Radio Tower Winches
Take the strain out of raising and luffing tilt over
By David Bowyer M1AEI
For many years now I’ve been involved with the radio
Like many Amateurs Radio operators and indeed Short
Wave Listeners, I used to build and experiment with Crystal Sets moving onto
single and double valve sets when I was a lad, blimmy, that was 65 years ago! I
used to enjoy soldering components together, hanging wires out through the
bedroom window to a tree and down to an earth stake, and listening intently into
the headphones. My Mum often would come to say goodnight and find me asleep,
with the headphones still on!
Later on when I was about 14, Dad took me to a cottage
that he was renovating for a client and I noticed a lot of wires radiating from
the top of a Yew tree. I was told that the owner was into Amateur Radio and was
invited into his radio room. From memory all the receivers and transmitters,
lots of them, were fitted into tall racks beside his desk with various
microphones and Morse keys connected. When he switched everything on, all the
valves glowed behind. I was simply amazed by it all. He was a very interesting
person, smoking a pipe all the time, and he ran a small television and radio
repair shop in Andover. Many years later I learnt that both he and his Wife were
Code Breakers at Bletchley Park during the War.
When I was 17, I passed my test, 2 weeks after my
birthday, and regularly visited a second hand shop in Andover who were selling
EX WD radios. Over a few months I bought a 19 set, an 18 set and a 38 set.
Didn’t I have some fun with these radios! I had a small shed where I kept my
carpentry tools and I installed the 19 set in there and made a wooden mast
behind to hang the aerial wires to. In my Father’s Series Two Land Rover which I
used to use, I carried the 18 and 38 sets and didn’t my friends and I have some
I was hoping to take Amateur Radio exams then, but my
Father said no my lad, you need to concentrate on your College work first, so
that put paid to that idea. I actually spent 6 years at Salisbury Technical
College, firstly full time, then Day Release, finishing with Evening Classes,
taking various Building subjects.
Moving on a very long time to 1994, and after moving to
Devon from Andover, I joined the Torbay Amateur Radio Society and within four
months of joining I took the exams and gained my B Licence.
In 1995, I purchased a BP40 tower from an Amateur in
Derby and on the way back to Devon I called into Strumech Versatower at
Brownhills and picked up a new top section turning it into a BP60 tower. When I
was there I met their Managing Director and asked if they sold electric tower
winch systems. He said “ yes, we sell a few” and when he told me the price I
nearly fell over as they were over £800, and that was 25 years ago! Well with me
being well involved in winches, it wasn’t very long before I was designing and
building Tower Winch systems at a lot lesser price at the time!!
So here we are 25 years on, I sold my Goodwinch
business three years ago and since then I have continued to build and commission
Tower Winch systems for Goodwinch Limited and their clients, who I then talk to
and advise on their requirements.
Over these last 25 years I have sure learnt a lot about
Radio and Communication towers. There are several makes, nearly all obsolete
now, but being galvanised they all last for ever. Lattice mast towers that we
have supplied winch systems for range from 40’ right up to 120’. Tubular round
and square section towers usually don’t rise to much more than 40’.
In the main, here in the UK and well into Europe,
towers were made by Strumech Versatower which is the oldest and longest make of
telescopic lattice masts. Other similar masts were Westower, Altron and Radio
Structures. The winch system that I designed 25 years ago is based on the
Strumech hand winch mounting brackets for both Raising and Luffing. With slight
modifications having had sight of pictures sent to me of their towers, I can
advise Amateurs of what they need, or have to do to fit what I make up for them.
The majority of 12volt winch systems for heavy lattice
masts is the very well respected and reliable Goodwinch TDS-12.0 winch with a
special narrow drum designed for towers and for your information, this is how I
‘The first thing I do is to disable the free spool
mechanism for obvious safety reasons. I then remove the solenoid pack and
re-fit it to the top of the galvanised tower mounting channel and re-wire
them to the 12volt motor. The next stage is to tape up the winch fly leads
and fitting an Anderson quick disconnect fitting with waterproof covers. I
then make up the battery harness using 35mm/square copper welding cable with
an Anderson one end and a pair of battery posts the other end. This Anderson
connection is specifically for isolation purposes as you must never leave
the battery connected when not actually Raising/Lowering or Luffing.
To finish off I fit a set of roller fairleads to
suit, bench test and run up. Each winch system comes with a nice long 5m
(17’) operating handset which allows you to stand well back, especially when
using the raising winch so you can easily see the top two plates lining up.
You actually go up a touch further, let go of the top safety catch rope and
lower the tower down onto the locked catch.
Depending on which make of tower you have, you will
receive some spacer plates to go between the back of our galvanised mounting
channel and your hand winch bracket on the tower, which in the case of the
Raising winch ensures that the back of the left hand side of our channel
misses the front tower tube. You also receive a new set of mounting
setscrews to suit’.
As at January 2021, the special old price for fellow
Radio Amateurs is £595 plus Carriage and VAT for either a Raising or Luffing
Tower Winch system. There is of course a saving in carriage costs when two
systems are ordered and sent together. I do however recommend you purchase at
the same time a winch cover to keep the rain, sun and bird droppings of the
winches for £35 each plus VAT.
For smaller tubular round and square section tower,
like Tennamast and similar, I recommend the Goodwinch ATV4000 Tower Winch system
which I set up in a similar way to the above and costs £265 plus carriage and
For powering TDS-12.0 winches I suggest you purchase
locally an 85amp/hour Deep Cycle Leisure battery (100 amp/hour for 80 & 100’
masts) and tie it to a cheap pair of aluminium sack trucks and keep it in the
garage or shed connected to a 24/7 smart battery charger/conditioner so it is
always ready for use and simply wheeled out when required. For ATV4000 winches a
45amp/hour will be fine.
One always uses the special wire rope that comes on the
mast, but if you feel that any of them need changing though wear and tear,
Goodwinch stock the correct grade of 6mm galvanised wire ropes for Tower Lifting
operations. I can advise you further and add these to your order.
Quite a few fellow Radio Amateurs have said to me
recently “You must realise David, us Old Timers and those beginning age a bit
are finding it hard work now turning a winch handle and it’s no longer
Finally, if I can help in any way or give advice please
don’t hesitate to contact me either direct (see Home page) or through
David Bowyer M1AEI
PDF of Radcom article
ropes for STRUMECH VERSATOWER prices