About The Repeaters
The W6FM repeaters listed here are open systems. The Tassajera repeater operates on a frequency of 444.525 MHz. A CTCSS (PL) tone of 127.3 Hz is required to access the repeater. The repeater does not transmit PL however. It is located 2761 feet (841m) above sea level at Tassajera Peak about 8 miles (12.9 km) northwest of downtown San Luis Obispo, California. The William's Hill repeater operates on a frequency of 146.73 Mhz. A CTCSS (PL) tone of 127.3 Hz is required to access the repeater. The repeater does transmit PL. It is located 2800 feet above sea level at Williams Hill near San Ardo. The Mt Lowe repeater operates on a frequency of 147.36 Mhz. A CTCSS (PL) tone of 127.3 Hz is required to access the repeater. The repeater does transmit PL. It is located 2624 feet above sea level at Mt Lowe near San Luis Obispo.
The Tassajera repeater's primary coverage area extends out to about an 80 mile (129 km) radius from the repeater site with many hot spots out over 100 miles (160 km). It covers about 160 miles (257 km) of the US 101 highway extending from about the Buellton/San Marcos Pass areas to the south to the King City/Soledad areas to the north. The repeater can be heard and accessed in some areas of Bakersfield to the east and Fresno to the northeast and even has some thus far unexplainable coverage in Goleta, near Santa Barbara to the south.
The main 444.525 MHz repeater was built using General Electric radios of various vintages ranging from Mastr Pro to Mastr Exec II that have been highly customized and repackaged. Because almost all of the repeater's coverage area is in mountainous terrain which presents some challenges to accomplish near solid coverage, the main repeater uses a system of three voted receivers to enhance it's reception. The three on-site receivers use the diversity principle by receiving on three different antennas at different elevations and each one is enhanced with a GaAs FET preamp and preselector cavity to optimize it's performance. These receivers are capable of hearing signals of 0.18 uV for 12 DB SINAD including duplexer/cavity insertion losses. All three receivers are fed into a Doug Hall voter and the best signal is automatically selected to be retransmitted. The voting selection process happens so fast that it can change receivers several times per second, and that process is totally transparent to the listener. This system of receivers greatly reduces the "picket fence" effect often heard on most repeaters when mobile stations are transmitting from marginal signal areas. Because of these and other factors, and in spite of the increasingly harsh RF environment at Tassajera Peak, the W6FM repeater is one of the highest performance systems around.
The repeater was first built and installed at Tassajera Peak in June of 1984 by Ernie Kapphahn, WB6HJW (now W6KAP, living in Volcano, California) and his son Jim, KB6JST (now living in Sacramento, California). The system was originally a Pace mobile rig running about 15 watts into a Wacom duplexer and controlled by a Hamtronics controller. This repeater was the first radio to be installed in the then new radio site owned by Walt Cisco of Pacific Communications in Santa Maria. About a year later the radio was replaced with a GE Mastr II and an ACC RC-85 controller. The controller was supplied by Leo DeWinter, WA6MSN (now living in Visalia, California). A 2 meter and a 220 remote were added over time. That radio ran until August of 1994 when the entire system was totally lost in a forest fire.
In barely a week after the fire Ernie had a bare bones backup repeater installed and running in a temporary trailer at the Tassajera site until a new building could be finished. During the next few months Ernie and Rich Helzer, WB6GVO worked together to rebuild the system from scratch since there was absolutely nothing salvageable from the original system.
On February 5, 1995 the new system went on the air at the site where it is today just a few feet from where the old system was when it was destroyed. Again the system was the first radio to occupy another new building.
The new system is bigger and better than the old one. It consists of two repeaters, and two remote bases. It has a total of eight receivers and five transmitters. The main repeater is the 444.525 machine and the second repeater is the control channel for the system. The new system is equipped with 2-meter and 222 MHz fully frequency agile remote bases.
In July of 2000, the system owner, Ernie Kapphahn, formerly WB6HJW now known as W6KAP and his wife Carole, WB6IUN moved out of the area to the small town of Volcano in the foothills of the Sierra's about 40 miles (64 km) east and slightly south of Sacramento, California. Even though the Kapphahn's had moved out of the area, Ernie did not want to take down the repeater that so many area hams had gotten so much use of for so many years. After considerable thought about what to do about the repeater, Ernie and Carole decided that both the system, and we local hams could be better served by transferring the ownership to someone here local. At 12:00 noon on May 28, 2001 Ernie Kapphahn officially turned over the ownership of the repeater to Rich Helzer, WB6GVO.
On July 19, 2002 Rich added the IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project) linking capability to the system. In order to do that, the 440 remote has been dedicated to a full time link radio for the IRLP node. Since the addition of the IRLP system, the two-meter and 222 remotes are now in standby service to be used only in case of a need for an emergency linkup to another machine. The decision to remove usage of the remotes from general access was made after installing the IRLP system. One of the reasons is because of the "sticky" nature of the politics involved with linking into other systems. Many system operators do not want to be linked to. This is not the case with IRLP however. The IRLP system consists of well over one thousand nodes world wide who have set their systems up specifically so they can be linked to. The IRLP has become a widely accepted means of linking and is a free and open resource for all users of the W6FM system.
In November 2004 Rich Helzer WB6GVO, the system owner, retired from his job as a professional radio technician and began to make plans to move out of the area. Even though Rich was moving on, he wanted the system to continue to serve us hams here on the central coast. On January 15, 2005, Rich transfered ownership of the system to Ron Patterson, W6FM.
In February 2005, Ron moved the link radio to his qth and added Echolink to the system.
Even though no membership dues or donations are required, the W6FM system has been supported by the generous voluntary donations of it's users. The donations go almost entirely to pay the rent for the Tassajera radio site. Almost all of the maintenance and improvement costs are paid for by the system owner Ron Patterson, W6FM. If you would like to send a donation to help with the cost of keeping the system on the air, please send it to the System Treasurer Ron Patterson, W6FM via regular mail to:
Ron Patterson, W6FM
Tassajera Repeater Fund
17355 Walnut Ave
Atascadero, CA 93422
Please make checks payable to Ron Patterson.
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The Mt Lowe repeater's primary coverage area extends out to about an 60 mile radius from the repeater site. It covers about 120 miles of the US 101 highway extending from about Santa Maria to the south and to Camp Roberts on the north end. The repeater is a Motorola MSR2000 running 100 watts into the antenna combiner system.
In 1990 Steve Woodward, W7AZF and Buck Romaine, N6SSA (now a silent key) requested permission from CDF to install a UHF repeater in the State radio vault on Mt. Lowe. The purpose of the repeater was to enhance communications support for CDF through their Volunteers in Prevention program that local ARES hams supported. Permission was given and the station was placed on the air. The repeater was noted by Gene Foose, N6MUU in San Luis Obispo who was responsible for establishing emergency communications for use by CalTrans during times of significant emergencies. CalTrans desire was to have a linked VHF ham radio system throughout California that could be used by their agency if their primary communications facilities were damaged or otherwise unable to support their mission. He contacted me and wanted to know if I would assist in the procurement and installation of a VHF repeater on Mt. Lowe. This would be the CalTrans backup repeater for San Luis Obispo County. While he worked on the agreement with CDF for installation, Buck and I wrote up specs for the purchase of a new Motorola repeater, duplexer and controller. CalTrans purchased the equipment and it was readied for installation as soon as the new radio vault was completed on the mountain. In designing the site State engineers provided an antenna port for the repeater and also configured it through their combiner system that negated us having to use a duplexer. The repeater was installed into the new vault in mid 1993 and began operating on 146.865 / 146.265 MHz, providing excellent coverage in all directions. It was soon noted that interference was a problem and discovered that a DX cluster repeater in the Bay Area was using the same frequency pair. In spite of our use of PL encoding the situation was not acceptable. Application was made to and coordination requested through NARCC to change the frequency to 146.360 MHz which was granted. The frequency was changed and with the elimination of the interference the repeater provided good backup communications.