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National System Award 2011


The National System Award for 2011, run by the Wellington VHF Group - Branch 74, was based on Rail Stations around NZ. I got out and about with a backpack setup with my not so trusty Yaesu FT-7100 dual band and portable antenna system powered by an SLA battery kindly donated to me by Doug, ZL1AVY.

I was able to visit many of the rail stations from Wellsford down to Auckland city, and then out West through the suburbs, ending up at Kumeu then on to Helensville, and back home via West Coast Road. I tried to find some of the old stations that may have all but disappeared from the landscape, but this proved to be a rather hard task bearing in mind that much of the land is private. One I did some research on was in Whangarei, actually out at Onerahi. When the steamer would bring passengers via sea from Auckland, disembark them at a wharf in Onerahi, where they could ride the train into the city. All the rail and building have long gone, but there are remnants of causeways they built for the tracks between Onerahi and Whangarei.

Unfortunately the antenna system I was using for my pack, was not really that good in fringe areas. As such, I found it very difficult, if not impossible to reach any of the repeaters linked to the National System from many of the suburban rail stations. Also, the antenna on the car was only a tiny magnet mount dual band antenna, while it does actually perform reasonably well considering it's size, again, was no use in many of the areas visited. I didn't like to wind the power up too much on the 7100, so tended to keep it around 10w or so. This, combined with the 12Ah battery meant a full day of operation was easily achieved!

Award certificate issued to Ron, ZL1RON

I have missed out on the 2012 award, but am certainly hoping to be active again for the 2013 award! I should have my brand new Yaesu FT-857D to bring home with me, and with that, the FT-7100 and the trusty old FT-60 should be able to get some points! I am thinking after watching some interesting videos on YouTube about portable operation, I might convert a base station style dual band antenna for portable operation, something like the diamond X50.

I find the National System Award to be a fun time, no stress of a contest operating over a short period of maybe a few hours, as this one runs for over a month! The other certificate there is from the 2010 National System Award, based on Class 1 Historic places! I was lucky that my job operating the Kawau Ferry at the time covers 3 Class 1 Historic places, being Mansion House, Smelter House Ruins and the old Copper mine Ruins!

Certificate for operating in the NSA 2010

The things I have learnt from operating in 2 National System Awards....

  • CHECK that you have everything before you leave home! (I got to a remote site on an island and didn't have my microphone!)
  • Charge batteries the night before you go into the field, and confirm voltage on the day before you leave home. (Lest you take the WRONG battery!)
  • If you think your antenna is good enough for the job... It isn't!
  • It is REALLY hard to walk up hills AND talk at the same time!!! (Or is it just that I am unfit!)
  • New Lynn Rail Station was the best!! I could sit across the road and work the System from Burger King!!