Backyard Repeaters

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We tinker with everything, including repeaters... 

I started tinkering with repeaters again in an attempt to RE-learn a lot of knowledge I lost after a nasty bout with cerebral and spinal Meningitis and some serious brain damage that came as a result of my brian frying itself with a serious infection in the lining of my skull.  I let an "ear-ache" go a few days too long before seeking help.  Because of this, parts of my memories, education and skills literally disappeared overnight!  (Well after 4 days being unconsious, in a coma, and half brain dead in ICU anyway...)  The doctors all thought I should be drooling on myself in front of a picture window at some nursing home for the rest of my life after I got out of the hospital - That isn't my style!  After a couple of years of recovery, most people don't have a clue I am brain damaged.  I am slowly putting my head back together, regaining my skills and slowly RE-learning a whole lot of stuff I took for granted.  Building repeater systems brought back a LOT of this knowledge tucked away in my brain, seemingly lost forever.  It's been a long, bumpy and at times very frustrating ride!

The Back Yard repeater frequencies here in Texas are a limited range, shared, UN-coordinated, non-protected set of designated channels and require CTCSS or equivalent on the input and output.  As a "Backyard Repeater" pair they are to be used for experimentation and for short range, local communications.  These backyard pairs are NOT coordinated with the Texas VHF-FM Society and are available on a "first come, first serve basis" and will not be published in the repeater directory. The Back Yard Repeater antenna height is limited to 100 ft AGL or less and output no greater than 100W.

When I moved to Chappell Hill in Washington County Texas back in the year 2000, there were no ham radio FM voice repeaters for the greater Chappell Hill metroplex area.  I decided to change that, with a population of nearly 600 people and a few hams, we SHOULD have a repeater!  It all started with a simple, VHF/UHF cross band repeater - Towering over the landscape on a piece of pipe at the dizzying altitude of 20 ft. above the ground and burning up the airwaves with under 25 watts of pure RF power the N5MBM "Backyard Repeater Projects" were born... (in 2014, I'm a little slow...)

As of 8/17/2015 I officially filed for my repeater frequency allocations to move off of the "Back Yard Repeater" frequencies! on 8/25/2015 I received word back from the TX VHF FM Society and documentation to our new frequencies, we are now official and legal!

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My "Back Yard Repeaters"

N5MBM repeater hut 

Our "repeater hut" is a small stand-alone building we used to use as another guest house situated over on one corner of our farm in Chappell Hill.  It is insulated, very well air conditioned, carpeted and rather comfortable for all the scorpions and mice that have taken up residence over there.  Our guests kept telling us they did NOT like scorpions and mice, so it saw little use over the years.  So we thought that the little Blue House on the corner seemed like a good place to put our repeaters (and get them AWAY from the shack!) and erect a 100 ft. tower with Rohn 55G.  It made a good little "RF lab", test bed and comfortable workspace for many different projects.  (Scorpions and mice don't scare ME!)

Over time, the "little repeater project" has sort of taken on a life of its own...  Starting with a very simple single radio cross band repeater, over the years, it grew into a multi-tentacled monster covering every single ham radio FM repeater band from 6m all the way up to 1.2 GHz and connected together with multiple internet linked nodes located in multiple counties, cities and states thanks to the magic of AllStar networking.

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Our repeaters are up 24/7/365!

Our repeater cabinet

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Chappell Hill Texas area LINKED repeaters

 

For more info, click the links below...

Chappell Hill Texas area LINKED repeaters

To listen to "almost live" (20 second delay) streaming audio from the N5MBM repeater system -  click here 

N5MBM Chappell Hill VHF/UHF Crossband repeater - Operational again as of 2/14/2014

Chappell Hill, TX. - 6 meters  -  52.35 tx  51.35 rx with DCS 131  - AllStar Node 42413 -   Operational

Chappell Hill, TX. - 2 meters - 145.150 tx 144.55 rx with a tone of 103.5 - AllStar Node 42414Operational

Daniels, TX - 2 meters - 145.250 tx 144.65 rx with a tone of 103.5 - AllStar Node 45442Operational

Chappell Hill, TX. -  1.25 meters - 224.900 tx 223.300 rx with a tone of 103.5 -AllStar Node 42471 - Operational

Chappell Hill, TX. -  70 cm - 441.625 tx  446.625 rx with a tone of 103.5 - AllStar Node 42466 - Operational

Independence, TX - 70 cm - 441.300 tx 446.300 rx with a tone of 103.5 -AllStar Node 45643 - Operational

KF5KXL Industry, TX - 70 cm - 441.675 tx 446.675 rx with a tone of 103.5 -AllStar Node 45442 - Operational

Daniels, TX - 70 cm - 441.300 tx 446.300 rx with a tone of 103.5 -AllStar Node 43035 - Operational

Kruse Village, Brenham, TX - 70 cm - 441.925 tx 446.925 rx with a tone of 123.0 -AllStar Node 45443 - Operational

W5TZ Kenney, TX - 70 cm - 441.800 tx  446.800 rx with a tone of 127.3 - AllStar Node 4078Operational

W0FCM Sealy, TX - 70 cm - 442.025 tx 447.025 rx with a tone of 123.0 -AllStar Node 29695 - Operational

Chappell Hill, TX. -  33 cm - 927.150 tx 902.150 rx with a tone of 103.5 - AllStar Node 42817 Operational

Chappell Hill, TX. - 23cm  - 1287.100 tx 1275.100 rx with a tone of 103.5 - AllStar Node 45645Under Construction

N5FRT / WB5HVH Fayette County, TX. - 2 meters - 145.270 tx 144.670 rx with a tone of 114.8 - Echolink Node 455276 Operational

Click here to see the "Real-Time" Supermon status of our linked repeater system

Common Sense Rules for using the Chappell Hill area Repeaters

Weekly Net Schedule

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Antennas and Power

Tower and Repeater hut

Our 6m repeater uses a Decibel Products DB-201 antenna fed with 7/8" Heliax at 50 ft. AGL.  Our 2m repeater uses a Decibel Products DB-224 antenna fed with 7/8" Heliax at 53 ft. AGL.  Our 440 repeater uses a Decibel Products DB-413 antenna fed with 7/8" Heliax at 53 ft. AGL.  Our 1.25m and 70cm IRLP system uses a Comet Tri-Band VHF/UHF CX-333 2m/1.25m/70cm Antenna at 35 ft. AGL, fed with 1/2 inch Andrews hardline into an Austin Antenna Ltd. triplexer.  Our 33cm system uses a Comet KP-20 900 MHz antenna with 9.2 db gain at 35 ft. AGL, fed with 1/2" Heliax.  Our main repeater controller is an Arcom RC210 3 port controller.  Our Dual Band community ham repeater utilizes an old Comet dual band antenna at 24 Ft. AGL.  AC Power is supplied by a large APC UPS and we have a floating battery backup on the 12v supplies.  It is up and running 24/7/365 with  battery backup in case of a brief power failure.  For longer power failures, our generator for the repeater hut is an old Coleman gasoline 5KW unit from 1986 - It may be old but it still comes in handy!

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N5MBM Chappell Hill HATS ATV Repeater - Permanently Down

The ATV repeater is Kaput!  Fried to a crisp by lightning.  It will not be replaced.  It can't be replaced, the components are no longer manufactured! 

May it rest in pieces...

N5MBM ATV repeater in 1993  N5MBM ATV repeater in 1993  N5MBM ATV repeater VSB filter and circulator in 1993

History of HATS - Houston Amateur Television Society

The old boat anchor was built from a NTSC stereo Standard TVM450 cable TV modulator on 421.25 MHz, cable channel 57.  The output was fed into a small home brew amp driving a big Mirage amp into a circulator, into a VSB filter and up to an omni antenna at 45 ft on our tower.  The first input was on 1.2 GHz FM using a satellite demodulator.  The second ATV input was on 2.4 GHz FM.  It all worked rather well but it got little use over the year or two it was up here at the farm.  It had in been in storage for years after our move here from Katy around the year 2000.  It ran for years at our Katy home and worked reasonably well.  It is now disassembled and is being gutted and dog-robbed for parts for other projects.  With the death of the NTSC standard and UHF ATV activity in general, I don't see any reason to keep it up any longer.  Digital ATV over IP and Broadband HamNet is a MUCH better way to go!

Maybe some day we will revisit this project, but for now, there are many other things demanding my time...  I prefer IP cams now!

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N5MBM 2 meter "Backyard Repeater" repeater history

Back in the 1990's, while living in Katy, TX, in the same repeater hut as the ATV repeater, I had my backyard 2 meter backyard repeater, running 25 watts complete with an open autopatch.  Cabled with 1/2 inch hard line to a 5/8 wave omni antenna on the tower at 65 feet. It was up and running on 145.250 with a minus offset and a tone of 151.4. With the antenna at about 65 ft. in the air, the coverage with 45 watt mobiles was about a good solid 20 miles or so. In impromptu testing it was found that people as far away as six and a half miles could talk into it on a 1 watt handy talkie sitting in their living room watching ATV on cable channel 57 over the air! Not bad for a "backyard repeater".......

2 meter repeater in 1993    2 meter repeater in 1993

We used this quite a lot because at the time, cell phones were big and bulky, not to mention expensive!  This was a very handy tool to communicate with my wife, N5VGE and a lot of our friends on the West side of Houston.  It saw a lot of use!

When we moved out to Chappell Hill in 2000 we gave this repeater and duplexer back to Rick Pense WD5BQN, the nice guy who set us up with it in the first place.  I can't thank him enough for the "permanent loan" of this equipment.  I gave it back so it could be used as a backup for the Houston Echo Society's repeaters.  It worked quite well at our Katy back yard repeater location for almost ten years.

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N5MBM HOUBPQ Packet node history

On a lonely office building in Southwest Houston out away from the clutter of the Galleria and away from the RF trash of Downtown and Greenway plaza sat HOUBPQ. It was but one of the many packet radio digi-nodes in the local Houston area packet network. It was a digi-peater but it was more importantly a network node running under BPQ software. It ran 24/7 and could be accessed by users at 1200 baud on 145.09 and 446.10 MHz.  These nodes were connected to my home in Katy over the air and then connected to the BBS's for land-line connectivity via modems at 9600 baud and later the Internet via TCP/IP.

It was an experiment in computer networking that never really was fast enough to be truly useful.

We ran an APRS node for a while, it never really got all that much use.  But it did cover most of Harris County, Ft. Bend and Waller counties as well.

When I moved out to Chappell Hill in 2000, I shut down all packet radio operations and most of the local Houston packet radio network just sort of fell apart, except for the die-hard APRS guys.

In 2012, we setup our nodes here in Chappell Hill for about three weeks and after not receiving a single packet from anywhere or anyone, we tossed the gear in the dumpster.  We just live too far out in the middle of nowhere!

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N5MBM HATS ATV Repeater History

Back in 1993, the N5MBM ATV repeater was moved to Katy when the W5PZP machine was repaired and became operational again, It was setup for a 1255 MHz FM input with a 427.25 AM VSB output.  Then it got moved to Chappell Hill TX. in 2000, switched back to 421.25 again and a 2.4 GHz input was added in 2012. 

N5MBM ATV repeater in 1993  N5MBM ATV repeater in 1993  N5MBM ATV repeater VSB filter and circulator in 1993

The old boat anchor was built from a NTSC stereo Standard TVM450 cable TV modulator on 421.25 MHz, cable channel 57.  The output was fed into a small home brew amp driving a big Mirage amp into a circulator, into a VSB filter and up to an omni antenna at 45 ft on our tower.  The first input was on 1.2 GHz FM using a satellite demodulator.  The second ATV input was on 2.4 GHz FM.  It all worked rather well but it got little use over the three years or so it was up and operating here at the farm.  It had in been in storage for years after our move here from Katy around the year 2000.  It ran for years at our Katy home and worked reasonably well.

In its final years it became a curiosity, was never used much and spent more time displaying my security cameras to the TV's in other buildings around our farm than anything else...  It spent more time idle and OFF than "on" and doing anything useful.  With the death of the NTSC standard, it was about time to retire the old monster in a rack mount...

Then it met it's end in a lightning strike in May of 2015.  The last remaining working HATS ATV repeater (And the last one in this part of Texas!)  is now just a fond memory...  Turned into a smoking hulk in an instant during a storm.

History of HATS - Houston Amateur Television Society

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