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.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Ham Radio Operator? 

We offer classes, advice and assistance for anyone interested in learning about or becoming a ham radio operator.  Information regarding classes -on ourEducation page (scroll down to locate)

   Next meeting: The club will hold its annual meeting in place of the regular February meeting on February 25 at 11:00 at the Union St. Tavern in Windsor, CT. Guest speaker will be Charles Motes, K1DFS, Connecticut Section Manager.

Annual club dues are also due at that time.

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.

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.

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.


Next  Meeting

 The club will hold its annual meeting in place of the regular February meeting on February 25 at 11:00 at the Union St. Tavern in Windsor, CT. Guest speaker will be Charles Motes, K1DFS, Connecticut Section Manager. Annual club dues are also due at that time.

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

HAM  CLUB - Meeting Minutes - News and Events

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.)

                                                                              JANUARY MEETING NOTES 2017

  • President Chris Kelling, N1WKO, called the meeting to order at 12:09. 14 members were present. 
  • Treasurer Charles Griffen, W1GYR, reported a checking balance of $1,1010.96  of which $367.05 was set aside for the Service Bench Account. The left $643.91 for current expense. He said a CAA-500 Mark II antenna analyzer had been purchased for $388.95 using funds from the Service Bench account. The unit was on sale from HRO and saved the club $51.00 plus there was no shipping fee.
  • Chris talked about the New Year's Eve event at ARRL including a tour of the lab by Bob Allison and operation of W1AW. Members of the Middlesex Amateur Radio Club joined in.
  • Chris announced the annual meeting of the club will be at the Union Street Tavern on February 25. It will include the club's annual meeting and a guest speaker, Charles Motes, K1DFS ARRL Connecticut Section Manager. He also reminded members their dues will be due at that time. The club will again donate $300 for the space the club is using in the building.
  • A discussion followed concerning the need to replace a saddle missing from the Moseley beam antenna. Skip Colton, W1FTE, thought he might have one or know of someone who did. Dan Thomas, NC1J, described a way of lowering the beam without having to use a cherry picker.
  • Chris said some of the antenna coax cables should be replaced. A good rule of thumb is every five years. If they are outdoors the sun will corrode them.
  • Chris is thinking of doing a Technician class in the spring and a VE class during the next Swap meet
  • Larry Butler, KB1KIZ, is looking into a vertical antenna (Butterfly type) for use by Des Ould, KB1UUM
  • Field Day will begin on June 24th. If Dick Stebbins, K1ITV, can't provide his RV, Chris may be able to borrow his families' RV. Some thought was given to doing a VE session during the event involving Dan Thomas and Chris. Charles reminded them of again advertising the event in the Bloomfield - Windsor section of TheHartford Courant. Other places to advertise event included WRTC FM (one month's advance notice) and WWUH FM.
  • Chris is still thinking of conducting an event at the Northwest Park, possibly during Pioneer Days.
  • Chris and Dan Thomas instructed the group on the use of the recently acquired CAA-500 Mark II antenna analyzer. Bill Williams suggested the club purchase a case for the unit which was approved. He will order it.
  • Chris and Dan Thomas talked about the 1KW Gates transmitter that will be loaned by the museum but be housed at ARRL. Dan and Bob Allison will transport it from a museum in Bowie, Maryland to ARRL headquarters. The 800 pound unit will be rebuilt and used for the ARRL's 40 M net and AM bulletins. It will have publicity value for the museum
  • A discussion followed concerning recent gifts and repair of communications equipment useful as exchanges and/or Ebay sales.
  • The meeting ended at 1:03 p.m.

Meeting notes by

Charles Griffen, W1GYR, and Bill Storey, AB1LZ.