VE3CWM transmits from 25 feet underground in a former secret nuclear bunker (the Diefenbunker) located in the village of Carp near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Officially known as Canadian Forces Station Carp, the facility was operational as part of the Canadian military’s communication system 24/7 for 32 years, from 1962 to 1994, before being decommissioned.
Emergency Radio Room
The station is located in the Emergency Radio Room on the top level of the 4-story, 100,000 square foot underground facility. VE3CWM recreates the amateur radio facility which operated from 1982 through to the end of the bunker’s active military service in 1994, under the call sign VE3GOC (Government Of Canada).
Amateur radio offered a vital emergency communications capability for keeping in touch with otherwise isolated communities during times of emergency. Radio systems operating on short-wave continue to provide medium to long range communications when telephone lines, satellite ground stations and cellular base stations are destroyed by enemy action or natural disasters.
The Diefenbunker’s amateur radio station was equipped with VHF and HF equipment for local and long range emergency communications.
The three blue cabinets in the above photo, along with the Yaesu FT-902DM HF transceiver, monitor scope, phone patch, and Dentron antenna tuner are all original bunker hardware. The cabinets and all the equipment had been removed from the bunker when the facility was decommissioned and stripped empty in preparation for permanent sealing. Check out the Diefenbunker section of this site for information on how the facility was saved and ultimately became a museum, a Cold War Museum.
Our website banner shows a detailed picture of the original equipment that was installed in 1984 and is still in operation today.
A Yaesu FL-2100B was added in later years to replace the one that disappeared when the bunker was stripped. This addition brought the main HF radio complement very close to its VE3GOC configuration.
In the picture above, the right hand rack houses a RACAL RA-17 and Collins 2050 communications receivers, both typical examples of equipment in use at the bunker during its later operational years.
The antennas are connected via a number of coax hard-lines resurrected from the military service days and extending to ground level 25 ft. above the Emergency Radio Room. The original antennas were removed when the bunker was decommissioned and the cable connections cut off at ground level. One our first activities were locating useable antenna connections by matching the residual above ground stubs to groups of cables terminated above the radio room.
Many of the cables run to the base of the 180 ft. tower, which now provides a handy anchor for some of VE3CWM’s antennas. Hugh Pett, VE3FFL, initiated the cable location exercise and was instrumental in establishing VE3CWM, ably assisted by Brian Jeffrey, VE3UU. The job was completed under the able direction of Nick Shepherd, VE3OWV.
VE3CWM antennas are located above the bunker with a clear “take-off” in most directions from the well elevated site, and include the following:
- Hustler 40/20/15/10 M trap vertical.
- 80 m inverted vee mounted at about 80 ft. above ground on the 180 ft. tower.
- 20/15/10 m trapped dipole at 60 ft.
- 2 M collinear stack of 4 folded dipoles at 30 ft.
- Two 33 ft. ground mounted verticals for 40 M
Emergency Transmitter Room
Next to the Emergency Radio Room was a room that held HF and VHF transmitters that were to be used in case the main transmitter site located some 60 km away near Perth Ontario became out of service.
The bunker’s main transmitters were located 60 km away in order to discourage enemy bombers from using their ADF (automatic direction finding) capability to locate the secret facility.
Known as the Richardson Site, the 2-story underground bunker housed a number of TMC GPK-10K, 10Kw transmitters, known by their military nomenclature as the AN/FRT-39. They were all sold for scrap when the site was shut down in 1994.
The Emergency Transmitter Room is now used as a display area for radio and other electronic equipment. One of the many projects that the bunker’s Radio Volunteers get involved with is the acquisition and restoration of representative cold war era receivers and transmitters for display and operation. Check out the photo gallery below for a selection of photo’s showing various displays and equipment that we have done over the past few years. The room is always changing! Shown above is a collection of AR-88 (Canadian GR-17), Hammarlund SP-600, Racal RA-17, Collins 2050 and other receivers representing the equipment that provided the mainstay of the bunker’s listening capability over its operational lifetime. In fact, in order to disguise the primary function of the bunker during its construction phase, the bunker was referred to in official communications as the “Receiver Building”.
We have also acquired several Marconi TH-41 5 kW HF transmitters in addition to several AN/FRT-502 VHF transmitters which, although not original bunker equipment, are typical of the HF and VHF communications equipment in use on the Dew and Pinetree Lines during the bunker’s early operational period. The BC-610 Transmitter and National NC-2-40D receiver are examples of WWII communications equipment still in widespread use during the early days of the bunker’s operational life.
The transmitter room is also equipped with a second operational station position which currently includes a Johnson Viking Ranger transmitter with Hammarlund HQ-129X and RCA GR-17 (AR-88) receivers, mainly used on 40 m and 80 m AM. A RCA SSB-1 Mk IV 4-channel crystal controlled sideband transceiver is set up for operation on the 3755 kHz ONTARS net frequency.
Here is a photo gallery of the various stages of life of the Transmitter Room. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the picture.