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New Look at W1AW
January 1967 QST

January 1967 QST

January 1967 QST Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has been on the cutting edge of communications technology since its founding in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim. Then, as now, many of the nation's top electronics and antennas experts have been intimately involved in the design, testing, operating, and regulating aspects of radio systems. Over time radar, software, and computer technologies have been added to the mix of specialties as have program management, field deployment and fixed station logistics, facilities management, and many other talents. A natural result of all the human capability affiliated with the ARRL is the collective personal investment in keeping flagship station W1AW as a shining example of what amateurs (hobbyists) can achieve. This article from a 1967 issue of QST magazine reports on how W1AW was outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and support equipment. At the end, I posted a couple photos of W1AW in 2013, with hyperlinks to the ARRL website sources.

New Look at W1AW

W1AW and the Hq. building are situated on a 7-acre site with plenty of room for antennas. Three self-standing 60-foot steel towers (two are visible on the front cover) support 3-element Yagi beams for 20, 15, and 10 meters. A 6-meter omnidirectional antenna shares one tower with the 15-meter beam and a 2-meter omnidirectional antenna is on another tower with the 10-meter beam. For 40, 80, and 160 meters, half-wave horizontal wires are used. The 80 and 40 meter doublets are center fed: the 160-meter doublet is end fed. Feed lines for all the antennas are situated underground and, on 40, and 160 meters, the underground coax terminate at remotely controlled antenna couplers located on the ground directly below the antenna feed points. Open-wire feeders connect the antennas to the tuners.

The Maxim Memorial Station, W1AW, faces the new Headquarters Building at 225 Main St. in Newington, Conn. Recently, the station was given an overhaul with new equipment, furnishings, and antennas. You've seen a picture of the exterior on this month's cover. Here are a few shots taken inside the building, to show you some of the "new look."

"Old Betsy," W1AW's 1920 spark transmitter - RF Cafe

"Old Betsy," W1AW's 1920 spark transmitter, is on display in the foyer.

Master control console contains several receivers - RF Cafe

The master control console contains several receivers, signal monitors, transmitter exciters, punched-tape keyer (for code practice and bulletins) and operating accessories. Against the wall at the left is the RTTY position. The rack at the right is a back-up transmitter and RTTY transmitter.

Another view of the transmitter racks - RF Cafe

Another view of the transmitter racks taken from behind the visitor's operating position.

220-volt emergency generator located in W1AW's basement - RF Cafe

In case of a power failure, this 20-kw. 220-volt emergency generator located in W1AW's basement can handle the entire load at W1AW including light, heat and communications. The unit is electrically started and the engine is fueled by propane gas. Notice the emergency lighting on the wall at the upper left. This light (and others located throughout the building) come on automatically with loss of power.

Visitors are always welcome at the station - RF Cafe

Visitors are always welcome at the station and upon entering are requested to sign the guest log. (Here is the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial plaque now.)

Another view of the console which faces the transmitter racks - RF Cafe

Another view of the console which faces the transmitter racks (right) and the visitor's operating position.

Close-up view of the transmitter racks - RF Cafe

Close-up view of the transmitter racks. In the top two rows are some of the 1-kw. finals for 80 through 10 meters (two more to be added.) Other equipment includes a 50-watt 160-meter transmitter, 200-watt 2-meter transmitter, 200-watt 6-meter transmitter, antenna patch panel, and converter to change the 3 Mc. signal from the console exciter to the various amateur bands, 80 through 10 meters.

W1AW workshop - RF Cafe

The W1AW workshop is well equipped for emergency repairs or general maintenance.

Now that you have had a chance to browse around the interior of W1AW, here are a few additional details about the station. The operating center of the station is the master console. Located here, along with the usual operating position accessories, are auxiliary receivers and signal monitors. The station v.f.o./exciter is positioned here and generates a basic 3-Mc. s.s.b., c.w., a.m., or RTTY signal, which is then fed to the transmitter racks. A series of converters heterodynes the 3-Mc. signal to the desired amateur band (80 through 10 meters) where it is amplified in the appropriate 1-kw. linear amplifier. The racks also contain s.w.r. bridges and indicators for each antenna system, along with controls for remotely tuning antenna couplers where applicable. There is an antenna patch panel for switching the various transmitters and receivers in the station to the desired antenna.

For code practice or bulletins, an RTTY tape, which has been previously cut at the station, is fed into an RTTY-to-Morse converter, which transforms the RTTY characters on the tape to dots and dashes and then keys the transmitters. Of course, this same tape is used to key the RTTY equipment, too.

Page 92 shows the station schedule, and visitors are always welcome. Meanwhile, make use of the varied services provided by the Maxim Memorial Station - daily sessions of code practice, news bulletins, frequency-measuring tests, and general operation.

There's a lot more to see here at W1AW. Why don't you drop in and see it for yourself?

Now, here are a few photos of today's W1AW

W1AW Headquarters Building - RF Cafe

 W1AW Headquarters Building

W1AW Main Operator's Console - RF Cafe

 W1AW Main Operator's Console

W1AW Main Broadcast Equipment - RF Cafe

W1AW Main Broadcast Equipment



Posted May 17, 2023
(updated from original post on 12/12/2013

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    Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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