Mt Eckersley Repeater Project

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Joint Venture Comprising of Lower South Eastern Australia and Lower Western Victoria Club SERG Members

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                 07/07/2020

Bluff Repeater Now Ready For Portland Repeater Activity

On Sunday 5 July 2020 The Bluff repeater was upgraded with an improved power distribution system and the link to Mt Eckersley near Heywood was installed.

The working bee was attended by Norbert VK5MQ (the new power distribution system), Peter VK5BE (temporary antenna and spanner operator) and John VK5DJ (installation of the new link system).

A temporary antenna on 449.875MHz was installed on a fence post but it is anticipated that the yagi will be installed in a week or two about half way up the Gambier Electronics tower. Testing through 449.875MHz simplex is invited. If you operate on the simplex frequency you’ll be heard on the 2M repeater, Mt Benson, Naracoorte and Willalooka. You’ll be able to hear the action come back on 449.875MHz.

A big thanks to Brian VK5VI who did the TAIT chassis build and preparation of the transmitters and his help with the design of the sub controller.

The Mt Eckersley end is held up by weather and general conditions at the Heywood end. The hill is quite steep and wet so work is restricted to preparing the hut. Spring will bring better weather and drier hillside for the move to the top of the hill, construction of a fence and installation of the tower.

From top: UHF cavities for the three links, next the links to Mt Eckersley and Mt Benson with the sub controller in between, below this is the main controller and Naracoorte links, then the PRF1520 2M repeater and finally the 6 cavities for the repeater.

The second cabinet has the new power distribution system at the top and the battery at the bottom. The 70cm repeater is temporarily moved to the VK5DJ shack for new wiring and controller.

President Peter VK5BE and Norbert VK5MQ relax after a hard day’s working bee.

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                 24/07/2020

Today David VK3HAQ with Paul VK3HJV visited the Mt Eckersley site for the purpose to trim the new floor closest to the roller door as it was not closing right to the bottom. Also, the expanding foam was applied inside the container but needs to set properly before it is trimmed so another visit is needed. The boys had to go into Heywood as they ran out of foam so the measurement of the table did not happen. The only other matter is a small leak in the roof of the container which will be sealed next visit as well. David will also put some more blocks under the container front or rear so as to provide a slope to the roof until the container is moved up the hill.

Foam to prevent unwelcome visitors – back doors are unused.
Photo Courtesy of Paul VK3HJV

Report #6 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project  Update                                 28/06/2020

David VK3HAQ, Paul VK3HJV, John VK3FJET, Peter VK3HEW and Denis VK3VET visited Mt Eckersley today laid the floor in the container.

The next project will be to build and install the work bench.

The internal dimensions of the container are approximately 1.8m long by 2.3m wide. We will need to know where the radio rack is to be located and how big it is and how big a bench is required and where it is to be located.

After that, the major part of the project, laying the footings and the mast base will be next on the agenda. However, before that Gus will need to partition a piece of land and install the fence and gate and level the site. I will contact him asap to discuss this. Weather will be a determining factor.

Thanks to Peter VK3HEW and XYL Wife for providing afternoon tea.

Paul VK3HJV has posted some photos to the Facebook page and for those not on Facebook I have attached 2 images to the email.

Bearers going in for VK3RSW room
Finished floor

Report #5 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                  30/05/2020

Report from Portland group

This Report from Denis is a request for funds to get the building repaired. Peter will be approving this expenditure on behalf of SERG Repeater Committee as it is within budget.

Preliminary Costings (partial)

Please note:

  1. These costings are estimates and based on prices for timber from Bunnings on line and Bluescope for flashing (on line).
  2. They do not include costs for cladding or roofing. After discussion with Andrew Bainbridge he may be able to access (in the near future) some second hand sheeting at no cost or reduced cost.
  3. I have not been able to estimate footing costings yet. It is likely that the container pads will each (4 needed) be 600mm cubes. I have yet to contact Ian Mason regarding the requirements for the mast footings.
  4. Also, after discussion with Andrew he has suggested that the cladding is put on the container after it has been transported to site. As he points out there will need to be an overlap of cladding at the bottom of the container for water run-off. Putting the cladding on before shifting the container would damage the cladding.
  5. After writing the above Andrew emailed and suggested he may be able to help with some cheap screws etc and hardwood timber.
  6. However, at this stage we would like some guidance on budget for the materials shown below, so that if we need to go ahead and buy we have the authority to do so.
  7. VK5BE has made an alternative suggestion for footings but that was over the weekend and I have yet to contact a supplier.
  8. I do not anticipate any work being done now for at least a week (awaiting budget approval) and I will not be ale to get to site until Latin exams finished around 15th
  • Deleted item
  • External wall batons: Will require about 26.5m of 75*35mm treated pine @ $3.76 per metre. Approx. $100.
  • Internal floor batons: Will require about 15.0m of 90*45mm treated pine @ $5.30 per metre. Approx. $80.
  • Flooring: Will require 2 sheets 3600*800*19mm waterproof tongue/grove chipboard at approx. $45 per sheet (prices from M10 Portland). Approx. $90.00.
  • Roof support timber: Will require 3m of 190*45mm treated pine at @ $11.00 per metre; 3m of 140*45mm treated pine at @ $8.00 per metre; 3m of 90*45mm treated pine @ $5.00 per metre. Total approx. $72.00 and will depend on whether we can get the two larger sizes cut to order. The 90*45mm can be added to the requirement of the internal floor batons.
  • Flashing: Will require about 10.5m of corner flashing at $10.20 per metre approx. $110; About 6.7m of roof flashing at about $12 per metre approx. $80. Total approx. $190.
  • $150.00 for screws, glues and shrews for the taming thereof.

Total approximate cost for the above $682.

Report #4 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                   26/05/2020

Team Visit : David VK3HAQ and Denis VK3VET

David and I went to site this afternoon and David removed the remained of the flooring. This was no mean feat.

The rear LHS timber was very damp and there appears to be a crack in the outside rear container. This crack will be covered when the cladding is fitted and is of no concern.

We also prepared and applied a first application of fibreglass bog to the rusted bottom LHS corner.

Measurements have been made for the timber, chipboard and cladding requirements and we will have some idea of a budget for this part of the project shortly. Estimates will need to be made for the mast footings and the corner pads for the container. We are probably looking at pad that are 600x600x600mm per corner.

You will be happy to know that I am not running the estimates past the Australian Treasury.

Report #3 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project  Update                                  24/05/2020

Low Voltage Detector

he LVD for the Mt Eckersley repeater is now finished and working ready for installation in the VK3RSW cabinet.

The device makes use of a solid state relay. A microprocessor looks after the management of voltages. If the battery voltage falls below 11.9 volts the relay turns off and does not turn on again until the battery voltage exceeds 12.7V (80% charge) for 100 minutes. The timer ensures the battery is in good condition before the repeater is used.

The normal on range is from 13.8V (fully charged) to 11.9V (20% charge).

The device was home brewed and software program written in the VK5DJ shack.

LVD for VK3RSW (photo off centre to stop reflections)

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                   17/05/2020

Team visit 17/05/2020

Paul VK3HJV; David VK3HAQ; John VK3FJET; Denis VK3VET

  1. The outside of the container is in good condition. The rear (original) door is welded shut and it was decided not to remove the weld. At the roller door end there is rust damage at the very bottom LHS looking in. This damage is below the level of the floor but it might be prudent to repair it before the new floor is laid. The roof is in good condition.
  1. In a phone call to Gus before we went out, he suggested that we clad the outside rather than patch and paint. We thought that this was a very good suggestion as it will provide an air insulation gap as well as remove the need to patch and paint the exterior. We may be able to source some second hand zinc alum cladding either free (Gus and or VK3LTL). David has suggested using 90*45mm treated pine for batons, cut to length an screwed/bolted to the container to hold the cladding.
  1. David suggested that the roof slope from 200mm down to 100mm across the length/width of the container and again zinc alum the clad. He noted that the slope needs to be either pointing downhill or towards the clad and sealed end of the container.
  1. The old floor has been almost removed. David and Paul did all the hard work, and it was hard, as the flooring was heavy duty ply and screwed into steel bearers. Some of the steel bearers are damaged and rusted away from the support side frame. We will need to put some bracing in to help support the new floor. The new floor will most likely be heavy duty waterproof chipboard. David and I are hopefully heading out there this Friday to finish removal of the floor.
  1. In the preliminary phone call to Gus I mentioned getting the container up the hill when it is ready. He will organise a flat bed tilt tray and is going to take it up the gravel road through his neighbour’s property. This is the road access to the Telstra/Optus set up. He is prepared to cut his fence to allow access for the truck/trailer. This removes the hazard of getting the container up a very steep and slippery hill.
  1. We had some discussions (whilst enjoying the view from the top of the hill) about how the seat and bold the container into position. David had a great suggestion which involves 4 raised concrete pads to sit the container on and bolted or welded lugs to the container which will attach to the pads.

  1. David and I will draw up a materials list this Friday (time permitting) and then we can see how much we can scrounge without spending money.
View from Mt Eckersley Site

Click here to view from Mt Eckersley Mountain

Report #2 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Frequencies Update                            02/05/2020

We have received notification from ACMA that our frequencies for the new Mt Eckersley repeater will be 146.875 MHz TX (user receive) and 146.275 MHz RX (user TX).

The link frequency will be 449.875 MHz but users won’t need to worry about that.

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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Mt Eckersley Cabinet In Mt Gambier                                  21/04/2020

Thanks to Brian VK5VI for arranging the cabinet and President Peter for getting it from the VK5RHO site.

The solar charger will be mounted at the top on the non removable back of the cabinet. Below this will be the repeater for Mt Eckersley which will be on 19″ mounting holes. The cabinet is quite wide so the right hand side of the 19″ mount is on a bar that is fastened from top to the horizontal bar. This leaves about 200mm gap at the right for limited access.

Peter plans to cut an access port in the rear of the cabinet behind the repeater. Normally this will have a covering plate attached by bolts with captive nuts. The cover will maintain the vermin proofing. Rear access to plugs, antenna connections etc is necessary as Tait equipment is quite heavy and difficult to remove from the cabinet if only one person is present.

In the lower section will be placed the 4-6 cavities (until we have tested we won’t know how many we’ll need) and the battery.

We are still waiting on the allocation of frequencies although the callsign VK3RSW has been confirmed.

The VK3RSW cabinet

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Hut Update                                18/04/2020

With the very generous help from Andrew (VK3LTL) the “shack” has been delivered to Mt Eckersley. David (VK3HAQ) went out to assist Gus McLean (the very generous owner of the property) and Andrew with the unloading. And to Paul (VK3HJV) for his assistance with thoughts, ideas and comms. Between David, Paul and Andrew we have a very potent core.

The container is in good condition but will need a little bit of maintenance to the floor. This may involve replacing what appears to be marine ply or putting a false floor over the top with steel bearers and waterproof chipboard. We will most likely need to silicon seal the normal container doors (which we don’t use as this converted 20 footer has a roller door at the usable end) as there appears to be a little moisture getting in at that end. Inspection was made difficult because of the inclement weather today. A further inspection will be made as soon as the weather clears. Because of the social distancing laws there will be only one person per visit permitted and so we will draw up a roster of jobs and anyone wishing to volunteer can do so. There may be some work needed on the outside but only a light sand back and some paint.

The staging will be something like 1. Get it here; 2. Get it ready to go up the hill; 3. Prepare the site; 4. Get the shack and tower to site and on the same day dig and pour the footings, including the tower. (this operation will require a week of no rain and light winds and will only be possible when social distancing rules end); 5. Set up the solar panels and test (David is a qualified electrician – thanks again David); 6. SERG to set up and test the equipment.

There is no rush at this time as cross border travel restrictions would mean the team from VK5 would have to self-isolate for 14 days when they returned home. It is likely to be at least 90 days before this restriction is lifted. In the words of Suetonius “festina lente”.

Attached are some images. If you have any questions let me know.

The Portland Team

Hut on the trailer hired by SERG and behind Andrew’s car ready for transport
This view gives a better idea of how it looks

Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                   18/04/2020

Greetings all. In discussion with the local team and with the consent of Peter Becker and SERG we are suspending travel to Mt Eckersley until travel restrictions are lifted in Victoria. This will not impede any further planning which needs to occur. For those outside VK3 this state imposes a $1652 fine on individuals caught travelling/being away from home in breach of the rules. For those with legal minds I have just read a letter to published in Science Magazine that suggests that country by country travel restrictions such as we have violate international laws (to which this country is a signatory). In a separate post see a small piece about pets and the virus also from Science.

Report #1 from Portland Group, Denis VK3VET

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Radio Gear For Mt Eckersley Repeater Project                 05/04/2020

The repeater controller at The Bluff (Mt Gambier end) only has capacity for one repeater and two RF linking ports. The links were occupied (one to Mt Benson [Kingston ] and the other to Naracoorte) a solution was needed to supply a third RF link to Mt Eckersley.

The simplest solution was to take one link (that to Mt Benson) and split it into two with one going on to Mt Benson and the other to Mt Eckersley.

This required a new sub-controller to be designed and built.

The sub-controller would have most of the facilities of the main controller but control would be completely separate from the main via DTMF tones with a separate code access.

The sub-controller was designed and after much checking and consultation boards were ordered and supplied. One board has been populated with components and John 5DJ has preliminary software working. This is most encouraging as PCB design is always fraught with mistakes but fortunately so far all seems to be satisfactory.

Brian VK5VI has been occupied building the hardware component of the project.

Fortunately we have a spare almost completed RF subrack on hand and all that is required is some additional wiring. This will be the main component housed at The Bluff end of the link. It will have the two RF links (to Mt Benson and Mt Eckersley) and the sub-controller module. Both RF links will be Tait T85x Series II (synthesised) modules).

For the Mt Eckersley site the RF equipment will be housed in one 19″ subrack and will contain the RF link (to The Bluff), the local repeater, and the repeater controller. All radio gear is modular and should a fault occur a replacement module can easily be fitted and the faulty module returned for repair. This will almost always eliminate the need to carry test gear to site.

To reduce site power consumption all RF equipment will be of the Tait crystal-locked variety although provision will be made to replace with synthesised equipment in emergency cases.

Current status is the Mt Eckersley radio subrack is being manufactured, is work-in-progress.

We have sourced a vermin-proof lockable cabinet which will house all radio, duplexer cavities, and battery-charging equipment and which will be available once travel restrictions are lifted.

The new sub-controller board to be placed at the Bluff. Left lower plug to existing controller, Portland connector above and then Mt Benson. Small OLED display on right to indicate status of ports.

Report from John VK5DJ and Brian VK5VI

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Mt Eckersley Repeater Project Update                                 08/03/2020

Since the inaugural meeting on 16th February at Denis VK3VET QTH, much has been achieved, and still plenty more to be done.

On the RF side of things, John VK5DJ & Brian VK5VI are progressing well with the Tait 2m Repeater and the TAIT UHF equipment for each end of the link, together with a repeater controller for Heywood, plus a new custom controller for The Bluff.

All the VHF & UHF antennas have been acquired and tested, with sufficient coaxial cable (LDF4-50), with N type connectors, lightning protection, & earthing etc. The cavity filter / diplexer has been acquired, but has yet to be tuned.

A 30ft tilt-over Southern Cross windmill tower has been donated by Ian VK3DNQ, and he is currently refurbishing it with new galvanised bolts and replacing some sections with new steel-work. Ian will arrange the shipping of the tower to the Mount Eckersley site.

Norbert VK5MQ has offered to assist with the design & installation of the Solar panel system, together with the controller & battery.

Following our request to the WIA for frequencies for the 2m repeater & the 70cm UHF link, we have received a response back from the WIA, seeking our preference for a call-sign, to add to the request for the frequencies. We have responded requesting VK3RSW as our preferred call-sign

Progress regarding the hut is still stalled. As the preference is to build a brick or masonry block structure on a concrete slab, we have not yet received a final answer on whether a Shire Council permit is required. If a permit is not needed for a structure less than 10 square metres of floor area, then we can proceed quite quickly, BUT, if a permit is required, then it may take some time before construction commences. The hut size will be determined partly by the roof area needed to mount the three solar panels, although advice from Norbert is that some overhang is permissible.

Phill VK3FDAA has offered to lay the concrete slab, and Andrew VK3LTL has generously offered some bricks to build the hut. We are still searching for a brick-layer prepared to construct the hut. I have been trying to contact Brad Koenig, a bricklayer in Heywood, but he is not answering my calls.

Similarly, if the tower requires a Shire Council permit, then it too will stall things until we receive council approval.

Gus McLean, the property owner at Mount Eckersley, has agreed to assist with the laying of the slab, and construction of the hut by providing a concrete mixer and a water cart. He also will erect a fence around our facility, that will include a gate donated by Ron VK5AKJ. Gus also has offered to assist with the standing up of the tower using his big 4WD tractor.

Thanks to Paul VK3HJV, the Portland & South West Radio Group facebook group has been created, and is working very well. As it is a closed group it is restricted to people contributing to the project. If that describes you then simply request to join to allow you to read or comment on the project.

Finally, at the SERG General Meeting held on February 21st, the SERG members present voted unanimously, to allow for up to $3000 expenditure of SERG funds for the project.

Report from SERG President Peter VK5BE

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SERG Supports Portland Repeater Project 24/02/2020

At the meeting on Friday 21/2/20 the club agreed to the following actions:

  1. move the UHF repeater from the water tower to the club tower to enable easier access and mains power. Use the solar system at Portland.
  2. allocate a budget of up to $3000 for costs associated with the project

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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Portland Repeater Project Heywood Repeater Group Inaugural meeting – 16/02/2020

On Sunday February 16th, and held at the QTH of Denis VK3VET, the inaugural meeting was held to plan the Heywood repeater project on Mount Eckersley.

In attendance were Peter VK5BE (Chairperson), John VK5DJ, Brian VK5VI, Denis VK3VET, Paul VK3HJV, John VK3FJET, Peter VK3HEW, Steve VK3ZAZ, and David VK3HAQ.

Apologies were received from Ian VK3DNQ, Phil VK3FDAA, Colin VK5DK, and Gus McLean (Land owner)

Peter VK5BE opened the meeting with a summary of the progress made so far, outlining that a site sharing agreement had been secured, all RF equipment such as 2m repeater, 70cm link, all antennas, cabling, and a tower had all been (or being) acquired through SERG members including Brian VK5VI, along with the 12V DC solar power supply. Subject to club approval SERG will create a project support budget.

A letter has been forwarded to the WIA Frequency recommendation group requesting frequencies for both the 2m repeater and the 70cm link. Those present agreed that we apply for VK3RSW as an appropriate call-sign.

Discussion then followed on the topic of the type of hut to be constructed. It was agreed that a small brick and concrete hut be built on site subject to the acquisition of suitable material.

For the purposes of securing possible government grants, the Portland group will consider reactivating the dissolved Portland and South West Amateur Radio Club This will also enable the repeater to be a “WIA repeater licenced” device ensuring the licence is paid annually by the WIA in accordance with their policy of supporting one repeater licence per club.

All the VK3’s present agreed to form a repeater planning group, led by Denis VK3VET, to coordinate the construction phase of the project, and will hold planning meetings at Denis VK3VET’s QTH, with possible remote members sitting in via Skype.

Paul VK3HJV agreed to create a private face-book group for the project to keep everyone informed.

Report from SERG President Peter VK5BE

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Investigation for a Portland repeater in our network 28/01/2020

At the January business meeting, Peter VK5BE sought club support to investigate building a repeater at Portland to support our members there. The club agreed to the investigation.

Since then Peter and Col Vk5dk travelled to Mt Eckersley, just north of Heywood to see what might be possible.

While there they were able to access our Channel 6 repeater on The Bluff from ground level using a 1/4 wave antenna on the roof of Peter’s car. This gave the group some hope. The distance is 100km.

Col had brought along a yagi for 70cm and using that they were able to work the repeater via the UHF links at The Bluff. Signals were noise free and it should be understood that the UHF beams were pointing to Naracoorte and Mt Benson, not Mt Eckersley. So a link will not be a problem.

This gives strong hope that a repeater at Mt Eckersley would be a good proposition for both linking and providing coverage to the area. The view from the top was very impressive.

While there they spoke to the farmer and he was positive about hosting the repeater on his farm.

Further updates will be made when more progress is made. No final decision on proceeding with the project has been made, it’s investigations at this stage.

Current users’ tower on the other side of the fence, the boundary fence can be seen
Approx Location of Mt Eckersley Repeater Site

Report from Repeater Coordinator John VK5DJ

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