Collins 21E Adventure

Paul K2ORC


Chapter 3

              The Move -- Part I

        (with something about The Weasels)
When you buy something as big as a Collins 21E, it pays to have friends -- particularly friends with  trucks, vans and moving and rigging experience. Fortunately, Norm WB2SYQ, is a Weasel. 
If you've read this project's introductory page,
you've seen mention of the Weasels. For those who don't know who the Weasels are -- and there may yet be a few such folks wandering in the Empty Quarter of Arabia or high in the Hindu Kush -- The Endicott Weasels (or Wild Weasels) --   are a small group of radio and electronics fans, mostly from western Broome
County, NY, who for the better part of a decade, have been gathering at a member's home on Saturday evening for Fests.  At a Fest we eat (in summer we grill outdoors), drink, laugh, maybe watch a movie or get on the air, and we also discuss topics ranging from guns and politics to old 78 rpm records, military history, antennas, cameras, flatus, MOSFETS, tubes, and our
opinion of Barbara Streisand. One Weasel's  driveway is paved with a mixture of gravel and the shattered remains of countless Streisand records -- which should indicate the consensus of opinion on the latter topic.

Each Weasel brings something different to the mix. We are of various ages with professions ranging from broadcast engineers and announcers to electricians to programmers and a number of other vocations and avocations.  A Weasel who has a project requiring help can depend on several Weasels appearing bright and
early on the appointed day to help him.  In a
heartwrenching emergency, such as, "The audio
transformer in my Viking just blew up" a distressed Weasel knows that another Weasel either knows how tohelp him fix the problem or have the parts to effect a repair.  In fact, sometimes all it takes is a pot of coffee, a bottle of  Diet Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew, and a dozen fresh donuts, and a Weasel or two will
appear out of the blue.
So when the time came for Norm to start to move the 21E from Owego to Endicott, he knew he could count on having plenty of Weasels on hand. In fact, there was some eagerness to be included in the project.  For how often will the average radio maven get a chance to lay
hands on an old broadcast transmitter -- especially one that he knows is ending up in a buddy's house?  A cynic might say that there is some vicarious living going on by married Weasels through an unmarried one like Norm, who can modify a section of stairs in his
house in order to drop a ton and a half of transmitter into the basement without first asking someone else if they'd mind.

The 21E move took place in several stages.  The
transformers had to first be removed from the
cabinets.  This was done by Norm and Don, N2IVW, whom you have already met.  Then the initial cabinet moving day was scheduled for mid-February.
In our part of New York, the winter of 2001-02 hasbeen The Winter That Wasn't.  Daytime temperatures have seldom fallen below 20 degrees F. (-7 deg. C.), and we've had long, mild, snowless spells more common to April. This was the case on February 16 when by rights, there ought to have been at least a
foot of snow and ice on the ground, and we should have been bundled against windblown temperatures below  freezing. Instead, we were wearing light coats and needed gloves only to protect our hands against sharp edges on the metal. The sun was shining against a deep blue sky and by mid-morning, the thermometer was
climbing to the 50 degree F. mark (10 deg. C.).


We met at Norm's in West Endicott at 9:00 am, and after coffee and donuts, left for the WEBO-AM transmitter site in Owego in a little caravan.  There was a pickup truck (Nels, KA2ZLT with his Black Lab, Cinders riding shotgun), a one-ton stake body truck (Don, N2IVW), a minivan (Paul, K2ORC with Norm WB2SYQ), a station wagon (Joe, KC2GXG) and a Chevy Tahoe (Bob, WA2VCS and Joe, N2YR).  With two meter rigs tuned to a simplex frequency, we were off across the back roads and 20 minutes later, were pulling alongside the WEBO transmitter site on the edge of the village of Owego,NY.

The transmitter site is modest --a single story, wood frame structure, the size of a generous garden shed, with a small tower surrounded by a fence standing nearby.   There was little space inside the one room building for seven healthy Weasels eager to begin dismantling and preparing the 21E for loading onto the stake body truck.  The first item on the agenda
was undoing and dismounting the remaining cables and relays.                  







Although power to the 21E had long been disconnected, we needed always to remember that relays and leads for the station's present Gates transmitter were very live, and very close to where work would be taking place.


Two of the Weasels, N2YR Joe, a licensed electrician, and 'GXG Joe, a retired utility company lineman, have extensive experience with high voltage service.  Early in the day, in my eagerness to document what was taking place, I thoughtlessly took a flash photo of something inside the building without first announcing
what I was doing.  The flash no sooner went off than someone yelled, "Whoah!"  When it was discovered where the flash had come from, I very properly got "the word" from 'GXG Joe who at the moment of the flash hadbeen quietly working behind a cabinet.


 An unexpected flash inside a small hut with high voltage runs and uncovered relays could understandably be interpreted as an arcing line or a short -- or worse --particularly by someone whose career had involved 30 years of work (and survival) around utility poles and power lines.  thereafter, photos were preceded by an announcement and a wait for acknowledgments.  We live and learn -- although those who've spent their careers around electricity might say,  "We learn and live."


While cabling was being disconnected, meters and tubes and chimneys were being dismounted.  Each tube and chimney was carefully wrapped and placed in its own cardboard box and put in the back of the Tahoe.  The four Eimac modulator and final tubes were fairly new and expensive to replace, so special pains were taken to make sure each was amply padded for the ride home.

By lunchtime, the PA cabinet was ready to be loaded onto the truck.  This was proved more complicated than had been anticipated.

The doorway of the building was more than yard above the ground. So the stake body truck was backed up to the door, and the bed of the truck was virtually level with the floor of the building.  So far so good.  But inside the building, suspended from the rafters and directly in line with the door, was a large sheet metal shroud housing an exhaust fan which was used to draw heat out of the building.  The bottom of the shroud was even with the top of the door frame.  The plan had been to strap the cabinets to an appliance dolly, tip the dolly back on its wheels and maneuver the cabinet onto the bed of the truck.  But when the first cabinet was wheeled to the doorway and tipped backwards, its top soon struck the shroud and the cabinet couldn't be gotten through the door. It appeared that the remaining 21E cabinets were going to have to somehow be moved out of the way before the PA cabinet could be gotten out of the door.  The trouble was, there was nowhere really to go with the cabinets. After some shuffling and sliding about, it was clear drastic action was called for.

The PA cabinet, still strapped to the dolly, was
maneuvered to the sole area of clear floor space,
between the wall where remaining 21E cabinets were lined up and the operating engineer's small workbench on the opposite wall.  The dolly was then tipped backwards until the cabinet was lying lengthwise on the floor. Then, dolly and all, the cabinet was manhandled by four stout Weasels out the door and onto the bed of the stake body truck.  It was a moment filled with grunts, groans and a few expletives.

The second cabinet, which housed the power supply, was a bit easier to maneuver out the door.  First of all, the cabinet, a little narrower in width than its predecessor, was considerably lighter too, having been relieved of its transformers. It made it onto the truck in short order, and with 'GXG Joe presiding, thepair of cabinets were securely lashed to the stakebody. 


 The remaining loose transmitter pieces were
stowed in the other vehicles and the caravan soon
departed for Endicott, leaving behind one cabinet,
which required some further disassembly work, for
another day.

       Next up - - - -- - -

           The 21E Meets its New Home


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