N7LT/B

28.248.5 MHz & 50.074 MHz

Grid Square DN45lq

Bozeman, Montana

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

N7LT/BCN 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.

Something like:

Subject: N7LT/B de W1XYZ copied Beacon on 12/1/2011

Thanks!

QSL Information:

N7LT/B
Lyndel Thiesen
104 Treweek Dr.
Kalispell, MT 59901
E-mail:
n7lt @ mail dot yellowstone dot net

Beacon Details:

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.

10 METERS
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
 

6 METERS
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

 


 

HISTORY:

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.

Phase I

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.

Phase II

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 wave ground plane tuned for 28.249 MHz. Its 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 III

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!

 

Phase IV

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.

LOGBOOK

I've been keeping a log book on the performance of the beacon.  Check it out below.                            

Date  Loops  Hrs On line Notes:
11-23-03 935,145 40,177  
11-29-03 935,943 40,248  
1-11-04 947,565 41,270  
3-27-04  968,369 43,102  
5-8-04 979,822 44,111 Reset, OK
6-11-04 985,212 44,586 Reset, OK, Changed auto exec file for computer to auto boot program instead of start up procedure
7-06-04 985,964 44,655 Reset, OK
7-08-04 986,015 44,660 Reset, OK
7-20-04 986,015 44,660 Reset, OK
7-23-04 986,291 44,686 Reset, OK
7-26-04 986,560 44,711 Reset, OK
8-12-04 986,629 44,718 Reset, OK
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
9-21-04 995,903 45,466 Reset, OK
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
3-13-04 1,014,198 47,311  On air
4-07-04 1,017,937 47,680 On air
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
3-11-06 1,081,689  54,047 On air
4-22-06 1,091,529 55,054

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
9-26-06 1,119,445 57,917 On air
12-23-06 1,130,333 59,035 Off air, Error, Non system Disk, hit enter & works OK
3-17-07 1,149,253 60,977 On air
5-24-07 1,161,080 62,197 On air
7-29-07 1,166,350 62,741 On air
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
8-11-07 1,168,836 63,002 On air
9-4-07     Reset Beacon - would not reset
5-29-08 1,187,182 64,624  
6-23-08 1,188,583 64,768 Reset
7-12-08     Reset
7-16-08 1,191,252 65,044 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
9-19-08    

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.
1-31-09 1,233,297 68,356 On air
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
12-27-09 1,267,783 71,146 On air
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. Its your emails, letters and QSLs 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.

 

73
Lyndel, N7LT

 

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.

     

WA1RAJ

 

VA2MGL

KA1EKS NS9RC

VA3ODX

  WC9C VA3UXB
WN2A N9SSA VE3TEN
  N9YDZ VE7MTY
     
N2UHC K0KP VK3RMH
  KA0PSE VK5 Beacons
    VK6RWA
  C3OP  
N3NIA   ZL3TEN
  DA5MMB  
  DK0IGI ZS1J

N4HLF

DK0TEN ZS6DN

K4JDR

DK0WCY  
KF4MS DF4PV 9H1IA
   
KD4MZM F5TMJ  
     
N4ESS G0AEV  
WB4WOR    
W4ES IK1ZYW  
W4TIY IT9DTU NCDXF Beacons
N4PAL   VE8AT
  I8EMG  
K6LLL   4S7B
  JR0YAN  

WA7LNW

   
K7NWS LA5TEN  
K7FFF  
 

IK6BAK

 
  IY4M (Robot)  
KC8HZM    
KC8QNO    
WA8YWO    
     

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!

Beacon Pictures:

Click here for Beacon Pictures.`

N7LT Picture:

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.

 

 

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Current conditions at Beacon site