The Tale of the 20 Year Old Collinear

Before you consign that 20 year old collinear to the scrap heap when it seems it is at the end of its life, take it apart and have a look inside.  It may well save you a few bob buying a new one …

When I was first licensed as G7SWG in the mid 90s, my parents asked me what I would like for my 19th birthday.  Unlike your normal 19 year old, top of my list wasn’t a car but an antenna for 2m!  So in December 1994, I took ownership of a Taiwan-Serene TSB-3301 dual band collinear; not the largest in the series but at 3.1m tall, large enough to enable me to get into GB3NA in Barnsley (as it was then) and make contact with Leeds for slow morse practice from my college digs in York.

After a winter of (ab)use, I moved back in with my parents in East Sussex and the Taiwan-Serene was installed in the loft of my folks’ house in the bottom of a valley.  It still worked quite well, even from that less-than-ideal location, but there it stayed until I moved out a couple of years later.

My new  lodgings in Bedfordshire were a 2-up-2-down terraced house with a shallow loft; it was obvious the 3301 wouldn’t stand up straight, so it was dismantled by my father and placed back into its plastic sleeve to free up space in his loft.  There it remained for the next 6 years avoiding many a suggestion by my mother to throw it out.  I bought a shorter Moonraker tri-band collinear which could stand upright in the shallower loft space.

On joining the RAF in 2003, my intention was to get on the air from whichever station I found myself at, so the 3301 made its way to join me at RAF Buchan.  In the end my plan for amateur radio activities never materialised and it remained in its wrapper for another 5 years as it followed me from station to station surviving many a reshuffle of storage rooms (got to love bull nights!)

In 2008, I moved out of barracks into another 2-up-2-down.  The 3301 remained in its wrapper, gathering dust in the cupboard under the stairs whilst the shorter Moonraker was pressed back into action.

Fast forward to Spring 2010; I could afford to buy my first property.  I now had my own space to do with what I wished, including erection of antennae!  The 3301 was finally unwrapped, checked over and temporarily erected on a pole bungee’d to the back fence of my small garden at about 10 feet.  I say temporarily with some hesitation, as this is where it remained right up until I sold the property earlier this year!

This was the 3301’s first foray into the outside environment for quite a few years!  I went abroad with work for a few months and missed the worst winter on record for some years, the old girl didn’t!

On my return I fired up the 2m station and noticed that received signals were considerably down on those that I remembered before I went away.  Ok, something’s amiss here!  I attached my antenna analyser, and sure enough the minimum SWR was down at 130 Mhz and that was the only resonant point.  Yup, it was definitely not feeling well after a winter outside!

collinear innardsI took the old girl off her pole and replaced her with the Moonraker again.  At some point I was going to figure out how to remove the feed section and have a poke about.

After a couple of months of putting up with the Moonraker and its inability to hear anything, I finally got around to dismantling the 3301 to inspect the insides, and yes, it was ever so slightly damp after its first winter outside for a long time.  When I removed the outer casing from the feed section, despite being indoors for the last month and sat on top of a radiator to dry out, there was still a great deal of moisture evident throughout most of its length.

A quick poke through with an old mobile whip and some tissue paper wrapped on the end removed most of the dampness, and a quick squeeze of the sponge spacers on the driven element removed the rest!Matching section

The Moonraker was pulled down from the pole, and unceremoniously dumped behind the garden shed and replaced by the 3301 with all its seals now taped in an attempt to avoid moisture ingress.  Once again, I was getting good signals from all the stations I had lost while I was running on the Moonraker dummy load!

When I temporarily moved in with my YL whilst we waited on the purchase of our first property together, the TSB-3301 was again stripped, cleaned,  re-assembled, resealed and placed on the chimney of her house; I had forgotten what it was like to have a decent antenna mounted in a decent location – I could easily hear across Lincolnshire into Nottinghamshire and beyond from her vantage point atop the Lincoln Ridge.

Now that we are in our new home, restrictive covenants on the property preventing the erection of antennae have put a temporary cease to my activities, so the old girl is once again safely wrapped in her case waiting for the last property on the development to be sold …

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