28.248.5 MHz & 50.074 MHz
Grid Square DN45lq
Updated: December 12, 2011
STATUS: The 10 meter Beacon is OFF the air, the 6 meter Beacon is OFF the air!
The antennas for 10 and 6 have seen 10 plus years of Montana weather abuse....they both were out of tune. I pulled them both down in the fall of 2011. I also took down the beacons and hauled them back home for rebuilding. The antennas will be stripped and rebuilt. Both transmitters will be moved into a more compact, tighter housing to keep mice out of them and make a tight! They will also have fans on each ends with grills. I hope to have them back on the air in the first quarter of 2012.
Also, please post my beacon on the 10M Beacons web page: http://10mbeacons.com/
The beacon message is as follows:
DE N7LT/B DN45 BOZEMAN, MT. TEN AND SIX METER BEACONS
DE N7LT/B DN45 BOZEMAN, MT. BEACON WEB PAGE WWW.QSL.NET/N7LT
DE N7LT/B DN45 BOZEMAN, MT. QSL SASE OR EMAIL TO N7LT AT MAIL DOT YELLOWSTONE DOT NET
DE N7LT/B DN45 BOZEMAN, MT. ANT 1/2 WAVE GP
DE N7LT/B DN45 BOZEMAN, MT. TX 5W, 1 / 2 W, 50 MW (carrier at 5 watts for 5sec), (carrier at 1 / 2 watt for 5sec), (carrier at 50 mw for 5sec), AR (5 sec of no transmission), (cycle repeats) (6 meters does NOT have power stepping capabilities so it will sound like one LONG continuous tone.)
Click for a QSL Card
Or send your report via E-mail to: n7lt @ mail dot yellowstone dot net.
Make sure you put my beacon call sign, de your call sign at the beginning of the 'Subject' so I can spot your email out of all the spam and beacon reflector emails.
Subject: N7LT/B de W1XYZ copied Beacon on 12/1/2011
104 Treweek Dr.
Kalispell, MT 59901
E-mail: n7lt @ mail dot yellowstone dot net
GRID SQUARE: DN45lq
LATITUDE: 45.68 N
LONGITUDE: 111.04 W
POWER SUPPLY: AT clone power supply
CONTROLLER: Zenith supersport laptop with 286 processor
SOFTWARE: Beacon4.bas written By Cody Snider, KC6UNN in Qbasic. Software control via the parallel port.
FREQUENCY: 28.248.5 MHz
TRANSMITTER: Hy-gain Cybernet CB board converted to 10 meters
POWER: 5 watts durring message. Three 10db power steps at the end of transmission (5, .5, .05watts), 5 seconds each.
ANTENNA: 1/2 wave ground plane 15 feet above ground
FREQUENCY: 50.074 MHZ
TRANSMITTER: Hy-gain Cybernet CB board converted to 6 meters
POWER: 3 watts, no power stepping.
ANTENNA: 1/4 Wave ground plane 15 feet above ground
IN THE BEGINNING
Back in 1984 when I first received my Novice Amateur radio license, (KA7TVT), I kept hearing these stations between 28.180 and 28.300 MHz sending a repetitious CW signal? Why did they send the same CW signal over and over again? Turns out they were beacon stations! With their continuously looping signals, I could now tell where my favorite band was open to just by scanning the beacon frequencies. Thus began my fascination with beacons and my dream to one day put my own beacon on the air.
In 1997, after years of dreaming about building a beacon, Cody, KC6UNN, finally said, "let's quit talking about it and build it!" Cody dug out a old Hy-Gain tube-type CB radio and wrote a quick and dirty program in Qbasic to control the transmitter and CW information. He called it "beacon.bas". The N7LT/B 10 meter beacon began from the remains of an old radio keyed on and off by the first PC XT clone computer I ever owned. (purchased in 1987!) The beacon ran 3 watts output into a 1/2 wave ground plane CB antenna cut down for 10 meters. The 10 meter beacon went on the air for the first time in September of 1997 and began running full time January 1st. 1998. It runs 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. The Hy-Gain tube transmitter gave up the ghost about a month after being put into service. So ended phase one.
While the tube type radio beaconed it's message to the world, we came up with ideas for a new and improved beacon. This time, we decided to use one of the many Hy-Gain Cybernet CB boards I acquired over the past 15 years. We've converted these boards from 11 to 10 meters and pushed the outputs to a full 5 watts by changing the final to a more robust type. In different projects, we've used the Hy-Gain boards for 10-FM remote bases, mobiles, spotting radios, scanners, you name it! We've even pumped them up to 6 meters and have a couple set up for mobiles and now one as a six meter beacon!
A control line was added to the transmitter section from the computer parallel port so we could use a standard PC to send the CW message by keying the transmitter on and off. In this case, we used my old original PC XT clone. We decided to take Phase II a step further and added two more control lines from the parallel port to step the power in 10db increments. This was accomplished via a voltage divider network that is controlled by binary switching of the parallel port lines from ground to +5vdc. This way, a listener could physically see on their S-meters just how weak of a signal they could receive plus compare their S-meters to the signal level changes. The two control lines from the parallel port of the computer work as a binary adder to two variable resistors. These two control lines provide 4 levels of control. Full power transmit, medium power transmit, low power transmit and off. The variable resistors allow you to adjust the medium and low power levels.
The Qbasic program written by Cody sends its various message at 15 WPM running 5 watts output. At the end of a group of different messages, it sends a long carrier to check your signal meter against. The carrier starts at 5 watts for 5 seconds. After 5 seconds the power level drops 10 dB to 500mw for another 5 seconds and finally the power level drops another 10 dB to 50mw for the final 5 seconds. After the carrier ends, the beacon sits idle for 5 seconds and then sends AR for end of message and starts the process over again. This power stepping feature should give you nice 10 dB signal levels to check propagation and your signal meter against! You'll be surprised at how dropping from 5 watts to 50 mW will make all the difference in the world or none! (It's all propagation if your not a local! :)
The antenna is an old converted CB ½ wave ground plane tuned for 28.249 MHz. It’s mounted on top of a garage about 15 feet above ground. The feed line is about 5 feet of RG-8X coax. The entire beacon and computer sit on a shelf in the garage. In the summer the garage temps hit around 120 degrees and winters down to 20 below zero.
Sometime in August of 2001, my old XT clone computer bit the dust. The XT power supply fan bearings froze and overheated the power supply which in turn fried the PC. This concluded phase two of the beacon.
Phase three of the beacon was planned a long time ago but never implemented until the computer died. After that the beacon was off the air for about 6 months. (Life's duties kept me from paying attention to the beacon like I wanted to.) Finally in February 2002 I got down to business and built the beacon into a nice old recycled 19 inch rack mounted cabinet. All the components are still the same except for the computer. It's now a Zenith Supersport 286.
SIX METER BEACON
In the new 19 inch rack housing, I added the six meter beacon right next to the 10 meter beacon. This made a nice compact package. I was also able to parallel the two beacons onto the one computer. Now I have two beacons running from one power supply and computer! The complete beacon package on 10 and 6 looks clean and sharp now. Not so many wires hanging all over like before. The six meter beacon has a quarter wave vertical made out of a old scanner antenna. When we tested the six meter beacon back in 1999, we had it on the air for a couple of days. In that short time we had a number of responses to requests for signal reports. Since it's been on the air for a year now, I've received just a handful of reports. Hey! If you hear the six meter beacon, let me know OK?
The six meter beacon was built in 1999 and was finally put into service March 2002. It seems to be working great! Please send reports!!!
The power levels for both repeaters are set with a VERY accurate Oak Hills Research model WM-1 QRP watt meter. Any other watt meter just can't accurately measure such low power levels. Before I began using the OHR WM-1 meter, I used a different meter which I thought was accurate. Turns out my power levels were 5 watts, .5 watts and .3 watts. (on 10 meters) NOT VERY ACCURATE! Now, you know, when you hear the 5 watt, .5 watt and .05 watt levels, You know you are hearing accurate power levels!
Since the beacon system crashed to the concrete floor on November 18, 2002. I've began Phase IV. Phase IV was completed and sports a new power supply (another computer switcher) built into the bottom of the cabinet. This cleaned up the looks and the area required for the beacon system. Now the only two items are the beacon cabinet and the laptop. Nice and compact! The PC power supply is from an old Pentium machine. The PC power supply was labeled to deliver 8 amps at 12 volts DC. MUCH more current than I needed but nice and compact to fit into the bottom side of the cabinet (the beacons are on the top side). I had to change a voltage divider network in the switching power supply to get the voltage boosted from 12 DC (which the beacon didn't like much) to 13.8 Volts DC which runs the beacon much better. PC power supplies are GREAT power supplies if you ever need a high current, small, lightweight power supply for 12 to 14 volts. You'll find an excellent article on how to modify PC power supplies in May 2002 QST page thirty five.
The beacon elevation is 4,575 feet above sea level. The mountains surrounding the area are:
Bridger Mountain range, 6 miles
East at an elevation over 8,000 ft. ASL
Hyalite Mountain range, 20 miles South at an elevation of over 10,000 ft. ASL
Gallatin mountain range, 28 miles South West at an elevation of over 11,000 ft.
Tobacco Root Mountain range, 50 miles West at an elevation of over 10,000 ft.
Big Belt Mountain range, 50 miles North at an elevation of over 10,000 ft.
As of September 2010, the 10 meter beacon has been on the air for 13 years and has logged over 1.3 million transmission message loops and almost 75 thousand hours online! The 6 meter beacon has been on the air since March 1, 2002.
I've been keeping a log book on the performance of the beacon. Check it out below.
|Date||Loops||Hrs On line||Notes:|
|6-11-04||985,212||44,586||Reset, OK, Changed auto exec file for computer to auto boot program instead of start up procedure|
|8-28-04||990,807||45,101||Reset, Changed speed from 200 = 10 wpm to 150 = 15 wpm|
|9-5-04||993,716||45,302||On air, Changed speed back to 200 = 10 wpm from 150 = 15wpm|
|10-9-04||995,507||45,467||Reset, took three times, Laptop DEAD!|
|12-26-04||914,100||38,323||New Laptop, Zenith 286 Slim Sport|
|2-26-04||929,196||39,812||On air, set clock in laptop, found totals mistake.|
|2-26-04||1,010,603||46,956||Corrected totals for current date since computer change|
|8-27-04||1,047,534||50,590||Off air, reset, OK|
|10-09-04||1,058,087||51,630||On air, modified email address|
|12-22-04||1,063,190||52,153||Off air for a month or so, Laptop has CMOS error, reset|
On air, checked antennas: 28.249 – swr=1.2, R=44, X=8. 50.074 – swr=1.6, R=27, X=0
|8-16-06||1,113,175||57,273||On air, Memory error, changed setup to 512K memory OK|
|8-31-06||1,113,372||57,294||Off air, Error, Non system Disk, hit enter & works OK|
|12-23-06||1,130,333||59,035||Off air, Error, Non system Disk, hit enter & works OK|
|8-7-07||1,168,207||62,933||Reset due to power sut off for service of barn, changed speed from 300 = 7.5 wpm to 150 = 15 wpm|
|9-4-07||Reset Beacon - would not reset|
|7-24-08||1,192,181||65,140||Took computer to Norms, tested fine, reinstalled on beacon, now working again|
|8-19-08||1,197,360||65,672||Installed KB7KB temporary UPS|
6m=SWR=1.6, R=28, X=0 Res @ 51.921, SWR-1.1, R=44, X=5
10m=SWR=1.3, R=42, X=12 Res @ 27.876, SWR=1.2, R=58, X=8
|11-27-08||1,212,129||66,791||Computer on but not running, Date & time way off. Reset date & time.|
|3-15-09||1,245,942||69,293||On air, Cleaned 10 meter ant, Still bad / intermittent swr, Tightened hardware.|
|10-4-09||1,260,608||70,439||Off air, computer down.|
|11-27-09||1,260,658||70,445||Off air, computer down, found bad UPS.|
|11-29-09||1,260,935||70,473||Computer off again, bad UPS|
|7-11-10||1,306,074||74,989||Off air, computer dead - removed entire beacon for service/computer replacement|
|12-24-10||1,306,074||74,989||10 meter on air, new HP Pavilion 6553 computer, 6 meters off, broken antenna cable at chassis|
FUTURE BEACON PLANS
I've come up with some new and interesting ideas for the beacon. Phase 5 will hopefully take place someday soon. I've since moved away from Bozeman and now live in Kalispell, Montana near the Canadian border. About 320 miles (5 hours at 70mph) north of Bozeman. Working on the repeater is difficult and my great plans of building a bunch of solar stand alone additions to the beacon are a dream of the past. What I would like to do is get the beacon hours and loops into the transmission message so everyone can hear and copy the data. That would be good code practice for you guys and good info for contact verification. I hope I can get the program re-written someday soon.
Reaching even further into the future, I'd like to someday see if we could build a robot beacon! Kind of like what you heard from the RS-12/13 beacons before they died a sudden death. Beacon operators in Europe have a few robot beacons already. My approach will be pretty basic and simple. The beacon will transmit it's signal as normal but at the end of each transmission, it will listen for about 5 seconds for it's call and then record the callers call sign. When it hears AR, the beacon responds with the callers call sign and a QSO number. Something like that to begin with anyway....would any of you be interested in such a beacon?
My other idea is a compact-portable beacon. A beacon transmitter built as small as possible that outputs 1 watt. A PIC controller for the CW generator/keyer, and a 3 foot magnetic loop antenna. The power would be a gel cell battery and a small solar panel. What do you think?
What a blast my beacon projects have been! More fun than all of my repeaters and remote bases put together. It’s your emails, letters and QSL’s that make it fun! Check out what Joost, ZS5S from South Africa said,
"You will be pleased to hear I could easily copy your beacon. I could faintly hear parts of the 50 mW dash as it came out of the noise, depending on QSB."
Incredible that my beacon is even
reaching South Africa from Montana let alone with just 50mW!!!
Keep the reports coming! I promise I'll try and keep up with the QSL's.
Favorite 10 Meter Beacon Links:
If you would like your 10 meter beacon listed here, drop me an email and link and I'll add it.
List updated 1/5/07
10 Meter Beacon list:
Bill Hayes, a long time Beacon DXer and keeper of a VERY up-to-date beacon list can be seen at WJ5O . Thanks to Bill for such a great beacon list!
Click here for Beacon Pictures.`
Actually, this is a Caricature drawing created for my QSL card by my good friend Loren who lives in the area. Loren's a fantastic artist but DOES NOT do Caricatures anymore so please do not contact him asking for one. Not even for money!
OK, OK, to see REAL photos of the clown who owns the N7LT Beacons and web page...Click here!
Please email me at n7lt@maildotyellowstonedotnet. - Please remember to change the words "dot" to a period to reach me. Sorry about the cryptic address but the Spam has become intolerable and this method keeps about 90% of it out of my inbox.
Current conditions at Beacon site