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Old 5th Aug 2022, 4:59 pm   #1
zoomer1
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Default Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I am a retired mechanical engineer with only basic knowledge of electronics and radio but a lifelong interest in military aviation technology particularly early valve/electronics and radar development. I have been thinking of purchasing an iconic R1155 radio simply for its historical interest but would like it to actually power up and be usable (listen to something). I have read a lot about the difficulties and pitfalls in purchasing and restoring these items to working order so I wondered if the members of this forum could give me some advise?
1/ Could one of these sets in working order receive (or be easily modified to receive) a commercial radio station?
2/ I am assuming that professional restoration to working order would be prohibitively expensive but does anyone have any experience in this avenue of approach?
2/ Can anyone recommend a reliable supplier for a working set?
3/ What stations can be received and what aerial is required?
4/ What power source is required?
5/ Has anyone got a set they are interested in selling?
Thanks in anticipation.
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 5:56 pm   #2
G6Tanuki
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

The 1155 is indeed 'iconic' but you need to appreciate the context in which it was designed/built; a WWII-bomber carrying an 1154/1155 radio installation typically had a 'lifespan' of something like six weeks; the radio installation was therefore very much built without the intention of ever being serviced - and now 70+ years later this presents plenty of problems with leaky waxed-paper-capacitors, drifty carbon-resistors and coil-windings subject to 'green spot' failings.

So you need to consider any 1155 receiver as 'needing work, probably significant work' before it is reliable/safe to use.

To answer your questions:


[1] Yes an 1155 can still receive a number of commercial [and amateur] stations on shortwave. Whether these will be entertaining to you is a matter of personal preference. There are quite a few free-radio stations active between 6.2 and 6.3MHz on Sunday mornings if you want to re-live the pirate-radio days of the 60s, and on the amateur-radio 5, 7 and 14MHz bands you can hear people talking around most of Europe. [Note: these days such stations are using single-sideband whereas the 1155 was desighned for double-sideband-full-carrier AM: plenty of 1155s have been modified to incorporate a 'product detector' to better receive SSB]

[2] Plenty of us have restored/reworked 1155s to be usable, and indluded upgrades to make them better suitable to modern radio conditions. Yopu can go for "originality" but lose-out on usability, or the other way - including 'period' modifications as applied by radio-amateurs in the 50s/60s to make the receiver work better, but at the cost of cosmetics.

[3] With a decent long-wire antenna [50 feet of wire strung up outside] you'll be able to receive plenty of shortwave broadcast stations. Not so many as in decades-past, and the content is usually pretty dire [unless you consider Chinese State media as 'entertainment']. There's lots of amateur-radio activity still on the lower HF bands [5, 7 and 14MHz]

[4]You need an appropriate power-supply; There are plenty of designs for these around on the Web; typically 250V DC at 100mA and 6.3v at 4 Amps. Many such designs also include an audio-amplifier stage featuring the likes of the 6V6 valve; without such an 'outboard' audio-amp an 1155 can't drive a loudspeaker.

[5] Just be careful when buying an 1155: there are plenty of people out there with inflated ideas as to the value of their mutch-hacked-about piece of history.
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 6:08 pm   #3
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I've got no experience of use, but can perhaps help with your no. 2. I've got an R1155 from my grandfather which is in reasonably poor shape. I found a thread on here which got me in touch with Peter, and the book is comprehensive enough to allow a rank amateur like myself to find restoration plausible, let alone an engineer like you.

I include a few pictures showing the level of work Peter has done in his 192 page book, to the extent of drawing every connection and describing in words and pictures a full strip down, clean, refurbish, reassembly and alignment.
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 6:59 pm   #4
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I've attached a report on a refurbishment of an R1155 that I completed a few years ago. I would say if you have no experience of restoring valve radios, this isn't a good choice to cut your teeth on. It took me a long time and a fair measure of cost and sweat. If you decide to go ahead regardless, then try to get one in the best possible working condition that you can find. Of course, you'll have to pay a premium for that. In the attached schematic for the power supply I would now make one change which would be to use 1N4007 or UF4007 silicon diodes for the HT rectifier bridge. They give a bit more voltage headroom than the 1N4006 that I used originally. Also it is probably a better idea to put the audio amplifier into a separate box from the power unit so as to reduce hum pickup. Best of luck. Jerry
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 7:02 pm   #5
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

In addition to the points above, most variations of the R1155 wil receive most of the MW broadcast band and all of the LW broadcast band, so capable of receiving the main BBC radio stations.
Unfortunately, the R1155 has achieved some sort of mythological status as they were the receiver fitted in many WW2 heavy bombers. The chances of any surviving sets having been near a bomber are probably quite low as most of the survivors would probably have been used in ground stations, boats, vehicles or civil aircraft as these had much higher survival rates!
If you do hve your heart set on one of these, you really do need to see it working and ideally take someone with you who, at least, has a basic understanding of this type of set. Maybe contact your local amateur radio club; radio amateurs are renowned hoarders but can often be persuaded to pass on their boat anchors!
Rod
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 7:10 pm   #6
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

The R1155 was a set designed for airborne use, and as pointed out above was cut back as much as possible because of the short life expectancy, so materials and assembly labour was minimised. So they rank highly on the iconic scale, but not so well on the radio receiver performance scale.

They were sold in large numbers on the surplus market through the fifties and sixties. It was soon recognised that they weren't suited to the way the air defence business was going. Easier operation and better performance were wanted.

The 1155 lacked an audio output stage for driving a loudspeaker, it also lacked a power supply, so almost all the people who bought surplus 1155s immediately ripped out the direction-finding bits to make space for an audio output stage, and set about building a power supply.

If you want to go for originality, you'll likely have to find replacements for the D/F parts and undo a lot of drilling, cutting and all sorts of modifications that were on the whole not much better than bodging.

Unspoilt R1155s do turn up, but prices are significantly higher. There are enough people trying to build up an R1155/T1154 setup as in a Lancaster. Where will they stop? The full aircraft? (I wonder who they plan to bomb?). consequently R1155 prices are rather inflated, and some people have great expectations on top of that.

If I'm talking you out of the R1155, then what else is there?

HRO - a very good receiver a little before the R1155, but far more capable. Designed by a mechanical engineer, James Millen. These got used in quantities. They were one of the main types handed out to the voluntary interceptors who eavesdropped on coded nazi orders and sent what they copied on a telegram to an anonymous post office box, which turned out to be Bletchley park code breakers, so the HRO has a fully intriguing history. It has plug-in coil packs to change bands. It has an audio amp to drive a speaker, but needs an external power supply. As they were fairly complete sets from the 1950s amateur radio perspective, they weren't mucked around with. They;re fairly simple electrically. The HRO was originally designed for aviation ground stations just before the war.

AR88 a good looking very heavy set. Built in power supply and audio stage. Add an antenna and a speaker and it's good to go. LF suffix has long wave, D suffix has medium wave and shortwave bands spread out more. Very good sets. Comparable to HRO in performance, but easier to drive. They got used in ground and shore stations, they also got used to capture enemy coded orders. THere's a wall full of them racked-up on display at Bletchley. Like any set of this era there is a number of capacitors and resistors which have degraded and will need changing or checking that they've already been done.

If you want airborne sets:

BC348 is an American receiver that got fitted into lots of British plane types as Marconi couldn't produce R1155 fast enough. It's a better radio, better built and easier to work on. Originally it had an internal motor-dynamo to convert 12v DC yup to HT for the valves. So they need power supplies and audio output stages. Better than R1155, but not so iconic, prices aren't silly though.

You might find an R1475. Ground station or airborne receiver from just a little later. Has a rather neat tuning mechanism with a 5-turn helical scale for each of its 4 bands. Not so common and looks remarkable. Needs external PSU etc. Designed and made by Marconi usually rather cheap.

Doing an R1155 comes with an amount of baggage, so it's only fair to point it out.

THere's aso the Marconi CR100 of the same era. The British equivalent to the AR88. Power and audio in the receiver. Performance not quite an AR88. Not too bad to work on. Usually cheaper. Not such a looker.

Me? I've owned my AR88 since 1967. I paid 33. R1155 were in the magazines for about 6/19/6 if memory serves me well.

The RAF still flies a Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricane and DC3 in the Battle of Britain Memorial Fleet. What they now use for radio compatible with modern systems is made by a firm I worked for - I designed the radio frequency sections of the transmitter, receiver and the radar transponder. Back when I bought that AR88 I could never have thought of this.

David
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Old 5th Aug 2022, 7:17 pm   #7
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Hi, the power supply that is used with these sets is normally external and was fed through the 1154 transmitter. Note that the HT minus was not connected directly to ground as was normal receiver practice, the current requirements are somewhat greater than that of a normal broadcast set.
It was designed for use with headphones only, but a speaker and additional amplifier valve was one of the many "hacks" done on this set
I have seen small powerpacks with an audio amp built into a complimentary small case to plug into the 1155.
There was a series of articles published in WW in the 50's that detailed many of these mods and may be available on the forum or at the worldradiohistory site.
Also detailed was the design of a preselector, built into one of the RF26 units to extend the frequency range of the 1155.

I think you should find this an interesting project

Ed
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 9:23 am   #8
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Sounds like a fun and worthwhile project zoomer1. It might be worth joining VMARS, there will be many R1155 owners and users among the membership who will no doubt be able to support you in your quest. 1155s turn up at VMARS auctions from time to time too. As mentioned by Ed there are also options to extend the freq range - and maybe produce a working DF system to go with it as well.

Years ago I had an unmolested 1155 for which I built a PSU and audio amp into a surplus 19” rack-mounted box, painted to match. The receiver could either sit on top of the box or be mounted separately with a longer cable between them. That was lent to a chap who lived in Sedgley, always wondered what happened to it…!

Somewhere I have a copy of the large RAF 1154/55 installation diagram [which can be seen on the greenradio web site) if it’s of any interest. Drop me a DM if you want me to look for it.

I’m not too sure about aircraft and equipment not being built to last. Designed and built to meet certain performance specs and/or to save weight with an eye on material availability and the time required to produce many thousands at the time yes, but is there any actual evidence of the former?

Cheers,

Martin
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 9:40 am   #9
M0FYA Andy
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I have always been very sceptical of claims that equipment was built on the basis of only having an expected life-span of a few weeks. I believe it is an 'urban myth' and agree with Sparky67's last sentence.

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Old 6th Aug 2022, 10:13 am   #10
David Simpson
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Hello Zoomer1, my two pennoth, after just recently turned down the offer of a silent key's knackered-looking 1155,(probably condemning it to an eventual trip to the council skip site) - forget it. They actually formed part of a very large airborne installation comprising an 1154 Tx & a hefty PSU, a large loom of interconnectors, all mounted in a sturdy metal rack.
My very limited experience of them was installed in an RAF Marine Craft, which probably needed the two Sea Griffon(Merlin Type) engines just to compensate for the weight of the 1154/55 installation!
Seriously though, such a "cult" item doesn't lend itself as an introduction to vintage radio pursuits, as the other guys have also said. A simple post-war mains superhet domestic wireless such as the Ferranti 145 or similar, would be far better. Definitely NOT an AC/DC set, due to serious safety concerns these days.
My advice would be to seek out(via this Forum site, or by joining the BVWS, or VMARS) a friendly experienced chap in vintage radio pursuits living near you, and get some hands-on mentoring.

Regards, David
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 11:15 am   #11
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

It is also worth pointing out that an unmolested/unmodified R1155, and they do exist, will almost certainly be suffering from rubber rot. Originally they were built with rubber insulated wiring which now crumbles away as soon as you look at it. So a total re-wire is probably necessary, hence the Peter Holman book on how to rebuilt them. Not a job for a beginner.

Gordon
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 12:39 pm   #12
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Not built to last eh? Well the valves in mine are original and older than me. The set gets used each evening.
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 2:07 pm   #13
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

For those that don't believe in the myths thus far, there's a pile of war time information in here for any enthusiast/trouble shooter (budding or otherwise) for the R1155 receiver:

http://www.vmarsmanuals.co.uk/archiv...R1155_1942.pdf

Lawrence.
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 4:11 pm   #14
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Lawrence is spot-on in recommending the VMARS Archive link. If you are committed to acquiring an 1155, then finding out where VMARS are holding their next Mobile Rally might be a way forward. As quite a few members are mad keen on mobile displays. Certainly loads of ex Army stuff, but I've seen past pictures & articles of guys with the 1154/55 Rig in the back of old restored WW2 radio trucks/jeeps, etc.(Some guys actually wearing old uniforms).
I'm sure there must be Forum folk either side of the Wash, who have 1154/55 interests.
Coincidently, just south of Kings Lynn is RAF Feltwell - an old stomping ground of mine back in the mid 1960's when it was an RAF Radio School. I didn't like "Tolly Cobbold" beer, though.

Regards, David
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 7:32 pm   #15
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General amateur radio rallies might well produce a set. I have seen a number for sale this year down here in the south east. If you have a choice, go for the L version as it has the most useful frequency coverage.
Gordon
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Old 6th Aug 2022, 8:02 pm   #16
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I have several comms receivers awaiting restoration including an R1155. The last one I'm going to tackle is the R1155 because I know that will be the most difficult. This isn't because it's in bad state, has missing parts or has been got at. It's because it's an R1155, will probably require a complete rewire and I'll have to build a PSU/AF amplifier.

I wouldn't recommend an R1155 as a restoration project for a beginner. Even a Hallicrafters SX28 would be easier.
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 10:08 am   #17
Peter F4VSA
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

For a retired mechanical engineer I would get the navy B40! Weighs a ton and mechanically very robust. Very reliable, they seem to last for ever. I used to have three, down to my last one now and the only problem is now I can't lift it!

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Old 7th Aug 2022, 8:28 pm   #18
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Many thanks to all who replied to the thread, your comments and information are much appreciated. I understand the points made about more suitable alternatives to the R1155 but the allure of a set, that however unlikely, just might have been fitted to a bomber and flown over Germany during the war is irresistible. Confirmation that it would pick up some BBC stations ensures that it fits with my requirement of being usable. It is important to me that the radio looks exactly (or as close as possible) like it did when fitted in the bomber so a bespoke restoration seems to be the only option as restored and working sets appear to have been modified to varying existents. From the advise given I need to think long and hard as to whether this is within my capability but in reality there seems little alternative. Since I am in the process of relocating, having sold my house, this is going to have to wait for a while until I get resettled. Either way I am currently looking for a suitable set and make the decision later. In the meantime is there anyone within reasonable travelling distance of Kings Lynn or Banbury ( the latter being my intended destination) who has a working R1155 and would be agreeable to let me see it? One further question for you guys. Since most sets have had parts removed how difficult is it to find replacements?
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Old 7th Aug 2022, 9:11 pm   #19
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

I always fancied one of these sets, I missed out on one at college, along with its transmitter T1154. A few years back I finally managed to get hold of a really scruffy looking one, I paid 165 for it, some might say I’d been ripped off, especially when seeing it in its very poor condition! Much to my surprise it was fairly complete, the DF valves had been removed, but the circuitry underneath was still intact, there was a bonus audio output stage tucked into a tiny space under the chassis too. On removing a metal plate on the front of the set I discovered the Jones connectors too! All it needed was a damn good clean and polish, and it came up lovely, the dial surround had a coat of paint and the set now looks great. It even works to some extent! I did start replacing capacitors, but ran out of wire, so it’s been on hold for a little while now. I also purchased another one, at RetroTech last year for all of 25! It was going to be a parts set, to rob a few bits for the first one, but then I discovered it was more intact than I first thought, and it also works too, so it’s being restored!

I did do a lot of research before buying one, I also wanted it to be as original as possible, so I didn’t have to mess about rebuilding the DF stages, or undoing any serious bodgery, I think I got lucky with my two! There are some ‘optimistically’ priced sets on auction sites at the moment, I saw one at 400 not long ago, and it was a total shed! You might spend ages shopping around for one, but it’s worth waiting for a good one to pop up.

Good luck with your search, and the move to Banbury! I used to live not far from there, in a town called Daventry, now I live right under the flight path of the BBMF Lancaster bomber!

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Old 8th Aug 2022, 12:47 pm   #20
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Default Re: Purchasing an R1155 receiver

Quote:
Since most sets have had parts removed how difficult is it to find replacements?
It depends what parts you want. As suggested earlier your best bet would be to contact VMARS https://www.vmars.org.uk/ as well as putting requests in the Wants section of this Forum. You will be unable to source exact replacement working capacitors. With a lot of extra effort you should be able to drill out and restuff the existing metal cased capacitors with modern components, which are much smaller, and thus retain original appearance, but to get the metal cased capacitors out from the coil box would entail a complete dismantling. If you get sight of an R1155 then take a look underneath inside and you'll see just how much work is involved to access the mounting nuts for these components. Note that there were different variants https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R1155 some with different frequency coverage and some without direction-finding (DF). Unless you want a museum exhibit, you aren't going to get much fun out of restoring the DF parts of the circuit since it won't do anything useful on the ground. That's why most people remove those valves. Getting the parts for the DF displays would probably be challenging. The original power supply units do turn up but, like the radio unit, would need restoring and unless provided for ground school operation would probably only be suitable for aircraft-derived input power, not domestic mains. If you were content to use it just with headphones you could save the trouble of sourcing an external AF amplifier, although that would probably be the cheapest and easiest part. Cheers, Jerry
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