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K9CT Visit 2012

We visited Craig Thompson's, K9CT, contest station on May 5, 2012. Five of us from CENOIS went and two from the Champaign club went as well as Matt Comerford, KB9UWU. Craig also had another friend visiting. Craig was an excellent and gracious host and here are some pictures from our visit.

The site is located just outside Trivoli, IL (between Farmington & Peoria. It is an 18 acre site arranged N-S. It has a home, the 'shack' and the "show" barn on it. The property had previously been used for horses and had a show barn in it that Craig kept. The house has been remodeled for family use and the "shack" (I hate calling this a shack!) is the new building, 24'x74' in size. Radio room, sleeping quarters, kitchenette, lounging area and garage/workshop area. The show barn is used for large items and putting antennas together (ever see an 3 element 80 meter beam laying on the ground?). I want to say there are 12 towers but I don't remember the exact amount. Most of the towers rotate, rather than the beams, because most beams are stacked monoband beams. Craig's setup covers everything from 160 meters to 1296 MHz and he also has an EME array.
 <click on a picture to view it full size>

 
This is the view coming up the drive. Shack is on RH side (EME array just on other side of shack. Show barn is directly in front here.
 
This is to the LH side of the barn and you can see the monoband beam stacks in the background. Yes, you look up a LOT!
 
Here is a view at the garage end of the shack, looking at the EME array. Craig's plans are to use SDR radio with separate horiz & vert receivers and LinRad for EME work.
 
We're standing at the garage end of the shack looking up in his picture. The home on the property is in the background here.
 
This tower is just to the north of the shack and has the 10 meter through 1296 MHz antennas on it. I don't remember all the antennas but those are 8 element 10 meter beams stacked there...
 
This is the inside of the barn. This is where they put a lot of the antennas together. Here we're looking at the 80 meter antenna. It is a 3 element beam antenna. It had to be taken down after 60 MPH winds caused the director element to vibrate right off the end of the boom. It will be fixed and reinstalled.
 
Rolls of Heliax in back of barn near tractor. Tower in foreground, I believe was the first EME tower that got torn up by a cement truck!
 
This is a shot at the base of the busy tower. Notice the rotor at the base - the whole tower turns. The cable gate keeps the cables from getting all tangled up as the tower rotates, Craig put a bungee cord on the gate to help it 'return' back and forth as the tower rotates.
The cables run in a ditch below ground and come up in penetrations inside the shack. Everything is designed to be farmed and mowed around - you'll see the above ground guy mounts in various pictures.
 
This is the view North and to the West of the barn. Yes, Virginia there are even dipoles up there. I believe there was an 80 & 160 meter dipole. In the background are the four towers for the 80 meter 4 square. Somewhere there is a 160 meter tower and something like 2 miles of radial wire. All the towers are grounded and cad welded together. That's the SteppIR tower immediately in front.
 
This is a group shot in front of the EME array.
 
This is another group shot.
 
This is a shot of Craig and his daughter in front of the EME array. Craig and his whole family were extremely gracious and accommodating. They are excellent hosts!
 
This is the radio room. The antenna wall is the N side of the shack building. Here you're looking at the HF side of the room. Notice the very slick cabinetry / operating desks. Each position has an Elecraft K-3 and Panadapter, Alpha 1500 watt amp, a computer with (2) LCD monitors, UPS, keyer, and control equipment. Notice that the rotors are on the antenna wall? That's because the computers, network and control software do all the heavy lifting. From the screen you can pick your antenna, rotate it, choose which or all out of a stack -- everything. And includes N1MM logging software too!
 
Here Craig is demonstrating the system, how it works and just happens to be checking up on a Yemen station on 15 meters!
 
This is the VHF/UHF station, Icom 7700 and a venerable Yaesu FT-736. Transverters and amplifiers are on shelf.
 
Here's the back side of the cabinetry on the HF side. You'll notice computers, power supplies and all the cabling going up to cable trays overhead. A place for everything! The amplifiers are 220 V. Craig has 110 and 220 V panels in this room just for the equipment.
 
Here Matt is about to make that Yemen contact! This is also a good shot of a typical HF operating position. 
 
This is the lounge area and the kitchenette is right across from that.
 
This is a good shot of the antenna wall, here you can see the penetrations with the HF antennas coming in, the beam stack controls, rotors, SteppIR controllers -- all this is controlled by software running on the PCs at the operating stations. The LAN is wireless.
 
This is an overview of the whole room. On the RH side closest tot he camera is where the EME position will be setup. This position will have the SDR setup for receive.

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