A Dream Came True, or Contest Stations in Industrial Areas

Cover CQ Contest Oct 1996

October 1996 issue of "CQ Contest"

By Bernd Koch, DF3CB

Germany is a densely populated country. Property suitable for setting up a proper contest station is not affordable anymore. Regulations for building towers are very restrictive. Having lived downtown in a bigger community near Munich for years, and having had space on top of the roof just for a small tower holding two Yagis and an inverted Vee. I was looking for a new place to set up something bigger (the author and friends are shown in Photo A).

Right on my birthday in March 1995 I checked the German Club magazine, CQDL. My eyes stopped at an advertisement on the commercial pages. It said, "Three high transmitting towers and a transmitting room in the northern part of Munich to rent. Phone. . . " Wow! That was it! I called Thomas, DL7AV. He had already visited the place and put the news on the local packet cluster node. He described to me where the location was. It belonged to a former commercial radio company that had gone bankrupt.

It was already too late and too dark to visit the place. That night I was too excited to sleep. The next morning, before going to work, I went there. It was a semi-industrial area, and to my surprise it was just three minutes away from my workplace. Any residential buildings were far enough away, and the whole area was completely flat and had a good ground. And then the towers came into view! There were three high, self-supporting, steel concrete towers standing in a triangle, each some 70 meters apart from the others. They all had ladders for climbing, and the highest even had a large platform. A closer look determined that there was also a large swimming pool and a barbeque right under the largest tower.

The decision was easy and made within a few fractions of a second. I wanted that place! I immediately wanted to apply for it, but unfortunately the owners were on a two week business trip. My quiet and peaceful life was over! During the next weeks my mind was very busy with the first imaginary plans. I also was very nervous, because I thought someone else might be interested in renting this dream QTH. It turned out, however, that I was the only really interested applicant, and I got the okay.

The rooms were too large for my purposes, but the owners were remodeling the complete structure, and I would get a smaller room later. It finally was ready in August. In the meantime I had a lot of time for careful planning of the upcoming project.

My goal was to have a competitive contest and DX station with as few compromises as possible. The main question was the antennas, of course. The towers were already standing! I spent many evenings calculating the wind loads and reading antenna catalogs. It turned out that the largest tower was good for one very big Yagi, but it would go beyond the security limits carrying two stacked Yagis. On the other hand, it would have been a waste to put up just one monobander for one single band. Towers #2 and #3 could more easily hold two Yagis each.

The decision finally was made at the Dayton Hamvention™ in May 1995. The best deal for tower #1 was to order the Force 12 Magnum 620/340, which is a 6-element 20 meter and a 3 element 40 meter interlaced monobander on one boom, fed separately. The other antennas I ordered were a 3element 30 meter monobander by Force 12, a tribander, and a Cushcraft A3WS for 12 and 17 meters.

When attempting this type of project, it is most important to plan every step very carefully and to keep a flexible time schedule of activities. Delivery of antennas and accessories often takes much longer than you expect, delaying your schedule. You even have to think of the smallest items, such as the right screws, nuts, connectors, and tools. They are never there when you need them. A calculation of the costs is also necessary. Keep track of the expected expenses and multiply them by two; then you'll be right. Also have the right people on hand!

Dinner in Bolognia

Photo A. Bernd, DF3CB, second from the left, at a dinner in Bologna. From left to right are I4EAT, DF3CB, I4VEQ, K3EST, and I4UFH.

Everything was ready for the CQWW DX Phone Contest. We weren't going to take the contest seriously. We just wanted to see how the antennas performed and they did. I quickly became aware that I had entered a new competitive class. The CW part of the CQWW was a more serious effort. I participated in the Single Operator, All Band Assisted category. I had tremendous pile ups mainly on 80, 40. and 20 meters. Even JT, UA0L, XZ1A. BY, A61, VS6 and 9Y4 called me on 80. This was so different, because before the new station I had to call them. After the contest a dozen direct QSLs from JA's arrived noting "first DL on 80." The nonworking 15 meter antenna, however, cost me a good place in the scores.

The next project is a Force 12 four element 15 meter and four element 10 meter antenna arriving in a few weeks. It helps to have two antennas on each band; you don't lose any time turning the antennas for new multipliers. A current project is to completely automate the station, which includes switching the antennas automatically and band switching of the vertical matching network with a small self-designed micro processor, remote controlling the rotators (M² OR 2800 with built in RS232 port) and controlling the automatic amplifier (Alpha 87A).

Experience shows that stations in industrial areas have certain advantages, but some disadvantages, too. The positive aspect is that no one cares about the towers. Permission for towers is easier to achieve in these areas than in populated areas. Companies often own large properties which could be used for antenna purposes, and the infrastructure is already there, including enough AC power. A disadvantage definitely is an increased noise level. In my case it's pretty high during the week, but it's acceptable on weekends. My worst band is 160 meters, with a steady S9 noise level which can be slightly reduced by separate, small receiving antennas and filters. Another disadvantage in my case is that the location is rented. The contract will end sometime, but the owners understand that I'd like to keep the station as long as possible.

My thanks go to DL5MFF and to DL1MFL (now DK2CX). Without their great help the project would have been impossible. See you in the contests!