May 2015
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Archives

Categories

Failure to do Maintenance=Failure to have Tower

This is a tower behind one of our FM transmitter sites.  In the past, it has housed paging and two-way services.  It has always been sort of a slum, in my opinion.  Several times, malfunctioning or improperly installed 900 MHz paging radios from this site have caused interference with our 950 MHz STL receivers.  In recent years, all those things have gone away however, to be replaced by a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP).  Even with this change, the site is mostly overgrown and uncared for.

Yesterday, I noticed the tower was not as tall as it used to be, so I walked down the hill and saw this:

Self supporting tower after loosing top section

Self supporting tower after loosing top section

It appears this happened a few weeks ago. View from the other side:

Self supporting tower section resting on roof of building

Self supporting tower section resting on roof of building

Close up of tower section that failed:

Failure point

Failure point

Looks like the bolts that held one the flanges together failed, the tower was pushed over by a strong NE wind causing the other two legs to fail.  Truth be told, the tower had been in rough shape since the mid 90’s.  I am surprised that it stayed up this long.

Carnage

Carnage

WISP sector antennas. I don’t know if they owned the tower or were tenants. Either way, this is going to cost a few rubles to repair.

More carnage

More carnage

Looks like the shelter took a little bit of damage too. To be honest with you, I hope that this is it for this site. I would be nice if they take down the stump, scrap the lot of it and move somewhere else.

Good only in Europe

And some parts of Asia:

Equipment rack outlet with 220 Volts to ground.

Equipment rack outlet with 220 Volts to ground.

It seems the power company has some work to do. The other leg measures 28 volts to ground, which to me means the Neutral has been lost somewhere. Fortunately, the transmitter was running on 240, which looks normal on the voltmeter. Everything in the rack; the remote control, exciter, STL, etc has been damaged or destroyed.

Then of course, there is this:

Utility line

Utility line

That is the power and phone line in those trees, as it leaves the road and travels approximately 1,700 feet through the woods.  It is a private line and the utility will not do any work until the trees are cleared away.  In all fairness to the current owners, who have owned the station for not quite a year, this situation has been like this for a long time.

Accidents, mistakes, mishaps and other tales

Lets get started:

Results of a deer vs automobile accident

Results of a deer vs automobile accident

It does not look like much, however, that is about $5,500.00 worth of damage. What you don’t see is the mashed oil cooler and radiator. This happened on my way from one place to another during the early morning hours. I was traveling at about 55 MPH when a deer bolted from the woods and entered the roadway from the right. I did not have time to break.

In a ditch

In a ditch

A momentary lapse of attention causes loss of $80.00. I think I was adjusting the defroster as I was driving down the road when suddenly, I felt the car tilt over to an alarming degree. You can see the tow truck getting ready to pull it out. Fortunately, there was no damage to the vehicle.

Troubles with the neighbor

Troubles with the neighbor

This is on the access road to one of our transmitter sites. The station has a legal right of way through this property, however, the neighbor seems to object. I spoke with him and showed him a copy of our deed, he has since changed plans.

One side of a balanced audio connection disconnected

One side of a balanced audio connection disconnected

This is the downside of using category cable to make audio connections. The wires are not as rugged as say Belden 8451. This was causing problems because it is at an AM studio/transmitter site.

Burned 30 amp three phase contactor

Burned 30 amp three phase contactor

Three phase, 30 amp, 240 volt contactor installed in a 480 volt system. Lasted a few years, anyway.

White face hornets nest

White face hornets nest

New tenants on one of our towers. This is a white faced (or bald faced) hornets nest. They are really paper wasps, but that difference aside, these beasts are nasty, aggressive and have a painful sting. Normally, I am a live and let live kind of person, but in this case, they gotta go.

Dummy load attached to plywood

Dummy load attached to plywood

This is at one of our AM clients site. Somebody, quite some time ago it seems, made this test load for a 1 KW AM transmitter. It is very nice, carbon ceramic resistors, 50 ohms and surprisingly little reactance. Then they attached it to this piece of plywood. As one can surmise, the load gets quite hot under full power, full modulation conditions. We remounted this in a cage type enclosure and bolted it to the cinder block wall.

Scala PR-950U cross polarized

Scala PR-950U cross polarized

The client at this station is complaining of intermittent STL drop outs and low signal strength at the receive end. Found this Scala PR-950U antenna mounted for vertical polarization, but the antenna element is horizontally mounted. We’ll call it “vorizontal.”

Ribbon cable from a Cummins 135 KW generator

Ribbon cable from a Cummins 135 KW generator

This was discovered during routine maintenance and thankfully not during a power outage. Mice got into the control box of a newish Cummins 135 KW generator and chewed through what looks like a data buss cable. The generator would not run and the cable and control board needed to be replaced.

Bulging capacitors

Bulging capacitors

There is more bulging capacitors removed from flat panels monitors.

And so on…

Transmitter repair

Sometimes it is obvious and relatively easy, other times not so much.  This summer we have had wave after wave of afternoon thunderstorms.  It is almost like living in Florida; almost, but not quite.  Anyway, with the storms occasionally comes some lightning damage.  At most of the transmitter sites we service, every step has been taken to ensure good grounding and adequate surge suppression.  This is especially true of sites that have been under our care for a few years.  Even so, occasionally, something gets through.  After all, those five hundred foot steel towers do attract lightning.

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output tuning section

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output tuning section

This is the output section of the BE AM5E transmitter at WROW.  The transmitter got pretty trashed; a bad PA module and power supply and this capacitor in the output section.  This particular transmitter is 14 years old and this is the first major repair work we’ve had to do it.

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output tuning capacitor

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output tuning capacitor

The capacitor was fairly easy to change out.  As a general precaution, both capacitors were changed.  There was a spare PA module and power supply on the shelf, thus the transmitter was returned to full power relatively quickly.

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output forward and reflected power meters

Broadcast Electronics AM5E output forward and reflected power meters

The rest of the antenna system and phasor were inspected for damage, a set of common point impedance measurements taken, which showed that no other damage was sustained.

Next, the 30 year old Harris SX2.5 A transmitter at WSBS.  This failure was slightly more exotic; the transmitter started randomly turning itself off.  The culprit in that case was this:

Harris SX2.5 remote control interface bypass capacitor

Harris SX2.5 remote control interface bypass capacitor

Literally, a two cent part.  The transmitter remote control uses opto-isolators.  The inputs to these opto-isolators are RF bypassed to ground on the back of the “customer interface board.”  After determining that the remote control was not malfunctioning, it was down to either a bad opto-isolator or something really silly like a bypass capacitor.  This capacitor was on the ground side of the remote off terminal.  It shows short on the capacitance meter and 4.1 K on the ohm meter, just enough to randomly turn the opto-isolator on and shut down the transmitter.  Being a Harris transmitter, removing and replacing the “customer interface board” was no easy matter.  Overall, it took about three hours to find and repair this problem.

North Adams tower update

As promised in an earlier post, here is an update on the progress at the North Adams tower site for the restoration work on WUPE-FM and WNNI. For those unfamiliar, refer to this post: North Adams Tower Collapse.

A contractor installed a 70 foot wooden utility pole last week.  We ordered new Shively Versa2une FM antennas as replacements for the antennas destroyed when the tower fell last March.  These new antennas are field tunable, which is a nice feature.  The idea is that this pole will be used until the replacement tower is constructed, which is many months away.  After the new tower is up, I would like to keep the pole in place as a backup facility for both stations.

North Adams restoration work

North Adams restoration work

The bucket truck arrived but the driver had a bit of bad news; there is room for only one person in the bucket. The boss pipes up and says “Oh, that’s okay, Paul can go up and run the bucket”

WAT!

Are you sure this is a good idea?

Are you sure this is a good idea?

So anyway, it turns out running a bucket truck is not a huge deal; there is a joy stick of sorts that moves the booms around, up down, sideways, etc. Once you get the feel for it, it is pretty easy and three dimensional movement becomes second nature.  That being said, at 70 feet in the air, everything gets a little wobbly, so it is best not to jerk the controls around.

The antennas were mounted on a 2 inch pipe which was attached to the pole with 1/2 inch threaded rod. We left a little bit of pipe sticking up above the top of the pole to get the FM antennas as high a possible.

Mounting pole to tower

Mounting pole to tower

Mounting pole to tower

Mounting pole to tower

Some dude in a hang glider checking out the work

Some dude in a hang glider checking out the work

Getting photobombed by some guy in a hang glider is a new experience.  No day is exactly like another in this line of work.

WUPE and WNNI temporary antennas

WUPE-FM and WNNI temporary antennas

The antennas were tuned up once they were up on the pole. We did this with the network analyzer, which made the job very easy. WUPE-FM (top antenna) started using this antenna on Wednesday afternoon (5/7) with greatly increased power output.   This gets the station almost the same coverage area as they had before the tower collapse.  We tested WNNI (bottom antenna) and it all looked good. WNNI is still waiting for a temporary wireless internet feed for program delivery. Once that is established, we will have to do the intermod measurements one more time before they can go on the air.

Here are some pictures of the cleaned up site:

North Adams, fallen tower removed

North Adams, fallen tower removed

North Adams, fallen tower removed

North Adams, fallen tower removed

The temporary monopole being used by the cell providers:

North Adams temporary cell tower

North Adams temporary cell tower

Basically the pole is ballasted in place by those huge concrete blocks.

North Adams Tower Collapse

High winds seem to be the culprit in the collapse of two towers in North Adams. According to the Motorola system technicians, it happened at about 12:30 am Sunday morning, which is when all their link loss alarms started going off.  The larger, self supporting tower broke from it’s mounting plate and tipped over into the smaller guyed tower next to it. Effected are WUPE-FM and W226AW (WFCR New England Public Radio) as well as NEPR new station WNNI which has not officially signed on.

Cellular service for ATT, Verizon and Sprint/NEXTEL were all knocked off line as well internet services and E911 dispatch.  Those services are coming back on line, with temporary modular cell units en route. News report from WWLP channel 22, Springfield, MA:

Here are some pictures:

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

WUPE-FM antenna on the ground

WUPE-FM antenna on the ground

WUPE-FM antenna

WUPE-FM antenna

WUPE-FM STL dish

WUPE-FM STL dish

Base of WUPE-FM (formerly WMNB) tower

Base of WUPE-FM (formerly WMNB) tower

WNNI antenna

WNNI antenna

WUPE-FM WNNI and W266AW transmitter building

WUPE-FM, WNNI, and W266AW transmitter building

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

North Adams Cell Tower

Tower base mounting plate, apparent failure point

Tower base mounting plate, apparent failure point

Tower base mounting plate

Tower base mounting plate

Tower Base Mounting Plate

Tower Base Mounting Plate

For pictures of the towers during happier times, refer to this post: Filtering for co-located FM transmitters.

Restoration work is underway with WUPE-FM expected to return to air at low power by Monday afternoon.

Update:

WUPE-FM was returned to air at low power by about 1pm on Monday 3/31.  We took an unused Shively 6812 antenna that was tuned to 94.1 MHz and retuned it to 100.1 by cutting 1/4 inch pieces from the end of the elements until it was on frequency.  It took a bit of doing, but with a network analyzer, we were able to get it to 1.2:1 SWR with symmetrical sidebands.  Running 600 watts, it covers the city of license and then some.

WUPE-FM temporary antenna

WUPE-FM temporary antenna, Shively 6812

The STL antenna is a survey antenna mounted on the side of the building. In this configuration, with the leaves off of the trees, we are getting about 250 uV signal, which is pretty good.

WUPE-FM temporary STL antenna

WUPE-FM temporary STL antenna

The site is now crawling with insurance investigators, cell site technicians, North Adams fire department, Berkshire County Sheriff’s officers, tower workers, etc.  After we finished this work, we cleared out to make more room for everybody else.  Estimated restore time for W266AW is Wednesday 4/2.

Planning for the replacement tower is already in progress, I’d expect it to happen fairly quickly. The next step for the broadcasters is to put up a 70 foot utility pole and get a full powered antenna for WUPE. This should happen in the next two weeks or so. That will serve as the temporary facility until the new tower is constructed.

The roof is on FIRE!

We don’t need no water, let the… oh, wait… The actual roof is actually on fire you say?

YES: Ahh! Time to run around like crazy people!

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

This happened over the weekend at one of our clients in NY. The back story is this; over the last two weeks, the area has received almost three feet of snow. This roof is pitched slightly toward the back of the building. The roofing material is some type of PVC, which is very slippery when wet. Thus, at some point the snow/ice pack shifted towards the back of the building, it broke the natural gas pipe off where it entered the unit:

Broken gas pipe, HVAC unit 1

Broken gas pipe, HVAC unit 1

The next time the HVAC unit cycled on, there was giant torch on the roof with flames reportedly eight feet high.  A local fire fighter just happened to be driving down the road and spotted the fire, thus likely saving the building from major damage.  The fire department came and cut off the gas and electric.  The building was evacuated for about 20 minutes while they overhauled and checked for internal fires.

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

A second unit suffered the same fate, only with less damage:

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

The fire in this unit was contained to the controller area.  Same situation with the gas pipe, only it looks like the pipe was not broken all the way off:

HVAC unit broken gas pipe

HVAC unit broken gas pipe

The other two units are shut off while the gas pipes are dug out of the snow pack and checked for damage. At some point, they will be turned back on so that the heat can be restored to the second floor sales bullpen. Meanwhile, the sales people; they are complaining.

We threw a tarp over the unit with the cover ripped off because more snow is on the way:

Carrier HVAC unit tarped

Carrier HVAC unit tarped

Man electrocuted putting up a pirate radio antenna

A south Florida man was electrocuted when the antenna he was putting up struck a power line. Police say 42 year old Jean Adelphonse was working in the dark Monday night when part of an antenna to be used for an unlicensed radio station collapsed and struck a power line.  The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported that he was working on the roof of an office building where his other businesses were located.

That is rather unfortunate and completely preventable.  The first red flag here is working in the dark.  The second would be working alone.  Safety is always paramount; whether it is working on a transmitter, putting up an antenna, working on a ladder, environmental conditions such as heat, weather, etc.  In my younger days, I had gotten away with a few careless moments mainly due to blind luck.  I cringe thinking about it today.  Nothing in radio is worth killing yourself or anyone else over.

This type of thing used to happen more often when almost every house had an outside TV antenna.

Let’s be careful out there.

It lives! The PRE BMX III

I have just finished putting back together this PRE BMX III console.

PRE BMXIII analog audio console, reassembled

PRE BMXIII analog audio console, reassembled

We basically ripped the guts out of this unit and in doing so, I was reminded of how well these things are built.  The PRE BMX series consoles were truly wonders of audio engineering.  It is a testament to their ruggedness and serviceability that so many of these units are still in use twenty to thirty years after they were manufactured.

This console suffered some pretty bad water damage to the backplane:

PRE BMXIII module backplane

PRE BMXIII module backplane

Which was replace, along with many switches and buttons.  The Mic2, Mic3 and CD1 modules seemed to have taken most of the damage, there were several logic ICs and IC sockets that needed to be replaced on those modules.  Of course, this was not inexpensive; the parts were somewhere north of $3K plus about 40 man hours of labor… that adds up fast.

The good news, I think that the studio was back in service last night.

Message from the General Manager

Or whatever those guys are called these days:

lumbergh

Especially when that sink is located on the second floor, above the studio on the first floor.  ‘Tis but a small thing really, one of those little details, but in light of the sink also being clogged, it becomes very significant.  That, coupled with the fact that the building is uninhabited at night and disaster is afoot.

Clogged sink

Clogged sink

The water was running slowly all night…

Wet ceiling tiles

Wet ceiling tiles

It filled up the sink.  It ran across the floor.  It soaked the carpet. It seeped into the sub floor and out of the ceiling on the first floor and then into this nice Pacific Recorders BMX III console.

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining/drying

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining/drying

You know that burning electronic/plastic smell?  Yeah, that’s it, mixed with stale funky water, wet wood and a nondescript mildewy odor; that is what the room smells like.  Very pleasing.  The furniture below the console was soaked too:

Studio furniture after water damage

Studio furniture after water damage

Some of the input module edge connectors; they didn’t fair so well:

PRE BMXIII burned edge connectors

PRE BMXIII burned edge connectors

The backplane for the power supply buss has to be replaced and these switches with the water bubbles in them, they have to go too:

Pacific Recorders BMXIII buss select switch full of water

Pacific Recorders BMXIII buss select switch full of water

We dried out the furniture with an industrial strength hair dryer.  By three PM we had unsoldered all of the bad parts and cleaned off the modules and the console back plane.

Parts for repairs are on order from Mooretronix.  I doubt this will be repaired before next Tuesday.

Somebody came in and was all “awww, this sucks bla bla bla.”  Well, maybe, but I get paid by the hour and frankly, there are much worse things that I could be doing…

Donate


Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

Free counters!