The Big One – Eric Vast

A week or so alter I had been demobbed my mate, the Post Office Engineer, came to see me all bright and breezy and announced “Lofty I have found just the job for you. Some friends of mine, who are building a Broadcasting Transmitter for the Government, have just lost their chief engineer and I have suggested you could do the job. They would like to see you”.

When I did not exactly jump for joy at the news (for I had made my number with my old employer), he mentioned a salary so enormous that I thought that I had better go and look at the thing at leas My friend, who had recently got himself a very nice job on Control Commission for Germany (Broadcasting), had managed to borrow a car, and off we went. After a while we reached a decrepit area south of London, where among bombed out buildings stood a large relatively undamaged hanger the size of a cathedral. We entered it, and were soon surrounded by a small crowd greeting me like Willy the long lost brother. They seemed to need a new Chief Engineer rather badly.I However. there before our very eyes stretched what is best described as a massive balanced 600 ohm feeder, about 50 metres long with conductors some 20 cms diameter of shining copper all mounted above the ground on big porcelain insulators.

Sitting on this track was an object like an armoured car with four wheels. A sort of insulated towrope was provided and this was how the output anodes were to be tuned, by dragging the vehicle up and down the track. As I was assured that the transmitter was medium wave it seemed that the feeder avid its shorting chariot was on the short side, if it was cover the band. the design probably included some extra fixed coils not yet in place. I asked what power the “beast” was expected to produce. I was told 750 Kw. This was a bit off-putting. I had never tried to build anything of this size before. Very little other work was on view. Some characters were engaged in constructing a rack for a lot of output valves. “Could I see the circuit please’?”.  “Well no, not really. It had gone with the Engineer but here was the list of parts! I pondered, what was going to happen when the thing was lit up? What if the floor under the feeder contained a heavy iron mesh reinforcement? How m:mv tens of thousands of Amps might try to flow between the copper pipes and the wheels of the tuning device if the aerial became disconnected? All very dodgy!

It is true that in the Middle East I had a undeserved reputation for getting transmitters to work. It was usually only a matter of exactly following the book of the words, and removing those extra shields etc. added by the would be users. I had only ever built one medium power job myself. SOB had given me two large valves it had bought in the Muski, and asked me to make them a transmitter of some 7KW output for their “Rabbits” frequency. (Inexperienced spies in the Greek Islands, who could not pick up the normal low power suitcase transceiver set).

It took me a long time before I could stop it choosing its own frequency. This may xveil be tolerated in War, but commercial gents were expecting quick answers. I was doubtful whether the Big On would work at all. Despite disappointed looks I said I must sleep on it. For a while I thought of ditching my old firm for the statuary six months and draw the very tempting salary before making an exit like my predecessor. However that would have not have been very honest, and they could doubtless have sued me. Regretfully I declined the job.

I often wondered what happened to “The Big One”. If anybody else ever met it, perhaps in some Tropical Isle, they might let me know!

Eric Vast – October 1996.

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Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

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RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

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