WVTQ Mount Equinox, Vermont

The transmitter for Vermont Public Radio, WVTQ 95.1Sudbury is located on Mount Equinox, near Manchester Vermont.  Mount Equinox is one of the better mountain top transmitter sites to get to as it has a good access road, no jeep trails through the woods or ski lifts, etc.  The Summit is 3,580 feet (1,175 m), which is the third highest peak in the green mountains.  On a nice day, the view from the top is spectacular:

South view, Mount Equinox, Vermont
South view, Mount Equinox, Vermont

The southern view with US Route 7 cutting through the valley below.

WVTQ is a part of VPR’s classical music network.  They had a Nautel VS-1000 that had developed issues with the directional coupler.  This unit was repaired and re-installed:

WVTQ Nautel VS-1000 transmitter, Mount Equinox, Vermont
WVTQ Nautel VS-1000 transmitter, Mount Equinox, Vermont

The transmitter has a 7/8 EIA flange on the back, which had an elbow, then an adapter to a type N connector all unsupported. My boss felt that perhaps that perhaps too much weight on the EIA flange caused the crack in the directional coupler.

WVTQ transmitter racks and STL equipment
WVTQ transmitter racks and STL equipment

The transmitter site used to be in the basement of the hotel, but as that building no longer exists, it was moved over to the former RADAR site.  The RADAR site consists of four 80 foot towers arranged in a square around a building.  These towers now support two way radio equipment and the like

WVTQ transmitter site, Mount Equinox, Vermont
WVTQ transmitter site, Mount Equinox, Vermont
Finer points of GPS antennas
Finer points of GPS antennas

Your author (left) with Rich Parker of VPR discussing the finer points of GPS antennas.

Stairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven

Ladder to the top of one of the towers.

Hang Glider's view, east side pulloff, Mount Equinox, Vermont
Hang Glider's view, east side pulloff, Mount Equinox, Vermont

View from the turn off on the east side of Skyline Drive.  Known as “hang glider’s view” with good reason.  This is on the saddle that connects little Equinox with big Equinox.

On a nice day, such as yesterday, it is very pleasant.  When the road is covered in ice and snow, not so much.

Burk Autopilot

The old version of the software, that is. I like the graphical interface, just one glance is all that is needed:

Burk auto pilot
Burk auto pilot

I have not had a chance to fool around with the newer version, the screen shots on the Burk website look a little bit different.

The set up and programming of macros is pretty easy; power/pattern change times, Pre-sunrise, post sunset functions, automatic tower light monitoring, AM Directional Antenna readings, and automatic transmitter restoration routines.  If programmed correctly, the software can eliminate many of those late night/early morning phone calls, which is always a good goal.

The hard restart

Sometimes there is just no way around it, especially with some modern equipment:

Hard restart, Nautel VS2500 transmitter
Hard restart, Nautel VS2500 transmitter

This Nautel VS2500 transmitter got all cranky after lightning struck the tower (or nearby) on Friday night.  Thunderstorms in February are not unheard of, but they are unusual, at least in the Northeastern United States.

Nautel VS2500 FM transmitter, WBEC-FM, Pittsfield, MA
Nautel VS2500 FM transmitter, WBEC-FM, Pittsfield, MA

Anyway, the transmitter would not reset or restart via remote control, therefore, we had to ride the chair lift to the top of the hill and pull the plug to reset its logic and start over again.

Bousquet Ski Area Chair lift
Bousquet Ski Area Chair lift

At least the trip up to the transmitter site was scenic.  We had to wait a day for the winds to calm down, but all in all, not a terrible day.  Did I mention the scenery?

The head smasher

I have worked in hundreds of transmitter sites over the years; AM, FM, TV, HF, Two way, Paging, Cellular, etc.  So many, I have lost count.  The one thing that is always annoying is equipment that is suspended from the ceiling at just the wrong height, AKA: The Head Smasher.  It does not matter if warning signs are posted, I’ve seen them marked with black and yellow caution tap, and so on.  If it is installed low enough for somebody to hit their head, contusions will result.

3 1/8 inch motorized coax switch mounted
3 1/8 inch motorized coax switch mounted

Thus, when it came to install this motorized 3 1/8 inch coax switch, there was only one way to do it.  Installing it the other way would result in a head smasher behind the backup transmitter because the ceilings are low.  The problem with this style mounting is how to get to the motor and clutch assembly for servicing.  There is but one inch of clearance between the top of the coax switch and the transmitter room’s ceiling.  If servicing is needed, the entire switch would need to be removed, resulting in lots of extra work and off air time.

3 1/8 inch motorized coax switch cover
3 1/8 inch motorized coax switch cover

So, an idea was formed.  Why not cut the switch cover in half and put some hinges on it.  The cover itself is made of aluminum.  I was able to carefully mark it out and cut it with a jig saw.  Then, I attached a set of hinges on the back side and a set of latches on the front.  It now opens like a clam shell.

3 1/8 inch coax switch cover modification
3 1/8 inch coax switch cover modification

Now, when access is needed to either the motor or clutch, the cover can be opened up and removed.  Unless the actual RF contact fingers burn out, there should be no need physically removed the switch for servicing.

3 1/8 inch coax switch cover, modified
3 1/8 inch coax switch cover, modified

Cover replaced.  This will not have to be removed very often, in fact, I have known some coax switches that never need service.  Still, having the ability to quickly get the cover off and do some basic repairs is a good thing.