QST/March 1916/Practical Relaying
IN the February QST, the writer covered broadly a plan for establishing six main Trunk Lines to cover the country. He did not intend in this plan to present a final arrangement, because it did not seem possible from the information at hand to layout the best points. It seems, however, that the scheme has caught on, if the numbers of letters received from amateur station owners in various parts of the country mean anything. For this reason, the Trunk Lines A, B, C, D, E and F will be assumed as good enough to start with.
The next step to take is to establish local headquarters for each Trunk Line, and to turn over to these headquarters the work of organizing each Trunk Line. In order to intelligently decide upon these different local Headquarters, several things must be given consideration. For example, it would seem that a city forming a junction point for two or even three Trunk Lines, should be Headquarters, because a test message could be started simultaneously from this point, and go out over, the several Trunk Lines. Take Chicago as an illustration. Chicago is approximately the central, point on Trunk Line A, and it is the starting point for Trunk Line E. A test message starting from Chicago could go west to Seattle, the end of Trunk Line A, east to Portland, Maine, the other end and southwest to Los Angeles the end of Trunk Line E. One job done at Chicago, would thus cover the entire width of the country at the north and also cover a line down the Mississippi to the Gulf and across the southern border to the Coast.
Philadelphia or some point in New Jersey would likewise be a good location to act as Headquarters for the entire eastern section of the country. One test message sent out from here would be carried northeast through New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, south through the Atlantic States to Jacksonville, Florida, and southwest on Trunk Line D through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, to New Orleans, La.
These two Headquarters would therefore cover the whole of Trunk Lines A, E, C and D. This leaves only B, running west from St. Louis, and F running north and south from Vancouver to San Diego, on the Pacific Coast. San Francisco is the natural location for the Headquarters for both these lines. One message sent out would run north to Vancouver, south to San Diego and east to St. Louis.
Thus it seems plain that three cities, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, or some point between this city and New York, would be all the District Headquarters, necessary to carry on a practical system of test traffic which would cover the entire country, entering almost every single state in the Union.
The delicate question of selecting the most suitable station for these Headquarters then arises. Several details must be taken into account in selecting these headquarters. First, there is the necessity for systematic handling of the job. Some people are so constituted that they naturally handle a piece of work in a systematic manner, and records are simple and always kept. Other people entirely lack anything appreaching order and system and if one of these should be a District Headquarters, things would go haphazard, hit and miss, and interest would quickly die out on all of the lines which they had charge of.
Another requisite for these district headquarters is the facility for writing letters and looking after the stations which wrote to them. Some amateurs who are in business have letter writing facilities of an office and it is very little work to get off half a dozen letters once in a while. A station owner so situated that letter writing was convenient and easy would be a better Headquarters than one who had not these facilities, other things being equal.
Another requisite, and an important one, as we all know, is the ability to always be on the job at the time specified, or never fail to have some one else if he cannot be there himself. This failure to keep regular hours is the greatest fault we amateurs have, and, is the great big factor which limits our radio relaying work. Tom is never on when Dick and Harry are on, and Dick seems to make a point of going, to the movies when Tom and Harry most need him. Harry invariably reserves his off night for the time when Tom and Dick depend upon him being at his instruments. In handling test and regular messages, this point must be most carefully considered, and a Headquarters must be selected who can either be on regularly or have other stations who will act for him when he is absent. The nights when the through Trunk Line work is to be done, should not be too often. Three nights a week would probably be impractical and the writer believes that one night a week would be better than two, unless the relay stations on a given Trunk Line were sure that they could be at their instruments more frequently.
The hour at which the test work was to be done is an important element. QRM has to be considered and the fact that there is a wide difference in time between the Atlantic Coast states and the Pacific Coast states must have weight. NAA sends time at 10:00 p. m. eastern time, which is 9:00 p. m. central time, 8:00 p. m. western time, and 7:00 p. m. coast time. A great many amateurs want to use these signals for various purposes, including testing of their receiving instruments, so that by no possibility must these signals be jammed. The little boy with the spark coil and the dry cells is to be considered early in the evening, and he is notorious for his, ability to QRM anything when he is just across the street. It seems therefore; that an hour like 10:30 or 11:00 p. m. would stand more chance of being successful than any other hour. The movies are out by this time, which is a factor we can by no means overlook, and it is not so late that it would kill us to stay up one or even two nights in a week. This matter however, is one for each Trunk Line to settle for itself.
In the matter of lapping over from one time district into another, such as from Eastern Time to Central Time, it would, seem that this would have to be delayed at the point where the lap occurred. For example, a message received at Buffalo, the limit of Eastern Time, could be held one hour until Cleveland time came around. Coming the other way, Buffalo would have to understand that things would be one hour later coming from Cleveland than usual. The other alternative is for the east to take a very late hour, say Midnight, and the west to put up with an early hour, say eight o’clock on the coast. This would have the advantage of having us all at our instruments at the same hour all over the entire country. With things well managed, and working right, we could probably handle a message in Chicago through to Portland, Maine and receive back the QSL in fifteen or twenty minutes. In the case of those of us having especially good aerials and ground connections, and who know how to tune, we probably would make many very remarkable and extremely interesting long distance records. It would not be at all unusual for the man in Maine to hear Ann Arbor, Mich., nor the man in Little Rock, Arkansas to hear Chicago Headquarters when he started out his test msg. From the records which have already been printed in QST, all this and even more would not be unusual.
All things considered, the writer would be personally in favor of the uniform listening in hour all over the country, because he believes the sacrifice of sitting up late in the east would be more than rapid by knowing that every one else throughout the country was at his instruments at that exact moment. This, however, is left to district headquarters, as is proper, and as every other detail of management should also be.
Another important matter is the form a test message should take. For our amateur purposes, we should send out, an unknown pass word so as to check up who really got it, and the returning receipt, or as we call it, the QSL, should bear the call letters of every station who received and relayed it. When the QSL is received back to district headquarters, a record should be kept of just how, far it got before it had to be returned on account of not being able to get farther. With this information, district headquarters would know just where the blame should be placed and by mail, he could find out if it could be corrected and if so, how.
A thing, which would help, would be to publish in QST, every month, the records of the work of each Trunk Line. Then, the League could offer a prize each month to the headquarters who made the most credible showing, just as the different sections on a railroad are given regular prizes for,the best showing section on the road.
In closing, the writer wants to put in his plea for help on the matter of selecting, District Headquarters. We cannot do this at Headquarters, because we do not know enough. The local stations in or near Chicago or Philadelphia, or San Francisco know who the best station is for District Headquarters, all things considered. Therefore, a vote is wanted from each of these three different places, said vote to be sent in to main Headquarters at Hartford, and only those who know something about the station voted for to cast a vote.