Tubes in Radio Transmitters

Most Hams Collect QSL Cards, but Seriously Folks!

Some of us collect postage stamps; others coins or perhaps matchbooks. There are a few individuals who collect vacuum tubes. However, one Ohioan has set a somewhat loftier goal: amassing a collection of broadcast-type radio transmitters. Gerry Moersdorf, KC8ZUL,  began rounding up such transmitters more than 15 years ago, uprooting them from their former workspaces and hauling them back to a large warehouse-type building in a Columbus, Ohio, suburb.

A serious collector of Radio Transmitters

Moersdorf is quite selective, though; not just any broadcast transmitter will do. He’s especially partial to representative examples from the likes of Collins, Gates, RCA, and Western Electric — companies that once supplied transmitters for the majority of U.S. radio stations — and they must be vacuum tube-powered “big iron.” He has no interest whatsoever in the compact solid-state high-efficiency pipsqueaks from the last several decades. “I grew up in New Jersey, and we lived near a dump — actually in Jersey, everybody lived near a dump — and as kids, we used to go down to the dump to look for ‘All American Fives’ [five-tube AC/DC radio receivers] people had thrown out. “The highest-power one is a CCA AM2500D which was made in the 1970s,” he said. “It uses four 4-1000 tubes and can make 7,000 watts. The heaviest is a Collins 20T 1 kW model. With it, we like to talk about pounds-per-watt, not watts-per-pound. It came out in 1946 and weighs 5,700 pounds. It’s built like an armored battleship.”

Moersdorf has winnowed his collection down from a high of about 30 transmitters to a more manageable (and easily accommodated) 15, explaining that one factor in the decision was the lack of three-phase power when he recently relocated his collection and manufacturing business to Delaware, Ohio.


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