Jul 222016

I want to thank the membership as a whole for supporting me as Vice President over the last 8 months. Informative meetings, fun extracurricular activities, and Field Day wouldn’t be possible without each and every one of you. 

As many of you already know, per the bylaws, I’ve assumed the role of President following the resignation of Nelson DeSousa. Nelson has worked hard for the club for the past two years, implementing new ideas and changes that have laid the groundwork to build up TCRA into a strong, active club. He deserves a round of applause for a job well done, and we as a whole wish him the best. 

As President, I plan on continuing full steam ahead to continue to build upon what my predecessors have worked so hard to accomplish. After reading the text on our website about W2LI’s glory days, I see no reason why we as a club can’t achieve the same accomplishments as our forefathers. Back in the day, our club was revered, winning national competitions, winning Field Day, contributing articles to QST, and being very active within the amateur community. While these are lofty goals, they are non the less goals that we should work to continue to strive for. This requires hard work and dedication, not only from the leaders of our club, but also from the membership as a whole. It takes many hands to accomplish great things, and I hope that you all will join me in this adventure. 

A club like ours is only as strong, educational, and determined as its foundation is – you, the members. I’m counting on you all to help us continue to move forward and grow the club into a prosperous organization. 

As always, I am always open to all of your suggestions, ideas, and input. Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me with your questions, concerns, or thoughts on how we can continue to advance TCRA. 


Rob Fissel


Jun 302016

This year’s Field Day efforts culminated in fun, food, friendship, and lots of QSO’s all across the US and Canada. An excellent effort was made to improve a number of aspects from last year’s setup from a technical perspective, yielding dividends in our increased score. 


Setup started promptly at 9 am in the Watchung Reservation by TCRA members and guests. This year, we focused on improving our receiving capability, and implemented a number of wire loop antennas. These included a vertical 40 meter loop antenna, a horizontal 40 meter loop antenna, and a horizontal 80 meter antenna. While antennas were being pitched, other members were busy erecting the large emergency air conditioned tent and deploying generators, courtesy of Trinitas Hospital (thanks to Paul, KD2DRM and his lovely wife Stacy). 


TCRA ran an all-ICOM line up this year. Pete, W2IRT provided his IC7000 for the CW station. Rob, K2RWF had his IC7100 on hand for the digital station, while Joe, KB2OYJ provided his IC7200 for the sideband station, rounding out our 3A efforts. Craig, KD2INN, was kind enough to provide his IC7100 for the GOTA station. We were active on bands 80-6 meters, making contacts on every band. We were active for all 24 hours, making at least one QSO during every hour of the event. Over 500 of our contacts were CW, the digital station made about 120 PSK contacts, and sideband rounded us out with another 420 contacts. Guest operators included Pete (W2IRT), James (KB2FCV), Rob (KB2OYI), and Justin (K2JEB). The club had 21 members in attendance for at least part of the event, and had 17 general public visitors come through to learn more about Amateur Radio. 

Our score was greatly improved by beefing up our CW and digital (PSK) operations, accounting for more than half of the total contacts made at 2 points per QSO. The club also focused on adding as many bonus points as possible. We had our Safety Officer (KD2DRM), an educational activity (Fox Hunt Learning – AA2ZJ), passing a message to our section manager, a visit from a local police officer (Jonathan Regan – Union County Sheriff’s Office), a visit by Hudson Division Vice Director Bill Hudzik W2UDT, press releases to media outlets and local news papers, a GOTA station, 100% emergency power via portable diesel generators, hosting in a public location, a public information table, social media presence (via TCRA’s Facebook page and event), and an online web submission of our Field Day results. 

Score Totals:

1023 QSO’s total

  • 118 PSK QSO’s
  • 497 CW QSO’s
  • 408 Phone QSO’s

Total Score Claimed (including bonus points): 4426 (a 2x increase from last year!)



TCRA really put on a good food exhibition. Burgers and hot dogs a plenty. Specialties included Stacy’s meatballs and baked ziti, Nelson (KD2CYU) and his marinated beef short ribs, Rob (KB2OYI) and his middle of the night brats and peppers & onions, and Eric’s (WB2LMW) fantastic breakfast sandwiches early Sunday morning.

Tear Down: 

Thanks to advanced planning and learning from last year’s Field Day break down, wheels were up from the Wachung Reservation at 2:55 PM – just under one hour after Field Day officially ended. Organization was key, as everything had a place to go, and all participating members and guests provided a helping hand to keep things moving along quickly. 

What we learned:

Our first snag focused on the generators. Two of the three generators had leaky fuel lines coming from the diesel tanks. Gerry Miller ran out to an auto supply store to retrieve new fuel line, and Justin Barbieri made the repairs. After that, the three generators delivered the power needed for the 2 AC condenser/blower units and all of the electronics/radio needs. 

Our second snag was the failure of the homebrew band pass filters in short order. LIve and learn! We muscled through the local oscillator phase noise and both interband and intraband interference for the remainder of the exercise. 


The conclusion? A successful, fun filled Field Day for TCRA. Believe it or not, preparations are already under way for 2017 Field Day, as we look to continually improve our abilities and equipment. A sincere thank you to all that took the time come out and play radio!


Jun 072016

On Saturday, April 29th, 2016, Tri-County Radio Association was treated to a tour of the studio and transmitter site of WIFI AM 1460 in Florence, NJ. We were hosted by Mark Emanuele, N2CBO, managing partner and engineer, and Joe Scocca, Chief Board Op and IT Engineer. 

We enjoyed a very relaxed tour of the site and spent time discussing broadcast radio from several different aspects. .

WIFI generates its revenue by selling blocks of time to various national and local church ministries from varied denominations. The unsold hours are filled with contemporary gospel and christian music programmed by Scocca. 

The station runs unattended much of the day using broadcast automation that times out each hour to make sure the network news and station ID run on time. The local temperature is even inserted by computer. 

WIFI’s latest addition is its brand new 5000 watt AM transmitter, manufactured by Nautel of Canada, one of the most respected names in the manufacture of broadcast transmitters. Nautel transmitters are known for their reliable, almost bullet proof performance and low maintenance. 

The station’s antenna array consists of 4 towers in a rectangular formation designed to focus the signal toward Atlantic City. The directional pattern is created by phasing 3 towers to either lead ahead of, or lag behind the main tower, called the reference tower. In addition to phasing, the surrounding towers have different antenna currents which helps create the phase relationships that steer the signal toward some areas and create nulls in others. 

Not far from the station’s antenna field is a solar array farm that supplies power for much of the radio station. 

WIFI is located on the campus of Real Life Fellowship Church in Florence, which currently owns the licence for the station which is operated under a leased management agreement by Emanuele and another partner under the name Omega Broadcasting. 

WIF managing partner mark Emanuele is a superb engineer with a broad knowledge of recording, studio construction, RF engineering, and internet broadcasting. Mark once operated one of the most successful internet radio stations, the classic rock formatted “Omega Radio” which had to close down because of excessive royalty fees. He is also affiliated with U.S. Army M.A.R.S. Joe Scocca also serves as IT manager for an internet radio station devoted to all things “Star Trek” called “Trek Radio.”

Following our tour, we were treated to a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant. TCRA thanks Mark and Joe for a really enjoyable day! If you couldn’t make it, there will be another trip in the future. 

-contributed by Pete Tauriello, W2NJU

Jun 052016

Warm and humid, but sunny, conditions greeted TCRA during our planned activation of Thomas Edison National Park (HP44) in West Orange, NJ. As part of Edison Day, a town wide street fair brought food, live music, and a beer garden. 

TCRA set up shop out by one of the park’s feature attractions, the Black Maria. Two pipe clamps secured a 25 foot fiberglass mast to support our 51′ G5RV mini. HF operations were conducted on an IC7100, and logging utilized N1MM software. All RF activities ran off of deep cycle 12 volt batteries, a nod to Edison, the inventor of DC. No power supplies! QSO’s were made on 40, 20, and 17 meters, working all the way to the west coast (CA, WY, OR, NV). 40 was mainly NVIS, working the tri-state area, New England, and VA. 20 brought us a few pleasant DX contacts, including Lithuania and Croatia. All in all, the club made over 170 QSO’s over about a 5 hour operating period!

Members in attendance included Nelson De Sousa (KD2CYU), Joe Czyzewski (KB2OYJ), Paul Biener (KD2DRM), Leon Grauer (N0TAZ), Hank Shannon (KD2DRL), Bob Grassmann (KB2BBD), Ed Grassmann (N2TDM), and Rob Fissel (K2RWF). 

A very special thanks to Terri Jung of the National Parks Service for her assistance and efforts in making this a tremendously successful event. 

Apr 042016

While solar conditions and weather were not in our favor, Joe C (KB2OYJ) and myself (K2RWF) headed off to Sandy Hook to conduct an NPOTA activation on Sunday, April 3rd. Sandy Hook is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, which also includes parks in NYC. We used my call for the activation, and our NPOTA designation code was RC08. 

We started off on 20 meters around 12 pm, and worked quite a few stations given the poor band conditions. We used Joe’s ICOM 706 rig in the truck with a hamstick 20 meter dipole. Propagation favored out into the mid-west and plains states, as well as the gulf coast states. At around 1:30 pm, we switched 40 meters, we used a simple ham stick vertical mounted to the trailer hitch, and covered into NY as well as most of the Mid Atlantic states nicely. We were lucky enough to be worked by former ARRL President, Kay Cragie N3KN! 

Winds were consistent at around 50 miles an hour for the duration of the activation. This lead to quite a bit of QSB on 20 meters when working with the hamstick dipole, which would rotate around like a weather vane, causing fading mid QSO with many stations. 

All in all, it was a very fun time, despite the low QSO numbers. We’re hoping to activate a few other National Parks prior to the year end!

Mar 212016

I’ve been asked by a number of people about my MLA design that I’ve built for QRP operations. Therefore, I’ve decided to do a quick write up on the concepts behind my design. 

First, a word of sensible warning. Magnetic loop antennas create very high voltages across the capacitor, and large magnetic fields. Enough of a magnetic field to light up a fluorescent light bulb when placed close to a transmitting magloop at qrp levels. Like all RF exposure, you (and your electronics) should have considerable distance between you and a magloop when transmitting at more than QRP levels.

It all starts with a plan. I used this excellent small magnetic loop calculator to test a number of ideas. Basically, I went as long in circumferences as I thought would be tolerable for portable operations while keeping capacitor’s limits in mind (see below for capacitor information) . The final design for me settled in at 8.5′ in total length. I decided on LMR400 for the loop element for three reasons: first, ease of coiling up for portable operations (not easy with copper pipe). Second was the fact that I gained electrical length (the velocity factor of the LMR400 is around .86). Third is that the breakdown voltage between the shield and element is high for QRP operation, north of 4,000 volts. 

I didn’t want to sink money into a high voltage air variable or vacuum variable capacitor because this was initially an experiment. We’ll see how it works with the final outcome, but I went with a 1kV 22-360pF air variable capacitor on eBay. Based on my calculations using the link above, the capacitor should be good to use on 40-15 meters and up to about 20 watts SSB. Because the capacitor exhibits it’s full range with only 180 degrees of rotation, I figured a reduction gear would be necessary in ensuring accurate tuning for such a high Q antenna. Boy was I happy I bought this. This excellent option only cost me around $25 shipped. I’ll be sure to go back to them when it comes time to play with high voltage capacitors. Of course, I stopped off at Gene’s (KJI Electronics) to grab a few SO239 chassis mounts. 

I tend to wander the great halls of Home Depot, looking and thinking about how to accomplish my objectives, rather than precise pre-planning. I ended up walking out with an electrical conduit box, cover, and 10 feet of 1 inch PVC pipe (including the elbow fitting, cross fitting and three “t” fittings) for about $25 or so.

 Electrical box with plastic removed, and the tripod screw covered in electrical tape. 

Electrical box with plastic removed, and the tripod screw covered in electrical tape. 

The conduit box needed some of the plastic removed to allow the capacitor to fit inside of it. I used a drill bit to drill out a lot of the screw mounts, and used a Dremel to remove what little was left. A quick PVC cement job on the base elbow joint to ensure the loop support remains vertical, and we were hauling the mail.  I wanted to mount this to my Manfrotto camera tripod, so I ordered this. I drilled a hole through the electrical box, and tightened down the fitting with a wrench.

I used a drill press and a hole saw to create the mounting holes for the PL259 chassis mounts, and screwed into place. Calculating the diameter of the loop from the circumferences of 8.5′ gave me a 2.8′ diameter. I cut PVC to length using a hacksaw, and hand tightened the PVC fittings into place. 

Mounting the capacitor was easy, considering that the reduction gear provided mounting holes on it. You can see two small machine bolts used to hold the reduction gear in place. Coupled with the fact that the capacitor fit snugly between the top and bottom of the box, it needed no further support to stay in place. 

The LMR400 coax was cut to length, and I used my handy DXengineering stripper to get to work. After folding the braided shield back, the dielectric foam underneath was cut away with a box cutter, and the braid was twisted onto the inner copper clad steel conductor and soldered. PL259’s attached and soldered (tip only) into place.

 Coupling loop with RG58 conductor and shield soldered. 

Coupling loop with RG58 conductor and shield soldered. 


To form the coupling loop, I used some 1/4″ soft copper plumbing pipe. The coupling loop should be about 1/5 the size of the circumference of the main loop, which worked out to be around 1.7′. I bent this into shape, leaving the pipe inside the PVC T connector. I took some RG58 coax, and soldered the center conductor to one end of the loop, and the shield to the other. I used some heat shrink to ensure that the shield and center conductor wouldn’t short out. 

Now that all the pieces were in place, I set everything up and tried to tune on various bands. This configuration allowed me to tune 40,30, 20, and 17 meters. Still no 15 or 10 meters, but beggers can’t be choosers. I’ll build another shorter length in the future for the higher bands. 

How does it work? Well, it works extremely well, considering that this thing is less than 3 feet in diameter, and doesn’t need a mast to prop it up high. I had a chance to use it on JT65 over the past weekend, and worked all over the US and Europe on 30 and 20 meters. With the antenna inside the house. Mainly stateside contacts on 40 meters, but considering the efficiency on 40 is north of -10db down(about 1/10th of the power is radiated), I’m happy with it. All contacts were made with anywhere from 5-15 watts. Another advantage of the antenna is that it is very “quiet” on receive, and that the antenna displays deep nulls (upwards of 30 dB), allowing you to null out local RFI. As far as its receive/transmit pattern goes for skywave RF, it appears to be pretty much omnidirectional. 

Extremely small (considering the size of normal HF antennas), lightweight, and really packs a “wow” factor – the magnetic loop is a fun experiment and an excellent choice for portable operations, apartment dwellers, and HOA restricted hams. 

-Rob Fissel, K2RWF