Anyone else enjoy monitoring radio chatter?

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Anyone else enjoy monitoring radio chatter?
Posted by steve-in-kville on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 10:53 AM

I've always been a radio geek. Had a scanner since age 12 (back before encryption) and later got my amatuer license. In fact ham radio is what lead me to trains. I have all of NS's frequencies programmed in but rarely hear human voices. I don't monitor 24/7, either.

Anyone else listen to the rail channels?

Regards - Steve

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 11:34 AM

When Iwas a kid, we had a tunable monitor in the house - scanners weren't available yet.  It was always tuned to the police frequency - Dad was a reserve police officer.  

There was a mark on the dial for the fire frequency, but you had to make sure it got retuned to the police if you changed it.

I've had a scanner for years, and it's aways on.  Police and fire mainly, but I do have local RR frequencies.  On a good day I can hear the DS talking to the crews.

It's funny - I'll sleep right through a major fire elsewhere in the county, but hearing my own department's name on the air will wake me up.  Of course, my dog recognized our pager tones, so...

I also have a scanner in the truck, and railroad is definitely a player there.

I, too, am a ham (extra), albeit more recently, but I've been involved in public safety communications for years, including the installation of a 4,000 subscriber trunked system at a nearby military base.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Ulrich on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 3:19 PM

When I was a kid I had a great big vaccum tube radio in my room. Used to make a game out of trying to get far off radio stations late at night...furthest I ever got was some station in Oklahoma (I was located in Quebec). The ambience was great.. the dark room.. the glowing tubes.. the crackling voice and static.. messages and music meant for an audience far away from me.  But never had any use for scanners.. I hear other fans listening to them and for me at least it takes away from the experience.. I listen to enough chit chat all day long.. one reason I go trackside is the peace and quiet it affords me.. other than the trains themselves  of course. 

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 3:49 PM

Ulrich
When I was a kid I had a great big vaccum tube radio in my room. Used to make a game out of trying to get far off radio stations late at night...

   That sounds like me.  Many local stations (New Orleans) signed off around midnight, which left a lot of clear air.  Farthest I got was San Francisco, but I also got a lot of stations up in the midwest.   I never was interested in ham radio, but I listened to them sometimes; I noticed that mostly their conversations were about their rigs.  One I remember talked about a receiver he designed and built himself with eight IF stages.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 4:10 PM

We had  a Stewart-Warner multiband receiver in our dining room, and from time time, my brother was a little oder than I and I would listen to the shortwave broadcasts from various countries. We knew no foreign language, but we did enjoy the music.

We also listented to the Lone Ranger three afternoons a week, eating mayonnaise sandwiches as we sat on the floor in front of the radio. Four years ago, a group of my grammar school and high school friends and I were eating lunch, and I mentioned our listening to the Lone Ranger, and a classmate who had lived next to us at the time remmebered something from about 74 years back--"I wanted to join the Lone Ranger Club, and you said I couldn't because I was  a girl!" (The things women remember) All I could say was, "I'm sorry."  We did hug each other before we left the gathering.

Not long after I started in the fourth grade, I came down with rheumatic fever, and spent the rest of the school year in bed, with an Atwater-Kent TRF (tuned radio frequency--quite different from a superheterodyne circuit; I tried building one, but was unable to get it tuned to receive signals) radio by the bed. New Year's Eve, I stayed awake until after midnight--and then tried to raise a Chicago station about one a.m. (we lived fifty miles south of Charlotte, N.C.--but was unable to find one.

When in high school, I did build a radio with a superhet circuit (using various surplus military components), put a headphone under my pillow, went to sleep listening to music from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, and woke up to a station fifty miles or so above Charlotte.

Johnny

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 5:45 PM
I was also in the fire/ems service for years, both volley and paid. When I was on call, I kept a radio under my pillow just to monitor what was going on in neighboring townships at night. My wife wasn't fond of it, obviously. I try to keep a portable with me wherever I travel. Just never know these days.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 8:51 PM

As a kid in Gulfport, Mississippi, late at night I would listen to KAAY in Little Rock, Arkansas. On a tiny, scratchy transistor radio, under the covers so my dad wouldn’t hear, then come in and order me to get some sleep.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, August 07, 2019 9:00 PM

As a kid in Pittsburgh, I recall listening with regularity to some 50K Watt station from DesMoines, IA (I think).  They had some Sunday night show that I enjoyed - and for the life of me I have no idea what its content actually was.

I can also recall getting some station that was among the last to actually broadcast 'Radio Shows'.  That I can recall - The Jack Benny Show, Amos & Andy, The Bickersons and others.

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Thursday, August 08, 2019 5:04 AM
Back before there was the interwebs to entertain us, I would listen to the local 2m ham radio repeaters. There were some real clowns on, usually around the same time every morning and every evening.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by diningcar on Thursday, August 08, 2019 9:15 AM

For all you railroaders: I suggest you have the BNSF frequencies if you are traveling on I-40 between ALB. and Barstow. You will be amazed at how the DS's and crews make the southern transcon function so well. 100 trains a day including Amtrak #3 and #4.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, August 08, 2019 9:40 AM

Railroads - all of them use radio frequencies that are within the 96 Channels that have been alloted to them by the FCC.  

Frequencies get assigned to railroads in specific areas so that each railroad can conduct its own business operations in a geographical area without conflict with other railroads operating in the same area.  Over the length and breadth of the Class 1 carriers, I suspect, each carrier will use the full spectrum of the 96 channels.

https://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?aid=7747

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Thursday, August 08, 2019 11:29 AM
Thanks for the link! I only have in my radio what is specific to NS. Would programming all 96 channels be beneficial? What about the splinter channels?

Regards - Steve

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, August 08, 2019 12:48 PM

steve-in-kville
Thanks for the link! I only have in my radio what is specific to NS. Would programming all 96 channels be beneficial? What about the splinter channels?

Railroad radios are programmed to access the 96 channels.  There are no 'splinter' railroad radio channels.  As long as you stay in your specific area and ONLY want the NS channels in your area, you are fine.  If you go into other areas, you may find your 'NS Channels' are being used by other carriers and the NS is using different channels in those areas.  Depending on the area - each carrier may have

1. A Road Channel

2. A Dispatcher's Channel

3. A MofW Channel

4. One or more Yard Channels depending on Yard(s) in a particular area.

Trains operating on the Main Track(s) are required to monitor the specific Road Channel for each territory as specified in Time Table Special Instructions.  Trains moving from one territory to another are required to change their radio to the channel of the new territory.  When Trains desire to contact the Train Dispatcher they 'tone him in' with the appropriate button on their radio - activation of that button tones the Dispatchers Channel lights the light of the appropriate radio tower on the Dispatchers radio console - Dispatcher radio consoles consist of multiple 'radio stations' that are arranged across the Dispatchers' territory.  Locomotive radios have a range of upto 20 miles under ideal circumstance (circumstance are rarely ideal).  Hand sets carried by Conductors have a range of at best 5 miles (generally much less).

No railroad has channels 'deeded' to them.

I live in the metropolitan Baltimore area.  The railroads in the area are - CSX, Amtrak, NS, Canton and Tradepoint.  CSX has two yards with Yardmasters and each have a Yard Channel.  NS has their Bayview Yard with it's Yard Channel.  Canton and Tradepoint are short line operators and may have only a road channel and one other for utility use.  Each have radio channels assigned to them so they don't interfere with each other in normal use.  With atmospheric 'skip' it is not unusual for 'chatter' from another railroad in another area of the country to come in on a local channel from time to time.

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Thursday, August 08, 2019 12:52 PM

Programming all the channels into the scanner is handy, but not very practical... It is nice to listen in on all the channels when in a new area and you don't know what channels are in use, but since many transmissions are extremely short ("That'll do") you will probably miss 90% of them because the radio is listening, one at a time, to all the other channels when the transmission occurs.

I have two scanners (Radio Shack Pro92 and Pro94 (I think!)) one has room for 500 channels in 10 banks of 50 and the other has room for 1000 channels in 20 groups of 50 (but you can only listen to one or the other half of the groups at a time)... and trying to scan 500 channels will take a minute to get through all of them, causing a much MUCH higher percentage of missed missives.

Also, since the splitting of the channels into two channels of 1/2 the bandwidth, the volume of the sound is much lower.  I don't think very many RRs are using the new split off channels yet, though all the radios they use were modified (or trashed and new purchased) to handle the new frequeucies at the new narrower bandwidths.

Anyway, I have all the old 96 channels programmed into two banks, and have duplicated a couple of frequencies in the remaining slots for the dispatchers of the local RRs.  I also have just the channels used most often by the local RRs in other banks (just 3 or 4 frequencies per bank and the rest of left empty to speed up the scanning so I miss fewer transmissions... but I still often catch the last split second of a transmission (".. ll do.") and a scritch of static after the transmitter quits and the time it takes my scanner to squelch the audio output.

I often hear only the dispatcher's side of any conversation because I am not close enough to the personell on the ground (with portables) to get their signal, (the dispatcher's side is coming from a tall tower with lotsa Watts of transmitting power).  Locomotives will have more power than the hand-helds the utilty-man is using, but I am sitting in a metal car, with a portable using a "Rubber ducky" antenna, so I get the dispatcher well, locomotives okay - if they are close, but I have to be very close to the man on the ground to hear much of their side of any conversations.

Semper Vaporo

Pkgs.

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Thursday, August 08, 2019 1:01 PM

The "Splinter" channels he is referring to are where the FCC decreed that the channels be split into two, with 1/2 the bandwidth.  ALL RR's had to convert (or buy new) radios to use 1/2 the bandwidth and be capable of transmitting on the "in between" new channels.  Older scanners probably cannot be tuned to the new frequencies and will have reduced volume on the original ones (due to the reduced bandwidth... loudness is based on how far from the center frequency the signal deviates within the limits of the bandwidth).

 

.

.

BTW: BaltACD, I find your animations cute when I 1st see them, the 2nd time they are mildly interesting, the 3rd time and thereafter they are downright annoying and I try to find a way to mask them from view if I want to read your postings.  When I cannot mask them from view, I skip reading your words.

Semper Vaporo

Pkgs.

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Thursday, August 08, 2019 1:06 PM
That's good to know. I'm using a pretty fast scanning Yaesu radio that I can program with my computer (it has no keypad). I may sit down this weekend and write up another program with all 96 channels and see what it does for me. I will be adding an outside antenna in the next few days, so we shall see what we can hear.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, August 08, 2019 2:24 PM

Semper Vaporo
BTW: BaltACD, I find your animations cute when I 1st see them, the 2nd time they are mildly interesting, the 3rd time and thereafter they are downright annoying and I try to find a way to mask them from view if I want to read your postings.  When I cannot mask them from view, I skip reading your words.

If you don't want to read what I have to say because of a animated GIF that is your perogative. Peace!

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, August 08, 2019 4:33 PM

I don't do scanners, but I do sometimes tune in 'on line' via http://www.railroadradio.net/ when I'm viewing the area in question on ATCS Monitor.

 

Stix
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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, August 08, 2019 10:06 PM

There are actually almost 200 AAR channels now, with the new channels sandwiched in between the old. All are narrowband, as already mentioned.  I have no idea how quickly the new channels are being deployed.

One reason for the various channels being used by different railroads is predecessor roads.  F'rinstance, many former Conrail lines are still using the primary Conrail road frequency, no matter which railroad it is now.

About the only reason I can see for putting in all ~200 AAR channels is if you travel a lot to different areas.  If you usually frequent the same places, just load up those frequencies - it's a lot easier to keep track of them that way, if you don't have the ability to add an alpha "tag" to the displayed information.

One problem with any railroad frequency is that not all railroads operate the same way - some call signals, some don't.  Some are very chatty, some almost never talk on the air.  

If a railroad uses EOT devices, you can consider including the EOT frequency to your scanlist.  You'll have to listen carefully, but you can usually pick up the occasional data bursts if you're in range.  It can help you know there's a train coming even if you're not hearing other radio traffic.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Overmod on Friday, August 09, 2019 1:35 AM

If you're the kind of ham who enjoys setting up SSTV and the like, I suggest looking at the SoftEOT Yahoo Group (not sure if they've joined the rout going to groups.io).  All sorts of things you can do to receive, analyze, and decode some of the datastream used in communication: DPU too.  Of course this isn't too useful if you just listen to it directly; it requires a computer.

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Posted by steve-in-kville on Friday, August 09, 2019 10:58 AM
I built a program last evening and put it in my radio, all 96 channels. Now I have to get my squelch nailed where I don't pick up empty carriers but still here the good stuff.

Regards - Steve

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Posted by SFbrkmn on Friday, August 09, 2019 12:27 PM

Listening to AM radio @ night decades ago was a favorite of mine. From home in the metro Wichita area was able to pick up signals from STL, CHI, MSP, CIN, CLE, NWO, FTW, SAN, DEN, CIN, ATL, CLE, LOU, DMO, DET, PIT. These are all 50,000 watt clear channel signals. For example, KMOX at night covers 43 states, parts of Canada and Mexico.

Here in KS we have no 50,000 watt signals. Strongest is 5,000 watt WIBW in Topeka that coves all of KS during the day and portions of NE, CO, IA, MO and OK. KFDI in Wichita is 10,000 watt daytime only and covers a 200 miles circle from Wichita.

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Posted by radio ranch on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:30 AM

I have been a rail fan since I was about three...I think!  I was a shortwave listener in my early teens and an Amateur Radio Operator in my later teens.  Fast forward...I have been an Extra Class for 51 years and had a very enjoyable 45 year career as a Radio Broadcast Engineer.  Now retired, I have more time for railfanning as well.  I use my 2 Meter handhelds and mobiles for monitoring the Railroads and ham radio, of course.  I find a lot of rail radio traffic in my hometown of Kankakee, IL.  My wife (also an Extra Class ham (she is also a good CW operator)) has her mobile programmed for rail monitoring also.  One of our favorite dates was when I took her to see a train wreck!  Life is good!

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:19 AM

radio ranch
Life is good!

What, no 73 88 from a First?

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Posted by SFbrkmn on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:48 AM

BaltACD

As a kid in Pittsburgh, I recall listening with regularity to some 50K Watt station from DesMoines, IA (I think).  They had some Sunday night show that I enjoyed - and for the life of me I have no idea what its content actually was.

I can also recall getting some station that was among the last to actually broadcast 'Radio Shows'.  That I can recall - The Jack Benny Show, Amos & Andy, The Bickersons and others.

 

BaltACD

As a kid in Pittsburgh, I recall listening with regularity to some 50K Watt station from DesMoines, IA (I think).  They had some Sunday night show that I enjoyed - and for the life of me I have no idea what its content actually was.

I can also recall getting some station that was among the last to actually broadcast 'Radio Shows'.  That I can recall - The Jack Benny Show, Amos & Andy, The Bickersons and others.

 

WHO Des Moines. Longtime radio home of Hawkeye sports. Don't know when this pratice ended, but when Iowa played a daytime football game, a replay would be aired @ 10:30 that night. Listened to several of those late night replays on my radio in KS decades ago

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Posted by SFbrkmn on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:51 AM

radio ranch

I have been a rail fan since I was about three...I think!  I was a shortwave listener in my early teens and an Amateur Radio Operator in my later teens.  Fast forward...I have been an Extra Class for 51 years and had a very enjoyable 45 year career as a Radio Broadcast Engineer.  Now retired, I have more time for railfanning as well.  I use my 2 Meter handhelds and mobiles for monitoring the Railroads and ham radio, of course.  I find a lot of rail radio traffic in my hometown of Kankakee, IL.  My wife (also an Extra Class ham (she is also a good CW operator)) has her mobile programmed for rail monitoring also.  One of our favorite dates was when I took her to see a train wreck!  Life is good!

 

Like the "Radio Ranch" name. Our longtime country stn in Wichita, KFDI, was branded as the "Radio Ranch" 1964-2001 until corporate out of state owners dropped that.

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Posted by railroadrr on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 9:46 AM

For those who may not already know, there are many internet streaming sites around the country for both live railroad video, and radio monitoring.  Railroadradio.net and broadcastify.com are two of the bigger ones. While most of the broadcastify sites are public service and first responder streams, there are quite a few rail-related. 

PS, there are actually 400 channels crammed into the 160-161 mhz. vhf land mobile radio band, as there have been two splits of the old 25 hz. channels.  The channel numbers are interleaved among the old ones.   Are any of the railroads using the new digital channels, not really.  Only usage we know of are some railroad police and big city commuter administrative users.  Nothing digital has yet showed up between dispatchers and the road anywhere that we know of.  But it is true, if you are listening to traditional FM analog on an older wideband scanner, the audio levels will have dropped almost to the point of making the radio unusable.

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Posted by trainnut72 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 10:42 AM

steve-in-kville

I've always been a radio geek. Had a scanner since age 12 (back before encryption) and later got my amatuer license. In fact ham radio is what lead me to trains. I have all of NS's frequencies programmed in but rarely hear human voices. I don't monitor 24/7, either.

Anyone else listen to the rail channels?

 

steve-in-kville

I've always been a radio geek. Had a scanner since age 12 (back before encryption) and later got my amatuer license. In fact ham radio is what lead me to trains. I have all of NS's frequencies programmed in but rarely hear human voices. I don't monitor 24/7, either.

Anyone else listen to the rail channels?

 

steve-in-kville

I've always been a radio geek. Had a scanner since age 12 (back before encryption) and later got my amatuer license. In fact ham radio is what lead me to trains. I have all of NS's frequencies programmed in but rarely hear human voices. I don't monitor 24/7, either.

Anyone else listen to the rail channels?

 

[quote user="steve-in-kville"]

I've always been a radio geek. Had a scanner since age 12 (back before encryption) and later got my amatuer license. In fact ham radio is what lead me to trains. I have all of NS's frequencies programmed in but rarely hear human voices. I don't monitor 24/7, either.

Anyone else listen to the rail channels?

 

yes,i worked for the CNW for 22 yrs out of proviso yd as a car retarder operator

i still love to listen to rr radio chatter from all over the country.UP,BNSF,CN,CP

NS

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Posted by Cotton Belt MP104 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 11:57 AM
Overmod Radio Ranch Trainnut72. ...... fellow ham operators. ......WA5CSJ here and rail fan since my teens, early sixties. Built a trainorder hoop as a youngster and an engineer sent his brakeman out to get my: To Whom it may concern. Result. pen pal with his daughter who was a high school cheerleader. Sure do like my scanner. And as a ham sure would have loved to have a scanner there too. My passion was CW traffic. When going off the net to send traffic it was neat to know who was where. Love to hear a sharp dispatcher. One who is good and it is fun to observe the personality. As a crew carrier and van driver the interaction was fun. Hey I'm a "part" of the RR that I love. Sure enjoyed helping the crews as much as I could. The gig did not last as long as I wished. Air traffic control, anyone who is instructing via radio. (as a retired teacher, no less) and does that well is a joy to hear........endmrw0813191156
The ONE the ONLY/ Paragould, Arkansas/ Est. 1883 / formerly called The Crossing/ a portmanteau/ JW Paramore (Cotton Belt RR) Jay Gould (MoPac)/crossed at our town/ None other, NOWHERE in the world
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Posted by zardoz on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:10 PM

Paul of Covington
 
 
Ulrich
When I was a kid I had a great big vaccum tube radio in my room. Used to make a game out of trying to get far off radio stations late at night...

   That sounds like me.  Many local stations (New Orleans) signed off around midnight, which left a lot of clear air.  Farthest I got was San Francisco, but I also got a lot of stations up in the midwest.  

After midmite I could easily pick up WLS (Chicago 890AM) in Boulder Colorado.

Remember back when local tv stations signed off at night? Sometimes they would put up a test pattern after the obliatory National Anthem. And that you used to be able to use your tv as a lightning detector?

   23 17 46 11

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