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Radio Tower Winches

Take the strain out of raising and luffing tilt over masts
By David Bowyer M1AEI

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For many years now I’ve been involved with the radio scene.

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 fun.

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 prepare them:

‘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 VAT

Notes:

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 pleasurable!”

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 Goodwinch
Best 73’s,

David Bowyer M1AEI

PDF of Radcom article June 2011

Replacement wire ropes for STRUMECH VERSATOWER prices

Winch prices
 

 

 

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Last modified: 28-Jan-2021