On Friday 9/14, a link radio failed at the Spout Springs repeater site. The radio is a Yaesu FTM-100 and has been in service for about 3 years. A trip to the repeater site was performed on Monday 9/17 to investigate. With a borrowed replacement radio in hand, Stephen WM7X and McKenzie KI7LZO made the trip in the early afternoon. Once at the site, a blown fuse was found on the positive leg of the power cable of the FTM-100. A replacement fuse immediately blew as well as a third. The radio was then uninstalled and replaced with the borrowed radio. Thanks to Kevin K7KMJ for allowing his radio to be used. The radio was programmed and placed into service at about 1830. A few controller modifications were also performed. More mouse poison was placed in the repeater building to continue keeping the equipment safe from rodents. An external lock box was also installed at the repeater for emergencies. After leaving the site an extra set of keys to the facility was secured with a local ham, allowing more immediate response to the site for any outages we might experience.
The failed Yaesu radio will be sent into the manufacturer for repair or replacement.
This week will prove to be a busy one. With the assistance of Tracy W7BSD, a significant modification will occur. A tower climb is planned to install a pair of coax grounding kits. These will ground the hard-line feed-line to the tower assembly. A portion of the hard-line jacket will be removed and a shield grounding kit will then bond the corrugated shield of the hard-line to the metal structure of the tower. This will be both at the top of the tower and near the bottom. Wind blowing across the feed-line causes static build-up, and the associated noise on the repeater. The grounding kits will discharge the static to the tower which then is grounded to the earth at the base of the tower in 3 locations. Lightning strikes will also be dissipated by the same manner.
Planned work will also include the redressing of the hard-line to the brass terminators. An engineered tool will prep the hard-line coax perfectly to redress the ends. This is the extent of the coax work planned.
An additional 3 filters will be inserted into the receiver feed-line. Because of the massive RF environment present at Spout Springs, additional filtering is expected to further isolate the receiver from the transmitter. A 4 cavity band-pass filter is already installed on the receive side of the repeater, allowing only the ham band thru to the repeaters receiving radio. This is 4 MHz wide, 144 - 148 MHz. The additional 3 pass/reject filters will further restrict the only frequency to the repeaters receive frequency to 146.200. This is expected to greatly minimize the amount of desense the repeater is experiencing.
The link radio that couples the Oregon and Washington repeaters, will have a frequency and mode change. Currently, the digital mode C4FM is used to send traffic back and forth between the repeaters. The link will now be an analog emission, and be on a lower frequency.; This will improve the audio quality of traffic being received from either repeater. The audio difference will be noticeable, and the robotic, muddy quality will be gone.
The SSRA greatly appreciates the assistance provided by Tracy Bales W7BSD, and the time he volunteers to the SSRA. This is truly a labor of love for the system and we recognize him and his commitment to the success of the system.
11/24/16 Thanksgiving Morning (2:30 AM)
We realized a few hours ago that something was wrong with the Spout Springs Repeater. The repeater would stay transmitting after a remote station had un-keyed. This is not a good sign, especially when it is dark, Thanksgiving Eve, and travel plans are near. It was determined that the charging circuit in the Yaesu Repeater was NOT trickle charging the emergency backup batteries as we had though was happening. The link radio between Tri-Cities and Spout was powered with the emergency batteries. As they were slowly being discharged (dying) the link radio would at times power off entirely, as it did not have enough power to stay "awake". This caused the controllers radio port 3 COR to go high, indicating an incoming signal from Tri-Cities. When an incoming signal from Tri-Cities is present, the repeater keys up and re-transmits the traffic on the 146.800 repeater at Spout. Someone was going to have to go investigate. Stephen WM7X drew the short straw that night and planned a late night trip to the hill. On a good day, the trip would take 2 hours. Once all the materials were assembled, the trip began at midnight Thanksgiving Eve. Roads were treacherous and the snow was deep at the repeater. It took several attempts just to get through the gate due to the snow accumulation, and drifts. Once at the repeater, Stephen began recharging the batteries with 2 separate battery chargers, while the necessary wiring was completed to ensure the batteries would get charged, and stay charged. The EZ Gate 80 charging system was reinstalled and a Low Voltage Disconnect was also reintroduced to the system. Now, if the power if off for an extended period of time, the system will not allow the batteries to go below 10.5 volts. Once at that critical voltage, the repeater will be down until commercial AC power is restored. The batteries charges for about 3 hours, and then were put back in line. The charging system then took over and the over $2000 batteries were spared! Leaving the hill, in now deeper snow and drifts was just as interesting as the tracks Stephen made in the snow were now mostly covered up. Once safely off the hill, tired and rummy from the adventure, the last repeater trip of the year was completed. It nearly did not happen that night, and plans would have been for a snowshoeing trip had this one failed.
With the assistance of many, the SSRA placed a new repeater on the air in Pasco! At the annual meeting in August, the association voted to proceed on a new repeater system that would cover more of the Tri-Cities and areas to the West and North, in Washington state. A lengthy effort began, and came to realization today. The new Pasco repeater is on 146.620 MHz and uses a tone of 123 for access. The repeater install is nearly the same as the repeater site at Spout Springs. Another Yaesu Fusion DR-1X repeater, controlled externally with an SCOM 7330 controller, and a Yaesu link radio, completes the install. This configuration describes both repeater locations, at Spout and Pasco. The old SSRA Spout repeater antenna that was replaced a couple years ago, was rebuilt and repurposed, and utilized at the new Pasco site. Wacom Cavities, that were once at the Spout site, were re-tuned for Pasco, and are again in service. Hundreds of feet of feed-line were donated, with fittings, for this project. A tower and the housing for the repeater are also being provided by a NON-HAM! This has been a lengthy project with many challenges. Costs have been very reasonable, as all of the labor, mileage and related costs have also been donated. Costs for the new site will reach nearly $2K for new site, and integration into the existing Spout repeater. Plans also include a higher tower, and internet service in Pasco. Pictures will soon be posted as well. Thanks to Jack Myers, Les Sousley, Steve Johnson, Tracy Bales, John Schwab, Marc Shaffer, and Andy Lord for their generous assistance in this project.
SSRA Member and Net controller Nate Dawson has assembled and published a FACEBOOK group page for the association. Nate has been gathering content for the page. As we complete projects and association related activities, photos/videos will then be published on the website as well as on facebook. Thanks Nate for your contributions to the SSRA! You are greatly appreciated. Take a few moments to check us out on facebook and be sure to stay up-to-date, by clicking on "LIKE".
5/13/16 John (WB7JON) and Stephen (WM7X) fought snow drifts/banks, and fallen trees across the access road to access our repeater site. John thoughtfully brought his chainsaw to remove trees from the roadway. After getting stuck in the snow several times, we finally reached the repeater to install a new Yaesu DR-1X repeater, recently purchased by the association. This we will call the 2016 repeater. The old repeater (we will call it the 2015) installed last November was swapped out with this 2016 version. The 2016 repeater installed today has a few upgrades to it. A new firmware on the internal controller has given us a much shorter and adjustable squelch tail. The 2015 repeater will be shipped back to Yaesu in California, for its upgrades in hardware and firmware. This is being done under warranty, and the only expense to the SSRA will be in shipping. The SCOM 7330 Controller will be installed at the repeater site as soon as the old repeater is received back from Yaesu. Then the fun begins! Wires-X, IRLP and Echolink will all soon be available. Broadband internet service will usher in a wave of new features and upgrades to the association's membership. The Scom 7330 controller has been programmed and has already proven itself in bench testing on the 2016 repeater prior to its install today. The 7330 controller will also be installed at the site once the 2015 repeater is returned from Yaesu. The association will then have 2 fully functioning repeaters, identical in every way. If one was to fail, another can be placed into service with only a a power cord and 2 coax antenna connectors to swap. No wiring, no soldering, no configurations.
Interestingly, while at the repeater site today, we noticed that the National Weather Service Automated Weather Reporting System (NOAA WX RADIO) was being heard on the 146.800 frequency VERY clearly. Even on the repeaters input frequency, the NWS station could be heard. This points to an obvious issue with something in their operations, and we will reach out to them ASAP. The APRS (AUTOMATIC PACKET REPORTING SYSTEM) station at the repeater site was also taken off-line, until it can be properly filtered and isolated from the SSRA repeater. Again, many thanks to the association for making all of this possible! Your membership, and financial donations are what drive these upgrades.
11/15/15 The new S-Com 7330 Controller for the new repeater has been received and will be programmed soon. Once programmed, the controller will be installed at the repeater site and offer the repeater a squelch tail, static burst elimination and the return of a courtesy tone. Weather is a great concern this time of year, and safety of the crew performing this task will be paramount. Considerable time, monies and other resources have been dedicated to this project and we will see it through to completion. Broadband internet will also soon be available (weather permitting) and offer the SSRA many more enhancements to the repeater system. Upgrades being considered are IRLP and Wires-X and Echolink nodes. With broadband, weather monitoring is also being considered. Two internet cameras are already on site and should be available for viewing by members soon. Please remember this is a hobby and it is funded entirely by your voluntary contributions. None of the repeaters recent upgrades or enhancements would have been possible had it not been for the generous help from our repeater users. Thank you for your help in making all of this possible!
11/05/15 The new Yaesu repeater has been placed into service at the Spout Springs Repeater site. It is also on battery back-up and is currently at full power 50 Watts. Although the repeater is only using its internal controller, we have ordered a new S-Com 7330, for external control and added features. Presently we have NO COURTESY TONE, and the SQUELCH TAILS are extended and a bit loud. This will be corrected when the controller is programmed and placed into service in the next few weeks. Please remember to allow some time between transmissions, in the absence of the courtesy tone. More improvements coming soon. A special thanks to Gordon KK3O for his technical contributions to this entire project!
UPDATE 10/26/15~ The Yaesu DR-1X has been received by the SSRA and has passed bench testing. An external controller was also ordered on Saturday October 24th. Once the controller is received, it will go through programming and interfacing, for it to communicate with the repeater.
The SSRA membership has approved at the annual business meeting, the application for a new Yaesu System Fusion DR-1X repeater. The application, and payment of $500 was made in August, and the SSRA application was quickly approved. On August 18 2015, we were notified that our repeater is back-ordered and is expected to be delivered in 8-10 weeks. In the meantime, we have educated ourselves on the new system and how to seamlessly integrate it into our current configuration at the transmitter location. Click image below for exciting features of our new repeater.
The repeater needs to be controlled remotely, as its' operating location is not readily accessible. Although the repeater has an basic controller for simple functions, it falls short due to its' location, in our need to control it remotely. As a result, we must use an external controller. The external controller most recommended is an S-Com 7330. This $499 unit is a huge upgrade from the current 5K controller on the old GE Mastr II currently in service. The new controller will offer many upgrades and improvements of features on the repeater. In addition to a voice module (for voice ID, announcements, net schedules, etc) it has capabilities to control up to 3 repeaters. The controller will be controlled as well by a link radio, generously donated by Vern WB7RXX in Ephrata Washington. Yes, a controller that needs controlled. click the picture of the controller below for more information on it.
An upgrade also planed is that the repeater building will have internet service soon! This will be one of the biggest upgrades that the SSRA has ever seen! Eastern Oregon Internet Inc. has generously offered the SSRA, an internet feed. This will greatly improve our capabilities with the new repeater. Remote monitoring, visual inspection of repeater site, internet linking and greater control over the repeaters controller will soon be available. This is a huge benefit to the SSRA and is made possible by our friends at www.eoni.net.
ECHO-TESTING! A much anticipated feature of the new controller will also add echo-testing to the repeater. No more will a station wonder how well they are "getting into" the repeater. No more will station "Ker-Chunk" the repeater to see if they can hit it. Interestingly, just because a repeater responds to a "Ker-Chunker", does NOT indicate that they can be reliably heard. With echo-testing, a user keys a tone (command to record) into the repeater (controller actually) and then simple talks. When the user un-keys their radio, the controller plays back over the repeater what it just heard! No more will you have to ask for a signal report into the repeater or have someone tell you you are just too weak to hear. You will already know. It is a feature that has been available for many years, but the antiquated equipment we have will not support.
Weather Nets and Skywarn Nets will have greater control over the repeater. During Skywarn Nets, the repeater can "whisper" "Skywarn Net" frequently over the repeater to indicate that a weather event is occurring.
Time and/or date announcements at the top of the hour. Net schedules. Club announcements. Net reminders. And a countless other options are going to be soon available. Your repeater is going to have a voice, literally!
Building upgrades. Sheetrock was recently hung on the interior of the building. This will not only add a small measure of insulating R value to the shack, but will also assist in the rodent problem as well. Photos of this are on the home page. Click on the "photos" button.
Old Antenna. The old SSRA antenna that was uninstalled from the tower in August of 14, is in need of rebuilding. A new gel-coat of fiberglass needs to be applied to the existing fiberglass tube. It is still a viable antenna that will still serve as a backup antenna. If anyone knows how, or can offer assistance or advise in this area, please let us know. View the old antenna condition in the photos page, folder is titled "Radial Install".