Dedicated to True Believers World Wide
22 April 2013


Newsletter Back Issues Click HERE                                                    MRHS Web Site Click HERE

Help us keep the flame alive.  Support the MRHS!

Make a Donation 

MRHS Declares International Marconi Day a Success!

The hotel at the Marconi receive site in Marshall, CA.  The staff lived here.  The station engineers lived in private cottages.  The roof of the cottage that housed the MRHS receive site can be seen to the left of the hotel.

> Transport & Setup

The crack MRHS transport team, consisting of Greg Farrell, Tom Harris and Richard Dillman, mustered at the Point Reyes receiving station at 1000LT Friday 19 April to begin a program of lifting and loading.  Our equipment seems to get heavier every year.  Dillman had pre-loaded his vehicle on Tuesday so the process went pretty quickly.  We contacted Bill Ruck by radiotelephone and advised him to divert directly to the Marconi Conference Center and prepare for our arrival.

We elected to use the smaller reception area of the lovingly restored former Marconi cottage (now called McCargo hall) as the operations room with the meeting area used for exhibits and socializing.

With only a little more groaning and sweating the heavyweight receivers and accessory equipment was transported into the cottage and placed in the operating tables.
Initial setup on the operations area with two operating positions, KSM on the left and K6KPH on the right.  Equipment inventory, L-R: Marconi Atalanta with 24 hour clock atop, Underwood mill No. 1, KSM control console with A-TRONIX KSM wheel atop, Collins 51J-4, National SW-3 on floor, Boehme paper tape keying head (for K6KPH wheel), Radiomarine CRM-R6A No.1, K6KPH control console with radio room clock atop, Radiomarine CRM-R6A No. 2, Underwood mill No. 2.

We thought it would be particularly cool to have the Marconi Atalanta and Collins 51J-4 in service at the KSM position since both models were in service at KPH.  But maybe even more cool was the opportunity to have TWO of the seldom seen Radiomarine CRM-R6A receivers in service.  Add the fact that CRM-R6A No. 1 was donated to the MRHS by the family of the engineer who designed it (see Newsletter No. 27) and it's hard to ask for more.  But wait, there is more.  See below in the operations section.

For MF coverage we used a RCA AR-88LF (out of sight to the left of the Marconi Atalanta in the photo above).  Since HF commercial operations are duplex we needed a way to be sure the Atalanta and 51J-4 were set to the 12Mc and 16Mc ship calling frequencies.  In the past we've used Bill Ruck's IFR station monitor.  But this year the IFR was out of service so reverted to a venerable BC-221-AH frequency meter made in 1943.

RCA AR-88LF with BC-221-AH.  The '221 is 70 years old and had been on the shelf for decades.  Yet it fired right up and was dead on frequency.

We also thought that running a wheel on K6KPH, commercial style, especially via the Boehme keying head would cause heads to explode and we believe it had the desired effect.  More on this too in the operations section.

Next it was time to put up the receiving antenna (all transmitting was done via the original KPH transmitters in Bolinas).  Our standard antenna for events like this is a beautiful large dipole made by Bill Ruck.  But getting it strung up in the trees surrounding the Marconi cottage was another story.  We could never be sure but some of us said we heard Three Stooges music playing softly in the background as we repeatedly shot lines into the trees, caught lines on branches and untangled rat's nests of shot line.

Dillman uses a giant slingshot to shoot antenna lines into trees surrounding the cottage.  This was accomplished with only minor casualties.

The MF antenna was easier.  Bill Ruck supplied his shielded loop intended for AM broadcast monitoring.

With the antennas in place it was time to install the multicoupler to feed signals to all the receivers.  Pretty soon static and Morse filled the room.  Steve Hawes made a special trip to the transmitting station on Friday to assure that all was well.  It was a great comfort to have him there to help with the many minor technical issues that had to be addressed.

The antenna business took a lot longer than expected but after sorting out some problems with the connection to the Bolinas transmitter site we were ready to go.  At 0001Z Chief Operator Dillman threw the switches on the K6KPH control console, starting the wheel on 3.5Mc (on CRM-R6A No. 1) and 7Mc (on CRM-R6A No. 2).  The first contact came at 0023Z when our old friend Ray at W2RS in Green Valley, AZ came up.  The wheel was interrupted and we commenced to chat, followed by Dick at K6BZZ.  After that things started to pick up with several station worked on both 3.5Mc and 7Mc with the latter seeing the most duty.

At 0325Z Dillman signed off the log and Adam McLaughlan signed on.  Adam is a long time MRHS supporter and his connection with KPH goes back to his teen years.  He set up a keyboard which raised some eyebrows among the traditionalists but after we watched him use it to such good effect on the air any doubts were laid to rest.

Adam uses his keyboard to good effect on K6KPH 3.5Mc and 7Mc.

We continued operations until 0445Z then retired for a meal and sleep, returning at about 0930LT on Saturday 20 April.

> Operations & Historic Moments

Saturday morning Pacific time:

Visitors started arriving and KSM was put on the air.  We keyed the wheel on 12Mc and 16Mc with the A-TRONIX while Steve Hawes sent press and weather on the other KSM Morse channels and RTTY channels.

Dillman signed back on the log at 1600Z and immediately heard stations calling even before the wheel was put on the air.  One of these was Paul Zell at the key of W7JVY in Half Moon Bay, CA.  Paul is an ace Morse operator and was the man who sent the supposed last commercial Morse message from the KFS Globe Wireless operations center on 12 July 1999, the date we have acknowledged since as the Night of Nights.  As always, it was an honor to work him.

The wheel was put on line at 1711Z, this time on 7Mc and 14Mc.  However 14Mc was filled with contesters and DXers.  Not wanting to interrupt them with the wheel we kept mostly to 7Mc.

At 1834Z Dillman signed off the log and Mike Kashuba signed on, taking the opportunity to use his magnificent Marconi Type 365B key on the air.  This wonderful instrument has a special feel and sound and was of course particularly appropriate to the day.

Mike Kashuba pounds it out with his Marconi key.  Note the MRHS hat which he purchased specially for the occasion.

About this time Jack Martini and Ray Smith arrived.  As many know, Jack was the last manager of KPH and the man to whom fell the sad duty of turning out the lights and locking the doors of this famous station.  Ray Smith was the Senior Morse Operator at KPH and sent the closing message from the station.  Neither ever expected to see the station on the air again.  They do us a special honor by making a significant effort to join us for events like this.

They come in good faith but of course we grill them like onions for any shreds of radio lore and operational procedures we may not have heard.  All this we absorb like sponges, grateful for every morsel.

And now comes the rest of the story about the Radiomarine CRM-R6A receiver.  Ray scanned the equipment in the room, nodding at the Marconi Atalanta and Collins 51J-4, the models he had used in the tube era at KPH.  Then his eye fell on the two CRM-R6As. 

"I remember when they brought in the first of those receivers.  They were terrible!  Full of images.  So I put together a report this thick and sent it back to Camden where they made the things.  The next ones were a lot better."

So... Here we have the receiver donated to us by the family of Ray Berge, the engineer who designed it.  And we have Ray Smith who sent a giant report back to Berge (not knowing  his name) with the information he needed to make the receiver truly world class.

"They told me to not send any more reports like that," said Ray.

But Ray wasn't done yet.  He had a special artifact to present to Chief Operator Dillman for the MRHS.  A little background is on order.  One of the most famous managers of KPH was "Mr. KPH", Frank Geisel. Frank was not a man to be trifled with but he brought KPH to its peak in the post war years.  And he did it with the scraps and left overs that RCA allocated to the marine service.

Jack and Ray are one of the few who were trained by Frank and met with his approval.  He called them his "pillars of strength".  To this day Jack signs his email messages "A Geisel trained man".

Ray presented us with the very stapler used - with great force, Ray added - by FG.  You can imagine how that made us feel.  An actual implement used by the great man himself. 

Ray Smith presents the FG stapler to very appreciative Richard Dillman of the MRHS

Usually you'd put something like this in a glass case where it would sit as dead flies collected around it.  But no, we think we'll put this stapler to use which we're pretty sure is the way FG would want it.

In the past when Jack and Ray have joined us for Night of Nights they haven't done any operating, preferring instead to meet old friends and swap radio tales (which of course we try to overhear!).  But this time Ray brought his keyer and sort of hinted that maybe he would like to get on the air.  Well, you don't pass up an opportunity like that!  Pretty soon we had Ray's keyer hooked up to the K6KPH control panel and gave him a briefing on the controls.

Now you have to understand that while Ray made his living as a Morse operator and is one of the best there is, he has never had an amateur license.  So amateur procedures, so different from the commercial operations he knew, were foreign to him.  Plus the contact on his paddle were dusty.  "I'm a little out of my element here," he said.  But soon he became more comfortable.  Ray signed on the log at 1909Z and was soon knocking 'em off one after the other on 7Mc.  So those stations who worked K6KPH between 1909Z and 2245Z had the honor of connecting with one of the great men of KPH.

Mr. Ray Smith at the key of K6KPH

Seeing Ray at the key may have given Jack Martini the itch to sling a little Morse himself.  Before long the former US Marine CW operator and manager of one of the great coast stations of the world was at the KSM console exercising the privileges of his commercial radiotelegraph license.

Jack Martini sending the KSM wheel manually on an original KPH straight key

Just about then we realized...  Here for the first time in what must be many decades two of the great men of KPH were manning the keys at their respective operating positions sending lusty salvos of Morse code through the facilities of the station where they spent most of their working lives. 

Jack and Ray, Masters of Morse, standing watch on the airwaves together

And there it was, the objective of all the work and effort over all the years it has taken to restore KPH, captured in this crystalline moment with the men we honor and revere doing their job as they have always done it, probably unaware of the emotional impact the scene brought to all of us.  This, fellow True Believers, was a true peak experience.

Jack and Ray departed for the long trip back home and the visitors started to depart.  At that point Rick Wahl (ex-NMC, ex-KPH) stepped up to man the key at K6KPH.

Rick Wahl signs on the log at K6KPH

By then our 14Mc frequency was clear so from 2220Z until closing at 2359Z worked 28 stations, all but 3 on 14Mc.

> Stats

Between 0001Z and 2359Z on 20 April 2013 we made 82 contacts on the 3.5, 7 and 14Mc bands.  We want to thank every operator who brought his station on the air and did us the honor of calling K6KPH.

> Exhibits

Next door in the exhibit room we had our photo display set up, our T shirts, hats and mugs available for sale and several receivers available for knob twiddling by guests inclined toward that thought of thing.  The hit was probably Paul Shin's "portable" monitoring console consisting of a superb Miltronix R-390A receiver.  The HRO-5A got some play as well.  And of course it was a thrill to pull in foreign broadcast stations on Paul's pristine Trans-Oceanic.

Radios on display for the use of visitors in the exhibit room

There was also a display of keys and books for visitors to peruse.

Keys and book son display including Mike's Marconi key.  Note Paul Shinn's breakfast chocolate croissants (a tradition) and the pizza box from Friday evening's radioman's dinner

> Kathy Wippert and the Marconi Conference Center

Kathy is the General Manager of the Marconi Conference Center and our relationship to her is simple: we could not have carried off this event if had not been for her.  She and her staff are unfailingly helpful, cheerful and competent.  She has much responsibility on her shoulders but we have never seen her without a welcoming smile.  Those of you who have put on events elsewhere know how important yet rare these attributes are.

After past events at the Marconi Conference Center we have always made a special point of thanking Kathy.  But this time we wanted to do a little more.  Bill Ruck convinced her to meet us at the Marconi cottage wa we were loading out the equipment on Sunday morning.  There we presented her with an official MRHS T shirt as a way of showing how much we appreciate her and the wonderful center she manages so well.

Kathy receives her T shirt from, L-R, Paul Shinn, Greg Farrell, Richard Dillman and Bill Ruck

> Signing Off

Okay, that's it for this special issue of the Newsletter.  We're all resting comfortably at home after rubbing liniment into sore muscles but with smiles on our faces.  If you know of any 20 year olds who like to carry heavy radios around please send them to us before the next International Marconi Day!

And remember - Night of Nights 2013 is coming up in July.

We wish you fair winds and following seas.