Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 DX Year in Review

Several milestones were reached as I look back on 2013. As I write this blog on Christmas Eve, my total count now stands at 1,461 AM stations, 1,239 FM, 576 analog TV, 162 digital TV and 112 NOAA Weather Radio stations.

The biggest milestones I hit on AM this year was the 1,400 total station mark (this is the only band where call letter changes count) and the 100-station mark from my home state of Missouri. The 1,400 mark (before purging a few stations from my log; mainly DX tests that I never verified, and adding a few stations I forgot to enter in the book) was WINK 1200 (now WJUA) Pine Island Center, FL (Fort Myers market). The station made it through with talk programming and Southwest Florida advertisements and promos at 4:18 p.m. Central (U.S.) Standard time (2218 UTC) on January 7. The signal held until the station cut power and changed to night pattern at 5:00 p.m. CST (2300 UTC). It would also be my 30th AM station from the Sunshine State. The 100th Missouri AM was logged on August 22, when I logged KMMO 1300 in Marshall (between Jefferson City and Kansas City) at 9:29 a.m. Central (U.S.) Daylight time (1429 UTC) with local advertisements and a farm report which was also simulcast on KMMO-FM 102.9 MHz. The 100 kW FM was in much stronger than the 1 kW AM; the regular on 1300 kHz (WFRX West Frankfort, IL) was surprisingly absent that morning. The only other state that I've logged 100 or more stations from is Illinois (114 as of December 24, 2013); the 100th station from the Land of Lincoln was logged in January 2011 (WKZI 800 Casey).

On FM, I made it to the 1,200 mark on June 28. Before adding two FM stations from Indiana that I previously forgot to add to the log, that station was KSYN 92.5 in Joplin, MO. This station was noted at 9:16 a.m. CDT (1416 UTC). 19 minutes later, I logged my 30th FM from Kansas with the log of KJML 107.1 in Columbus (across the state line from Joplin). FM #50 from Indiana was also logged in 2013, noting WSKL 92.9 Veedersburg (across the state line from Danville, IL) on August 27 at 11:22 a.m. CDT (1622 UTC). On September 1, Iowa returned to third place on my most productive DX states list when I logged KSOI 91.9 Murray (near Osceola) at 3:56 a.m. CDT (0856 UTC)...one of the most interesting parts of this reception was the legal ID by a kid who couldn't be any older than seven years old. KSOI is the 65th FM from the Hawkeye State, dropping Florida (with 64 stations...63 via E-skip and one via tropo) to fourth place. I slowly got close to 200 FM stations from Illinois; #190 was noted at 12:39 a.m. (0539 UTC) on June 18 with the log of WKIO 107.9 Arcola (Champaign/Urbana market). As I write this, I need only one FM from the Land of Lincoln to hit the 200 mark. I also noted my 170th Missouri FM station on July 30 at 12:57 a.m. CDT (0557 UTC) with the log of K259BB 99.7 Sikeston, MO (a relay of my local KSIV-FM 91.5). The most surprising log on FM this year was another translator. K279BI 103.7 Kansas City, MO made it to Hazelwood at 10:00 a.m. CDT (1500 UTC) on June 18 with a simulcast of KCMO 710; a 250-watt FM translator was received 225 miles away! As of right now, I only need four FM stations from the Show-Me State to reach the next milestone of 175 stations.

Analog TV DX slowed quite a bit between 2012 and 2013 as more Canadian stations were converting to digital. One of the most frequent stations I've logged since the U.S. conversion to digital in 2009 was CKND2 Minnedosa, MB on Channel 2. Over the summer, the station, which relays CKND in Winnipeg, converted to digital on Channel 9. The only new Canadian analog I pulled in during the summer was CKCO2 Wiarton, ON on Channel 2, noted on May 29 at 7:30 p.m. CDT (May 30 0030 UTC). The Community Calendar for the Waterloo, ON area was the tip to the ID. All of the rest of the new analog entries in 2013 were Mexican stations. Two new Mexican states were added this year: Veracruz and Sinaloa. The first analog TV from Veracruz was pulled in on June 2 with XHGV 4 from Las Lajas in the northern part of the state. That same day, I pulled in my first FM from Veracruz (XHBY 96.7 Tuxpan). The city of Veracruz was pulled in on June 17 with XHFM 2 at 8:38 p.m. CDT (June 18 0138 UTC). The first log from Sinaloa came through on July 18 at 9:50 p.m. (July 19 0250 UTC) with XHQ 3 from Culiacan. We have at least one more season of Mexican analog TV before all of Mexican TV goes digital in 2015.

Nearly all of the new digital TV logs in 2013 were on VHF. The new stations began to slowly roll in after I put up my Winegard HD8200U on May 18. The tropo opening on May 19 brought in two new Tennessee VHF stations (WNTV 8 and WSMV 10 from Nashville) and one from Kentucky (WBKO 13 out of Bowling Green), as well as a channel change from Evansville, IN (WNIN 9, ex-12). On June 4, I noted my first digital TV station from northwest Arkansas (KAFT 9 Fayetteville); I noted this within an hour after the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane landed at St. Louis. I finally logged WMWC 8 Galesburg, IL on June 24; another excellent period of logging new DTV stations came on June 27-28, adding KQTV 7 St. Joseph, MO on the 27th at 6:45 p.m. CDT (2345 UTC), two Topeka, KS stations in KTWU 11 at 7:31 p.m. CDT (June 28 0031 UTC) and WIBW-DT 13 at 7:34 p.m. CDT (June 28 0034 UTC). The next morning, I pulled in KOAM 7 in Pittsburg at 9:03 a.m. CDT (1403 UTC). I also noted their second channel carrying KFJX 13. St. Louis finally went all-digital in August when K49FC 49 (the local 3ABN affiliate) flash-cut to digital on Channel 25 as K25NG. The summer on digital TV wrapped up with two low-power TV stations on August 30: W40CV 40 Jacksonville, IL (relaying WAND 17 in Decatur...I posted a pic of my reception on Fred Vobbe's Facebook page) and W29CI 29 Salem, IL (3ABN). Those were only my third and fourth low-power stations in digital format logged (after WLCF-LD 45 Decatur, IL and WJTS-LD 18 Jasper, IN). While high winds did knock the antenna down in early December, I secured the antenna mast mount with roofing nails.

Three new NOAA Weather Radio stations were logged in 2013. On May 19, I noted WWH37 Clarksville, TN on 162.500 MHz with weather conditions for Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky at 11:22 p.m. CDT (May 20 0422 UTC). I also noted a city of license change on 162.500 on September 6 when I noted WWF44 Henagar, AL (formerly licensed to Fort Payne) at 1:05 a.m. CDT (0605 UTC). I previously noted the station from Fort Payne on July 23, 2005 at 11:44 p.m. CDT (July 24, 2005 0444 UTC). The only other new log came on September 8 with the log of WWG73 on 162.525 MHz from Seymour, IN at 8:02 p.m. CDT (September 9 0102 UTC). I hooked the HD8200U to my scanner in November, allowing me to use the antenna's directional capabilities. A switch is used to switch between the VHF/UHF/FM yagi antenna and the non-directional discone.

While I had a halfway decent AM season, the E-skip season this year was mediocre, at best. Many DXers reported one of the poorest seasons in years. My worst E-skip season continues to be 2002. Tropo was fairly good this year, although many DXers felt it left something to be desired in 2013.

Shortwave radio held a few gems this year, including The Mighty KBC on 7375 kHz. Here are just a few of the QSL cards I received from shortwave broadcasters in 2013:


(This one is for 17490 kHz)

I also began using prepared form cards for verifying smaller AM radio stations in the fall of 2012. It has helped me verify stations I could not verify previously. One of the cards I got back was from KHMO 1070 Hannibal, MO. The same signer also signed my PFC for WLIQ 1530 Quincy, IL. PFCs have also helped me verify such stations as WKFN 540 Clarksville, TN, WLIL 730 Lenoir City, TN, KWAK 1240 Stuttgart, AR, WZYX 1440 Cowan, TN and WAVU 630 Albertville, AL. The KHMO card is attached below.



What DX does 2014 hold? That depends on the band conditions in the coming year. Several goals are now within reach, including the 200th FM station from Illinois, 175th FM station from Missouri, the 40th digital TV station from Indiana; some of the goals that I might have a realistic shot at in 2014 are AM station #1,500 and digital TV station #200. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remembering DXers Past

On October 21, 2013, I reached 32 years in the DX hobby. It was on October 21, 1981 that I purchased a Realistic DX-60 AM/FM/CB/shortwave receiver. As I look back at my DX career, I think about the DXers who came before me.

When I think of the DX community in St. Louis today, there's just only two other Broadcast Band DXers in the area besides myself: Earl Higgins and Walt Breville. However, there was a decent sized DX community in the St. Louis area 30 years ago.

The DXer I compare myself most to these days is the late Rich Eddie. Rich started his DX career in 1967, while I was still in diapers. Rich knew more about the hobby than even the top DXers in town at the time; it blew them away. He accepted one of the biggest challenges in DXing; pursuing the hobby from an RF jungle. His former home in Webster Groves was within line of sight of the local FM and TV transmitters. I visited his shack in the summer of 1987; I was amazed at the equipment needed to pursue the hobby in such an area. Rich also had a good sense of humor. When it came to my DX activities, especially in later years, I began to take up DXing the same bands he did. As I remember, he DXed AM, FM, shortwave and UHF analog TV. DXing the VHF bands presented a challenge, since he lived very close to the transmitter site of KSDK Channel 5. I did have an advantage over Rich, though; living at least 15 miles from the FM and TV transmitter sites. This was true of my original QTH on Lamplight Lane and my present QTH, where I've been living since 1992. I had the pleasure of meeting Rich in 1982 at a St. Louis International DXers meeting in Dellwood; he became my mentor in the local DX community.

Another one I remember is the late Terry Klasek. He led SLIDX during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The club's bulletin, "The Gridly Wave", featured not only DX reports and updated information, but also satire on the hobby. Some of this satire was written under the pseudonym "Alotto Crappolo". One of the most poignant articles he ever wrote was in his "The World According to Klasek" column; it was about DXers priorities. He wrote the sad story of a DXer from the Chicago area named Richard Pistek; he had worked for the U.S. Postal Service, and did little else but DX. As I remember reading the article, Pistek had become despondent after his mother passed away, leading him to take his own life in 1980 at the age of only 30. The article made me realize there was more to life than just DXing. Terry became involved in religious activities in later years, pursued a degree in journalism at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley (where he worked at the campus newspaper, The Forum, during the early 1990s), and dropped two-thirds of his weight. Toward the end of his life, he was involved with veterans' groups, as he served our country in Vietnam. And he did have a little bit of time left to spin the dials. It was through Terry that I was introduced to DXer and antenna experimenter Bob Flick, then-local DXers Roger Giannini, Rick Overmann (who later tried to get me into the Amway business!) and Jeff King. He also introduced me to top DXers Dr. Richard Wood (who was also a linguist) and Dale Park. Terry and Rich are no longer with us; Rich Eddie passed away in 1996 at age 48 (the news wasn't passed on to the DX community until 2003, when Terry Klasek told me and the international DX community the news). Terry Klasek passed away in April 2011 at age 64. 

As much as we remember those in our hobby who came before us, we should also remember that we are carrying on the hobby our mentors taught us. I'm carrying on the hobby that Rich Eddie and Terry Klasek pursued throughout much of their lives; along with Earl and Walt, I'm also carrying on a hobby that seems to be a lost art in the St. Louis area. As we head into the holiday season, we are also thankful for those DXers who came before us. At this time, let us remember the people who will long be remembered in the annals of the hobby, like Bill Eddings, Ernie Cooper, Frank Wheeler, Carleton Lord and the Nittler Brothers (Bill and Fran). Their contributions to the hobby will not be forgotten.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NOAA Weather Radio in the Summer of 2013

There aren't many of us that have tried NOAA Weather Radio DX...it's pretty much the same as FM DX. You can also use either horizontally or vertically polarized antennas to pick this DX up. This summer could have been better, but I was satisfied with the results.

The opening of May 19 started with a new station logged on 162.500 MHz: WWH37 Clarksville, TN. I noted a weather forecast for the Clarksville/Fort Campbell area and weather conditions for the area. It was too bad I didn't record this station, because it would soon fade to the regular on that frequency, KXI46 Shelbyville, IL. WWH37 would turn out to be the 110th NOAA Weather Radio station logged at my location since I began keeping a log in January 2001. Two days later, I had an early morning opening to western Missouri; one of the stations I recorded was KZZ30 162.475 El Dorado Springs, MO. During the summer months, through constant monitoring of these frequencies, I listed the most frequently logged stations on each frequency (excluding my local KDO89 162.550 St. Louis, MO) below:

162.400: WXL45 Columbia, MO (105 miles)
162.425: KXI79 Hillsboro, IL (55 miles), WXM49 Marion, IL (100 miles)
162.450: KXI70 Jerseyville, IL (25 miles), WNG728 Bellflower, MO (65 miles)
162.475: KXI49 Salem, IL (85 miles)
162.500: KXI46 Shelbyville, IL (110 miles)
162.525: WWF75 Bourbon, MO (65 miles), WXM90 Jacksonville, IL (70 miles)

During 2011 and 2012, the dominant on 162.400 was WXK72 Putnamville, IN (190 miles from my listening post). During 2009 and 2010, it was KXI52 McLeansboro, IL (100 miles). On 162.425, I also frequently pulled in KWN55 Jamestown, MO (115 miles). On 162.475, I would also frequently note WWF76 Summersville, MO (130 miles). On 162.500, I would also frequently note WNG648 Dixon, MO (110 miles). Unlike with recent DX seasons, I did not have a directional yagi to use this season, due to the damage from the April 10 tornado.

In June, I stumbled on an opening on the FM dial toward the Quad Cities on June 23, and pulled in WXL64 162.400 Dubuque, IA. While the transmitter is in Wisconsin, I count this in my Iowa totals based on the city of license. On June 28, I recorded a station taking out both KXI70 and WNG728 on 162.450: KXI48 Newton, IL. Unlike the Jerseyville and Bellflower stations, which are programmed from the Weldon Spring office, KXI48's programming comes from the National Weather Service office in Lincoln, IL. I mainly logged new FM stations during the month of July, but I did manage to record a station taking out KXI79 on 162.425 on the evening of July 20: WXM49 Marion, IL. In fact, when I got my first handheld scanner in December 2000, I was hearing this station...this was before KXI79 came on the air.

August and September were the big months for recording NOAA Weather Radio DX at my location. August 4-5 brought a tropo opening into the Mid-South...one of the stations I recorded on this one is the only NOAA Weather Radio station I've logged from Mississippi, KIH53 162.400 Booneville. Another opening toward western Missouri on August 9 brought in one of my most frequently-heard NOAA Weather Radio stations from that part of the state, KZZ39 162.500 Clinton, which serves Sedalia, Knob Noster and Whiteman Air Force Base. The tropo really picked up at the end of the month of August; on August 30, I recorded WXN85 162.400 Fairfield, IA and even a close-in station, WXJ92 162.500 Macomb, IL. September began with recordings of WXL61 162.475 Cedar Rapids, IAKZZ57 162.475 Rockford, IL on September 1. I was amazed that the tropo continued past Labor Day, pulling in KIH20 162.400 Huntsville, AL on September 5, WWF44 162.500 Henagar, AL, a city of license change from Fort Payne, on September 6, and WWG83 162.500 Edwardsport, IN and KIH43 162.475 Louisville, KY on September 8. I also noted a new station on September 8: WWG73 162.525 Seymour, IN. It was in for only a few minutes before fading into a mix of WXM90, WWF75 and WXJ91.

2013 will go down as not as good of a season on NOAA Weather Radio than 2012; I only noted three new stations this season (including a city of license change), versus nine new stations in 2012. As of October 1, 2013, my NOAA Weather Radio totals stand at 112 stations from 20 states.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Summer of 2013 on the Telly

While the E-skip season was not the best of seasons on FM, the Summer of 2013 on the television (both in analog and digital format) was something I wouldn't complain about. It wasn't that bad.

The season got a late start due to the fact I didn't put up my new television antenna until May 18. The Radio Shack VU-210XR that I had used for analog and TV DX since 1998 was totaled in the tornado on April 10, as many of you may know. The replacement is a Winegard HD8200U VHF/UHF/FM yagi antenna. I broke it in with an E-skip opening to Mexico, during which I logged a new state: Veracruz. XHGV 4 from Las Lajas was noted on May 19 during the late morning hours. Later that evening, I stumbled on a tropo opening into the Nashville area. Here are the Nashville area digital TV stations I logged:

 
 
 

Outside of Music City U.S.A., I also noted WNIN Evansville, IN operating in digital on their former analog channel of 9. I previously noted WNIN on channel 12 in digital format in 2008. In addition, I also noted WBKO 13 Bowling Green, KY for the first time since the digital transition. The video captures below are from WNIN and WBKO. WNIN on channel 9 is the 150th digital TV station logged from my location.

 
 

Toward the end of May, I added an analog on 2: CKCO2 Wiarton, ON. At 630 miles, it was short distance for E-skip. The only other CKCO relay station logged at my location was in December 1994: CKCO3 from Sarnia on analog 42. On June 4, after I witnessed the landing of the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, I returned to my shack to pull in KAFT 9 (13) Fayetteville, AR. It's only my third station noted from Arkansas, and the first one from outside Jonesboro. Note that the fourth channel is used as a reading service for the visually impaired.


As the month of June ended, I was able to more than double the size of my digital TV logbook from Kansas. During the evening hours, I added KTWU 11 and WIBW-DT 13 in Topeka, as well as KOAM 7 in Pittsburg. The one relog noted below is KMCI 41 (38) in Lawrence. The one thing I started to discover about my new TV antenna is that it's really helped my VHF digital TV count.

 
 

June also brought three new analog TV stations to the logbook: XHGC 5 from Mexico City, a relay of XHCNL 34 Monterrey, NL on channel 2 from Saltillo, Coahuila, and XHFM on channel 2 from Veracruz. July 3 brought the first log of WRGB 6 in digital format from Schenectady, NY since 2009...I noted This TV on 6.2, identifying as "This Albany". July 5 finally had WACP 4 Atlantic City, NJ decode...all I got was PSIP info on 4.2. July 15 brought a very strong signal in analog format from CFQC1 on channel 3 from Stranraer, SK. It's a wide spot in the road somewhere in the western part of the province. On August 18, I logged my 10th Mexican state with the addition of XHQ 3 in Culiacan, Sonora. The capture below is from CFQC1.


August was the month that all of television in St. Louis went all-digital. The last holdout was the 3ABN affiliate...moving from analog 49 (as K49FC) to digital 25 as K25NG. 3ABN also added three other video channels (Proclaim!, Dare to Dream and Latino) and three radio channels (3ABN English and Spanish radio feeds, as well as Radio 74 Internationale) to the channel. 



That same evening, I pulled in Memphis on FM again, as well as WHBQ 13. This video capture is for WHBQ 13.2, which carries Movies!, a 24-hour movie channel.



The end of August brought my first low-power DTV stations with the new antenna: W40CV on channel 40 from Jacksonville, IL (relaying WAND 17 Decatur, IL) and 3ABN affiliate W29CI on channel 29 from Salem, IL (configured the same as K25NG). Here's the video captures.



The tropo season went into September, noting relogs of KWWL 7 Waterloo, IA and KCRG 9 Cedar Rapids, IA. Another opening during the first full weekend of September brought digital TV stations from Louisville and Evansville. These two captures are of sub-channels of WHAS 11 Louisville.


As of September 27, 2013, the analog TV logbook stands at 576 stations; the digital TV logbook stands at 162. There may end up being more tropo later this fall...tropo has also been reported in the autumn and winter months.



Friday, September 13, 2013

The Summer of 2013: Plenty of Tropo on FM

If there is one thing I will remember the summer of 2013 for, it's for the fact that I've gotten more stations on tropo than on E-skip. More than two-thirds of the new stations I've logged were via this mode of propagation. That more than made up for the lackluster E-skip season.

I got a late start on the season because I still had to finish repairing damage from the April 10 EF2 tornado. The totaled Radio Shack VU-210XR was replaced with a Winegard HD8200U VHF/UHF/FM antenna. The Antenna Performance Specialties APS-9B was salvaged. The first tropo opening of the season, for me, was May 19 and 20. It all started in the mid-evening hours with the reception of FM stations in western Kentucky and Tennessee. One new station added to the log was WAYQ 88.3 Clarksville, TN; they carry the "Way FM" Contemporary Christian format that's common on stations throughout the Mid-South. For a while, I thought it was WAYH Harvest, AL until I went through the FM Atlas again, and found out WAYH is parked on the same frequency as local KDHX! It was corrected in the log. Before midnight, I was able to get a clip from WNRQ 105.9 Nashville, TN. This one cleanly separated from local KPNT 105.7. Another clip I got was from WBKR 92.5 Owensboro, KY; I had some digital interference from local WIL 92.3 affecting the signal's strength. I added a few more signals in the wee hours of May 20: one of those was WJRV 106.1 Oliver Springs, TN (Knoxville market)...be careful of this one, because it uses the same slogan (106.1 The River) and format (Classic Hits) as WWWY North Vernon, IN. This is my 40th Tennessee FM at my location, after double-checking the logbook in late August. It would be nice if I could get something from the city of Knoxville. Another one I added was WTTL-FM 106.9 Madisonville, KY; I also have their AM sister on 1310 kHz in my logbook. WTTL-FM programs a Contemporary Hit Radio format. Another new one I logged is actually a city of license change: WLLE 102.1 Mayfield, KY moved from nearby Clinton. (No, it's not the Mayfield depicted in "Leave It to Beaver".) Another one I added was WLQK 95.9 Livingston, TN; I noted their "Light Rock 95-9" and Adult Contemporary format taking out WDQN-FM (Du Quoin, IL) and WOLG (Carlinville, IL). Yet another Kentucky FM I added was WDNS 93.3 Bowling Green (nulling out my most frequent KY station on the frequency, WKYQ Paducah). The tropo shifted to Missouri after 0900 CDT on the 20th, recording KCLR 99.3 Boonville, even with local KLJY on 99.1. 

The next morning (May 21) was mostly up to the Quad Cities after 0900. One station I did get a good recording from is WLSR 92.7 Galesburg, IL. The station is known on the air as "The Laser"...the newscasts are produced by sister station WGIL 1400. The other station of note on this opening was WLLR 103.7 Davenport, IA taking out WDBR (Springfield, IL). The openings of June 2, 3 and 4 were mostly regional in nature, mainly extending from southern Iowa to northern Arkansas, although I caught K268BF 101.5 Bellefontaine, MO (between Spanish Lake and West Alton) on June 3 simulcasting KWJK 93.1 Boonville, MO instead of receiving WARW 89.5 Dorsey, IL via W226BC in Brighton, IL. In the past couple of years, I've caught this station relaying WXRT Chicago, WIBC Indianapolis, WYDS Decatur, IL, KKYA Yankton, SD and KBDZ Perryville, MO in addition to W226BC on 93.1; I recorded the reception of KWJK on 93.1 instead of the K268BF relay. One station I recorded a clip from was on June 4, when I received an AMBER Alert cancellation from KEDB 105.3 Chariton, IA. I was also able to take out semi-local WXAJ (Hillsboro, IL) to pull in KBEA 99.7 Muscatine, IA. On June 3, I also recorded clips from WZIM 99.5 Lexington, IL and KOPN 89.5 Columbia, MO. WZIM took out WCOY at my shack. June 5 brought some mid-afternoon trop; I recorded this clip from KGOZ 101.7 Gallatin, MO.

The early morning hours of June 11 featured an opening that pretty much stretched from north central Iowa to Little Rock, highlighted by hearing folk music on 90.1 and 91.1. Of course, the 90.1 signal was WOI-FM in Ames. The 91.1 turned out to be KNSH Fort Dodge, IA, which I had logged previously as KTPR. I was also able to record KJAB 88.3 Mexico, MO asking for donations to help make a final payment on a Nautel exciter. The big surprise of this opening was KKPT 94.1 Little Rock, AR, which I nulled out semi-local KPVR (Bowling Green, MO) to hear. Another station that was in with a strong signal was KMMO-FM 102.9 Marshall, MO; I would hear the AM on 1300 kHz later in the summer for my 100th Missouri AM station. In the evening hours, I had stations mainly from Missouri, Illinois and Iowa in. I was able to null out my local Classical music station, K297BI, to hear KGRS 107.3 Burlington, IA. I also got a Stereo clip from KWWR 95.7 Mexico, MO

The evening hours of June 17 began with another opening to Illinois; one of the stations I was able to get a clip from before midnight CDT was WBNQ 101.5 Bloomington, IL. I had this verified back in the 1990s. I was also able to get a Stereo clip from WLCE 97.7 Petersburg, IL, nulling out KHZR (Potosi, MO) completely to hear this station. Even with a local on 98.1, I was able to get a clip from WRAN 98.3 Tower Hill, IL. I also noted the change at WSCT 90.5 Springfield, IL from WIBI 91.1 Carlinville (which now relays WBGL 91.7 Champaign) to WCIC 91.5 Pekin, due to the consolidation of operations at New Life Media. Even with adjacent channel interference from KLJY 99.1 (Clayton, MO), I also got a clip from WXFM 99.3 Mount Zion, IL. At 2356 CDT, I added WVIL 101.3 Virginia, IL with sports talk. This clip of WVIL is from June 24. Also on that same evening, I was able to reduce the digital sidebands from KSHE 94.7 to hear WLRW 94.5 Champaign, IL. One of the few Missouri stations I heard that evening was KZBK 96.9 Brookfield; I was trying to hear WLBH-FM Mattoon, IL to try and get me closer to 200 FM stations from Illinois.

After midnight on June 18, I added another new Illinois station with WKIO 107.9 Arcola, IL; this is the 190th FM station noted from the Land of Lincoln. This was previously noted from Neoga, IL as WXET. I also got a clip from WCRC 95.7 Effingham, IL, even with local WFUN-FM in digital format on 95.5. One new station I pulled in was WQCY 103.9 Quincy, IL; I previously noted the call sign on 99.5 (which is now WCOY). Another Stereo clip I recorded that morning was KTCM 97.3 Madison, MO, a Contemporary Christian station serving Moberly. I also got a clip from KBEQ 104.3 Kansas City, MO before 1000 CDT. Right at 1000, I got the biggest surprise of the opening, with 250-watt K279BI 103.7 relaying KCMO Kansas City, MO (710 kHz). With the AM's highly directional signal, an FM translator could fill in the gaps. That's 1.1 watts per mile!

After the E-skip opening to the Rio Grande Valley on June 23, I had a tropo opening into Arkansas, noting KABZ 103.7 Little Rock and KAMS 95.1 Mammoth Spring after 1630 CDT. After 2300 CDT, it shifted toward the Quad Cities once again. WLKU 98.9 Rock Island, IL is one of the few K-Love Contemporary Christian stations within 200 miles of my shack. This was cleanly separated from KLJY 99.1; St. Louis is served by their sister network, Air 1. Another Quad Cities FM that made it to my location was WXLP 96.9 Moline, IL; the digital sidebands from KFTK 97.1 was mostly nulled to hear this one. I was also able to cleanly separate WKAI 100.1 Macomb, IL from another local. Next to my local on 94.7, I pulled in WAAG 94.9 Galesburg. This is another station co-owned with WGIL 1400 and WLSR 92.7. I also pulled in another one next to a local, this one being WKXQ 92.5 Rushville, IL. Just after 0200 CDT, I nulled out semi-local KFAV (Warrenton, MO) to pull in WWCT 99.9 Bartonville, IL. The next night (June 25), I nulled out my semi-local on 97.7 to hear WHET West Frankfort, IL. This is one of a growing number of FM Classic Country stations. The opening extended from north central Illinois to western portions of Kentucky and Tennessee, extending all the way from Galesburg to Memphis.

The morning hours of June 27 brought mostly Illinois FM stations to this location. WDDD 107.3 Johnston City, IL was noted in Stereo after 0830 CDT with K297BI nulled. I added a new Iowa station with the log of KRNF 89.7 Montezuma at 0945 CDT; the station identified as "God's Country 89.7", indicating a Southern Gospel format. KRNF is the 60th FM station noted from The Hawkeye State. The evening hours featured a strong tropo opening into western Missouri. Besides the Kansas City stations, I noted KWKJ 98.5 Windsor, MO at 1859 CDT with country music and legal ID. The clip of 98.5 The Bar is from August 8. Just after 1930 CDT, I nulled out KPNT 105.7 to pull in KXKX Knob Noster, MO; they were heavy on the Sedalia/ Warrensburg commercials. I also noted the new KLMZ 107.1 Leadwood, MO (near Park Hills) with a rock format and Farmington ads.

The next morning brought more stuff from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas. It started with KRRY 100.9 Canton, MO around 0645 CDT. After 0700, KJNW 88.5 Kansas City, MO was noted; I have noted this previously as KLJC. At 0750 CDT, I nulled out another local to hear DX. This time, it was KBWX (Columbia, IL) that was nulled to hear WXCL 104.9 Pekin, IL. I remember hearing this call at 1350 on the AM dial back in the 1980s. Another station added to the logbook that morning was the Bloomington/Normal outlet for the Adult Hits format, WBBE 97.9 Heyworth, IL. I had to fight adjacent channel interference from KYKY 98.1 to hear this one. Terre Haute FM stations were in before 0900 CDT; WDWQ 102.7 made it in, taking out the digital interference from KEZK 102.5. The most frequently heard Terre Haute FM back in the 1980s, WTHI 99.9, completely took out semi-local KFAV. After 0900, I pulled in my 1,200th FM station (before reviewing my logs in August) when I pulled in KSYN 92.5 Joplin, MO. The last time I heard this was in Woodstock, GA via E-layer skip back around 1990. My 30th Kansas FM was noted before the opening faded: KJML 107.1 Columbus. A good way to end the month of June.


July began with some E-skip; tropo picked up toward the end of the month. Some of the short trop openings include one toward Kentucky and Indiana on July 11, during which I recorded a clip from WHOP-FM 98.7 Hopkinsville, KY. On July 12, I recorded a clip from KCJK 105.1 Garden City, MO. It started to pick up again on July 23 toward western Missouri and southern Iowa. The morning of July 24 brought another new Illinois FM, this one being WIUW 89.5 Warsaw at 0715 CDT. The station is a relay of WIUM 91.3 in Macomb. A new Iowa station was noted at 0727; this time, it was KRKN 104.3 Eldon, serving Ottumwa. Eastern Kansas FM stations made it in before 1000 CDT; most notably KJCK-FM 97.5 Junction City and KSAJ 98.5 Abilene. July 25 was one of the more unusual openings, pulling in stations from Bloomington/Normal all the way to northwest Georgia. WSIE 88.7 was off that morning, allowing me to get a clip from WPCD 88.7 Champaign, IL. At 1030 CDT, I pulled in talk on the Atlanta Falcons and local ads (one ad mentioning Peachtree Road) on 92.9; it was WZGC Atlanta. When I moved to the area in 1988, they were a Dance CHR format, flipping to Classic Rock at the beginning of 1989, then to Adult Hits about 2005 before assuming their present Sports format. I did note a new station in WYJJ 97.7 Trenton, TN with Urban AC before 1100 CDT. The afternoon brought in mainly Eastern Illinois stations. The month of July ended with two new additions. One was a 250-watt translator, K259BB 99.7 Sikeston, MO, relaying KSIV-FM 91.5 St. Louis before 0100 CDT. For a moment before 0200, I thought I was getting WMFS-FM 92.9 Bartlett, TN; the AM on 680 kHz in nearby Memphis is a fairly easy catch from my shack at night. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was KLSC Malden, MO; their legal ID mentioned 1,000-watt daytimer KMAL 1470 kHz. A late afternoon opening to Illinois and Iowa brought a fitting ending to the month.

The month of August started with another opening in the wee hours to southern Illinois, western Kentucky and southwest Indiana. The evening brought an opening to western Missouri and eastern Kansas...KICT 95.1 Wichita was one of the Kansas stations I pulled in. The clip includes a promo for an event at a "gentlemen's club" that the station was co-sponsoring! August 4 and 5 brought a tropo opening into the Mid-South, starting at 2305 with WMC-FM 99.7 Memphis, TN. Another Mississippi station was added after 2320 with WZLQ 98.5 Tupelo (pulled in through semi-local KTJJ Farmington, MO). After 2330, I noted WRVR 104.5 Memphis, TN taking out semi-local KSLQ (Washington, MO). Other metro Memphis stations noted included WGKX 105.9 and WKQK 94.1. After midnight, I also noted a new Arkansas station with KWNW 101.9 Crawfordsville; the first time I've noted this station since it moved from Jonesboro (where it was KIYS). Before 0200, I noted my 10th Mississippi FM with WMAE 89.5 Booneville, the Mississippi Public Radio station serving the Tupelo area. Another Mississippi station I noted that morning was WWMS 97.5 Oxford, the hometown of the University of Mississippi. Alabama even made it, pulling in WRSA 96.9 from its new city of license, Holly Pond (I also have this from Decatur) and a metro Birmingham station, WBHK 98.7 Warrior.

August 8-9 brought a late night opening into Kansas, followed by a late morning opening toward east central Illinois. Before 2200 CDT, I noted KBUZ 90.3 Topeka with typical American Family Association programming. The AFA is a fundamentalist Christian organization. Before midnight, I caught KHCC 90.1 Hutchinson wrapping up its broadcast day. After midnight, I caught KEYN 103.7 Wichita. After 0900 CDT on August 9, the opening shifted to Illinois, noting WPIA 98.5 Eureka and WWHX 100.7 Normal before 1000 CDT. After 1030, I noted one Indiana station in WIVR 101.7 Kentland. I tried for the simulcast partner on 103.7, but WDBR (Springfield, IL) dominated on the frequency. August 11-12 brought tropo into Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee...that was the last of the tropo until the last week of the month.

August 26 brought another opening into Indiana and Kentucky. August 27 brought my 50th Indiana FM station in the form of WSKL 92.9 Veedersburg, which serves Danville, IL. August 29 brought another opening into Iowa. Before midnight, I recorded clips from KRNA 94.1 Iowa City and KOKX-FM 95.3 Keokuk. The early hours of August 30 allowed me to record clips from KCII-FM 106.1 Washington, IAKOEL-FM 98.5 Cedar Falls and KDAT 104.5 Cedar Rapids. Before 0200 CDT, I got one step closer to the 200-station mark from Illinois when I pulled in WGNX 96.7 Colchester. Even the Windy City got in on the fun, with WMBI-FM 90.1 and WUSN 99.5. After 0900 CDT, I was able to get clips from KATF 92.9 Dubuque, IA and WVIK 90.3 Rock Island, IL.

The morning hours of August 31 brought an opening that stretched from Nashville to Joplin, noting WWTN 99.7 Hendersonville, TN and KHST 101.7 Lamar, MO between 0100 and 0200 CDT. The morning hours brought another opening that extended from western Kentucky to central Iowa. That's the way FM DX ended the month of August.

Yes, the tropo season extended into the month of September. After midnight on September 1, I noted two Twin Cities stations (both from Minneapolis), Classical KSJN 99.5 and Contemporary Christian KTIS-FM 98.5. KTIS-FM is the only Northwestern College-owned FM I've logged that doesn't use the "Life" slogan. Before 0100 CDT, I got a clip from WIZM-FM 93.3 La Crosse, WI and noted a new Iowa FM in KUNI 90.9 Cedar Falls. After 0100, I noted the sign-off from KNXR 97.5 Rochester, MN. The opening extended into Nebraska after 0200, noting KBBX 97.7 Nebraska City. A new Wisconsin FM was noted at 0247 CDT when I pulled in WAXX 104.5 Eau Claire. After 0300, I noted another station next to a local; this one being KKWK 100.1 Cameron, MO, which I had previously noted as KNOZ. Before 0400, I noted my 65th Iowa FM station; one of the more unique stations on the dial, KSOI 91.9 Murray/Osceola. Iowa passed up Florida to return to third place on my most productive DX states list.

Tropo DX returned on September 5, starting after 0100 CDT with WQXQ 101.9 Central City, KY and WYJJ 97.7 Trenton, TN. I also noted a call change after 0200 CDT with WKSW 98.5 Cookeville, TN. I had them verified as WHUB-FM in 1995, and also noted them as WGIC. The opening shifted to western Kentucky during the early morning hours, Iowa in the late afternoon and western Illinois in the early evening. The late night hours brought DX from Arkansas and southwest Missouri. The day officially ended with KABZ 103.7 Little Rock, AR.

The wee hours of September 6 brought more DX. Just after midnight, I pulled in a K-Love affiliate on 107.1; after looking at their Web site, it turned out to be KBMV Birch Tree, MO. Another new Arkansas station was added at 0043 CDT; I have not noted KQUS 97.5 Hot Springs since November 1988, when I was living in Woodstock, GA. Another new Alabama FM was noted at 0122, when I noted WWFF 93.3 New Market; I've previously noted this one from Tullahoma, TN. After 0300, I noted a former semi-local from my days in Georgia when I pulled in WUSY 100.7 Cleveland, TN over KGMO. Another ex-local made it in around 0400, when I pulled in WTSH 107.1 Aragon, GA. I also noted this one in 2005, when it was licensed to Rockmart. The station has been "South 107" since 1990. Another new one added was WLLX 97.5 Lawrenceburg, TN at 0320 CDT for my 45th Tennessee FM. The evening hours brought another new FM; this one being WGKS 96.9 Paris, TN with "Delilah". This was confirmed by a check of her Web site.

One new FM was added to the logbook on September 8, this one being WKLO 96.9 Hardinsburg, KY at 1835 CDT. This was during an opening into the Louisville, KY area. September 10 brought an end to the season so far, with logs of KTGR-FM 100.5 Fulton, MO, KSSZ 93.9 Fayette, MO and KMFC 92.1 Centralia, MO (now Columbia's K-Love station) before 0800 CDT.

I started the 2013 FM DX season with 1,178 FM stations, and wrapped it up with 1,237. I'm still three FM stations shy of the 200 mark from Illinois, and need just four to hit 175 from Missouri. I've made three milestones this season: FM station number 190 from Illinois, 50 from Indiana, 60 and 65 from Iowa, 30 from Kansas, 170 from Missouri, and 40 from Tennessee. There could be some off-season trops coming in the fall and winter months. In upcoming blogs, I'll take a look at the season on TV and NOAA Weather Radio.

(Note: The links in this blog are to the audio clips...when you click on these links, you will be able to listen to these clips.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

2013: The E-Skip Season That Almost Wasn't

Of course, I can think back to 2002, the last time we had an E-skip season that wasn't. I only heard three new FM stations all that year. The E-skip season of 2013 was one that almost didn't happen.

This year, the first E-skip opening that reached FM didn't happen until June 2. It was mid-morning at my shack in Hazelwood, MO when I logged my first FM from the Mexican state of Veracruz, XHBY 96.7 Tuxpan. On analog TV, I also logged XHGV on Channel 4 from Las Lajas for my first TV station from the state of Veracruz. Prior to June 2, no E-skip openings have gotten past TV Channel 6.

I had to wait over a month for the next E-skip opening on FM, a brief one into the Northeast, which bagged only my eighth FM station from Pennsylvania, WZZO 95.1 Bethlehem. That opening faded fast. Two days later, another opening into the Northeast brought more FM DX. It started in New England, where I was able to hear WBOS 92.9 Brookline, MA. As it turned out, it was the only Boston area station in on this opening. The opening then shifted to the New York area; the first sign of this was hearing WPAT-FM 93.1 Paterson, NJ, across the Hudson from the Big Apple. Another station logged from northern New Jersey was WBGO 88.3 Newark, NJ, serving as New York's only station airing Jazz of any kind. I also had two stations on 92.7 from different sides of New York: WQBU Garden City (Long Island) was noted with Spanish programming, while WRRV Middletown, near West Point, was winning the battle on 92.7. Long Island was also represented by Smithtown's WWSK 94.3, which I have previously noted as WMJC. The action then moved down I-95 to Philadelphia, where a talk show was in progress on WIP-FM 94.1 Philadelphia. I'm sure many of the East Coast DXers have heard the AM on 610 kHz; another station in from the Philly metro was WJBR 99.5 Wilmington, DE. This is one of only three stations I've logged from Delaware; I first noted this in the summer of 2000. A number of stations also made it from the Jersey Shore; one of those was WBBO 98.5 Ocean Acres, near Cape May. By the time this opening faded in the early evening hours, I was able to get my first North Carolina station via E-skip: WZRU 90.1 Garysburg, near Roanoke Rapids. I've logged three North Carolina FM stations via three different modes of propagation. The other two have been logged by meteor scatter (WZKB 94.3 Wallace in November 1998) and tropospheric enhancement (WMIT 106.9 Black Mountain in June 2011). On the TV side, WACP 4 Atlantic City, NJ decoded for the first time, and the signal meter was lighting up on Channel 6 on the digital tuner, but no PSIP information was noted.

The last two openings were to the north and northwest. One on July 8 was very brief, but it allowed me to hear CJHD 93.3 New Battleford, SK. This would be my 18th FM station from the province of Saskatchewan. It is my second most productive Canadian DX province; twice that number have been heard from Quebec. You would expect Ontario, my closest province, to be my most productive province, DX-wise, on FM...but it's my fourth most productive province. Between ON and SK is New Brunswick, with 14 FM stations logged. The next opening would be on July 15, with clips recorded from Montana FM stations. This had the highest maximum usable frequency of the season, with the MUF reaching 101.7 MHz. This is where I heard KWGF Vaughn, located northwest of Great Falls. Another FM noted on this opening was KGGL 93.3 Missoula. This is my first FM from Missoula; co-channel KURL Billings wasn't in. The signal meter on the digital TV tuner lit up on Channels 5 and 6 in that direction, but neither station would be strong enough to even receive PSIP information to identify either one of the Butte low-band DTV stations. However, the highlight of the opening came on analog TV, when CFQC1 Channel 3 in Stranraer, SK (CFQC is in digital format from Saskatoon) was strong enough for me to get this video capture below. This is an ad promoting a barbecue event in Saskatoon.


Only 11 new FM stations and six new analog TV stations were noted this E-skip season. This was an E-skip season that almost wasn't. This summer has been a far better tropo season; I will note the highlights of the tropo season in another entry.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Franken-FM"

Many of you may have seen the movie "Frankenstein", about a man created by a mad scientist inside a laboratory. Enviromentalists throw about the term "Frankenfish", fish created inside a laboratory. Well, this "Franken" was NOT created in a laboratory. What "Franken" wasn't created in a laboratory? A "Franken-FM".

The term "Franken-FM" refers to a low-power analog television station on VHF Channel 6 that operates as an FM radio station. The audio frequency for an analog TV station on VHF Channel 6 is 87.75 MHz. Many FM receivers tune the frequency 87.7 MHz. During the analog era, that enabled listeners in cars to tune in the audio of an analog television station on VHF Channel 6. This is how I've logged numerous Channel 6 stations. The closest station to me in analog format on Channel 6 was WPSD Paducah, KY. I often used this station to detect FM reception conditions into southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri and western Kentucky. Other Channel 6 stations were used as a barometer for band conditions into other areas, such as KWQC in Davenport, IA, WRTV in Indianapolis, IN, KMOS in Sedalia, MO and even KEMV in Mountain View, AR. Since I had a local on VHF Channel 5 (KSDK) and 88.1 MHz (KDHX), the best way to get tropo on VHF Channel 6 was through the audio channel. This is also how I've gotten a few E-skip logs on the channel, such as WLNE in New Bedford, MA (Providence, RI market), XET-TV Monterrey, NL, Mexico or WTVJ Miami, FL.

To the best of my knowledge, the first "Franken-FM" appeared in Anchorage, AK when a low-power TV station operated as an FM radio station, only putting its call letters on the screen. The "Franken-FMs" started appearing in the Midwest just after full-power TV stations transitioned from analog to digital. The first "Franken-FM" I heard was WLFM-LP Chicago, IL; it was then carrying the Smooth Jazz format that was dumped by Clear Channel's WNUA 95.5 (which I logged in 1999 while WFUN-FM Bethalto, IL was off the air). The format evolved to Smooth AC by the time I made this recording in 2011. The following year, I logged this station on one of the hottest days in St. Louis as WKQX-LP. The WKQX calls were a longtime resident on 101.1 in Chicago (which was originally WMAQ-FM). Later in 2011, I also pulled in WPGF-LP Memphis, TN with a simulcast of WMPS 1210 in nearby Bartlett, which carried a Conservative Talk format at the time. I logged this again at midnight on August 5, 2013, this time simulcasting WHBQ 560 Memphis with its all-Sports format.

The days of the "Franken-FM" are numbered, though...the drop-dead date for low-power analog TV, from what I've heard, is sometime in 2015. Digital TV technology has allowed for audio feeds to be broadcast on DTV channels, as is the case with one of the newest stations on the 3 Angels Broadcasting Network, K25NG on UHF Channel 25 in St. Louis. 3ABN's English radio feed on channel 25.5, 3ABN's Spanish radio feed on channel 25.6, and Radio 74 Internationale on channel 25.7, along with four channels of video. I wonder if the FCC will allow analog FM translators to carry the audio channels of DTV stations, like they do with the second and third digital channels of FM radio stations (like K297BI 107.3 St. Louis, which carries the second digital channel of KIHT 96.3). 

Get as many "Franken-FMs" as you can.