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RAILSCANING in TORONTO - Beginner's Page 3

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Novice Guide - Page 3

Listening in on the action! 

So you've got a scanner, its all programmed up, and you're itching to use it! Where to go, now?

First, some background one Railroad operations. A lot of this can be found in the Operations section off of the main page.

First, you hear all sorts of talk about Conventional & Trunked systems, CTCSS tones, EDACS, tone squelch, repeaters, offsets, etc. They are all big words, but you'll be pleased to know that railroad radio is VERY simple to listen to. Railroad radio is a typical 'one at a time' radio system, in that both parties communicating use the same frequency one at a time to communicate. One party transmits, says 'over', released the PTT ("Press to Talk") button on their radio, and the next person communicates when the system is clear. 

Normal railroad communications take place on 97 AAR (Association of American Railroads) frequencies located in the VHF band, ranging from 160.110 MHz to 161.565 MHz (15 KHz increments). Railroads across North America use these frequencies. As well, a train's EOT (End of Train) devices operate on two specifically designated frequencies: 452.9375MHz and 457.9375 MHz. As stated on the previous page, activity on these frequencies consist of short data bursts (sometimes called "squawks"), as the box at the end of the train communicates with computers in the locomotive, relaying everything from rear-end brake pressure, the speed of the rear of the train, etc. These are very handy for the train watcher, because they give you some advance warning of an oncoming train (usually 1 kilometer). 

Canadian Railroads don't use all of these frequencies - each railroad is allocated specific channels by the AAR. 

Transmissions on area railroads consist mainly of voice communications. Some voices are human, but some are actually automated recordings. Hot Box detectors are trackside devices that scan a passing train's wheels, looking for unusually hot bearings. A 'hot box' occurs when the journal bearings in the wheel wear out, and the natural friction superheats the bearings, causing copious amounts of noxious smelling smoke, and fire-causing sparks. When a train passes by, the detector counts the axels and the heat generated by them. If all is clear, you will hear the detector come onto the air to tell the crew the location of the unit (subdivision and mileage), what track the train was on, and that everything was fine. CN detectors sound like this:

"CN Detector. Halton. one-eight. South Track. No Alarms."

CP Detectors are a bit more wordy and speak like a highly corrective Kindergarten teacher

"CP Detector. Mile one-naught-six, Galt Sub - South Track. Total axles four-six-nine. No Alarms.  Repeat, Mile one-naught-six Galt Sub South Track. Total axles four-six-nine. No Alarms. Message Complete, Detector Out."

Both voices are male. Out west, where they felt the detectors were taking up too much radio traffic, CP decided to speed up the detector's voice, and it sounds more like a chipmunk than a human.

Other 'automated voices' you might hear are remote control locomotives. In larger yards (Such as CP's Toronto Yard in Agincourt, between McCowan and Markham road), some in-yard locomotive sets are remote controlled. You can tell them by the flashing red and pink lights on the units (and the white antennas outside the windows). The work set in the west end of the yard consist of two old high-nose units and an ancient SW1200 with boarded up windows. These 'talking' locomotives usually tell the operator (operating from a beltpack in the yard), the status of the locomotive.


Thats about it! You should be ready to get in on the action! Go to the frequencies page to get some frequencies for your area!