In the summer of 1992, I started to make regular visits to HMCS Haida in order to assist with the operation of the ship's amateur radio station VE3CGJ. One day, a visitor wanted to see the inside of a transmitter. While removing the access panel, the handle broke so I decided to take the panel home and fix it there. In the weeks that followed, I continued to repair small items. By season's end in October, I took home several of the Marconi CSR5 general coverage receivers in order to restore them as a winter project. That's how it all began - quite innocently. Little did I know what would develop over time. After four years of intensive effort, I can safely state that the radio restoration project, is for all practical purposes, complete. Enhancements and maintenance to keep all this vintage gear operational will, however, continue into the foreseeable future.
There are some statistics associated with the restoration. The fours years of effort can be translated into approximately 1400 hours aboard the ship and hundreds and hundreds of uncounted hours at home repairing, building and researching. In 1994, Jim Brewer, one of Haida's volunteers, came on-stream to assist with wiring and his hours have been included in the total. Jointly, that represents about 171 Saturdays worth of work.
Jerry Proc, VE3FAB (left) and Jim Brewer (ex-RCN), restore part of the ship's radio remote control system.
To rebuilt the radio remote control system alone, it took 10 months and 4,000 wiring slices. A total of $2,850 was expended on direct costs and I contributed $1,650 towards 'soft' expenses over the period. Some of the direct costs were offset with one-time donations from radio clubs around Toronto. 'Friends of Haida', a registered charitable organization which provides funding for many of the activities aboard Haida, was also instrumental in offsetting some of the costs.In total, there are 107 pieces in the radio system including four crypto units, speakers, antennas and power supplies. In 1992, there were only 32 pieces on hand when I arrived on the scene. Junction boxes, cables and speaker enclosures had to be built. Missing equipment had to be located along with service/operating manuals. During a four year time span, a 184 page document titled 'Radio Systems Aboard Haida' was produced. Eventually this culminated in the research document titled "Radio Communications and Signals Intelligence in the Royal Canadian Navy".
What was achieved during the span of the project? Today, the following systems are operational:
UHF - All of the seven UHF channels have been made operational, however, since the equipment was designed to operate in the 200 to 400 MHz military band, all transmitters have been fitted with dummy loads to prevent inadvertent transmissions.
VHF - The ships TDQ transmitter is capable of operating in the 2 meter amateur band. Unfortunately, no one uses AM on 2 meters any more so this capability sits idle. The companion receiver, the model RCK monitors transmissions from Pearson International Airport and the audio is piped to the bridge and operations room to simulate a naval communications environment for our visitors. Whenever Haida came into the St. Lawrence Seaway system, a temporary VHF set was fitted for purposes of communicating with other vessels within the Great Lakes. This function is now implemented using a solid state marine transceiver which is hidden from view but connected to the remote control system. Transmissions from pleasure boats in Hamilton Harbour and the Canadian Coast Guard are also piped to the bridge and operations room.
REMOTE CONTROL - All of the fourteen radio Remote Control Units can switched to any of the Haida's twelve transmitter/receiver pairs. In addition, there is a complete intercom facility between the bridge, the operations room and two radio rooms.
RADIOTELETYPE (RTTY) - Most of the radioteletype system is functioning. In today's world of digital communications, 60 WPM RTTY transmissions are not very common, but it's still possible to copy W1AW, the headquarters station of the American Radio Relay League in Hartford Connecticut under optimum conditions.
HIGH FREQUENCY (HF) - The original four operating positions which used to receive the CW broadcast have been restored complete with functioning CW keys and typewriters. One of the Marconi CM11 transmitters in Radio 2 will remain unserviceable because the trunking for the open wire transmission line was razed many years ago and cannot be recreated without incurring an expense.
DIRECTION FINDING - The Marconi FM12 MF/DF is now functioning. The UDP 501 radar D/F receiver is fitted and functional, however, the antennas are missing.
Was the expenditure of time worth it? You bet it was! In retrospect, the outcome turned out to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding endeavours of my life. I also have to thank my kind and wonderful wife Dori, who graciously understood why it was necessary to devote so much time and effort towards this project. Over the years, many individuals donated equipment, parts, and information. They are simply too numerous to list here, but I'm most grateful for their interest and participation in the project. In particular, I would especially like to thank the Royal Canadian Navy for their sizeable contributions to the restoration. My thanks are also extended to Cdr. Bob Willson who provided me with much needed support over the duration of the period. Bob will be missed since he will retire in December of 1996 after ten excellent years of service as Haida's Captain. It was also a great privilege to have been able to recreate a historical display which illustrates RCN radio operations from a bygone era and to commemorate all those Sparkers and Communicators who operated that equipment.
Originally posted: Nov 15, 1996
Last updated: Oct 10, 2011