
1919 KR7W (14)
1924 NT2A (14)
1959 KC7YE/M (14)
2003 K5ME (14)
2045 AL7N (14)
2157 ZL2BLQ (21)
2206 WN5KNY (21)
2219 VK4AAR (21)
2233 WB3CEG/5 (21)
2253 KE5SBZ (21)

28 July Position 4 KSM (FW):


28 July Position 6 KSM (RD):


We still have openings for volunteer Morse operators at KSM, K6KPH or both.  Why not strp up and exercise your skills at a real coast station?  If this sounds good to you send an email to .

NOTE: KSM and K6KPH will be active on Saturdays only until further notice.


Until next week we wish you fair winds and following seas.

VY 73,



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