449.450 Has a New Trustee

Our 449.450 repeater has a new trustee.  Richard, WB5YOE, has been the trustee of this repeater for many years.  He is leaving the area to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere.  Dunnigan, K1DUN, has agreed to assume the trusteeship.

We’re very sorry to see Richard go.  He is a long-time RMRL member and has always been available to assist the club with whatever needs doing.  In addition to his trusteeship, he has served on the technical committee, organized club picnics, assisted with hamfests, climbed towers, and many other things too numerous to list.  Thanks Richard for all your help over the years – we wish you the best in your new endeavors!

WB5YOE cooks at a 1991 picnic
Richard, WB5YOE, cooks at a 1991 RMRL picnic.

Dunnigan, thank you for stepping up and supporting the club in yet another way!

Devil’s Head Repeater (449.125 MHz) Removed from Service

On June 11, 2016 a group of RMRL volunteers removed our 449.125 MHz repeater from its location at the Devil’s Head fire lookout in Douglas County. It was a coda to the 16-year operation of the “site west of Sedalia” for the RMRL club.

The Devil's Head repeater installation team - 2000.

The installation team at the bottom of the steps up to the tower.

Former RMRL member Warren, N0FVG approached the Forest Service in 1999 with a proposal to place a club repeater at Devils Head. Warren and Joe, WT0C worked with Forest Service personnel and secured a permit in August 2000. A team of RMRL volunteers installed the repeater in September 2000. The equipment was carried 1.4 miles up the trail and the last 143 steps to the tower on a gurney. Ed, KA0ZAS was in charge of the repeater installation.

The devil is in the details: 143 steep stairs tops the easy hike up the mountain.
The devil is in the details: 143 steep stairs tops the easy hike up the mountain. Total round-trip is 2.8 miles; bottom to top is a 940 ft. rise in elevation.

In its early years, the 449.125 MHz repeater was used by the Front Range Electronic Direction Finders (FREDF) group for training and coordinating aircraft ELT signal searches. Perhaps the repeater’s finest hours came in 2002 when it was utilized extensively for health and welfare traffic during the Hayman forest fire. The repeater’s excellent coverage of the fire area to the west and the populated Front Range to the east made it ideal for this purpose. More recently the repeater has supported general club communications.

Amazing view from the top of Devil's Head.
The view from the top of Devil’s Head is stunning. A view of the tower from the north after the repeater was installed. The repeater’s antenna is at the far right. Devil’s Head Lookout is the last of the seven original Front Range Lookout towers still in continuous use.

On June 11, 2016 the repeater was removed. This was done because the U. S. Forest Service declined to renew the club’s permit. Brian Banks, District Ranger of the South Platte Ranger District, indicated amateur radio is not consistent with the fire lookout’s use and detracts from the public’s enjoyment. He also expressed concern about interference. Mr. Banks denied our permit renewal application despite the fact there have been no aesthetic or interference complaints involving our repeater in the almost 16 years it was at Devils Head.

The removal team from left to right: Graham (K1DUN’s son); Dunnigan, K1DUN; Ed, N0MHU and daughter Beth; Glenn, WN0EHE; Skyler, KD0WHB; Anna, W0ANT; Joe, WT0C; Mike, KI0GO. Not pictured: Mimi, N0KRB who took the photo.

As of this writing, the RMRL is looking for a new home for the 449.125 repeater site. If you know of a location that may be suitable, please inform any of the officers.

Many thanks to the volunteers who disassembled the repeater and antenna and transported them down. A shout-out also to the Columbine LDS church youth group who gave us much-needed assistance in carrying out that heavy cabinet!

Squaw Mountain repair 2016-June

Last week (first week of June, 2016), the Squaw Mountain site was left without power following a lightning storm. This took both RMRL repeaters (146.940 and 449.450) off the air, including for the June 6th weekly net. The backup generator failed to start automatically. When commercial power returned two days later, the replacement power company transformer put out 160 VAC instead of the normal 120 VAC and damaged several pieces of equipment at the site. Fortunately, RMRL’s well-designed system prevented the increase in power from taking out any critical or expensive components.

Glenn (WN0EHE) and Dunnigan (K1DUN) made a trip to the site on Sunday, June 12th. It was discovered that a single MOV in the power line filter had blown, thereby interrupting the AC current overload and protecting the rest of the system. We replaced some transient protectors and were back on the air. The 146.940 and 449.450 machines are, once again, fully operational.

Squaw Mountain repeater hit by lightning June 2016
Glenn (WNØEHE) troubleshooting the system on June 12th (2016)
Squaw Mountain lightening strike - replacing a filter
This little AC power line filter had to be replaced.

IRLP Node 335(0) temporarily moved to the 145.430 – Updated: moved back!

4/22/2016: IRLP Node 335(0) has been moved back to the 145.34.  (Thanks to Mike, KI0GO, and his snowmobiles.) All is back to normal in RMRL world.

4/12/2016: Due to a technical problem, the IRLP Node 335(0) has been temporarily moved over to the 145.430 repeater.  The road to the 145.34 repeater is impassable until further snow melt, so no firm date can be set at this time as to when it will be moved back to the 145.34.

Operationally everything is the same, it is just a different frequency.

RMRL: the early years

Recollections of Steve Smith, K0WLN,  (one of the original founders) and Glenn Cascino, WN0EHE

Steve and about a half-dozen or so other people started the club in the late 1960’s.  When asked why they didn’t join an existing club, Steve responded that they were a young group and didn’t feel all that welcomed into some of the other, more established, clubs.  They wanted to start a group that made everyone feel welcome.

Denver University Library tower the location of the first RMRL repeater
RMRL’s first repeater location: DU library tower

Steve worked at DU in the Physics Department and started the club off with a repeater in the three-story library tower at DU.  At the time, Steve was working on infrared projects for the Air Force and flying 1,000-pound equipment balloons that needed tracking, hence his interest in communications and ham radio.  He had a fully-equipped machine shop available to him for his work projects.  A lot of ham equipment and accessories were home-built in those days, so being able to machine his own parts gave Steve a big advantage in setting up and deploying equipment.

The other core founders were also mostly technically inclined, many worked at local television stations or elsewhere in the communications field.  The businessmen of the group helped get the club paperwork done, establishing it as a 501(3)c, and handling other legal matters along the way.

At the time, when crystal radios came from the factory, the most popular frequency was 146.94 and 146.34.  That is why you will find so many early clubs set up repeaters in those frequencies – that was the main option unless they had the resources to add crystals tuned to different frequencies.

The first club repeater was the 146.34/94.  That’s not a typo.  The nomenclature for referencing a repeater at the time included both the input and output signals.  The input was 146.340, with an output of 146.940, thus the repeater was referenced as the 146.34/94.  Today we know it as the 146.94 repeater.

The original was a vacuum tube radio, a Motorola FMTRU-80(D).  This was a top-of-the-line mobile radio, originally designed and manufactured in the 1950’s.  Power supplies for base stations were problematic: the manufacturers would rack-mount a bunch of mobile power supplies and call it good. Steve made good use of his machine shop and built the power supplies himself.

Steve’s friend, Bob Swanlund, also a ham, worked for the Colorado State Patrol and founded the station at the top of Squaw Mountain.  Bob’s wife, Margaret, worked for the Forest Service. Squaw Mountain was the site of the Colorado State Patrol radios, as well as communications systems for several other government agencies.  It was a good partnership: Margaret did the fire-lookout job while Bob took care of all the communications equipment on site.

Squaw Mountain House of Radios hosts many repeaters
Bob and Margaret Swanlund’s home atop Squaw Mountain. No longer used as a residence, it is now known as the “House of Radios” hosting many repeaters.

Bob and his wife worked with the government to build a home at the top of Squaw —an endeavor that took 16 years to complete.  Although it lacked running water, it was a great location for a ham radio repeater.  Bob invited his friend Steve to locate his repeater up there.  So, after about a year at the DU library location, they moved the repeater to the basement of Bob’s house and put the antenna on the mountain.  With the antenna cantilevered out about 5’ from the tower, they had coverage in all directions. Lacking a commercial duplexer, they set up a dual-antenna repeater.  Steve said there was nothing behind the antenna and the radio footprint was amazing.

Thus, the Rocky Mountain Radio League became the first ham radio club to have a repeater on Squaw Mountain.  Which also helps to explain the club’s call sign: W0WYX.  Why is that significant?  Bob Swanlund’s call sign was W0WYX.

W0WYX Call sign above the fireplace in the House of Radios
Affixed just above the fireplace in the House of Radios, this sign memorializes Bob Swanlund and the RMRL’s roots.


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Additional Reading:

Early mobile radio history and information: Motorola FM Mobile 2-Way Radio Equipment, Part One, 1941-1957

Forest Fire Lookout Towers of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park


RMRL Holiday Dinner 12/07/2016 (Updated 12/10/2016)

2016 Holiday Dinner attendees braved single-digit temperatures for a night of fun.

Update:  A small, but friendly, group braved the frigid temperatures for an evening of fun and camaraderie.  Business was conducted, including a “state of the club” address by Dunnigan, K1DUN. New and old officers were voted in as follows: President: Dunnigan, K1DUN, Vice President/Secretary: Becky, KD0AOE, and Treasurer: Joe, WT0C. A big thanks to Joe and our Membership Chairman, Mike, KA6YFB, for their long-running and continued service to the club. We’d be lost without them! Glenn, WN0EHE, our president for over 20 years, will be sorely missed, but we thank Dunnigan for stepping up to take on the mantle of leadership. Glenn was voted President Emeritus.

“Santa” Joe made sure everyone went home with a stocking stuffer (or two)!

After club business was conducted, “Santa” Joe (WT0C) made sure everyone, including club members and guests, received a little something for their stockings.  It is a long-standing tradition of the Holiday dinner, enjoyed by all.

Thanks to all who attended, we will see you next year!


The annual RMRL holiday dinner will be held Wednesday, December 7, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The location is the Golden Corral buffet restaurant, 3677 S. Santa Fe Drive in Sheridan (west side of Santa Fe immediately south of Hampden). (Note:  The buffet restaurant where we met for many years has closed.  The Golden Corral is nearby.)

When you arrive at the restaurant, pay for your party individually and tell the cashier you are with the RMRL group. The cost is $11.99 + tax adults, $10.99 + tax seniors (60+) for all-you-can-eat buffet. Drinks are extra, $2.39 + tax.

We look forward to seeing everyone there!

RMRL Holiday Dinner 12/09/2015 (Updated 12/10/2015)

The annual RMRL holiday dinner will be held Wednesday, December 9, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. The location is the Country Buffet restaurant, 301 Englewood Parkway in Englewood. It is northwest of the intersection of Broadway and Hampden.

When you arrive at the restaurant, pay for your party individually and tell the cashier you are with the RMRL group. We will meet in the group room (northeast corner of the restaurant). Prices are $11.99 (adults) or $11.49 (seniors 60+) for all you can eat.

The prices do not include tax. Unlimited beverages are an additional $2.49 if you want them. There is also special pricing for kids 11 and under. Watch the Denver Post for discount coupons.

We will hear from the officers about the state of the club, recognize this year’s volunteers, elect officers for next year, and draw for a few prizes. Hope to see you there!

As promised, the party was worth attending: it is always great to put faces with call signs and greet old friends. We learned that Terry Hill, N0PQV, resigned as Vice President/Secretary to devote more time to his first love: IRLP, but, Dunnigan Macilwaine, K1DUN, was prepared to step into the role.  Thank you to Terry for your service and thank you to Dunnigan for taking on this new role!

Glenn speaking on a review of club actions and activities in 2015
Glenn giving the “State of the Club” address at the 2015 Holiday Party