Boat Anchors

Owning, restoring, and operating "boat anchors" is a part of this hobby that many hams, young and old, have come to love. It links the present to the past. Today's state-of-the-art brings us fantastic technology, and one of the most significant is the software defined radio or SDR. I have been in this hobby for over 50 years and have seen a tremendous evolution of radio gear from my "Novice days." It's simply fun to own the past and the present. Other adjectives may be more appropriately applied, but what fun it is to power up the old tube gear and chat with someone just as well as using the modern stuff.

At one point, however, my "obsession" boiled over and I had more radios than I could possibly use. It finally began to taper off, and I had picked up another hobby and obsession: HO-scale model trains. To find more room and help finance the new hobby, I began to sell off most of my boat anchors, keeping my Novice station, the Globe King 500, and a few others. Oh yes, I still love this part of the hobby, just scaled down.

These are but a few of boat anchors I have owned:

My Novice station

My novice station consisted of a Heathkit AT-1 and a Hallicrafters S38, like the ones pictured below.

novice rig

AT-1 and S-38

I used a large DPDT knife switch for antenna change over. My first antenna was a 40-meter dipole. That was the only band I operated for about six months; I then got a multi-band vertical. Both the AT-1 and the S-38 were poor performers, but I was having too much fun to notice. The units in the picture are both in excellent condition. The S-38 has NO scratches anywhere, and paint looks new.

S38 front view S38 back view

Built in 1946, this was the first receiver in the S-38 series. The S-38 changed both design and appearance over a period of years into the 50s. As I understand, the suffixes ranged from A through E.

You can see this one has the original back and bottom. The back is in good shape except for a tear above the antenna terminals. It also has the original screws. The bottom cover has the factory alignment certification sticker. This unit performs to its original specs (not good ones!). It's broad as a barn, but it's not very stable :)

Oh, I also have the original three-color manual and service bulletin for this baby.


Globe King 500


This Globe King 500 is my favorite. The restoration is documented elsewhere, so I will not say too much about it here. This old transmitter was a "bucket 'o rust" when I acquired it. Now I love using it to talk to the Texas 75-meter morning crew.

It uses a 4-250 in class C for a final amp, although I have a 4-400 in it. This is the one really bad design flaw. WRL did not use enough plate potential on the final to realize its efficiency capability. The HV supply provides only 1500 volts with today's higher line voltage (117+ instead of 110). The 4-250 should run at 2500 volts. The tube puts out about up to 400 watts with 500 drawn from the supply.

I use this transmitter mostly on 75 and 40 meters. It works OK on 20, but the output really falls off on the higher bands. I think the main problem here is that the minimum capacitance of the tuning capacitor in the pi-network is way too high and the network efficiency falls drastically. This would be a good candidate for modification. I don't have that much incentive, since I hardly operate any other band but 75. :)

I changed the modulator tubes from the original 5514s to 811As, which required changing the filament transformer for them.

Collins 75A-4


I swapped with Jerry, K5SOP, for this one. I have replaced all .01 uF, 0.1 uF, and coupling capacitors in this baby. I modified the AVC and audio amplifier with the K7CMS mods. I also added a circuit board (non-intrusive) to allow me to monitor the IF. I have buffed up the knobs and escutcheon. This receiver really plays!

Below is reworked chassis:



Central Electronics 10B SSB Adaptor with Command Set VFO


Want to go back to the REAL SSB early days? Most hams in the '50s could not afford Collins SSB gear like the Gold Dust Twins and had to find less-expensive means to get on SSB. The Central Electronics 10-B provided the average ham a means to switch to the "new" mode. The 10-B uses the more complex phasing method to generate SSB. Central Electronics provided an instruction booklet on modifying the ubiquitous (at that time) ARC-5 transmitter. The 5 to 5.5 Mc output range was mixed with the 9 Mc oscillator in the 10B to produce single sideband output. The mixing scheme obviously uses multipliers to generate RF on each band. For 80 and 20 meters, no multipliers are used.


E.F. Johnson Ranger

Johnson Ranger

I found this at the--where else?--Belton, Texas hamfest and bought it for a good price. Thankfully, it is not in the same shape as the Globe King was. It has been modified and worked on as there are several non-original holes in the back of the cabinet and wires taped off with electrical tape.


RME 4350

RME 4350

This receiver was produced in the early '50s. Right after the war, RME produced the 45, followed by the 4300, and then the 4350 with the A model later. It is a very good receiver design. Its stability is not even close to the Collins receivers with their permeability tuned oscillators, but it is surprisingly sensitive on the higher bands and doesn't drift to badly.

Back in the very early 70's, my station consisted of an Apache transmitter with an SB-10 single sideband adaptor and an RME 4350 receiver. The receiver really wasn't meant for SSB as it had no product detector, but with careful control of the RF gain, one could receive it with the BFO.

I picked up this RME 4350 off of ebay also. It has been repainted, but as you can see, it was done very well. I have just recently picked up a 4301 SSB adaptor for it. It is on the list to be restored.


Heathkit twins

heathkit twins

Heathkit Apache transmitter and the matching Mohawk receiver

The transmitter is a coming together of three different Apaches. The receiver I got from my good friend Steve, K5LTK, in Radio Harwood, Texas. It has worked like a champ from day one.

Neither the Apache nor the Mohawk were ever recognized as stellar performers. But as far as Heathkits go, they did an admirable job. The transmitter had the nickname A-scratchy, because the audio section emphasized the high end. It didn't have that deep AM broadcast sound, but it was able to cut through noisy conditions. It can run 100 watts output, and it was fairly stable. The Mohawk is a rare bird, because it cost too much. Top-of-the-line receivers could be had for about the same amount of money, and you didn't have to build them! You might see one Mohawk for every ten Apaches. Nonetheless, the Mohawk was a very good dual-conversion receiver for its day. It has three gain controls: RF, IF, and AF. It has a five-position IF filter switch, and the filters really work! It also has a variable IF notch and noise blanker. These units are in very good condition. The front panels look almost new. Chrome knobs are also rare for these units; most had a satin finish. I got these off other Heathkit parts units I found at hamfests. Aren't they pretty?


Other BAs in my collection

Drake 2B

Drake 2B receiver with 2-BQ Speaker/Q-multiplier



E.F. Johnson Adventurer

I picked up this at a local swapfest. The guy I got it from bought it as a kit when he was a novice. I wondered why he would sell his original novice station after all these years! He drilled a hole in the front panel (alas) where he had once mounted a neon bulb of all things.


Collins 75A-3

75A-3 front

75A-3 inside