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RAILROAD RADIO LISTENING

RAILROAD RADIO SCANNING LISTENING

 

ANTENNAS · FREQUENCIES · RAIL RADIO ONLINE · LIVE RAILROAD RADIO · SCANNER TIPS FOR THE RAILFAN! · STRONG SIGNALS (SCANNER SITE) · RELM HS100 · NATIONAL ELECTRONICS · RUBBER DUCK ANTENNAS · SMILEY ANTENNA CO  · AC6V AMATUER RADIO ENCYCLOPEDIA · AMATEUR ELECTRONICS SUPPLY · EHAM (AMATUER RADIO INFORMATION SITE)

    Scanners come in handy while train watching because you can listen to the train crews talk to the dispatcher and the maintenance of way talking. You can also hear the "train defect detectors" or "hot box detectors" talk to the trains. The detectors are equipment that detects hot bearings in the wheels, shifted loads, or dragging straps. The computers they are hooked up to transmit a computerized voice or recording over the road channel frequency for that railroad to let the train crews know if their train has a defect or not.

   

    The information here will be similiar to other communications as well, so some info here might be useful even if you listen to something different than trains.

    With these handheld antennas I have made or bought(see below) you can hear the locomotive radios 8-15 miles; hot box detectors 3-8 miles; the dispatcher towers 20-30 miles; handheld radios called "packsets" are 1-3 miles. These are for average weather conditions. Different times of the year the reception is different. These estimates are based on fall and spring and the copper tubing whip antenna on a handheld 30 channel Uniden Bearcat Scanner.  With base antennas the range will be even farther than that depending on quality and type of coax, the antenna used and the height.  On a mobile antenna the range will be about 5 miles farther than a handheld whip antenna while portable.

    On certain radio towers there is a repeater link for the road channel of the line you are on. 452.900 is the repeater output with both sides of the conversations, and 457.900 is the input dispatcher only.  Corner reflector beam antennas take the RR road ch off the simplex and goes to the repeater.  The repeater is linked to the main tower with UHF Yagi beams. The repeater frequency repeats everything around 50 miles away!! Here at Emporia, Ks I can reach the BNSF radio repeater (452.900) at Olivet, Ks 30 miles away.

    Another good thing to listen for is the remote controlled locomotives, (slave units) also called DPUs. I can hear them 10-15 miles away with a good antenna and 30 miles on my ground plane antenna on the roof about 55 feet above ground. All you hear is computerized digital data that is annoying but it won't let you miss your train with DPUs on the rear!! Here at Emporia BNSF runs one mixed freight (H-KCKBAR Kansas City to Barstow), a doublestack (P-CHILAC Chicago to Las Angelos), and a grain train (symbol unknown), a day. Three out of 40-60 something trains. Having my scanner tuned to 457.925 makes finding those three a lot easier. UPRR uses all four DP frequencies on their coal trains: 452.925,452.95,457.925, 457.95.  I found KCS DPs on 457.95.

    Remember the 400mhz is UHF so having a good VHF/UHF antenna is recommended. The handheld telescopic antenna from Radio Shack is pretty good. Make sure you read the instructions and figure the right length for good performance for the 160/452mhz range. At Strong Signals.net there are scanner and antenna reviews, which aid in buying a good scanner and antenna for your listening preferences.

    The scanners I use are: Uniden Bearcat 245XLT with 300 channels and trunktracking, and the RELM HS200. The HS200 is one of the best Handhelds selling right now that works good overall and for the railroad scanning, except it isn't as fancy as a Uniden or Radioshack, but a excellent performer.   But don't put it on a base antenna in areas of strong transmitters, as it will overload.  The BC245xlt is prone to intermod so it isn't recommended.  The new Radio Shack Pro95 scanner is highly advanced and worth getting.  Assuming it works as good as the Pro92 and 93.  I also use my ham radios for railscanning as they are really sensitive and don't get interference quite as bad.

 

NOTE: THE PBX CHANNELS ARE LIKE MOBILE PHONES IN WHICH TRACK WORKERS AND SIGNAL MAINTAINERS CAN CALL THE DISPATCHER. YOU MIGHT WANT TO LOCK THESE CHANNELS OUT AND LISTEN TO THEM MANUALLY BECAUSE THEY ARE ACTIVE DURING THE WEEKDAYS AND YOU WILL MISS YOUR OTHER CHANNELS.


WHAT ANTENNAS WORK BEST

For portable use If you want a flexible whip antenna, there are some from 10-18 inches in length depending on model and they are made for the 144/440 ham frequencies and work fine for scanner bands too.  The prices range from $20 to $50.  I got a nice Comet CH75 dual band 144/440 and it works and looks nice, only $25. 

www.aesham.com Amatuer Electronic Supply carries many handheld antennas, base antennas as well as receivers and amateur radios.

www.htantennas.com Smiley Antenna company is the best place I found, because the prices are cheap and you get commercial grade antennas tuned to the frequencies you need for optimum performance, such as 160 Mhz.

http://www.grove-ent.com/antennas.html  Grove Enterprises  has scanners, accessories and a variety of antennas, although some prices are high so check alternate suppliers.

For homemade stuff:
    A whip antenna for the handheld,
use a stainless steel or copper tubing whip antenna attached to a BNC to Phono jack works best and can be cheaper than most store bought antennas. The BNC to Phono jack adapter is about $2 at Radio Shack. The copper tubing at the hardware store I went to is $0.30 a foot. The tubing is the perfect size. It would help to paint it to make it stay clean and polished and look nicer. The stainless steal antenna is a car radio antenna for $4. It costs more and is heavier than the copper. The advantage of copper is it bends real easy and it's lighter so it won't be so hard on your antenna jacks. For the railroad band, the 1/4 wave antenna length should be 17.4 inches long. If you don't like the color of copper or get tired of polishing it up, just paint it. The paint doesn't seem to harm the reception.

 Homemade base antennas: groundplane antennas, beams,etc see-  SCANNER TIPS FOR THE RAILFAN!

    For mobile use a scanner magnet mount antenna from Radio Shack for $29 and use a car antenna cut to length in place of the other whip.  For the better quality, use the 5/8 wave Ham radio antenna, for $39 at Radio Shack, with four inches cut off the whip for the RR frequencies, is your best bet.  If you buy name brand such as Larsen Antennas, Comet, or Diamond, they come with cutting charts for cutting the whip for the frequency desired.

    For a Base station other than a homemade groundplane antenna, with more gain you can get a Grove Scanner Beam antenna that covers the VHF-lo at unity gain, VHF-hi 4-6db gain, UHF-lo band at 6-8db, and UHF-hi (800mhz band) 10-12db gain.  You can buy a lightweight rotor to turn the antenna around in different directios, from Radio Shack or from TV antenna suppliers off the internet for around $70-$100.  Also try Norm's rotor service http://www.rotorservice.com/.  That way you can home in on you desired signal plus nulling the signals from the back and sides.

Here's a formulas to figure out the antenna lengths:

Length of a 1/4-wave antenna [inches] = 2808 / frequency [MHz]

 


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