W6ASH Repeater Move July 2022
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The W6ASH Repeater was located at the old El Camino Hospital in Mountain View since it was installed in 1980. The hospital was finally scheduled to be torn down and the SPECS RA had to find a new place for it. They worked with the hospital and decided on the Sobrato Building, which was a little taller than the old building. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the tear-down of the old building for over two years, but it finally could begin in 2022.
A team of hams from various SPECS cities gathered together under the direction of Dave Platt, AE6EO, and Scott Overstreet, N6NXI, to make the move. Other team members were Keith Amidon KJ6PUO, Phil Hawkins KA6MZE, Dave Koberstein N9DK, Stiv Ostenberg K9STV, and Jim Weatherford WU6K.
Before it could begin, they had to set up temporary repeaters in another location for the 440 and 2 meter repeaters. They had to put the 220 repeater offline for the duration of the move. Then on July 7th they began preparing the equipment for the move that would take place a week later. That meant removing the repeater radios and power supply from the rack and disconnecting them from the antennas.
Picture at right: Scott disconnects the antennas.
The rack is in position to go out by the penthouse exit.
July 14 was the Big Move. The team donned hard hats, heavy-toed boots, safety vests, and face masks (COVID-19 safety precautions.) The repeater radios, power supply, and small items went onto a cart. The equipment rack with the delicate antenna filters would have to be moved very carefully by hand on its casters.
It was a treacherous path! First the rack was rolled down a narrow hallway to the penthouse exit door that opened to the 8-story roof. That doorway was the first obstacle, since there was a high threshold, about 15 inches. The team used forearm forklift bands so they could hold the cabinet with their hands while taking the weight on their forearms. Two members (Dave K and Stiv) did the actual lifting, since there was very little room, while everyone else held their breath. Unfortunately, one of the casters on the rack got wedged under the door sill such that the rack couldn’t move in any direction. They eventually got the rack level enough to slide back into the building, and then were able to lift it cleanly over the sill.
Next Stiv and Dave K rolled the rack gently down the path of rubber mats leading toward the outside elevator that would take them and the equipment to the ground. The gaps between the mats didn’t make it any easier! There was more heavy lifting to get the rack into the elevator. The team bringing the cart with the radios and other equipment also had to take care rolling it down the bumpy path to the elevator. They posed for a picture.
Dave P, Dave K and Phil lift the rack into the elevator while Keith and Scott supervise.
Left to right: Scott, Keith, Phil, Jim, Stiv, Dave P.
Photo by Dave K.
The elevator was dubbed the Elevator of Death by the crew. It rides down the side of the building on an outside support. The team bravely rode inside it, keeping the equipment safely in place as they went down.
The elevator stops a little short of the ground, and a narrow ramp leads down. It was a bit tricky walking on the ramp surface and rolling the rack down. They laid some plywood down at the last bit. The ground was rough too, and they had to lay more plywood down so they could roll the rack smoothly.
The original plan was to load the rack onto Phil's truck and drive it to the next building, but they eventually determined that it would not fit due to door hardware on the rack sticking out too much. The idea of having to lay the rack on its side also seemed to make Scott cringe. Dave P and the construction site supervisor verified there was a clear path from the Sobrato loading dock to a penthouse elevator, so they rolled the rack (and cart with the other equipment) up a ramp to the loading dock and through the basement; no vehicles were needed after all. Finally they arrived at the smooth-floored hallway inside the building and made their way to the elevator that would carry them to the penthouse. As they waited outside the elevator they had a chance to rest.
The equipment all made the trip safely, and the team began putting the radios and power supply back into the rack under the guidance of Dave P and Scott. The radios were added one-at-a-time and carefully secured to the frame. There was a confusing tangle of coax and power cables, but Scott and Dave P knew exactly where everything was supposed to go. The cabinet was reassembled in an open area and the power was turned on so that the radios and other equipment wouldn’t lose their settings while waiting for the final connections to the antennas. The rack will move to its final location later, when the cables and antennas are ready.
Left to right: Dave K, Jim, Stiv, Scott, Phil, Keith. Photo by Dave P.
There were some aged power strips and cables left at the end, but everything that belonged in place was installed. The team gathered around the cart, containing tools and old parts, for a final picture. Phil still held on to the heliax cable he had kept safe during the entire move.
A member of the hospital demolition team climbed up the tower on the old building the next day to take down the antennas. Dave P was relieved he didn’t have to do that!