For anyone interested in handling message traffic via cw, a slow speed cw training net is a very good place to start. These slow speed nets exist to help the new traffic handler to learn the ropes of message traffic handling at slower speeds than are typical for a section net or above. Most slow speed nets run at about ten to twelve words per minute but will slow down for you if you aren’t quite there yet.
I participate in the Ohio Slow Net – a slow speed cw traffic and training net that covers the state of Ohio. This is the slow speed net I’m most familiar with and will use it’s procedures as a model. Most slow speed training nets will be similar. In fact, the Ohio Slow Net (OSN) was modelled after the Maryland Slow Net and sounds quite similar.
So, what does a cw training net look like? Most nets in the National Traffic System run in a similar manner. First is the net callup followed by a net preamble that explains something about the net. This is followed by some instructions and the net control operator is identified. At this point, net members are invited to check into the net and list any traffic they have to pass. Traffic can be either for someone on this net or can be ‘through traffic’ destined for another net. The net control station then sees that the traffic is passed to the proper persons in an efficient manner. The net control may make announcements, stations may have words with each other, and all net business is taken care of. When the net’s business is complete, the net control thanks the net members and formally dismissed them from the net. The net control station may make one last call for checkins then closes the net. This is the general procedure for many traffic nets.
The following is an example of how a session of the slow net might run:
01 NCS: QRL? CQ OSN CQ OSN OHIO SLOW NET PART OF NTS OHIO SECTION ALL ARE WELCOME
02 NCS: OSN OSN QND PSE QNZ VVV VVV QNN W8NCS JOHN IN DAYTON
03 NCS: QNA BN TX K
04 W8AA: DE W8AA GE JOHN VOL BN TX QRU
05 NCS: GE DAVE W8AA TU BN TX <AS>
06 NCS: OSN OSN QNI K
07 K8BB: B
08 NCS: B
09 K8BB: DE K8BB GE JOHN QTC K8DD 1 K
10 NCS: K8BB GE BOB R <AS>
11 N8CC: C
12 NCS: C
13 N8CC: DE N8CC GE JOHN QRU
14 NCS: GE TOM N8CC <AS>
15 K8DD: K
16 NCS: K
17 K8DD: DE K8DD GE JOHN QRU
18 NCS: GE JIM K8DD QNU <AS>
19 NCS: OSN OSN QNI K
20 NCS: K8DD
21 K8DD: HR
22 NCS: ES K8BB
23 K8BB: HR
24 NCS: UP 3 UP 3 FOR QTC K8DD 1 THEN BOTH QNX WID TNX K
25 K8DD: G 73 DE K8DD
26 K8BB: G 73 DE K8BB
27 NCS: OSN OSN QNI K
28 NCS: W8AA
29 W8AA: HR
30 NCS: TU BN TX ES QNI NW QRU QNX 73 K
31 W8AA: GE ES 73 DE W8AA
32 NCS: N8CC
33 N8CC: HR
34 NCS: TNX QNI NW QRU QNX 73 K
35 N8CC: GE JOHN 73 DE N8CC
36 NCS: OSN OSN LAST CALL QNI K
37 NCS: OSN OSN NW QNF DE W8NCS
Wow! If you are new to the world of cw and traffic nets, it may look awfully confusing. There is, however, a lot of business going on here. In line 01, the net control station (NCS) asks if the frequency is in use [QRL?]. Not hearing any reply, NCS continues with the net call up [CQ OSN CQ OSN]. NCS follows the callup with the net preamble [OHIO SLOW NET PART OF NTS OHIO SECTION ALL ARE WELCOME].
NCS continues with line 02. After another net call up [OSN OSN], NCS sends the Q-Signal QND. This tells the net that it is a formal, directed net and all communications must go through the net control. This is followed by a request to zero-beat your signal with the net control’s signal so all net members are on the same frequency [PSE QNZ VVV VVV]. The QNN signal tells all the net members who the net contol station is [QNN W8NCS JOHN IN DAYTON]. Even though this is a formal net, we can all be friendly and on a first name basis.
In line 03, the NCS asks for the Buckeye Net (BN) transmit liaison station to check in. In the OSN, the Buckeye Net transmit liaison is a volunteer. In higher level nets, the liaison stations are assigned. The Q-Signal QNA asks stations to check in in a prearranged order. Since the OSN is a training net, most of the traffic goes either to the net manager or to the Buckeye Net for eventual distribution elsewhere.
In line 04, station W8AA identifies itself [DE W8AA], says good evening to the NCS [GE JOHN], volunteers to be the Buckeye Net transmit liaison [VOL BN TX], and finally says he has no message traffic [QRU]. You are probably getting the idea that abbreviations are important on a cw net – and you would be right!
In line 05, the NCS welcomes W8AA to the net, thanks him for volunteering, and asks him to stand by using the prosign <AS>. In line 06, the NCS continues and asks for any checkins [QNI].
In line 07, someone transmits the letter B. This is called a ‘sine’. A sine is just a shorthand way to get the NCS’s attention in a quick and easy way. The NCS sends the same sine back in line 08. This is the NCS’s way of letting the sender know he heard him and to go ahead and check in.
In line 08, the station K8BB identifies himself [DE K8BB] Note – the DE is the French word for ‘from’. Ham radio is a truly international hobby. He then says hello [GE JOHN]. The GE is short for good evening. Then he tells net control that he has one piece of formal message traffic for station K8DD [QTC K8DD 1]. He finishes by sending ‘K’ which is shorthand for “I’m done talking, it’s your turn to talk”. In line 10, the NCS acknowledges K8BB [K8BB GE BOB], acknowledges Bob’s traffic [R], and asks Bob to stand bu [<AS>].
In lines 11 – 14, N8CC checks in and tells the NCS that he does not have any formal message traffic [QRU], and is acknowledged by the NCS.
In lines 15 – 17, K8DD checks in and tells the NCS that he has no formal traffic. In line 18, the NCS checks him in and tells him that the net has traffic for him [QNU] and that he should stand by.
In line 19, NCS asks for more checkins [QNI].
Upon hearing no more checkins, the NCS , in line 20, calls K8DD, who has a message waiting for him and waits for K8DD to answer. In line 21, K8DD answers “I’m here” [HR].
In line 22 the NCS checks that K8BB, who has a message for K8DD, is still here [ES K8BB]. Note – the ‘ES’ is French for “and”. K8BB is still here so in line 23 he tells the NCS that he’s here [HR].
Line 24 is a big one with lot’s of information. In this line, the NCS tells these two stations to move up 3 kilohertz [UP 3 UP 3] and that they should pass the one piece of traffic k8DD [FOR QTC K8DD 1] and when they are finished with the traffic, they should both check out of the net [THEN BOTH QNX] and to go with the thanks of the NCS [WID TNX].
In line 25, K8DD, the receiving station tells the NCS that he is going to the new frequency [G] then says a friendly goodbye to the NCS  then identifies his station because this is his last transmission on this net [DE K8DD]. In line 26, K8BB does the same as K8DD and they both move up 3KHz to pass the traffic, say thanks and goodbybe to each other , then go on about their business. When they finish the traffic, they are out of the net.
In line 27, the net control station asks if there are any more checkins [QNI].
In line 28, the NCS calls N8AA. N8AA answers in line 29.
In line 30, the NCS thanks N8AA for volunteering to be the Buckeye Net Transmit liaison [TU BN TX] and for checking in [ES QNI] and that now the net has nothing more for him [NW QRU], that he is checked out [QNX], and best wishes . The NCS is done talking to N8AA [K].
In line 31, N8AA replies “good evening and best wishes” [GE ES 73], then identifies [DE W8AA], and is out of the net.
In lines 33-35, N8CC is checked out.
In line 36, the NCS makes a last call for check ins and in line 37, the NCS tells everyone that the net is no longer formal and directed but is now free for anyone to jump in and talk [QNF] and identifies his station since this was his last transmission.
Whew! Even a net without a lot of traffic has a lot going on. As the amount of traffic increases and the number of places the traffic is going to increases, the net can become somewhat more complicated. People can be sent up or down to several different frequencies, there can be liaisons to several nets, some members may go and be checked out while some may be sent off frequency, come back, and be sent to another frequency!.
At any rate, most slow speed cw training nets have little traffic and are not so complicated. Mistakes are made and corrected. Everyone learns something and gets to be better traffic handlers. Most of the participants on the Ohio Slow Net are Extra Class amateurs with many years of experience. Most of them are active on local FM voice nets, on the voice and CW section nets, and/or the Eighth Region Net and Eastern Area Net. Although most aren’t beginners, they hang around because they are interested in training newcomers and in encouraging them to continue improving their traffic handling skills. Besides, we all have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
If you have any interest in CW traffic handling, check out your Slow Speed CW training net. It should be a good experience.