PO Box 4044,Wilmington,NC 28406

Battleship Radio Project Part 6

The radio crew returned to Radio 2 in the fall of 2007. This year our crew consisted of hams, Bill AG4PA, Allan KX2H, Jack WD4OIN, Norman KI4SYS and Terry, ship's electrician.

The first job was to get an antenna on our TDE Transmitter. After searching through our collection of cables we found one with a connector on it that was almost perfect for a 20 meter vertical. Thanks to Terry, a new 20 meter sloping antenna was erected from one deck above main to the top of the aft stack. Terry climbed the stack and tied off the top of the vertical to the superstructure. We now had the ability to operate CW with the TBM on 40M and the TDE on 20M, but still had only one fully equipped operating position--the TBM XMTR and an RBC RCVR.

Further tinkering with the controls on the TDE indicated that the xmtr was capable of operating on 20, 30, 40 and 80 meters.

There are 3 operable receivers in Radio 2, 1 RBB and 2 RBC. The RBB covers 500KHz through 4MHz and the RBC covers 4 through 27MHz. With 2 transmitters restored to on air capability, we needed a second operating position for simultaneous operation on 2 bands. We had a Navy table in place but needed an upper shelf unit to match the first position. None were available on board, so we decide to try to build our own. One of our crew members, Norman,KI4SYS, had a good friend that was in the cabinet shop business. Johnny Peterson came over and after careful measurement was able to replicate the existing metal shelf unit in wood. Johnny did all of this work free of charge. Once it was painted, Battleship Gray of course, it is identical in appearance to its mate. Great Job!

At this point the Club was requested to assist in installing a modern telephone system to enable the Ship's staff to communicate effectively among various offices and other designated locations aboard the ship. Since 3 of the "radio crew" are ex telephone workers, the project proceeded quite briskly. We installed the equipment in the original telephone room on the ship and cut down the equipment cables in about 3 weeks. Then we had to run a tie cable from our equipment over to the telephone cable leaving the ships telephone room. Then we started the slow work of adding stations. By picking up each station that we were adding to the new phone equipment and putting a tracer tone on the station's cable pair we were able to make sure the lines were good all the way from the phone to the phone room. We did find a lot of cut cables and in some places the station cables were completely missing. Slow work but we did get all the stations that the ship wanted working.

The Ship instituted a "Hidden Battleship Tour", taking interested visitors to parts of the Ship not included in the regular public self guided tour. The main transmitter room has become one of the highlights of the "Hidden Tour".

Club members provide a discussion of the late 1930/early 1940 technology present in the transmitters and receivers, the Ship's radio communication practices during her wartime active service, long distance CW and short distance AM voice, communication security considerations, and the Club's efforts to restore the transmitters to operating condition and bring them back to life on the Amateur Radio bands.

On May 3, 2008 the USS North Carolina participated in yet another historic event. On that date, the latest version of a North Carolina warship, the USS North Carolina (SSN 777) Virginia Class Fast Attack Submarine was commissioned at the State Port of Wilmington. Several miles further up the Cape Fear River, aboard the Battleship, Captain David Scheu (USN Ret.), Executive Director of the Battleship Memorial, awaited in Radio Central to welcome Commander Mark Davis, Commanding Officer of SSN 777 and the Submarine. With Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club members present on both Ships as control operators, Captain Scheu, via 2 meter FM simplex, radioed the following message.

"Captain Davis, Welcome to Wilmington! With your arrival, of historical significance is that there are now 3 vessels in the Cape Fear River named North Carolina, the Submarine, the Battleship, and the Ironclad".

The Ironclad CSS North Carolina coincidently was built at Eagle Island in the Cape Fear River. The Battleship has been moored at that same location since her arrival in Wilmington in 1961. CSS North Carolina sank at her moorings near the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1864. Her below-the-waterline wooden hull had become infested with sea worms. The Battleship's web page,www.battleshipnc.com presents a concise history of the 5 United and Confederate States warships named North Carolina.

Just prior to Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2008, the self contained generator powering the TDE ceased functioning. The motor ran perfectly but the generator produced no output. We took many voltage and resistance readings trying to isolate the problem but couldn't pin point anything. At this pint we decided to pull the motor generator out of the back of the bay were it was mounted on shock mounts, a terrible place to try to work on it. We disconnected all the wires and placed identifying tags on them. It took 2 days to get the motor generator out of the bay. What a job!

We knew that we were missing a generator brush cap. We were able to jury-rig a method of keeping pressure on the spring clip holding the brush in contact with the commutator, a temporary fix. At this point we tried to find another brush cap. We searched the world via the internet with out any luck. The unusual thread spacing left us unable to find a replacement. We decided to check with our local Community College machine shop to see if a cap could be made. Cape Fear Community College was able to manufacture an identical replacement cap and several spares free of charge. Another great job of local community support !

Unfortunately we still could not get any output from the generator. While we were pouring over what could be the problem we found an interesting (to us) test. The fields in the generator use permanent magnets that might need to be re-magnetized every so often by running a DC current through them. We tried this and several other things like a flash start but no luck. We finally told the ship that the generator needed to be sent to a repair shop.

With the TDE down, we turned our attention to the TBK-7, a slightly earlier version of the TBM. After several initial difficulties, not unexpected, the generator turned on, the tubes lit, the meters registered (most of them anyway), and we did receive some local confirmation of ground wave reception of CW test signals. The tone report on the transmitter was excellent, better than the TBM. Unfortunately however, the TBK's generator also died. We are likewise awaiting the Ship 's decision on this generator.

While the TDE, the latest model transmitter placed aboard (1944), had a self contained generator, the TBM, TBK and TAJ rely on larger motor generator sets in a separate room . While working in that room on the generator, we discovered "maintenance" tags attached to the generators prior to the Ship's decommissioning in 1947. The TBM generator tag is reflective of all 3. "3/26/47 Motor Generator Set Type Cay-21403 Serial #10 Model TBM Radio Equip Commutator Taped Brushes Out and Attached to Gear Outside Cleaned and Checked, JW CHRISTIAN RDM 3/c"

When the original "radio crew" commenced the TBM transmitter restoration process in 2000, one of their initial steps was to remove the tape from the commutator and reinsert the brushes. 50 plus years is a long time for 1930 communications technology to sleep. Left with only the TBM in operating condition, we attempted to tune up the transmitter to operate on 20M as well as on 40M. According to the Navy Manual and the XMTR's listed operating parameters, operation between 2 and 18 MHz should be possible. Theory and practice are 2 different universes, however. We have been unable to configure the TBM to transmit on 20M. Current thinking is that we may have to reconfigure the wire antenna.

"Tuning" the TBM and the TBK requires the coordination of 9 primary and 5 secondary controls whose adjustments are read on 12 meters. The 9 primary controls are interrelated and must be adjusted in coordination with each other. Not surprisingly, the term SWR does not appear in the Navy Operating Manual. Whether the transmitter is putting out a good signal or not is essentially determined by a review of the meters, particularly the antenna ammeter, and the response of signal reports. Powering up a cold transmitter requires a 2-3 hour warm up period before drifting off of the desired frequency stabilizes. Changing operating frequency on a warm radio requires a somewhat shorter wait but readjustment of most of the controls.

The Ship and the Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club have jointly initiated a Guest Operator Program. SSB operations are conducted from Radio Central (Radio 1), using modern Ham gear fed into the Ship's original cabling and vertical antennas. CW operations are conducted from Radio 2 using all original Government Issue equipment. A modern keyer configuration may be substituted for the Navy style straight key.

With the outside air temperature and the Cape Fear River water temperature rapidly increasing, we elected to suspend restoration activities after April, 2010, and will resume in the Fall when things cool down a bit. The TBM-4 remains available for CW ops in Radio 2, Radio Central remains available for SSB, and Club participation in other Ship activities will continue through the Summer.

As the summer of 2010 starts we leave with these problems aboard: Generator for the TDE and TBK are down, we are now able to get the TBM to tune up on 20 meters but frequency stability and tone quality still need work.