History of the Museum’s Amateur (Ham) Radio Club

The museum had been open on a limited basis at the Mechanic St. location for a couple of years when, in 2002, amateur radio operator and museum volunteer Gordon Horn, W2WTV, realized that several of the other volunteers were also licensed ham operators and approached them about starting a club and setting up a ham station within the museum. There was enthusiasm for the idea, and a club was formed. Gordon served as the first president, Ray Murphy, N1DUQ, was the treasurer and Bernie Michaels, W2LFV, its secretary.  Bernie offered to obtain a license for the club from the FCC, hopefully with meaningful call letters somehow relating to the museum. The closest he could get was W1VCM, standing for Vintage Communications Museum. In 2003, W1VCM went on the air from the museum using Horn’s own transceiver feeding power to a dipole antenna strung in the attic, just under the roof ridge.

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Gordon Horn felt strongly that the club should look outward, towards the community, rather than remain merely a social gathering. Classes were established to help people get their ham radio license, and some of its members became active in RACES (Radio Amateur Communications Emergency Service). In addition the club began to take part in the annual national contest event known as Field Day, the focus being on giving museum visitors a look at ham radio in action rather than racking up high contact numbers.  In 2013, the club became an affiliate club of the ARRL,  increasing awareness of the organization to hams throughout the world.

The Amateur Radio Club of the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of CT

                                                                                                              Meeting Highlights – June 2017

  • President Chris Kelling, N1WKO, brought the meeting to order at 12:06. Nine members were present plus two guests, Eric Doody, N1YAO, and his wife, Merriam, who is working on her tech license.
  • ​Treasurer Charles Griffen, W1GYR, is on sabbatical; there was no financial report.
  • Field-Day chair person Mary Beaulieu, KB1WFI, discussed final plans for FD; a brief summary:

​​​                             >> Dick Stebbins, K1ITV, and Des Ould, KB1UUM, will park their motorhomes at the museum for FD weekend. 

​                             >> Power for FD will be independent of the mains. Both motorhomes are equipped with generators, and Dick plans to use solar                                     power for one of his rigs. The club also has a portable generator which will be put into use.

​                            >> The motorhomes will be available should anyone wish to work through the night.

​                            >> Three antennas are planned for the event

​                            >> Chris Kelling offered to be Safety Officer for the time he is on site (Chris is sharing his time with another club during FD.)

                            >> A GOTA station is planned; Eric Doody offered to operate it under his call

                            >> Pizza was suggested for meals, although Chris might make his famous chili. Grilling was also suggested.  Mary invited anyone                                     who wished to bring a dish to pass (salads, etc.)

  • ​Bill Storey, AB1LZ, reported that all repair parts are on hand for the TA-33 beam repair, which will be tackled after FD.
  • ​​There was enthusiasm for Chris’s idea to put the recent donation of Collins and Kenwood gear on the air as part of the shack operating equipment.  A 220-volt line has to be run to the shack for the Collins linear amplifier.
  • Chris shared his ideas for building shelves and patch bays to enhance operating conditions in the shack.
  • Bernie, W2LFV, reminded members that visitors are encouraged to use the shack after their callsign is verified on QRZ using the museum’s computer or other device. After a discussion, it was agreed that a club member should set up the equipment for the visitor and point out any operating precautions.​
  • Chris is still hoping to set up a video loop in the ham display area showing the history of ham radio.
  • ​Dan Thomas reported that the Gates transmitter rebuild is going well and he hopes to fire it up in the coming week.  
  • The meeting adjourned at 1:08

Respectfully submitted,
Bernie Michaels, W2LFV
Club Secretary

Next  Meeting

No formal  meeting in July or August. Next club lunch meeting scheduled for September 9, at the Union St.Tavern, Windsor, CT.


When the museum decided to move to its current location in 2005, Gordon spoke out for a proper ham shack and a room roughly 8 x 10 was added to the build-out plans.  The layout provided space for single sideband (SSB), a typical AM station of the 50s, plus UHF.  The room was located near an outer wall to make the run to outside antennas as short as possible. Museum volunteers pitched in to help build the room, using partitions for the walls with windows, so that museum visitors could peek inside to see what a ham shack looked like.

As the room construction neared completion, thoughts turned to operating equipment. There were plenty of choices among the donated equipment and the first rig tried was a Swan 350 with matching speaker cabinet and power supply. The transceiver fired up fine during testing, but fizzled out shortly and a Kenwood TS 520 was pressed into service as the station’s first on-air transceiver. 

There was no room for a proper “ham shack”, and a shelf in one of the displays was commandeered to hold the equipment. The building’s plumbing ran the length of the building just above the dipole antenna, creating the worst possible operating conditions: a ground plane above the antenna, restricting its radiation pattern. In spite of this, contacts were made and QSL cards with the museum’s callsign and location mailed out to contacted stations. At the club’s formal meeting later that year, the precedence was established that the club would give an annual donation to the museum as “rent” for the shack space

Now thoughts turned to the antenna; the heart of any radio station. The club applied for and won a grant from the ARRL which provided money for a concrete base to fit a donated Rohn tower. And since the base was poured by museum volunteers, there was money left over to purchase a new Mosley TA-33 beam, which would be turned by any one of a number of donated Ham-M rotators. The total antenna height was limited to 30 feet because of the proximity of the tower to the edge of the museum’s property.

To attract and keep new members, President Horn suggested the club hold monthly breakfast meetings. The idea was quite popular and for years the club met the second Saturday of each month at the Windsor 75 Diner, sometimes inviting guest speakers to address the group. (The restaurant closed its doors in late summer, 2015 and the club switched to luncheon meetings at a nearby restaurant.)

HAM  CLUB - Meeting Minutes - News and Events


        No formal  meeting in July or August. Next club lunch meeting scheduled for September 9, at the Union St.Tavern, Windsor, CT.

Although it sees itself as supporting the historical flavor of the museum, the station has kept abreast of technological changes. In 2014 facilities were included for packet operation, and in 2015 the station began using an online logging service. Currently, plans have been drafted for a repair/research room for hams inclined towards experimentation.

From its inception, the club was flooded with donated transceivers, power supplies, antenna tuners and all manner of accessories. In 2011, club member Charles “Skip” Colton, W1FTE, started a program to loan equipment to newly licensed hams that lacked the equipment to set up a station of their own. The club also began selling surplus equipment on eBay, the bulk of the money being given to the museum.

Meet club members on the air!

Members (and non-members too) are invited to a meet on Saturday nights at 9 p.m. EST at 21.350 MHZ and Sunday nights at 8 p.m. EST at 28.350 MHZ (give or take, depending if the frequency is clear).

This not a “net” but merely a convenient place for friends to meet on the air.