MRHS Newsletter No. 50

Dedicated to True Believers Worldwide

Special Night of Nights Edition

4 July 2015

  Newsletter back issues click HERE                                             MRHS Web site click HERE

Basic Event Enformation:
Date: 12 July 2015 Pacific Daylight Time

First Transmission form MRHS Stations: 5:01pm Pacific Daylight Time 12 July, 0001Z 13 July 2015
Full details below

> Historic coast stations KPH, KFS, KSM, WLO AND KLB will be on the air!

> USCG stations NMC, NMW and NMQ will return to the air - possibly for the last time!

> RCA "H Set" Transmitter 298 will be on the air (KSM 22Mc)

> 1942 Press Wireless PW15 transmitter will be on the air (KFS 12Mc)

> K6KPH will be listening for calls and signal reports

> W4WLO will be listening for calls and signal reports

> Hear about Night of Nights on KWMR


> Join us in person or on the air!


But wait, there's more:


> Attend a special presentation on the history of KPH


> Project to rebuild a RCA SSB R3 diversity receiver


> 1925 Radiomarine IP-501-A receiver obtained by MRHS  - and more!


> Frank Geisel's Report No. 3 for June/July 1946



> Antenna Report

Clearly we have a lot to cover in this issue.  But before we dive in we'd like to solicit your support for our activities like Night of Nights and the ongoing maintenance and repair of the transmit and receive stations and their associated antenna fields.  As many True Believers know, we suffered significant damage to our antenna field in a December storm.  This included the felling of a 100ft antenna pole which took out the MF antenna and three antennas (including the MF Marconi T).  

Downed pole in Bolinas antenna field

Since then Roy Henrichs of the Transmitter and Operations Departments has done a thorough survey of every antenna at the transmit and receive site, so we know where we stand.  The picture is daunting.  Everything from the guy anchors to the poles themselves is in need of repair or replacement.  But now we are ready to start reversing years of deferred maintenance.  To do this we figure we'll just about deplete our bank account, money that's there only because True Believers have contributed very generously to the MRHS.   Can you assist with a contribution?  Any donation you can make will be very deeply appreciated and will go directly to support our efforts.  Just click on the button below.  




Make a Donation




> Night of Nights 2015!   


It's that time of year again.  Time to honor all those ops who came before us by preserving their skills, traditions and culture through on the air operations.


Why 12 July?  Long time True Believers know the story.  But it may be worth repeating for new arrivals and to remind everyone of the traditions we hope to keep alive.


On 12 July 1999 some very tough looking grizzled old radio pioneers had tears in their eyes as the last commercial Morse code radiogram was sent. It was the end of an era. And as the last beeps faded away into the static they witnessed the end of the career to which they had devoted their lives.


Paul Zell sends the last commercial Morse messages at KFS/KPH - or so it was thought


These men - and some women - had stood watch over the airwaves on shore and at sea. Theirs was mostly the business of maritime commerce. But when their ship was in peril they were called upon to send the most electrifying three letters in radio, S O S, knowing that all their fellow radio operators would press their earphones close to get every scrap of information and bring aid to their stricken ship.


Once, our coasts were dotted with great Morse code radio stations, all communicating with ships at sea. They're all gone now... all except one, the one they called the Wireless Giant of the Pacific, located at Point Reyes.


On that sad day in 1999 another event took place. The Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) was formed. We made it our life's work to honor the men and women of wireless by restoring that wireless giant. One year and one minute later the giant's voice once again spanned the oceas as we picked up the thread and kept the faith with our colleagues of the air.


Every year since, in an event that became known as the Night of Nights, Morse code station KPH has returned to the air, joined by KFS and the station of the MRHS, KSM.


This year our friends and colleagues at USCG station NMC have labored mightily to bring that storied call sign back to life on Morse code for the evening along with NMQ in Cambria, CA..


And station NMW in Astoria, OR will be on the air as well. 


Stations WLO and KLB will join us again as hey have in years past. 


This is a global and local event.  Hundreds of listeners around the world will be waiting with their earphones on, waiting for the signals of the great station to once again arc over the dome of the Earth to their receivers.   


You can be with us in person!   


Dozens of people will join us at the RCA receiving station in the Point Reyes National Seashore to watch as the signals are transmitted by hand using vintage telegraph keys.   


A guest operating position will be available so bring your key and 'phones or use ours and operate K6KPH.  No license required!  So if you're an ex-commercial op who never became a ham here's your chance to sling some Morse again.  Or if you hold a current commercial radiotelegraph ticket you can operate KPH, KFS and/or KSM and have your license endorse to that effect.   



This year we will have our custom made endorsement stamp available to add that special touch to your ticket. 


Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1



Date: Friday 12 July 2015 Pacific Daylight Time 


Location: RCA receiving station, 17400 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Point Reyes National Seashore   


Click HERE for a map of the location from Google Maps 


Time: Doors open at 3:00pm pdt, first transmission 5:01pm pdt (0001gmt 13 July)


Refreshments: Served


Photographs: Encouraged


Tours: Given


None of this would have been possible without the trust and vision of the Point Reyes National Seashore.  The only reason these facilities were spared the bulldozer that visited all the others is that they are on park land.  And the only reason they have been restored to operation is that the PRNS staff understood their importance and trusted the MRHS to restore them to life.  



MRHS Stations

Notice: At press time we have not received authorization to use the KPH and KFS frequencies.  A special update will be sent when final information is received.

Sixteen transmitters will be on the air from the MRHS transmitter site in Bolinas.  That doesn't include transmitters held in ready reserve in case of failure.  Members of the crack MRHS Transmitter Department and the H Set Team will be on hand to assure that all goes well.

> KPH:

Frequency            Transmitter                  Antenna

500/426                Henry MF-5000D        Marconi T (Off the air, antenna down)
4247.0                  RCA K Set                  Double Extended Zepp
6477.5                  RCA K Set                  Double Extended Zepp
8642.0                  RCA L Set                  Double Extended Zepp
12808.5                RCA L Set                  H over 2
17016.8                RCA L Set                  H over 2
22477.5                RCA H Set                 H over 2

The restoration of the H set has been chronicled in past issues of the Newsletter.  It will return to revenue service for the first time in decades for Night of Nights.  See Newsletter No. 38 for information about and photos of this magnificent transmitter.


We want to offer our sincere thanks to Globe Wireless for the help and support they have provided for our project since the very beginning.

            Transmitter                     Antenna

12695.5                Press Wireless PW15   H over 2
17026.0                Henry HF-5000D            H over 2


Frequency           Transmitter                     Antenna

500/426               Henry MF-5000D            Marconi T (Off air, antenna down)
8438.3                 Henry HF-5000D            Double Extended Zepp
12993.0               Henry HF-5000D            H over 2
16914.0               Henry HF-5000D            H over 2

Verification card for K6KPH.  A similar card is available for KSM.  Both were designed by Paul Shinn


K6KPH ops will monitor the frequencies below as propagation and the number of available operators permit.

Frequency           Transmitter                    Antenna

3550.0                 Henry HF-5000D           Double Extended Zepp
7050.0                 RCA L Set                     Double Extended Zepp
14050.0               Henry HF-5000D           H over 2
18097.5               Henry HF-5000D           H over 2
21050.0               Henry HF-5000D           H over 2

> Reception Reports

Reception reports and verification requests for the MRHS stations listed above may be sent to:

Maritime Radio Historical Society
PO Box 392
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

> Station Telephone

The receive site may be contacted by phone on 415-669-9646

> Hear about Night of Nights on KWMR

Community radio station in Point Reyes Station will broadcast a special presentation about Night of Nights on the Epicenter program at 5:00pm Pacific time 8 July.  Listen directly to KWMR on 90.5 Point Reyes, 89.9 Bolinas or 92.3 in the San Geronimo Valley.  Not in the listening area?  No problem.  Listen on line via the KWMR Website.  Just click on Click to Play.  Can't listen at that time?  Again, no problem.  Listen to the KWMR archive of the program.  Click on the date, 8 July, and the program name, Epicenter. 

USCG Stations


This may very well be the last time ever that USCG stations can be heard on the air using A1A (Morse) emission.  As new equipment is installed the hardware and wiring for Morse has been progressively removed.  And the personnel who knowledgeable in the art retire or are reassigned.  So be sure to listen for these stations.

Many USCG personnel at all levels are responsible for bringing these stations back on the air for Night of Nights 2104.  We want to particularly thank ET1 Mike Leska and Chief Eric Simmons (Ret.) for taking the lead for this year's project.

NMC/NMQ verification card from Night of Nights 2014

(Transmit Bolinas, Receive Pt. Reyes)

Frequency            Transmitter                         Antenna

472.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173' monopole tower
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173' monopole tower
6383.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
8574.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
17220.5                Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional

NOTE regarding NMC/NMQ/NMW MF transmissions.  Only one MF transmitter will be in service at each station.  Morse transmissions will be made on an as-available basis from each station as USCG operators must also accommodate scheduled NAVTEX transmissions.

 (Transmit Cambria, CA, Receive and Control Pt. Reyes)

NMQ Transmitters

            Transmitter                  Antenna

448.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6    Inverted L
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6    Inverted L

 (Transmit Astoria, OR, Receive and Control Pt. Reyes)

Capacitive top hat transmitting antenna at NMW

Frequency            Transmitter                   Antenna

448.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6    Capacitive top hat
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6    Capacitive top hat

> Reception Reports

Reception reports and verification requests for the USCG stations listed above may be sent to:

Attn: OSCS Phil Marsh
17000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Shipcom LLC Stations

All thanks to Rene at WLO and CJ at KLB for the work they do each year to bring these stations back on the air.  They are true radiomen.

> WLO 




> Reception Reports

Via email (for both stations) to:


Here's great information just received from Rene Steigler of WLO:

We will activate W4WLO ON 40 and 20 meter CW for Night of Nights. We are thinking 7055/14055 so as not to interfere with K6KPH.

Be sure to listen for W4WLO and give them a buzz.
> Calling Channels

All commercial and USCG stations listed above will listen for calls from ships on 500kc and on ITU Channel 3 HF:


Listen on these frequencies if you want to copy both sides of ship to shore contacts.

> Commemorative Messages

Was your father, uncle or grand dad a commercial op or amateur operator?  Would you like to send a commemorative message in their honor over KPH, KFS and KSM?  We have sent several of these messages in past events and they were all very moving.  If you would like us to send such a message this year please send it to us no later than Wednesday 9 July pdt so we can be sure to include it.  Sent it to

> Attend a special presentation on the history of KPH

The Novato, CA library has kindly invited Chief Operator Dillman to present his famous lecture and slide show on the history of wireless in West Marin at 6:00pm on 29 July.  The presentation will cover in detail the span of this dramatic story from the establishment of the first Marconi stations at Bolinas and Marshall in 1914 including both trans-oceanic operations and the history of KPH.  

Many photograph that have never before been seen in public will be shown.  If the history of maritime communications is an interest of yours, this presentation is not to be missed.  The Novato library can accommodate 60 people.  There are still a few good seats left.  So mark your calendar and join us at this event.

Date: 29 July 2015
Time: 6:00 pm 
Location: Novato library, 1720 Novato Blvd, Novato CA 94947 
Phone: +1 415-473-2050
Google Maps: Click  HERE

> Project to rebuild a RCA SSB R3 diversity receiver!

This should probably be the headline story for this issue of the Newsletter.  In fact if this wasn't the Night of Nights special issue, it would have been.  Hold on to your earphones: the MRHS has plans to rebuild a RCA SSB R3 diversity receiver!  This is real Jurassic Park stuff.

If that statement doesn't quite cause you to gasp in amazement then we refer you to information about the magnificent R3 in Newsletter No. 16 and Newsletter No. 19.  At the time this information was written the crack H Set Crew had completed three years of work to bring T3 transmitter 298 on line at Bolinas.  The T3 is a four channel independent sideband transmitter used in trans-oceanic point to point service.  But we never expected to have the companion R3 diversity receiver to show visitors. There once were dozens of these receivers in the receiving room upstairs at Point Reyes. But they had all gone to the dump, leaving us with just a few fragments.

Now comes a overseas seller with just about all the components needed to rebuild a R3!  Needless to say we struck a deal for everything he had, figuring that True Believers would approve of this expenditure of the funds they had donated to the MRHS.

At press time the status is that everything is in a wooden crate undergoing customs inspection in New York.  We have to wonder what they will make of this stuff!  Once the crate is released by customs we assume it will be loaded on a truck for shipment to San Francisco.

We have to say that the business of international shipping is complex, with endless forms and the need for brokers and agents.  Nevertheless, if this effort produces a complete and working R3 receiver that we can show folks when they visit, we think it will be worth it.

Where to put the receiver?  Sadly, it can't go back into the receiving room at Point Reyes.  That room is now Park Service offices.  But!  The receivers for the last point to point link were actually installed just outside the CW operations room while the receiving room was being torn apart of a satellite Earth station.  So our plan is to install the completed receiver in that same space, completing the circle and returning a functioning R3 to the very spot where one of its magnificent brothers once stood. 

Of course we will keep you posted on our progress.

> 1925 Radiomarine IP-501-A Receiver Obtained by MRHS

When we started the KPH restoration project back in 1999 one of the first things we did was to gather up all the historic photographs of the station and go over them carefully and repeatedly to extract and absorb all the important details they contained.  One of our favorite photos is of the KPH receive position taken in 1920.  The station had just moved to the original Marconi trans-oceanic receive site at Marshall.  As always, the KPH operation had secondary status and the ops were relegated to a corner of the building, huddled over their receivers, their Western Electric 509 headphones clamped to their heads, their Underwood mills at the ready.

KPH ops on duty at Marshall


There are lots of details in the photo including the land line telegraph sounder to the left, chattering out messages from Bolinas and San Francisco in American Morse.  Yep, the operators had to be bilingual in Morse.  But if course it's the IP-501 receivers that draw the eye of the True Believer.


The IP-501, made primarily by Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co., was the standard commercial receiver of the day, used aboard ship and at coast stations like KPH and WUP of the US Army at Ft. Mills in the Philippine Islands (below) .  





It used a single tube as the detector although provision was made for the use of an external crystal detector.  Note the external two step audio amplifier connected to the right of each receiver in the KPH photo.  This allowed excellent headphone volume as well as the ability to use a horn speaker.


For years we mooned over these receivers, hoping to add one to our collection.  We wanted one for two reasons: for display to visitors and so we could experience what it was like to operate one of these receivers, so different from a modern receiver or even a 70 year old receiver from WWII.


We suppose there's something to the saying that all things come to those who wait because an IP-501-A receiver recently became available.  The A model incorporates the two step audio amplifier in the receiver cabinet.  The receiver on offer was expensive but in superb condition.  Plus it was made by Radiomarine, thus providing direct lineage to RCA and KPH.  So, after much discussion, we decided to make the purchase.




When the receiver arrived, MRHS members gathered with great reverence to observe its careful unpacking.  It was everything we hoped it would be.  Luckily, one of our number, Steve Sparks, has an IP-501. He is also a radio historian and a gifted radio diagnostician. He took charge of the slow and careful process of bringing the receiver to operational status.


One of the first orders of business, after checking the tubes (all RCA, by the way), was to select the correct grid leak resistor for stable operation.




That's when we discovered that, yes Virginia, there really *is* such a thing as a grid leak drip pan!





We don't know why but for some reason we found it astounding to see that a resistor manufacturer of the 1920s had enough of a sense of humor to produce these as promotional items.  They must be rare as chicken lips.  Anyway, we had never seen any before.


After the hilarity died down we returned to work.  Life giving voltages were applied to the proper terminals.  The tubes grew warm.  The earphones came alive.  The receiver was in great shape, requiring only a little tweaking (and a bit of a steep learning curve on our part).  Then it came time to attach an antenna to see what we could hear.  The tuning range of the receiver is 300 to 8000 meters (38kc to 1Mc).  Our targets were the non-directional beacons at the local airports.  We used a selective voltmeter to assure that signals could be heard on the hastily strung up wire antenna (the Marconi T antenna overloaded the receiver).  Then we tuned for those signals on the IP-501-A.





Bob Dildine tunes the selective voltmeter while Steve Sparks manipulates the controls of the 



It was old guys working with old radio gear at an old receive site on a foggy day at Point Reyes.  How much better can it get?  Well, we guess it got maybe even a little better when we placed the IP-501-A on a special table to had made just for it and placed the horn speaker on top.  Not just any horn speaker, mind, but the exact same make and model horn speaker we see in photos of KPH at Marshall.



The IP-501-A on its custom made table, with horn speaker, in the main hall of the receive site at Point Reyes


Now, how about the reception of some signals in the MF marine band?  Our plan is to tune the receiver to the KSM 426kc signal to demonstrate it to visitors.  But alas, as noted above, our MF transmit antenna is on the ground.  But!  MRHS Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes is also a member of the radio department (in fact, he *is* the radio department) aboard SS RED OAK VICTORY/KYVM.  The ship, with Steve at the key, was on the air on 6 June (D-Day) on MF and we copied his 500kc signals on the IP-501-A!


Here are some notes from Steve Sparks on the work we did on the receiver:


Before applying power to the receiver, we first checked audio transformers, fixed and variable condensers, and the grid leak.  Everything was good except for one open solder joint.  We installed tested tubes and were able to hear things.  Operation of the controls was puzzling until we discovered that two knobs were installed 180 degrees out of correct alignment, making the primary circuit tuning knob tune backwards and reversing the sense of the coupling control.  Excessive howling was greatly improved with the installation of a slightly lower value grid-leak resistor.  Using a long feed line as an antenna seemed to be causing overload, so we put up a 100 foot wire and that worked better.  Impulse noise was reduced with a common-mode power line filter on the power supply.   With that final improvement, we were able to log four NDBs at mid-day, the farthest being FCH Fresno 344 kc, about two hundred miles away.


Partial view of the Treasure Room.  Strict rule: no drooling.


The next step is for you to join us at the receive site some Saturday.  Identify yourself as a True Believer for admission to our Treasure Room where the IP-501-A and many other items of interest reside.



> Another Receiver!


Another historic Radiomarine receiver has recently arrived.  Actually there are three components involved: receiver CRM-46092, preselector AR-8503-P and power supply CRM-20096, known collectively by the military as RAZ-1.



This receiver is the direct descendant of the IP-501-A, replacing it in most shipboard installations.  It covers 15kc to 600kc in four ranges.  While it is clearly a more modern and easier to use receiver, it's amazing how many features and similarities it has with the IP-501-A.  At this writing the components have been cleaned and inspected.  Much to our relief all three units appear unmodified and in excellent condition.  Like its IP-501-A older brother, The CRM-46092 will be brought to life for display and use at the MRHS.





Just before press time life giving voltages were applied to the RAZ-1.  All components came up and functioned as they should!  It just shows the result careful engineering and quality construction. Non directional beacons and WWVB at 60kc were received without difficulty in daylight. 


The receiver, preselector and power supply will be properly mounted and prepared for display to visitors.  Plus we plan to use it to monitor 500kc and the KSM transmissions on 426kc.




> And Yet ANOTHER Receiver!


We are very fortunate to have in our collection the descendant of the CRM-46092, the Radiomarine AR-8510.  This is the main ship receiver that was supplied with the Radiomarine 3U and 4U radio consoles.  It was also used at some coast stations, including post war KPH.




This receiver too will be restored to operational status.


In combination, these three receivers will permit us to show the history and development of marine receivers from the 1920s through WWII and beyond, since many of the Victory and Liberty ships that were activated for the war in Viet Nam were equipped with 3U and 4U consoles.


Once restored, all three receivers will be placed in the Treasure Room at the receive site.  When you come to visit, be sure to whisper the words "True Believer" to a MRHS member for a Treasure Room viewing opportunity.




> Frank Geisel's Report No. 3 June/July 1946


Beginning in Newsletter No 49 we began presenting FG's KPH reports from the years immediately following WWII after the station was re-opened for commercial service.  Let's look in at his reports for


June and July 1946 as Frank continues to battle interference, ships that won't call KPH to clear traffic and operators who find life in West Marin too rugged and expensive.


In June the good news was that the installation of a crystal oscillator in BL2 was completed. However the key clicks from VFN were so broad they were interfering with KPH on 8420kc.  Message levels were fairly good.  A new man hired last month, N.C. Kumler, decided West Marin wasn't for him and departed..



In July 

> MRHS Merchandise  


Support the MRHS and look cool at the same time. Such a deal!  We've got hats, mugs, T shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers, all with variations of the MRHS logo.  Get a hat and mug for yourself and a put yourself in solid with the XYL by getting her a MRHS hoodie.


Click on the images to go to the True Believers Store







 Just click on the images above to go to the MRHS True Believers store and browse our offerings.  Thanks!




Whew!  Okay, that's it for this issue.  Thanks for reading.  We very much look forward to hearing you on the air or seeing you in person on Night of Nights.  Until then we wish you the best of luck and fair winds & following seas.