Scanners for Railfanning

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L&N Castle

Active Member
Hi all. In the few years that i've been any kind of railfanning,I have so far two scanners. A Bearcat/Uniden model,and my current scanner,a RadioShack 200 channel job. Most of the frequencies are for CSX,NS,BNSF,and Birmingham Southern. I've gotten most freqs from a book that I found at RadioShack,called PoliceCall. In it,are freqs for,police,of course:rolleyes: ,fire,airport,and railroad. Here is a website that y'all might want to check out. It is, www.AlabamaRailfan.com. On it there is a drop down bar that list some frequencies,and even has a live scanner feed section. Truth be told,I got hooked on listening to scanners by listen to my Grandmother's scanner that she had. She liked to listen to local ploice and fire frequencies. As for me,I enjoy all the different conversations between the crews,and the dispatchers.William.
 
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UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Andy, I suspect you just had a bum scanner. I've had almost every brand of scanner made and the only one I've found that's consistently more sensitive than the others is the Yupiteru MVT-7100. Unfortunately, it wasn't available in the US and you have to buy one off e-bay, when you can find them. It works great on everything from DC to daylight but does not have CTCSS tone ability so it tends to get swamped by intermod in urban areas. In these days of digital and trunking, the Yupi does neither, so it's getting long in the tooth, but the only radio I ever had that performed better in terms of sensitivity was my department issue Motorola Sabre.

The RS Pro-96, the Uniden 396D, and the GRE-500 will all do trunking and decode digital signals. Cincinnati and Hamilton County have a very complex and poorly designed trunking system and there's a clear edge for either the Pro-96 or GRE-500 for quality and reliability of the decoded digital signals. Uniden has just not been able to come up to speed at that yet. All will also do railroads but they are between $450 and $500 so they are not for the casual listener.

Like you say, one you get your ear tuned to the radio, you'll catch a lot more trains. With all the railroad mergers, cost savings have been the number one goal so doing things like having certain lines for inbound and outbound traffic is good for the bottom line but not so good for us railfans. :( Down here in Alabama, the density of rail traffic is nothing like Ohio but both NS and CSX talk a lot on the radio. Almost every train leaving Montgomery yard gets their train orders by radio and we still have plenty of defect detectors to listen to. But no, railroading and scanners will never be what they were in 1975 again.
 

UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Very nice site for us Alabama railfans, William. I feel a little slighted that the Montgomery area is given almost no coverage. We are the state capital, you know. :). Both you and Stan bring up a good point about the streaming railroad scanners that are available on-line. If you only want to listen to the trains at home or work, these streaming feeds are a great way to do it, if they cover your area. Unfortunately, it's a little hard to lug a laptop with an internet connection down that overgrown trail when you're trying to set up for a good shot, so there's still no substitute for a portable scanner if you're really into railfanning.
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Hi Jim, got my scanner yesterday. I think that I have finally deciphered the handbook (had to download it) well enough to enjoy it. I do need the freq for the Alabama Southern Railroad (ABS) owned by Watco. This railroad is only about a 1/4 mile from my house. Also, I am not sure of what freq to use for the NS dispatcher. I am about 8 miles from the mainline. I haven't found anything in my web search for the Alabama Southern; I guess since it is only a few years old. If you have something at hand, I would appreciat the freq.

EDIT: Darn, what a difference in this scanner than the old Bearcat base I had much too many years ago. All it had were fixed crystals for the freqs and I think 16 channels.
 
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UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Rex, glad you got the scanner. Pretty nice little unit, isn't it? Fot the NS, use AAR Channel 56 - 160.950 NS Road (Channel 1), AAR Channel 09 - 160.245 NS Dispatcher to Train (Channel 2), and AAR Channel 48 - 160.830 NS Train to Dispatcher (Channel 2). That should get you the majority of the NS traffic.

For the Alabama Southern, try 160.95. I got this from the FCC database so I'm guessing but it looks like their road channel. And try to get some sleep tonight! :D
 

AL1

Shortliner
I've always wanted to try getting as scanner, but I really don't have the money for it. I railfan mostly shortlines where much of their "conversation" happens via cell phone, so I'm not sure a scanner would be effective aside from when they are trying to get blocks on CSX.

I wish Montgomery had a live feed, that way I could tell when trains were coming up the A&WP and down the Dothan Sub..
 

martin_lumber

Air Horn Guy
I'm really not sure, but how and why would a railroad use cell phones for their communications? Under FRA, I don't think they can do that...Can they??

Phil
 

UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
Very few railroads, even shortlines, use cell phones as their primary means of communications. There is some use of Nextel for areas with poor radio coverage but companies don't want to pay money for radio and cell phone systems. For example, I can hear the A&WP very well here in Montgomery and you should be able to hear them coming from at least 20 miles in Dothan.

There's no FRA rule I'm aware of that would prevent a railroad from using using cell phones or nextel for purely intra-railroad communications and they are commonly used by supervisors and railroad police. For day-to-day operations, the railroads have spent a lot of money on radio infrastructure and FRA rules do require that any other train or piece of equipment within three blocks of a working train be able to hear and talk to the working train. You can't do that with cell phones and most railroads have radio systems that have better coverage than any cell phone system. Anyone who monitors the Union Pacific, otherwise known as "the Voice of the West", will understand what I mean. ::
 




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