… in Washington County where the reception isn’t quite what you’d hope for as there’s some interference from a local lower power station.
Here’s how we fixed that problem. By way of explanation, my buddy Scott and I are both retired. Between us we have probably 55 years of WYEP support and membership. And we both volunteer at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum where we work on the signals and wiring, including the 600-volt wire that supplies electricity to the antique trolley cars.
Our “shop” is in the southwest corner of a steel frame, metal clad building. The WYEP transmitter, in the best tradition of Murphy’s Law, is located far to the northeast. So not only do we have interference from the solar panels and various voltages in and around the building, the building itself blocks the radio signal.
Necessity being the mother of invention, we built an old-fashioned folded dipole antenna using the flat twin conductor wire that was once popular when TV antennas were the norm rather than cable and other digital media. (For those of you who don’t recall this technology, you could get decent reception of local channels with an aluminum antenna on the top of the house, or with “rabbit ears” or by taking a piece of twin lead, and shaping it into a “T.” The stem of the “T” is wired into the center of the top arm, then into the FM receiver or TV set. With a little judicious fiddling, you’d get reception – of some kind!)
A quick on-line search revealed that for the lower FM bands – which includes WYEP – the top arm of the antenna needed to be 61.5 inches long for optimum reception. So after ordering the wire from a local chain electronics supply store, and procuring some ¾” inch plastic conduit and fittings, we soon had our own “T” with a 61.5” long top arm and a stem about 8 feet tall. This enabled us to raise the antenna high enough to clear the adjacent roof line.
We hooked the lead to the receiver, and with a little fiddling by the guy perched 30 feet off of the ground (“Twist it just a hair more clockwise — little more – wait – go back a smidge.”) we soon had reception that sounded as if we were actually in the studio. Success.
This is good for listening in the shop when we work on bench projects – like painting, rebuilding relays, wiring assemblies, puzzling through 80-year-old wiring diagrams, etc.
Then we came to Part 2 of the project. When we’re out on the trolley line we use a 75-year-old work car that allows us to maintain and repair the 600 volt DC trolley wire while it’s still energized. All of the electricity in the car is Direct Current – popular back in the early 1900s – and totally incompatible with modern appliances, including radios. So, how do we take WYEP along while we’re working on the railway?
We did have a source of lower voltage DC, your choice of 24 volts or 12 volts. With a little scrounging in my basement, I found a portable FM/CD/tape player that operated on 8 D cell batteries. Hmmm. 8 times 1.5 volts equals 12 volts! Problem solved, sort of. The task was to make the wiring necessary to plug the radio into the trolley car’s 12 volt electrical system. So with some wire, solder, trailer connectors and tape, we soon had our boom box on wheels working. We’re still tinkering with the antenna there as sometimes the car is oriented north-south and other times east-west or any combination in between depending on the twists and turns of the museum railway trackage.
But we’re calling it a successful project. Now WYEP helps to power the crews that keep the power flowing to the streetcars at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Thanks, WYEP.
-WYEP Volunteer Rick
you can talk trolleys, antennas, and public radio with Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org