My Boatanchor Page

My Favorite Things About Boatanchors

Cool Boatanchor Sites

R390A Receiver Home On The WWW (archived)
The R-390A Frequently Asked Questions Page
Fair Radio - military and industrial surplus electronics
Radio Boulevard - Western Historic Radio Museum
Josh Rovero's excellent boatanchor pages, including the R-392
R-1051/URR Navy Receiver Info
Hammarlund HQ-129X Info
Go to my Hallicrafters page!
Go to my R-390A page!

Welcome to my boatanchor page! Boatanchors (in the metaphorical sense) are very heavy communications receivers which are jokingly said to be able to anchor a boat (hence the nickname). They are usually very large, use multitudes of vacuum tubes, and are often overengineered. Many of the boatanchors out there were produced for the military, but there were some consumer sets built as well (two examples of civillian boatanchors are the Hallicrafters SX-42 and the National NC-183D).

My first boatanchor (actually a semi-boatanchor, since it isn't all that large) was a Hallicrafters S-118. While definitely not a true boatanchor (it weighs only 15-20 pounds), it does use a healthy amount of iron (it has a power transformer, unlike other communications receivers of the early '60s), has five bands (ranging from 190kHz to 30MHz), and doesn't look like a normal consumer radio (with a large slide-rule dial extending across most of the faceplate). More about it can be found on my Hallicrafters page.

My second boatanchor was a R-390A/URR made by Electronic Assistance Corporation (EAC), a subsidiary of Hammarlund (makers of civillian boatanchors), in about 1967. The R-390A/URR was designed for the military by Collins Radio Corp. as a low-cost version of it's predecessor, the R-390/URR, and is considered one of the best communications receivers of all time. Around 65,000 of them were made from 1951 all the way up to 1984. They use 26 vacuum tubes, have a Veeder-Root mechanical-digital tuning display (uses number wheels for MHz and kHz indications), and weigh approximately 75-85 pounds. Of the many manufacturers who produced them under contract from the U.S. government, EAC produced over 15,000 of them (more than any other R-390A manufacturer, even Collins, who built around 10,000 of them). When I first got this set, it was complete for the most part (including original meters), but it was missing two of it's tubes and tube shields, which I recently replaced. I have done preliminary testing on my R-390A, and it appears to be working fine so far. More about my R-390A, as well as a journal on it's restoration so far, can be found on my R-390A page.

My third boatanchor was a R-392/URR made by Collins (who also designed the R-390/URR and R-390A/URR, among other military boatanchors). The R-392/URR was designed as a vehicular version of the R-390/URR, and is far more compact. Built as part of the AN/GRC-19 receiver/transmitter set, the R-392 was meant to be paired with the T-195 transmitter (which I now have an example of!), and mounted in the back of a Jeep. Even though it runs on only 28V DC (using no dynamotors or other voltage-boosting methods), it's performance is said to be nearly as good as the R-390. The R-392 uses 25 tubes, weighs around 50 pounds, and is meant to be totally waterproof (mainly due to it's outer case, as well as the specialized connectors used for power and audio). As received, the outer case was missing, and the set had various problems. However, I've since found a replacement case, and the receiver now works perfectly. I've even found a proper power connector, which is fairly rare.

My fourth boatanchor was a R-48/TRC-8 made by Espey Mfg. Co. Inc. I do not know much about this receiver, other than it was meant to be part of the AN/TRC-8 receiver/transmitter set. It receives on the oddly-picked 230-250MHz band, which is most likely vacant today. I have yet to test it, since it needs a new power cord, and I have yet to examine it's innards. UPDATE: Due to the fact that it likely won't be all that useful to me even if working, I decided to sell the set. Hopefully, someone else will have more luck with it than I have.

My fifth boatanchor was a Hallicrafters SX-42. A classic postwar boatanchor, this set has the capability to receive BC AM, BC FM, and everything in between! Reading Phil Nelson's SX-42 saga was a big part of my getting into tube radios in the first place. The example I acquired is rather rusty, and in need of an immense amount of restoration, but if I can pull it off, I'll certainly be well rewarded! More info and pics coming later. UPDATE: I decided to sell this radio for parts. I opened it up, and the damage was far beyond my current ability to repair. Hopefully, it'll prove useful to the buyer.

My sixth boatanchor (actually a semi-boatanchor) was a Hallicrafters S-38B. The Hallicrafters S-38 series was their entry-level communications receiver, meant for people just getting started with shortwave. It's essentially a transformerless "All-American 5" AM table radio with shortwave bands added. I haven't done much with this radio, but it should be interesting to compare to my S-118 once I get it up and running. UPDATE: I decided to give this radio to a friend. It should make a great introduction to tube radios for him.

My seventh boatanchor is an R-1051B/URR, possibly made by Bendix/Allied Signal. The R-1051 series was designed by General Dynamics Corp. with SSB reception in mind, and to be extremely easy to use. It has five tuning knobs, which allow the frequency to be dialed in 'digitally' (in conjunction with frequency synthesis circuitry to keep the tuning rock-steady); other than that, it has surprisingly few knobs for other functions, since it was intended to be "set and forget" (instead of the various sorts of knob-twiddling required to use an R-390A or the like). The tuning mechanism of the R-1051B is extremely complicated, involving metal chains, gears, and motors in order to provide the digit-by-digit tuning it offered. The R-1051 series is mostly solid-state, but still makes use of two vacuum tubes (and was one of the last tube-equipped military communications receivers designed; my R-1051B uses a 6BZ6 and 6AN5WA in the RF deck), and still manages to weigh somewhere around 70 pounds. It has some minor issues, but works for the most part. A picture of it, equipped with LEDs in place of the original dial lamps, can be found here.

My eighth boatanchor is a Hammarlund HQ-129X. The HQ-129X was introduced shortly after the end of WWII. It sports 11 tubes, and covers 540kHz to 31MHz in six bands. The introductory price matched the model number, just $129, yet it offered an impressive level of performance for what you paid, along with a set of crystal filters (unusual for a set at this price level). This didn't last long, as Hammarlund soon realized that it was going to be near-impossible to make a profit at that price, so it went up to $189, and eventually around $239. Even so, it remained very popular, and stayed in the Hammarlund lineup until 1953. Unlike some of my other civilian communications receivers, the HQ-129X is a true boatanchor, weighing in at a whopping 60lbs! My HQ-129X has the all-white markings of a later model, as opposed to the orange/white markings they used in the first year or so. It could use a set of new caps, and much of the paint has flaked off of the dial bezel, but the set works nicely for it's age, and is in decent shape. UPDATE: I sold this radio to someone who wanted a first boatanchor. I think they'll enjoy it!

My ninth boatanchor is a Heathkit SB-102. Unlike my other boatanchors, the SB-102 is actually a transceiver (a receiver and a transmitter all in one), meant for use on the ham radio bands (it covers 80-10M in eight 500kHz bands). Heath produced amateur radio gear for most of the company's time in the kit market, and the SB-series was among the most popular; more info available here. The SB-102 was the last tube-based model to be released within the series. Unlike its predecessors the SB-100 and SB-101, the SB-102 used solid-state components within the tuning unit (known as the "Linear Master Oscillator", or LMO). My SB-102 came with the matching HP-23A external power supply, as well as a SB-600 speaker cabinet (which houses the HP-23A) and the original manuals. All three are in excellent condition cosmetic-wise, though the SB-102 and HP-23A could stand to be worked on since they're nearly 45 years old. It has some issues on the upper bands, but works quite well for transmit and receive on the lower ones.

My tenth boatanchor is a National NC-183D. National is best known for the "HRO" series of radios, but they also made some sets which were more conventional. Introduced in 1952, the NC-183D was an update of their earlier NC-183, adding dual conversion on the upper bands. It uses 16 tubes, and provides continuous coverage from 540kHz to 30MHz, plus the 6M ham radio band (47 to 52MHz). It is similar in general style to the Hammarlund HQ-129X mentioned above, but cost a fair bit more ($370 compared to $189-239 for the HQ-129X), and offered better performance. I got this set along with its matching speaker, and is in very good shape overall. Unfortunately, these sets tended to have weak power transformers; the one in mine hasn't blown up yet, but I'm going to replace the old capacitors before I use it much more. However, it definitely shows lots of potential, even though some of the bands currently have sensitivity issues. More later! UPDATE: I recently had a chance to take the bottom cover off, and found that the receiver had been mostly recapped at some point; I replaced the remaining capacitors (a few molded-paper types, plus all of the old electrolytic caps), but the hum and sensitivity issues remained. Both of these were remedied somewhat by cleaning the radio/phono switch (not sure why that affected performance), though vestiges remain, along with a new issue with the AVC circuit causing overloading on strong signals. I'm hoping these remaining issues can be resolved at some point in the near future, but the radio is working quite nicely for the time being (particularly on band C, which covers 40M, among others).

My eleventh boatanchor is a Collins T-195/URR, made for them by Stewart-Warner. The T-195 was the matching transmitter for the Collins R-392 receiver, as part of the AN/GRC-19 transceiver set. The two were generally installed in the back of a Jeep, though others were installed in larger trucks as part of a mobile communications system. There are several parallels between it and other transmitters which Collins designed for the military around the same time, like the ART-13, including auto-tuning. Like the R-392, the T-195 is meant to be weatherproof, and operate on 28V DC (through use of two dynamotors to boost it to the higher voltages used for transmitting, of course). Since I don't have a Jeep to put it in, I'm planning to run the pair with a PP-4763 50A power supply originally intended for use with the AN/GRC-19's successor, the AN/GRC-106 radio set. Due to the use of dynamotors within the T-195, I may need to wire two car batteries in series across the PP-4763 in order to compensate for the large starting current (around 250A!) when the mic is keyed up. I have yet to do much with this unit due to that (and the fact that I'll need to wire up a 240V circuit to power the PP-4763 in the first place), but hope to do so soon. Stay tuned!

My twelfth boatanchor is a Drake TR-4C. Similar to the Heathkit SB-102 above, the TR-4C is a transceiver, covering the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter ham bands, using several tubes and a separate solid-state power supply within the speaker cabinet; however, like the rest of Drake's products, the TR-4C was factory built. The original TR-4 was introduced in the late '60s, but the TR-4C version was produced several years later, incorporating a solid-state VFO and other improvements. In addition to the MS-4 speaker and AC-4 power supply, it also included a W-4 wattmeter. I have yet to power it up, as I'm sure it needs new capacitors and whatnot, but it seems to be in very good shape overall.

My thirteenth boatanchor is a Hammarlund BC-779, otherwise known as a SP-210LX. Part of the "Super Pro" series, the BC-779/SP-210LX is a specialized coverage version of the SP-200 made for the military. Unlike the standard SP-200, which tunes from 0.5 to 20MHz, the SP-210LX tunes from 100 to 400kHz, and then from 2.5 to 20MHz. Exactly why they skipped the AM broadcasting band is unknown. My SP-210LX is missing its nameplate (not uncommon for old military radios), but all signs point to it being a BC-779. I currently don't have a power supply for this radio, so I have yet to test it; also, it's likely that the old oil-filled "bathtub" capacitors need to be replaced by this point. More later! 6/6/19120 UPDATE: I now have two suitable Super Pro power supplies for this unit, one consumer, as well as a RA-84 military rack-mount unit. Either one should work fine once I replace any needed capacitors.

My fourteenth boatanchor is a Collis R-388/URR. Otherwise known as the 51J-3, it's considered the direct predecessor of the famous R-390 series. Unlike the R-390 and its ilk, the R-388 used a more conventional analog readout, albeit one with linear spacing of frequencies, to cover each 1MHz band segment (starting from .5 to 1.5MHz, and going from there). Developed from their consumer 51J line of general coverage receivers, it covers 500kHz to 30.5MHz, and uses 18 tubes. Mine is missing its ID tag, so I'm not sure if it's truly a R-388, but I wouldn't be surprised. There are probably a few paper capacitors which need to be replaced, but hopefully it won't take too much to make it work to some degree.

My fifteenth boatanchor is a TMC GPR-90. TMC was started by a group of former Hammarlund engineers, and resembles their SP-600 receiver; the GPR-90 isn't quite on the same level, although it's still considered to be very capable. It uses 16 tubes, and weighs 52lbs, which is fairly respectable. I have yet to test this receiver, and it has some cosmetic issues, but seems to be in pretty good shape with its original factory cabinet.

My sixteenth boatanchor is a Hammarlund SP-600. The pinnacle of their "Super Pro" line, the SP-600 was introduced in the early 1950s to replace the SP-400. They saw much use alongside the R-390 series, and are considered by many to be just about as good. Numerous different variants of the SP-600 were made over the years; mine is a SP-600J-25C, though I'm not 100% sure if the '25C' is truly part of the model number, or if it only refers to the 25Hz power supply it's equipped with. Overall, it's in excellent shape, with a nice (if not factory) cabinet, and has had most of the notorious molded-paper capacitors replaced, which is nice. 1/22/19122 UPDATE: As it turned out, this radio had only been partially re-capped. Thanks to a friend, the rest of the nasty molded-paper capacitors (fun fact: some of these sets like mine used tubular caps which are gray rather than black, but they're just as bad as the dreaded "Black Beauties") were replaced with modern caps, and the unit is now working quite nicely.

My seventeenth boatanchor is a Heathkit HW-101. Essentially a low-priced version of the SB-102, the "Hot Water 101" was introduced in late 1970, and stayed on the market until 1983, long after the SB-102 (and the rest of their tube ham radio gear) had been discontinued. This particular HW-101 is special, in a way: whoever bought it only partially (approximately 75-80%) built it, so I'm planning to finish assembling it myself. I have the box of parts and tubes which goes with it, the plastic-wrapped metal case, and the original assembly manual and paperwork. Stay tuned!

My eighteenth boatanchor is an Emerson AN/GRR-5. Referred to as the "Angry 5", it covers 1.5 to 18MHz, uses 12 tubes, and is able to run on either AC or various DC voltages. According to this page, it was apparently intended for warning military personnel about gas attacks, but soon found other uses. Me and a receiver like this has a history; when I was young, a relative gave me a radio like this, though he referred to it as a "seven meter tank receiver" for some reason. Before I got a chance to do much with it, my father decided to clean out the garage, and out it went. Fortunately, I've found another example, plus a parts unit to go with it. The AC power cord included with it has seen better days, though it shouldn't be too hard to replace. As always, stay tuned!