The Big Rig from North Walsham – By John Heys G3BDQ

This is a true story, all the events taking place in early September 1947. For several months during that year I was living in a Guest House in Church Road, St. Leonards, a detached red brick building named Tudor Court. My bedroom/shack was on the top floor and the proprietor was G3–D who ran the place for his mother who also had an hotel on the seafront. G3–D was a year or so younger than me and had gained his licence a few months after my call was issued. He was another ‘John’, was married and employed my mother as a live in Housekeeper. His XYL had a young baby and disliked anything to do with running Tudor Court.

There had been an ‘ad’ in Shortwave Magazine placed there by an ex-RAF Technical Officer who was prepared, for a price, to build transmitters for the technically inept. He held a pre-War G6 call sign and was located in North Walsham, a large village in northern Norfolk. John had that common affliction ‘Power Mania’ and ordered the build of a powerful rig using a pair of 813 tetrodes. At that time John and I were still enduring the conditions imposed upon new amateur licence holders; a maximum power INPUT of 25 watts, CW operation only and the compulsory contacting of at least 25 other CW stations during the coming 12 months. John certainly didn’t mean to do things by half. In early September he learned that the big rig was completed and phoned back to Norfolk to say that he would be over to see it before it was taken down to St. Leonards. G3—D asked if I would like to travel up there with him. I agreed.

The Journey

John’s Petrol Ration was exhausted so he came to some shady arrangement with a chap who was employed doing some work on the house and without getting any permission from his employers ‘did a deal’ with him. John had arranged the use of a 15 cwt van with a tank filled with ‘red’ petrol for the weekend. I thought the deal was above board and arranged with owner of the vehicle. We were scheduled to arrive in North Walsham on the Sunday morning so set off on Saturday evening a little before nightfall sunset being at around 7.45 pm that weekend. The journey was at first uneventful and it seemed no time before we skirted Ipswich and went over to the A140 Norwich road. By then it was fully dark. We felt a bump. We had run over a rabbit. John slung the coney into the back of the van and once more we were on our way. About half way around the Norwich ring road an Officer of the the Law flagged us down with his torch and John asked “Everything alright Officer?”. “No Sir” came the reply “your offside rear light is not working”. “You cannot proceed until it is fixed.” The policeman held is torch whilst John lay on his back and fiddled with the wiring. Eventually, Eureka, the light came on and we could continue on our way. Nearing our objective it was still very dark so we parked off the road somewhere until daylight appeared. It was then very early so we just sat and talked until about 7 o’clock when we made our way to the home of the G6.

North Walsham. and our return

A ring on the bell and eventually a lady in a dressing gown appeared and although obviously very surprised asked us in. Her husband the G6 came into the room of the cottage where we sat whilst his good lady prepared what she called ‘a little something’ for our breakfast. She came into the room a plate in each hand, tripped on a mat or something and our breakfasts went flying across the floor. She offered to make the meals again but we told her that just toast and, marmalade would suffice. About 8.30 the G6 John and I walked over to his shop where in a basement room stood the big rig. It was housed in a 6 foot rack and had weighty ‘Woden’ chokes and transformers on the bottom chassis with the modulator, driver, and power amplifier in ascending chassis. It had numerous meters knobs and dials and certainly to my eyes and John’s eyes too it appeared to be a very desirable piece of equipment. Returning to the house it was arranged that later in the day the G6 and his wife would drive over to St. Leonards with the Big Rig where it would be installed and tested on the Monday. The couple would stay overnight at Tudor Court.

We left Norfolk midmorning and approached a stone ‘hump’ bridge somewhere in Kent on a ‘B’ road.  As we ascended it another car came towards us rather rapidly from the other side. G3—D slammed his foot on the brakes and we came to a stop just in time to avert an accident. Sadly his footwork resulted in a broken brake cable and we had to carry on towards St. Leonards with just a working hand brake. By the way, before leaving North Walsham John presented the rabbit to the G6 and his spouse.

The final outcome

There were two amateur radio stations at Tudor Court. John had a nice downstairs room for a shack and his antenna was a long wire 100 or so feet long which was up at about 35 feet and ran down to a large tree at the end of the garden. My gear was in my bedroom upstairs, with an 1155 receiver,  transmitter drive stages on a table and the PA on the floor. My antenna was a 68 ft VS1AA (a variety of Windom) with a bend in it which was suspended between two chimney stacks only about 6ft above the flat section of roof.

I decided to keep well away from the new rig’s installation downstairs .  and left John and the G6 to get on with the setting up and testing. At about 4pm John burst into my room and said he wanted me as a witness for the big transmitter was not fulfilling the terms of its specification. He said that I could testify that despite its size and complexity it could just about give out enough power to light up a 60 watt light bulb. Upstairs my rig with its solitary ex-RAF PT15 pentode could easily match the output of the new gear downstairs with its pair of 813s. John told the by now disconsolate rig builder about my transmitters performance and produced one of the old style bowl shaped 500 watt electric fires. He gave the Norfolk gentleman an ultimatum, “If you can’t even get a glow on the element of this fire I shall phone the Bank and stop my cheque.” Of course I knew, and no doubt so did the G6 that matching his transmitter to a fire element would be an almost impossible task and be bound to fail. After breakfast the big rig its builder and his wife were homeward bound  with a heap of gear on the backseats and in the car boot on their way to North Walsham.

No more offers to build equipment appeared in the magazines and we never again heard of the G6 and his shop in Norfolk. Maybe he went  bust or perhaps he just stopped trading in the amateur radio business. We shall never know.

I sometimes wonder if our couple from North Walsham eventually ate that rabbit? It would first entail be-heading, skinning and eviscerating the unfortunate creature.

By John Heys G3BDQ – Vital Spark February 2013.

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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.

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