Originally licensed as W3TKQ on March 5, 1952
First contact April 5, 1952

W3AA (originally W3TKQ) was located from 1952 through 2002 at The Franklin Institute Science Museum. Unfortunately, after 50 years of service in that location, museum reconstruction forced the closing of the station, which had been sponsored by PMRC since 1960.

In the years before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our country had citizens that were concerned about civil defense and, more specifically, what would happen to our communications network if our country was subjected to foreign air attacks. One such group of men was the Haverford Township Emergency Radio Net, a civil defense oriented amateur radio club.

In 1950, Dr. Wynn Laurence LePage, who was at that time the Executive Vice President of The Franklin Institute, decided to obtain the help of a neighbor, Fred Shaw, W3ADV, in becoming an amateur radio operator. After successfully earning his amateur call, W3QCV, Dr. LePage became a member of the Haverford group.

It was now 1951, and Dr. LePage proposed that the Haverford Township Net sponsor an amateur radio station at the Institute as an exhibit for all to enjoy. After enlisting the help of a few additional amateurs, a station license for W3TKQ was obtained with Fred Shaw in the capacity of trustee.

When the station began its operation on April 5, 1952, it only had 2 and 10 meter home-built equipment in operation, and while time permitted only weekend and holiday operation it, nonetheless, became a very popular station.

Net members scheduled their operating hours to keep W3TKQ on the air, but soon it became apparent that it would be very difficult to continue in this manner. Shortly thereafter, The Institute secured the services of Mason Frankenfield, W3PBR, the station's first "paid" operator, whose duties were to be a demonstrator in the electrical hall, and, in his spare time, operate W3TKQ. This program worked very well until about 1960, when it was discovered that Mason was beyond the Institute's mandatory retirement age. Additional operators were soon obtained, and the policy of "part-time" operators was continued until September 20, 1990.

In 1954 both Dr. LePage and Fred Shaw convinced the Hallicrafters Company to donate a new receiver. A Johnson Viking I transmitter and a Mosely Tri-Band beam were also obtained.

In 1960 Dr. LePage, now the President of the Institute, (1958-1967) believing that a larger, more active group should take over the station, suggested The Phil-Mont Mobile Radio Club. He also suggested that the club should consider having its monthly meetings at the Institute as well. Thus, a bond developed that, to this day, has been advantageous for both organizations.

Club members sprang into action. The Institute donated space and enough money for a glass enclosure for the station, and in May of 1962 a beautiful station emerged, thanks to the efforts of charter-member, and general contractor, Jim Spencer, W3QQH, (now W3BBB). The Institute donated air conditioning, and the Bell Telephone Co. donated telephone instruments, amplifiers, and loud speakers so that visitors could not only see but hear the station in actual operation. Jim even designed a back lighted directional map, so that visitors could see the area of the world where each contact was being made.

At the same time Dr. LePage convinced the Collins Corporation to donate a complete Collins station. Approximately $5,000 in equipment and materials was donated to be assembled by Jim Spencer. A walnut console-desk provided positions for all the equipment. When the station was dedicated on May 19, 1962, it appeared that nothing was too good for The Phil-Mont Mobile Radio Club and The Franklin Institute.

In August, 1975, Rolland Madara, W3PWG, became the station's trustee, and soon after, in 1976 it was decided that, the station would be relocated to the other end of the second floor, along with the manmade lightening exhibit. The station however, continued in daily operation, still using the original Collins equipment.

In 1982, the club's then liaison to The Franklin Institute, the late.John Tinaglia, W3AWH, campaigned to replace the aging Collins equipment with a complete new station. With the assistance of Hamtronics of Trevose, Pa, a brand-new station was obtained from the R.L. Drake Company, and installed in May. The equipment consisted of a TR7/DR7 transceiver, L7-2kw amplifier, MN-75 matching network, RV-7 VFO, Theta 7000E communications terminal and a TR-930 video monitor. In the fall of 1984 a new Telrex beam antenna was installed.

At the end of July, 1986, the station was moved once more to a "temporary" location on the fourth floor, where it remains today.

Recognizing the deteriorating condition of the then W3TKQ, Jake Kovalchek, AK2I, at the club's March 1990 Board of Directors' meeting, was appointed "Special Liaison to The Franklin Institute." Shortly thereafter, he began a letter-writing campaign to manufacturers of amateur equipment.

In July he voiced his concern with the "direction that the Institute was taking regarding exhibits" (referring to the newly completed Omniverse theatre and other modern exhibits). Thus, it did not come as a complete surprise when, in September, the club was told that, due to the Institute's critical financial condition, the current "operator-demonstrators" would be laid-off, and the station would be asked to vacate the premises.

Jake, in characteristic form, developed an action plan, and, with assistance from Kay Craigie, KC3LM (now WT3P), then Vice Director of the Atlantic Division of the ARRL, made a presentation to the management of the Institute. Their proposed plan was enthusiastically approved, and the station of today is the culmination of one year of concentrated effort by Jake and the many volunteers who have donated countless hours and dollars to make his dream come true. For his efforts, Jake was recognized as the ARRL Atlantic Division's "Amateur of the Year" for 1991.

Special recognition must again go to Jim Spencer, W3BBB, who, almost 30 years later, again provided the technical and mechanical expertise to reassemble this premier amateur radio station.

The station was officially rededicated on October 23, 1991 in a ceremony attended by the late Mrs. Gioia Marconi Braga, the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, "The Father of Radio."

The preceding is adapted from the October 23, 1991 rededication booklet.

Changes and Additions

July 1992

- Station featured on cover of QST Magazine.

August 1992

- Installed new Mosley Pro 67B 10-40 meter beam.

August 1994

- Steve Hoch, WU3I becomes trustee

July 30, 1996

- After more than 44 years as W3TKQ, the station obtains the call of recently deceased club member Harold Fox, W3AA.

March 1997

- The station celebrates its 45th birthday with a month-long Special Event operation.


- PSK 31 Mode Added to Station

March 2002

- A Month long Special event Marks the 50th Birthday of our Club station W3AA(formerly W3TKQ).  See Special Events column of March 2002 QST for details. 
Current equipment list

1952-1975 - Fred Shaw, W3ADV Click to enlarge (113k)
1975-1994 - Rolland Madara, W3PWG W3PWG Click to for more information.
1994-2002 - Steve Hoch, WU3I WU3I Click for more information.

Official Station Operators
1952 - 1990
Listed Chronologically

Mason Frankenfield, W3PBR
Nelson Schurr, W3DYP
Lester Ransom, K3REN
Paul Singewald, W3YG
Sam Moskowitz, K3RTR
Rolland Madara, W3PWG
Frank Whitten, K3TEF
Fred Fowler, WA3AAL
Joe Johnson, K3VXU
John Russell, N3ABC
Jack Kramer, KA3PJC

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March 8, 1997
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