Category Archives: Boat Anchors

Photos of a B-17G Radio Operator Position

I had the pleasure of visiting the Champaign Aviation Museum recently and examining their under-restoration B-17G, “Champaign Lady”. Actually, the term “under-restoration” is incorrect. In actuality, the Champaign Aviation Museum is effectively building their B-17G nearly from scratch—quite an undertaking but one that the volunteers are performing skillfully and enthusiastically.

Being an amateur radio operator, shortwave listener, and would-be WWII-radio restorer, I was was pleased to see that Champaign Lady already has a nearly-complete radio-operator position installed, between the bomb-bay and the waist-gun section of the airplane. As a B-17G would have had during the war, Champaign Lady features a BC-348 liaison receiver and morse-code key mounted on a desk on the port (left) side of the bomber and a stack of AM/CW Command Set transmitters and receivers racked on the starboard (right) side of the bomber. In the photos, the top Command Set boxes are the transmitters and the bottom three Command Set boxes are the receivers. Of course, the BC-348 and the Command Set transmitters and receivers are fully tube-type, semiconductors having not yet been invented. During the war speedometer-type cables would connect the Command Set receivers to controls in the cockpit, allowing the pilot and co-pilot to control the Command Set receiver frequencies; electrical cables would have carried the receivers’ audio to the pilot and co-pilot and would have allowed them to change volume-level. The radio operator could transmit using the Command Set transmitters and could also switch the pilot or co-pilot intercom microphones to any of the Command Set transmitters to allow the pilot or co-pilot to broadcast to other bombers in the formation.

"Champaign Lady" radio operator position

B-17G “Champaign Lady” radio operator position; BC-348 liaison receiver on the port (left) side and Command Set transmitters and receivers on the starboard (right) side.

"Champaign Lady" BC-348 receiver

B-17G “Champaign Lady” BC-348 liaison receiver and morse-code key.

"Champaign Lady" Command Set transmitters and receivers

B-17G “Champaign Lady” Command Set transmitters and receivers on the starboard side of the radio room

During the war, the B-17G radio operator was an enlisted man, typically a sergeant or higher in rank. If in an earlier version of the B-17G, the radio operator was also responsible for manning a .50 caliber machine gun located in his section of the airplane. In all versions of the B-17G, the radio operator assisted the navigator by providing position reports based on radio fixes of beacons or radio stations. Additional information about the role of the B-17G radio operator can be found on the B-17 Queen of the Sky website.

And, for those interested, here is what Champaign Lady’s nose-art looks like:

B-17G "Champaign Lady" nose-art

B-17G “Champaign Lady” nose-art, starboard side; the port side features a mirror-image version of the same design

The Champaign Aviation Museum has a beautifully restored B-25J, “Champaign Gal”, in flying condition. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to see if Champaign Gal features a restored radio operator position.

I have a BC-224, which is the 12-volt version of the BC-348 liaison receiver to put back into service as well as a BC-696A Command Set transmitter that I hope to eventually put back onto the air in the 80-meter amateur band. It would be wonderful if I had a B-17G in which to install these items—or even just room to build a replica B-17G radio operator position!

73,

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF
http://wd8rif.com/radio.htm

Dan sheds light on various Hammarlund SP-600 models

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Daniel Hawkins, who leaves the following comment in reply to our previous post about the Northern Radio SP-600 and discussion about diversity operation. Dan writes:

Diversity operation: two or more receivers and antennas used to copy CW or RTTY from one or more transmitters.

Most of the Hammarlund SP-600s were models built for diversity use including the well-known JX-17, the most common SP-600. Diversity models can be used as single receivers. In this eBay example Northern Radio has modified a SP-600 J-11 for diversity use.

SP-600 nomenclature: J means joint army/navy (JAN) mil-spec components. L means low frequency. X means crystal frequency control in addition to VFO. My SP-600 is a JX-21, which is not a diversity model. Higher model numbers do not necessarily mean later production dates. All SP-600s use the same serial number sequence regardless of model. Somewhere between serial numbers 15,000 and 17,000 (mid 1950’s) Hammarlund stopped using molded black beauty capacitors and switched to installing ceramic capacitors.

The two-digit model numbers indicate model types. JX-1, 7, 10 and 21 were similar non-diversity receivers. SP-600s built for military contracts will have an additional tag showing the military model number(s).

Here is a great page showing Northern Radio modified SP-600s in action with accompanying Northern Radio RTTY gear.

http://www.navy-radio.com/rcvrs/frr28.htm

Thanks for the primer, Dan! I believe I have one of the X models with crystal control, but I’ll need to verify once back home. Any other SP-600 owners out there in the Post readership?

Exceedingly rare Northern Radio modified SP-600

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who writes:

Those of us who still use SP-600s, and those of us who once did but can’t deal with them in retirement, lust after some of the rarer versions of the radio. This is one of them, the Northern Radio modified SP-600.

Click here to view on eBay.

Wow! Many thanks for the tip, Dan!

I must say that when Dan finds these rare treasures on eBay, they usually carry a very hefty price.  In my opinion, this is a good deal for a rare SP-600. Best of all, it has a BuyItNow price, so first-come, first serve and no bidding up the amount.  The shipping price is a bargain considering this radio probably weights upwards of 80 lbs.

This SP-600 may need some electrical restoration and possible re-capping. It’s listed as: “For parts or not working.” If you’ve been looking for an SP-600 to restore, this might be worth consideration. Thanks again, Dan.

A quick view of my shack in Oxford, UK & recent transatlantic medium wave DX

Someone recently described my shack in Oxford as ‘an impressive mess’…. and that really is just about the most positive comment I’ve ever received regarding my listening post! So, my apologies for displaying the mess in public, but in response to having been asked many times by subscribers to Oxford Shortwave Log to ‘share my shack’, here it is, well most of it at least, in all it’s unadulterated glory.

 

The primary reason however for this post is to share my most recent transatlantic medium wave catches using the brilliant Elad FDM DUO and Wellbrook ALA1530 magnetic loop antenna. This excellent combination continues to pull in really nice DX, although not so much very recently as propagation has been fairly rubbish. However, since early to mid December, the dynamic duo have managed to pull in a number of transatlantic medium wave signals, including Radio Rebelde, Cuba on (670 and 710 kHz), KVNS Texas, CHIN Radio, Toronto, WFED Washington DC, WWNN Health and Wealth Radio, Pompano Beach, Florida, and huge signals from WMEX Boston and WWKB Buffalo, New York. Embedded reception videos and text links follow below and in the mean time, I wish you all great DX!


Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

Click to watch on YouTube

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

 

Guest Post: The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Arthur Smith, who shares the following guest post:


The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

by Arthur Smith

As a junior high student way back in 1978, I had a natural interest in radios. My dad was a ham radio operator, electronics engineer, and designer. We always had cool, exotic radios and electronic gadgetry around the house. He was also in the Korean War, in the US Army Corps of Engineers, with access to a wide variety of equipment. He often told me the story of how he became interested in radio at an early age, and how he saved up for expensive radio gear, with a little help from my grandparents. Back in 1946, Hallicrafters was THE brand to own, and their postwar designs from Raymond Loewy, were catching the eye of many enthusiasts. The SX-42 was being hyped up in Hallicrafters ads as the ultimate radio to own, one that could tune the shortwave and ham bands, and beyond. I don’t know the complete story, but prior to acquiring his SX-42, my dad also purchased an S-38 and S-40. Never satisfied with “good and better”, my father wanted “the best”. All 15 tubes and 50-plus pounds of boatanchor.

Always ambitious and industrious, he mowed lawns, repaired motorcycles, and did odd jobs for neighbors in his suburban Boston neighborhood. He worked smart, and worked hard. And that fall, bought his SX-42.

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The radio, we think, was about $279, which would make it the equivalent of almost $3500 in today’s dollars. He heard the start of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. And the birth of Rock and Roll on FM! He graduated high school, went away to the Korean War, serving two Tours of Duty. He came back home, and became an electronics engineer. And a licensed ham radio operator.

Moving ahead to 1978, and yours truly had the radio bug, in the worst way. Not as ambitious or as savvy as my father, a classmate, who was also a ham radio operator, told me about a National HRO he had, with some coils, and maybe needing some work. My Dad came home from work, and I just had to tell him about this great opportunity, which of course, would require his financial backing. At this point, the SX-42 and his other two Hallicrafters were seeing “backup” duty, having long since gone solid state in his post. “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” When a Dad says that, a son usually wants to run. Not in this case. “How about we give you my SX-42?!” Gee, twist my arm. I had loved watching those mesmerizing green back lit dials, S meter, and geared tuning knobs. Unfortunately for my classmate, he had to keep his National. Fortunate for me, I had my father’s SX-42!

That radio logged my first 100 countries, including QSL cards from countries and stations no longer in existence. It heard the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, it was at the heart of my school Science Project, which made Science Fair, featuring an experiment on longwire shortwave radio reception.

halllicrafters-sx-42-open

halllicrafters-sx-42-tubes Years later, the focus became family, a child, and a house. The SX-42 and siblings came with me, but this time, in boxes. After having seen a WW2 vintage Hallicrafters S-20R at a consignment shop a couple of summers ago, I thought how cool it might be to have Dad’s radios electronically and cosmetically restored.

The S-38 and S40 were in a box in my damp basement. While intact, they had a considerable amount of rust. Luckily, I was able to find a gentleman with great electronic and mechanical skills. He brought the S38 back to life, working and looking beautiful. And is working still on the S-40. As for the SX-42, that was upstairs in a box in my son’s closet. Dry and somewhat preserved, but with some corrosion on the control panel. And sadly, that iconic lock knob that switches between main tuning and brandspread tuning, had been lost in the move. I had to find someone who could take this project on.

After an extensive search, I found my man. An engineer with his own business, who was moving into retirement, and shutting his business down. He had restored an SX-42 a few years back, with amazing results. I had to lure him out of retirement! Which I did after a few emails back and forth. And, he was within driving distance! First warning was “do not power the radio back up under any circumstance- you’ll fry the wafers on the bandswitch!” I resisted temptation, as I had read online that these were notorious for failure, usually to some original capacitors that leak over the decades.

After 13 months replacing every capacitor, virtually every resistor, and vacuum tube, the iconic radio was coming back to life, in a great way. The transmission and gears in the tuning was re-lubricated. During the restoration process, a date was found stamped on the chassis of October 25th, 1946. Could it be?

img_7367-02-12-16-06-57-1Hallicrafters had advertised in the Oct, 1946 issue of Radio News that “The first hundred are always the hardest to build.” This, coupled with the fact that none of the chassis circuit had been modified, lead my restorer to believe that my radio was one of the first 100 SX-42’s that Hallicrafters had built!

The front panel was stripped and treated, professionally painted and silkscreened. The cabinet and apron bead blasted, repainted, and clear coated. It came back home with me last month. A month after it turned 70.

halllicrafters-sx-42

As you can see here, the radio looks stunning. And, with all the Hallicrafters Service Bulletin mods implemented, sounds and performs better than I remember. Maybe more importantly, we were able to locate a replacement brake lock knob for the tuning shaft, even with the “Lock” decal and arrow showing to rotate it counterclockwise. It just would not have felt complete without that little knob- and, it works!

halllicrafters-sx-42-frontEngaging a set of what essentially are brake pads, you rotate it once to disengage the main tuning and engage the bandspread tuning. Again, and you’re back to main tuning.

halllicrafters-sx-42-ad

This radio will always remain a truly cherished family heirloom, and will be my son’s someday. Complete with the original owner’s manual, and Darth Vader-like R42 Reproducer (speaker).

halllicrafters-sx-42-front-panel

Hopefully to live on for another 70-plus years, and hear more history along the way.

-Arthur Smith Worcester, MA


Wow–!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Arthur. No doubt, your SX-42 will certainly outlive all of us and will hopefully continue to be passed down through your family. What a wonderful story.