Lane Upton's Browning-Drake Receiver

By: William P. Nielsen

     I became interested in tube radios in about 1996 when my son asked me to help him with a school project.  We thought we would build a one-tube radio that I had a schematic of in an old science book.  I started looking for parts and found that it was going to be a rougher task than I expected!

     I finally discovered an electronic instrument repair shop in my area that had the # 30 tube in stock that we needed.  I was fascinated with all the old parts this shop had on hand.  We were able to acquire all needed parts at one stop for the radio.  After completion of the little one tube set, I was hooked on early radio.  I began collecting every radio that had a tube in it and found them hard to find in good condition. 

     I settled on 1950s plastic radios and had about 5 or so that I had working.  I received a phone call from the gentleman at the repair shop where I acquired the parts for my son's one-tube set.  He said he had a rather strange looking radio that he thought I would be interested in.  I visited his shop to take a look at the set. It turned out to be an Atwater Kent #10 B breadboard.  I had never seen anything like it and I had to
have it.  I made a deal with him and was on my way home with a new found year to collect radios. 

     The AK breadboard was a display on the shelve for a few years and not working.  I had a business trip to attend in Stockton California 2002.  I arrived a day early and to kill some time visited a museum in Sacramento.  On display in the museum were some old Leeds & Northrup test sets and telegraph gear.  I wondered where a person would find these items now!  A friend suggested eBay.  So, I got online at home and a whole new world opened up for me.  My first search was for a Leeds & Northrup Test set.  I found one for auction and the seller's location was only a few miles from my home!  I won the set and asked the seller if I could pick up the item, "No problem" he replied. 

     I made arrangements to pick up the test set.  I met Lane Upton at the door of his home, and after a firm handshake we were talking old radios.  He asked me what year of radios I was interested in.  I told him of the AK breadboard and how I found it.  He replied, "Would you have a minute to come downstairs and see something?"  "Sure" I said, not knowing what was in store.  I walked into a large room in Lane's basement and I could not believe my eyes!  Everywhere I looked were 1920's vintage radios, books and parts too! Needless to say, we talked for hours that night and I could not believe what I had found. 

     Lane and I became very close from that first meeting.  I found his knowledge of 1920's radio to be endless.  I would make it a point to visit his home often and my collection grew with his help.  He once told me he was my "Elmer" and challenged me to find out what that meant.  I discovered the Browning Drake parts one day when searching for a transformer in Lane's vast parts supply.  He said he was going to build a breadboard when he found the "perfect coils" for the set.  I asked Lane about his background in electronics at one of our "get togethers" as we called them.  He was an engineer for Eimac in California and was transferred to Utah in the 1970's.  He showed me many pictures of the machines used to produce the tubes that Eimac sold. 

     He even had samples of large transmitter tubes on hand.  I was always interested in his vast stories of his work adventures.  We would acquire a radio together and break it down as to who made it, type of circuit and the year of manufacture. 

     In January of 2008 Lane and I met for lunch at his favorite restaurant.  He told me he had started his Browning Drake breadboard radio!  He also told me that ever since he was a boy in Stockton California he wanted to build a breadboard.  I told him of my trip to Stockton and how I saw the Leeds & Northrup test set and how I discovered him by my purchase of the same set from him.  We laughed it off, but I believe it was my destiny.  Not long after our lunch date, Lane started feeling ill.  In April of 2008, Lane went into the hospital for kidney failure. Later, Lane died on April 21, 2008.  He was never able to finish his breadboard radio. 

     I received the started breadboard from Lane's son and was asked to finish it.  I was honored to receive the set and asked to finish the construction.  When I acquired the the set all that was complete was the finished board itself with both coils and capacitors, the jack antenna switch, 2 tube sockets and the grid leak mounted on the board.  The tubes, Lane had planned to use, were Western Electric 215A's "peanut tubes" that are just small WD 11's.

     I remember emailing Lane, years ago, the pictures of Mike Starcher's set.  Lane's reply was, "That’s the way a Browning Drake set should be done."  And, that’s the way I did it. 

     Yes, I now know what an "Elmer" is, and Lane Upton will forever be my Elmer...


The following pictures are of the finished set:


Click on thumbnails below for more larger pictures of the project:


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