The WD8DAS Gates BC-1T Transmitters...

Steve Johnston, WD8DAS

On the left is the 160 meter transmitter installed in 2007, and the right is the 75 meter rig added in 2013.

The story below covers the restoration and conversion of my first BC-1T for 160 meter AM operation.
Photos of the subsequent restoration of second rig for 75 meters can be found here.

Since moving to Madison, Wisconsin, last year and erecting a reasonably large 160-meter antenna, I have become increasingly excited about top-band AM operation. My only AM rig for 160 was a Johnson Ranger - a nice transmitter of course, but when the interference gets thick its single 6146 can't really keep up. My thoughts naturally turned to higher power.

As a broadcast engineer for 25 years, I've worked on many commercial transmitters that could be moved to 160m, and have had a few chances to claim an old one for myself. But I didn't go for it, for reasons of space, time, etc - all the usual excuses. But now my enthusiasm was beginning to exceed my reluctance, and I started thinking, "where can I find a transmitter to convert?"

I put the word out among my colleagues and friends that I was looking for a surplus 250 - 1000 watt broadcast transmitter. Within a couple days I'd learned that a late-50s/early-60s vintage 1 kW Gates BC-1T was available at WGBW in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. My excitement climbed higher remembering my first station had a very similar BC-1G, so I made the arrangements for the pick-up.

A sure way to find out how sick and infirm your friends have become is to ask for help in moving a big transmitter. I was absolutely amazed at the poor health that had suddenly developed among my pals - each had a very sad story to tell. Two were down with the flu, another had fallen and broken something, and others had more mysterious ailments. Hmmmm... As the day of reckoning approached, one healthy and very loyal friend, Rick Deaver, WB8UTW, climbed into his car and made the long drive from Ohio to Wisconsin. The next morning we traveled to Two Rivers and picked up the transmitter and hauled it home in a rental trailer behind my Jeep Cherokee without incident.

The Gates was now in my garage. But the radio room is on the lower level of my house, below grade, with very difficult access. And it was winter with lots of snow. How to get it inside? I was obsessed with this task - I had to figure out a way to get it inside for restoration. Over the next couple weeks I dreamed up a complex plan involving a heavy-duty two-wheeler, a cargo carrier on the rear of the Cherokee, a lumber ramp into the family room, and furniture dollies. One Saturday morning I was once again telling my wife and kids of my latest idea on getting that big thing into the house, and as they apparently were sick of hearing me go on about it they suggested that we go ahead and get it over with - now. I naturally agreed.

The following photo essay shows just how it was done. It was a purely family affair - my wife Christy, my son Noah, and daughter Kaitlin, and I made it happen - and it only took an hour or two, and injuries were minor.

The new transmitter arrives in my garage.

Thank you for all the help, Rich.

Side view - partially disassembled.

Transformers, caps, and chokes.

Loading the rig onto the cargo carrier.

Moving the rig from the garage to the side of the house.

When the jeep could go no farther, we sledded it across the snow.

Dad, I've never heard you use language like that before!

Now to slide it into the lower level of the house.

Be afraid.

We're in!

Frostbitten Gates.

Park it over the floor drain to thaw.

In final position, ready for restoration.

Did a guy ever have better family and friends than I do??

Cleaning, rust removal, painting, and repairs.

Power applied.

Very pretty.

A full kilowatt into the dummy load.

Buttoned-up, covers in place.

Done - now to convert it to the ham-bands.

On the air and having fun.

Audio processing in use with the Gates.

(click here for the big Gates BC-1T manual)

(click here for my tech notes on this project)