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British Columbia Frequency Modulation Communications Association

VE7RPT 224.300 MHz (-1.6 MHz) (PL 156.7Hz*)

In 2016, this machine was replaced (again) for (hopefully) the last time for many years to come.

Up until about 2009, it was a Clegg FM-76 that was homebrewed into a repeater. This trusty workhorse served many years, and was always a reliable performer. However, after 30 years in service, the capacitors finally dried out, and it started behaving erratically.

It was replaced with a GE MASTR-II base station that had been converted from highband VHF to 220MHz by VE7LTD. It had a solid state modular PA brick that was putting about 20W up the pipe out of the duplexer.

That survived for a few years, but it never worked quite right, always seemed a little deaf and had problems with interference. Not sure if that was an issue with the modification to 220, or something else strange.

In 2013, the GE got replaced by a pair of TYT-9000 mobiles strapped together to make a repeater. It worked fairly well, received well, but did suffer from some random interference from time to time. We had strapped a fan to the transmit radio to try and keep it cool, and that seemed to work, because when the fan siezed it was only a matter of time before the radio started to flake out. First it would randomly power off (overheating?), and then one day it just quit.

So, finally, in 2016 we ordered a Bridgecom BCR-220.

VE7RPT-220 is controlled with a standalone repeater controller, a Raspberry PI, running the Allstar/Asterisk software (see below). You can see what the controller is linked to here.

The controller is configured as a "private node" (1220), it is NOT connected to the greater AllstarLink network. That said, we DO have internet access configured to the repeater.

Internet access to the repeater is available for MEMBERS ONLY, using a PC Client, or clients available for iOS (Apple) and Android. Contact VE7FET for further details.

In June 2017, the antenna (that was at least 20 years old) was finally replaced with a brand new Comprod 874F-70-220. That improved the performance of the repeater, but also caused more desense and intermod. As a result, a bandpass filter and pre-amp were added, tuned to the 220 band, to the receiver. Now the repeater performs AWESOME.

This machine is battery backed.

*The machine is normally configured for carrier access (no tone required). However, it does transmit a PL tone of 156.7Hz on its output. This allows users to set their radios for PL decode to reduce intermod problems (in their radio).

Description Manufacturer Model
Transmitter Bridgecom BCR-220
Receiver Bridgecom BCR-220
Power Amp Bridgecom 30W
Controller Raspberry Pi Model 2 Allstar
Duplexer Sinclair Labs. Q2221E
Feedline Andrew "Heliax" LDF5-50A
Antenna Comprod 874F-70-220

More Details

The Bridgecom BCR-220, like many repeaters these days, is nothing more than a pair of mobile radios under the hood.

The BCR-220 contains a Meanwell switching power supply, an interface board, and a pair of Technet (Maxon?) TM-2202 mobile radios.

The front panel appears to be a remotely mounted front panel off a mobile, with a few extra status LEDs.

It looks like the radios are running custom firmware that is used to control I/O on the interface board.

A couple of interesting notes around the power supply... note that the front panel power switch ONLY affects AC operation. It only switches power to the internal power supply. When the radio is running on DC (or battery backup), the power switch does nothing.

That said, there is an un-documented "feature" that may leave some users confused (including us). Apparently, in the mobile application, the radio's power is controlled by pushing the volume knob to turn it on/off. So, if you accidentally bump the volume knob, your repeater will appear to be dead. In fact, one of the radios has just been turned off... push the volume button again to turn it on.

One other "gotcha" to be aware of... when running on DC, there is an INTERNAL 15A fuse on the battery inputs. If this fuse blows (and ours has once), you need to remove the repeater and pull the top cover to get to it. It would have been nice if Bridgecomm had considered making that fuse panel mount out the back... just sayin'.

As mentioned above, we decided to transition to using AllStar/Asterisk for repeater control. This is our first experiment with this, so we opted to stuff a Raspberry Pi inside the chassis.

Not a lot of room in there, but we did make it fit, and kept all the stock parts in there too.

The Pi is sporting a DFM Technologies (Dave Miller, VE7PKE/VE7HR) AllStar interface shield. This nifty little board has a CM119 audio codec, voltage regulator, and support components installed and ready to go. Thanks Dave!

The BCR-220 is a little "odd" in how it interfaces to the outside world. The transmitter modulation line is VERY susceptible to noise and hum, so we had to add some extra grounding to the Pi to get the noise level down. It is also goofy to program... you'd figure you could program the transmit and receive radios to operate independently and fully configure them to your needs... not the case, and apparently CSQ RX and PL TX is a "non-standard" configuration that was very difficult to implement (but we seem to have got it working, somehow).