6  Meters


2 - Meters 

145.430 repeater

 

146.850 repeater



 220 

440

900 Mhz

  DMR 

440.575 Mhz DMR repeater

D-STAR

D-STAR repeater


 
 



 


 


WB4GBI 146.940 Repeater

50th Anniversary!

As published in the SERA "Repeater Journal," November 2017

Written by Tim Berry, WB4GBI 

Edited by Tammy Berry, KB4TQO, and Bert Rollen, K4AR

When first introduced and licensed into the hobby, many newly- licensed ham radio operators begin their radio experience on the 2-meter amateur radio (144 MHz – 148 MHz) band allocated to hams by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and are amazed by the range that they can communicate on their hand-held radios via “repeaters”.

In the Knoxville, Tennessee area, it is not unusual for those new hams to find the 146.940 MHz repeater- built by George Shaver K4HXD in 1967, WHICH IS CELEBRATING ITS 50TH BIRTHDAY!

So, let us tell you about the repeater’s 50th Anniversary and document the very first, and the oldest continuously operating repeater in the Knoxville / East Tennessee area: 146.940 MHz located on Bluff Mountain, now owned and operated by Tim Berry, WB4GBI.  

In late 1966, a then 23-year old Amateur radio operator named George Shaver, K4HXD, moved with his wife Kathy from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Maryville, Tennessee to take a position as a communications technician for the State of Tennessee. 

A year later, in 1967, George had settled into his new job and home and was on the cusp of making local ham-radio history. Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.  Gasoline was 33 cents per gallon.  A new car cost an average of $2,800. The Beatles were a staple on AM Top 40 radio

In mid-1960’s era amateur radio, QST Magazine often published articles showing activity on two meters (144 MHz), but mostly on AM, CW, and SSB. Equipment used at the time was largely transverters or converters, or perhaps the “two-er” AM transceiver kit from Heathkit. Mobile VHF operation was cumbersome, and very short-range. FM was the “frontier”, and repeaters were the “outposts”; But George Shaver, K4HXD would soon change the ham radio “scene” in Knoxville, Tennessee.

George’s job was to work on radio equipment in the 44 MHz “Low band” range.  One of the base stations he maintained for the Tennessee Forestry radio system was located at the “Millstone Gap” fire tower on Chilhowee Mountain in Blount County, Tennessee.  George had already realized the exceptional VHF range provided by this “remote base station” for the Forestry radio users. He decided he would also do something ”radical” for the day, and do it for Amateur Radio – and eventually pass his passion on to then 8-year old Tim Berry. George decided to build a FM 2-meter ham radio repeater on Chilhowee Mountain – East Tennessee’s first!

George placed what was in 1967 referred to as a “remote base” in the Chilhowee Mountain transmitter shack to be used by amateur radio operators.  The exact equipment brand is not known today, but it was most likely a GE “progress line” or Motorola “Compa Station.”   

Unlike today, there were no synthesized two-meter radios; all 2-meter radios and repeaters were crystal-controlled (hams called them “rocks”). The frequencies utilized by K4HXD were 146.340 MHz input, 146.940 MHz output. This frequency “pair” was one of three or four “standard” frequency pairs that were active in the early 2-meter FM era (and later were often included in commercially produced 2-meter ham radio equipment). 

There were few solid-state radios. Motorola had introduced its HT-200 single or dual frequency handheld radio a couple of years earlier, but there weren’t many in the Amateur Radio service.  In fact, there were no amateur service-specific mobile or hand-held “portable” 2-meter radios; conversion of a commercial radio was necessary if one planned to operate on this new “repeater” portion of the two-meter band..  The equipment was limited to one or two frequencies.  In order to operate in other areas of the country, one would hope that the “rocks” that you had in your radio were the same as those in the area in which you were traveling..

The Amateur Radio operators of the day who set up the equipment to use this new-fangled “repeater” gadget, were amazed at the clarity and the range. Using a 10-watt mobile, they could access the repeater all over the Middle East Tennessee area.

Soon, the new 146.94 repeater became quite busy with area ham operators who frequently enjoyed using it during “drive times” to and from work.  The late Ed Hartley (Then WA4GKN) recalled that he used a Motorola “Twin-V” tube-type mobile unit to access the 146.94 repeater in 1967 when he transferred to his new job in the Knoxville area from Nashville.  Bob Glenn, W4ZTV (a close friend of George) recalls using the 146.94 repeater to talk with George in Knoxville from Chattanooga.

 

Even back in 1967 the repeater was “remote controlled”….by … you got it-- rotary dial. The repeater could be turned on and off remotely as needed by using a 1500 Hz “Secode” rotary-dial encoder. When one heard this tone coming from what was affectionately called the “finger ringer,” it was evident that the repeater was either headed off the air or just coming back on.

 

Back in 1967, neither the Carolinas Virginia Repeater Association (CVRA) nor its successor, the South Eastern Repeater Association (SERA) had been formed yet. The Tennessee Repeater Council came along after the K4HXD repeater was placed on the air.

In 1974, following several years of listening to tunable multi-band portable radios prior to licensing, a newly minted call sign of WB4GBI, appeared on the 146.94 repeater; To his great delight, Jerry Purviance, WB4USH, (now N4SH) picked him up and brought him along on a repeater maintenance trip where the 16-year-old WB4GBI became forever hooked on the building and care of repeaters.

Over time, other clubs and individuals placed repeaters on the air in high-profile locations.  The 146.940 repeater continued to serve at several sites.  In the early 1970’s, the 146.94 and its little brother 444.300 MHz repeater (which went on the air in 1973) arrived at a new site just across the road from the original one. Later (around 1977), 146.94 and 444.300 moved just 100 yards down the Chilhowee Mountain range.  It now sported a solid-state Motorola “Motrac” receiver, but the transmitter still used high-power tubes.

It continued to provide outstanding service, a new repeater was eventually constructed from surplus Motorola parts. A new six-cavity Phelps-Dodge duplexer was purchased, which allowed George to replace the split antenna system of its earlier years with a single antenna.  The FCC recognized this popular new mode and method of amateur radio communications and in 1974 began to license the repeaters separately, thus the 146.94 K4HXD repeater became WR4ADF.

George eventually left the State of Tennessee and went to work for Communications Specialists (where he was joined by Tim Berry, WB4GBI in 1980),and the 146.94 repeater moved, as well to the nearby  site where it continued to serve on Chilhowee Mountain. It was upgraded by K4HXD to a Motorola “Micor” transmitter and receiver, built from surplus parts collected by George, and a new Phelps-Dodge “Super stationmaster” antenna was installed.    

In 1985, George left the employ of Communications Specialists.  In order to allow the repeater to remain on the air at its renowned Chilhowee site, the decision was made to transfer the repeater by sale to Tim, WB4GBI.

George and Tim determined the necessary sale price, but alas, Tim was young and broke. He needed a loan to complete the transaction.  So, he went to the bank, where his then-girlfriend worked, to get the funds (it’s a sure thing, right?); She told him that the bank would not loan him the funds (duh), but SHE would…thus the impedance for a match made in Heaven was set (Editor’s Note – it was never established that Tim actually paid off the loan).

So, for the first time in its history in 1985, the 146.94 repeater now operated under a callsign other than the one held by its founder, K4HXD. Tim, WB4GBI, kept it at the Chilhowee Site until he also left Communications Specialists later that year. Tim temporarily relocated 146.94 to the Tennessee Forestry site on Bluff Mountain, but alas, that site was dismantled shortly after, and the repeater was relocated to Top of the World in Blount County, Tennessee. 

Top of the World, a site near the Look Rock fire tower, was purchased to make absolutely certain that .94 had a safe and permanent home. It was 146.94’s home from 1985 until 1998, using the same equipment that K4HXD had built in the 1980’s (3rd revision).

In 1998, Tim, WB4GBI, was selected to be the Chief Engineer of WIVK-FM and its sister stations, and this allowed some big improvements to the .94 repeater. These included moving the .94 repeater to the WIVK-FM transmitter site on Bluff Mountain (aka “Greentop”). This provided even better coverage (a new antenna was installed at 260 feet up the 330 foot tower) and gave the repeater the same 150 KW diesel generator backup power that WIVK-FM already had, allowing a stable amateur radio emergency response platform for Knoxville and surrounding counties. The antenna was again improved in 2005 and then again in 2014. In 2014, the 146.94 system was upgraded to a Motorola MTR-2000 with a CAT controller, thanks to Todd Overbay, KA4OAK.A GE MASTR II repeater remains as a spare. This year, the 146.94 repeater celebrates its 50th year of service to the Middle East Tennessee amateur radio community. It serves as the primary repeater for Middle East Tennessee Emergency Radio Service, Inc.  (M.E.T.E.R.S.; an emcomm / auxcomm group in the area) and is also the primary repeater for Middle East Tennessee SKYWARN.  The 146.94 repeater is the “go-to” repeater for any type of emergency event in the area.

Due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is often used inside the park where other means of communications (such as cellular phones) fail.

Some examples include -

         In November of 2002, .94 was on the air facilitating SKYWARN severe weather communications into and out of the region when the Mossy Grove area of Morgan County, Tennessee suffered a tornado touch-down that destroyed all other available communications in the area. The 146.94 repeater became the lead communications provider for that event;

        In April of 2004, it was also used by a teenage ham, Jordan Webb, KI4AVG, who used his portable radio to call for rescue when one of his classmates fell into a creek with strong currents in the Cades Cove area while on a school field trip; 

         In March of 2010, .94 was used by NK4N to call for the rescue of a woman who had broken her ankle on a park trail near Mount LeConte;

       And most recently, it was active and providing critical communications during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires. 

Postscript from repeater owner Tim Berry, WB4GBI: “146.94 is the oldest and longest-serving repeater in the Middle East Tennessee area. I am proud to continue the tradition established in 1967 by George, K4HXD, who left us way too soon in 1995. I am also very grateful to WIVK-FM and its management for allowing this repeater to be housed at their transmitter facility to this day.  I hope you enjoyed this look back in time, and celebrate this milestone along with me for the first repeater that I, along with many other East Tennessee amateur radio operators, ever used.  And I hope you will join us on it when your travels take you to East Tennessee.  Please check out my website, www.wb4gbi.com for more information, and I hope to hear you on 146.94 soon!   ’73 Tim, WB4GBI.“

Editor’s Note - Tim’s girlfriend in 1985, who loaned him the funds to buy .94 from K4HXD, is now known as “Mrs. Berry” (she is licensed as KB4TQO)…and the Berrys have been happily married for 32 years.

 

Happy 50th Anniversary, WB4GBI 146.940 Repeater!