BeachNet Repeater System

BeachNet Repeater System

Pacific, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Thurston & Wahkiakum Counties, Washington

145.170 |  145.310 |  145.390 |  147.020 |  147.180 |  147.340 |  224.040 |  224.820 |  440.675 |  441.675 |  442.675 |  444.050 |  444.200 |  444.300 |  444.400 |  444.500 |  444.700 |  444.800 |  444.925 |  444.950



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Nicolai Mountain

Clatsop County, OR
46.08625, -123.45217
3007 Feet
Call: WA6TTR

444.500  +5MHz  118.8Hz

Nicolai UHF Repeater

Nicolai Packet Station

Site runs on batteries,
kept charged by solar
panels and a propane-fired
generator as needed. The
sun keeps things working
fairly well during the
summer months, but needs
some help come winter.

At times the link may be
down or the repeater un-
available to conserve
power. Our options are
limited with regard to
addressing this.

Please bear with us.

Location: The Nicolai Mountain radio site is about ten miles of rough logging roads south of Bradley Summit (Bradley Overlook State Park wayside) on Oregon Highway 30, a few miles west of Westport, Oregon. The ridge rises to the south with the radio site itself, at 3000-feet elevation, perched on the sheer southern face of the mountain, overlooking Jewell, Mist, Vernonia, and the Nehalem River Valley. The vantage into Longview/Kelso is good, as well as into some parts of the Portland Metro area. The land is part of the Clatsop State Forest, under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF).

Coverage: Nicolai anchors the southeast corner of our service area, including the Longview-Kelso area, north along Interstate 5, well into the overlap with the Olympia and KO Peak repeater coverage, and south to Woodland. The Nicolai repeater is usable along WA Hwy 4, from Longview, to Cathlamet and westward, where it overlaps the coverage with other
BeachNet repeaters. The Nicolai repeater is usable on Oregon Highway 53 in the Nehalem River Valley, into Nehalem, Wheeler and Manzanita. Parts of Oregon Highways 26 and 30 are covered, and it can be used in a few parts of the Portland/Vancouver area, as well as east up the Columbia Gorge, if you pick your spot carefully.

Affiliated with the
BeachNet system, the Nicolai repeater is owned by Gordon, WA6TTR, with substantial donations by NM7R and others. It is primarily intended to provide emergency communications in Wahkiakum County and the rest of ARES/RACES District Four (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark and Skamania Counties). During emergency situations, drills/exercises and at other times, the Nicolai repeater may be taken off the BeachNet network for use by District Four or Wahkiakum County.

Originally, there was a wooden forestry lookout tower on the site. In the mid 1980's, this structure (encrusted in antennas and feedlines) had fallen into disrepair, and was rickety enough to be condemned. All the users were given one year to remove their antennas. The State Forestry Department erected a steel tower, and rented space on it. Several tenants provided their own poles to avoid paying for tower space. The old lookout tower is now long gone, replaced by a new steel tower.

Hardware: The repeater consists of a GE Mastr-II 110-watt continuous duty station-style (running 40-watts), with an Arcom RC-210 controller in a 44-inch GE cabinet. The duplexer is a Decibel Products 4-cavity bandpass-notch type feeding a 9 dBd omni-directional vertical antenna through 50 feet of half-inch hardline. The repeater antenna was originally mounted atop the 30-foot Rohn-25 tower, but was moved to the larger state tower when Amateurs were relieved from having to pay a rental fee to do so. There is a UHF GE Rangr mobile incorporated as a link transceiver, with a 6-element Yagi antenna mounted on the short tower. Also tucked into the cabinet is a packet station using a 2-meter Kenwood radio, with a VHF bandpass cavity, feeding a 3dBi vertical on a pole next to the building.

Station Power: The never-very-reliable commercial power line to the site failed for the last time in 2010, with Oregon Department of Forestry unable to replace the failed buried cable. Clatsop County picked up the slack with their diesel generator until December, 2011, when they shut off the juice, removed their generator along with their radio gear, and abandoned the adjacent building. Our landlords (fortunately) wanted to stay. We came up with a plan to provide power to their (our) site. We already used a 1700-Amp-Hour battery bank to run the station, in order to cover for the never-very-reliable power line outages. To this we added a 5-kW propane-fired generator in the building, modified to include a home-brew control system allowing us to operate the generator remotely, using commands, and audible feedback over the UHF repeater. This charges the battery bank through two 80-Amp chargers. With no other power input, the generator can normally replace the daily draw on the battery bank in an hour or two.

Our original plan included solar panels, but we recognized a generator would still be needed for days when the solar input was inadequate. So, the generator came first. In August of 2015 we finally installed a pair of solar panels on the small Rohn tower to provide a base charge, and capitalize on the open southern exposure, taking some of the strain off the generator. In the summer months on full-sun days the panels are enough to operate the station and keep the batteries charged. In 2017 a second pair of solar panels was added. The 4 panels are each 250-Watt rated, so on a full-sun day the battery bank has a kilowatt available at 14-volts to operate the station and charge the batteries. For the summer half of the year, here at 46-degrees-north, our summer days can be very long, so the generator is not really needed.

The winter half of the year is a different story. Between the short, dark days with the sun low in the sky, and heavy overcast, rain and snow, which can build up on the panels, the generator is needed about every-other day or so, for a couple of hours to keep the batteries charged, depending on how heavily the station is used. The site is typically snowed in fairly heavily (4 to 6-feet or more) in winter, sometimes for several months. This makes visits to provide regular service to the generator a bit difficult, so in 2018 a second, stand-by generator was installed so that in the event the primary failed to work during one of these periods, a secondary power source would be available to keep the station operating.

The load primarily consists of our UHF repeater, VHF packet node, an APRS node, our landlord's commercial low-band-VHF repeater, which seasonally supports commercial logging operations in the verdant timberlands surrounding the site, and another UHF commercial low-power repeater. There is also a 125VAC power line to the adjacent building (hot whenever our generator is running) where the Sunset Empire Amateur Radio Club maintains the following equipment on a separate battery bank with their own soar panels:

  224.280 (-1.6; 103.5Hz) [part of the K5IN linked network in SW Washington]
  146.760 (-600; 118.8Hz) [part of the "Sunset Empire ARC" linked network in NW Oregon]
    52.810 (-1.7; 100.0Hz) [part of the "Region7Sixers" linked network in NW Oregon]

Power Priorities: Our top priority is to not kill the batteries. They are a sizable investment and without them, the station is completely dead. We will shut everything down, to save the batteries. After the batteries, our UHF repeater receiver and repeater controller are the next priorities. We need them to command the controller to tell us voltages, temperatures and other data and to turn other things back on. Matters would have to be truly dire for us to shut that receiver off, because it would then require a physical site visit to regain control of the station. Next in line is the "the Logger's" repeater. It's their hut, after all, and keeping them on the air is the real price of "free rent". We babysit the power system to keep their station on the air, in exchange for rent-free use of their building for our own gear. They even pay for the propane to run the generator. The transmitter of our repeater would be next in line. Obviously, the transmitter uses significantly more power than the receiver. We also have a link radio that couples this station into
BeachNet that can be shut off to conserve power. This isolates this repeater from the network, but keeps from using power only to unnecessarily repeat traffic on other repeaters in the system, which can be a significant power use if it is unnecessary to have this repeater as part of the conversation. After that are the packet node, APRS node and the UHF (commercial) repeater.

Site Cameras: There are three video cameras at the site to keep an eye out for weather conditions and general site security. Click here and scroll down to the bottom three images. Due to site conditions beyond our control, these may not always be available. There are no lights at the site, so during hours of darkness there will be no images available.

Packet Radio: The "NICOLI" packet radio node is located at this site. This is part of the 145.630 MHz 1200-Baud Washington Coastal EOC Packet Network. This node is primarily intended to extend the range of this network of Western Washington high-level nodes. The packet station also has a telemetry beacon (every half-hour when activated) that reports the battery voltage from the site. This provides a long-term log record of battery voltage for those who monitor the health of the system, to augment the instantaneous voltage reading always available over the UHF repeater.






145.170 |  145.310 |  145.390 |  147.020 |  147.180 |  147.340 |  224.040 |  224.820 |  440.675 |  441.675 |  442.675 |  444.050 |  444.200 |  444.300 |  444.400 |  444.500 |  444.700 |  444.800 |  444.925 |  444.950

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This Page Last Updated: 04/20/19.