Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Ewing, who writes:
I know you’re always on the lookout for trips and visits so I thought of you when we were up in Wisconsin last week. There’s a maritime museum up in Sturgeon Bay, on the peninsula, that includes a 100 year-old tug. You can go aboard and climb all up and down…and they’ve got some great radios in the crew cabins as part of the displays of what life was like back when the ship was working.
There were a number of standard but interesting normal transistors but what really caught my eye were the Hallicrafters World Wave in the pilothouse and a fantastic pair of Trans-Oceanics in the cabins of the chief engineer and the captain.
The purpose of the visit really isn’t the radios — it’s about the working life of the Great Lakes and an old ship — so discovering them was a fantastic lagniappe.
[T]he appeal of shortwave in these circumstances is clear: Imagine you’re in the middle of Lake Superior towing a barge full of logs to be pulped, or some other unglamorous but essential Great Lakes cargo — maybe a barge full of big rocks to build a breakwater in, say, Sheboygan — and you come off watch in the middle of the night. Life on a ship can be deadly monotonous and deeply lonely but then picture yourself tuning in to the international band on your luxurious Zenith set … not bad since the iPad won’t be invented for another 40 or so years.
These pix also depict the engine order telegraph, which the captain in the pilothouse used to signal commands to the engine room. There was one for each of the two main engines, and duplicates in the pilothouse.
The captain moves the handle so that it indicates the speed he wants (e.g., Ahead Full) and the bottom needle on the telegraph in the engine room moves, ringing a bell. This is why an engineer might report he was ready to sail by saying he was standing by to “answer bells.” The engineers would select the speed on the engines and then move their own handle on their own telegraph to correspond with the captain’s order, signaling to the pilothouse they’d completed the instruction.
The engines are the white things pictured behind the telegraph and on which was stamped the brass plate also photographed here. The diesel engines were made by the Electro Motive Division of GM and replaced this ship’s original steam propulsion system. EMD is most famous for its pioneering and legendary freight locomotives, which led the way in “dieselization” after WWII in converting many railroads from their romantic but much less efficient and much dirtier steam power. But the company also made marine diesel engines as evidenced here and these served this ship for another three decades or so — just think about that. There also are still EMD GP30 locomotives from the 1960s still in service in some places in the U.S., according to what I read in this month’s Trains magazine.
Fascinating, Phil––what terrific vintage kit! Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos and descriptions with us.
Yes, I can imagine SWLing would have been a vital entertainment outlet for those on working ships in the Great Lakes. No doubt they had access to a number of strong mediumwave stations on the coast, as well. What a way to while away the off-hours.
The Lockheed VC-121E “Columbine III” (Image Source: USAF Museum)
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Robert Yowell, who writes:
I was visiting the US Air Force Museum [Friday] and walked through “Columbine III” which was the Lockheed Constellation used as Air Force One by President Eisenhower from 1954 until he left office. In the back of the cabin was a nice cozy area where this Hallicrafters receiver was installed – ostensibly for the passengers to listen to news or other events while in flight.
I am sure one of your readers will be able to identify which model it is.
Can you imagine flying in this gorgeous Lockheed VC-121E four prop aircraft and listening to HF radio from a built-in Hallicrafters set? Wow…
Thank you, Robert, for sharing these photos. The National Museum of the US Air Force is one of my favorite museums in the world. I bet I’ve visited it more than a dozen times over the past decade–always a treat and always something new to discover!
Post readers: Can you identify this Hallicrafters model? Please comment!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who shares the following:
This is a Hallicrafters S-72L “barn find” I restored.
This turned out to be a furniture refinishing project and not a radio (electronics) restoration job.
It is a 1949/50 era portable with batteries and 1 volt tubes.
When I brought it home the cosmetic condition was such, I kept it away from the litter box out of an abundance of caution to prevent it from being buried by the cats.
This is a very early portable radio made out of plywood and coated with brown wall paper fabric imitating cheap portable record players and luggage of the era.
I decided to laminate it with cedar drawer liner to give it some class instead of vinyl wallpaper.
While learning to laminate wood is another skill outside the scope of this article, The trick when applying laminate is to prevent bubbles forming under the laminate.
Also all divits and dents should be filled in with Bondo or wood filler. The surface is lightly sanded with very fine sandpaper and at least 8 layers of gloss water based floor varnish applied and allowed to thoroughly dry before the next coat.
This radio has nice audio quality, It has a BFO and tunes the longwave band through 11MHz.
The only regrets is cleaning it aggressively which took away a lot of the “old radio smell”, but the cedar aroma will keep the moths out.
Fantastic, Ed! Thanks for sharing. I think you made a considerate upgrade to the S-72L. Great to hear this radio plays well and has excellent audio. I found one at a hamfest once in slightly better cosmetic condition, but much worse electrical condition than your pre-restoration unit. I’m sure I took a photo of it, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives.
Post readers: any other Hallicrafters S-72L owners out there? Have you ever installed wood laminate on a radio cabinet? Please comment!
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.
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.
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?
Hallicrafters 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.
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!
Engaging 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.
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).
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.
Very, very cool! What I wouldn’t give to travel back to the CES shows of the 1970s and 80s.
According to the Levono blog, the 1970 CES was when the VCR made its debut. Amazing.
Thanks again, Bob.
I’m curious if any SWLing Post readers have attended the CES in past decades. I really wanted to attend CES in the 1990s, but since I was a university student half of that decade, I never had the funds (or justification) to do so!
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