Author Topic: Question about scanners  (Read 867 times)

Boogietrain7

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Question about scanners
« on: March 01, 2018, 07:13:59 PM »
I am looking at getting a scanner but am not sure what i need and dont need. I have no idea what im looking at so i need as much help as i can. I need to know brands and what software i need and all that. I am looking on ebay and such but if anyone has better ideas please message me

DRLOCO

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2018, 06:13:54 PM »
https://www.zipscanners.com/resources/railroad-scanning-railfans-guide/

While whole diatribes could be written about the subject, i would recommend against a scanner and go with a ham radio rig, such as a Yeasu.  I had a yeasu ft2800m, and i was very happy with it, both as a mobile rig in my car, and it the basement as a home rig.  A coworker has a baofang (spelling?) and likes its smaller size.
Scanners have a tendency to pick up a lot of "intermod" or interference from other things like data networks.
Another option is to look for railroadradio.net on your mobile phone to listen in to see if you like it, using the internets!
Finally, you could just get what the railroaders use. Icom radios are good for railfans ( but not robust enough for real railroad use) and  I currenty use a kenwood, which works great as a scanner!
Most importantly, regardless of what you buy, save some money for a good antenna. Most radio service shops will be able to hook you up with a 1/4" wave  17.5" antenna... That, more than anything, will let you hear more!
So yeah, do some poking around, to see what your pricepoint is and what you are looking for...and that will determine what you buy...
Professional Locomotive Engineer and train nerd with most social skills.

mononradio

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2018, 03:53:20 PM »
We recommend commercial grade Kenwood.  They have to be set up with the programming, but the software and the programming cable is easily available, and not difficult to install, or modify.
Analog handhelds such as the TK-2180 are commonly available in used condition, under $200, since most public service agencies have been switching to 800 mhz., and are purging the VHF (136-175 MHz) models.  Railroads, school busses, and hams on 2 meters are about the only thing left to listen to on VHF FM.

Lately the first generation digitals (on the market now for about 10 years) have also been coming available too, for the same reason.  Agencies are getting off of VHF.  Brand new ones still in the box for $300 or so if you watch and wait for one to pop up.

The digital ones aren't really needed for digital transmissions at the present time, since there aren't any reported in Indiana, but they work equally well as analog scanners.  If and when any railroads make the switch, you will already be set.
 

CIOR

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2018, 11:23:37 AM »
Agree, go ham radio.
I use Yeasu and like them.  I've used a few brands and each has its issues.

I also have a GRE scanner in the house though

indyspy

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2018, 07:50:31 PM »
If you want complete future proof. Go with a Kenwood commercial radio that has NXDN.
But those are pricey as HELL. I think the Railroads issue out NX-200G or NX-210G portables. You also have programing to consider.

Yaesu or equivalent Ham radios are excellent and will work great with the current analog signals, but should the Railroad go digital, it won't work. The one above will.

If in doubt, Notch it out!

Bob Durnell

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2018, 12:24:53 PM »
Based on the fact that all of this equipment MIGHT be obsoleted some time in the not so distant future, I went on e-bay, spent $40 on a Sportcat 180 that had a couple sets of nice headsets thrown in and just live with the results.  If nothing else, it's perfectly good for when I go to the races.  If crews aren't required to call signals, a scanner is of very limited use to me anyway, certainly not enough to spend any real  money or go to any extra trouble.

trafficcritic

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2018, 02:53:11 PM »
Agree with Bob above re: the Sportcats.  You can get a used Sportcat SC150B scanner on ebay for less than 40 bucks. It's an old model but very easy to program and has pretty good sensitivity (eg. does a good job picking up weaker signals) to the railroad frequencies. Some of the newer scanners have more features but they don't have as good sensitivity for some reason.  I have one and leave it in the car, if it gets stolen it was only 40 bucks.  I also have a Yaesu FTM 3200 HAM radio that was refurbished for around $120 that I also set up to scan the railroad frequencies.  It has better sensitivity than most scanners.  Also as others have said the antenna system makes a big difference.  I have a trunk lip mount NMO antenna that was about 50 bucks including the cable, mount, and the quarter-wave 17" antenna.  I have a little $10 SO-239 to BNC adapter to hook the trunk antenna to the scanner.

rrnut282

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2018, 08:11:36 PM »
If they don't call signals set your scanner to the EOT channels.  They "chirp" every minute or so, so you will get some warning of approaching trains.   
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trafficcritic

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2018, 01:31:22 PM »
If they don't call signals set your scanner to the EOT channels.  They "chirp" every minute or so, so you will get some warning of approaching trains.

Good advice.  From http://trn.trains.com/railroads/abcs-of-railroading/2006/05/end-of-train-devices ...

Quote
An ETD transmits data roughly every 40 seconds, but if it detects a change in train status, it sends a signal immediately. To facilitate run-through operations, the AAR has assigned the frequency of 457.9375 MHz to ETD's, though Norfolk Southern uses 161.115. Under favorable conditions, a signal will travel 3 to 5 miles. Special equipment is needed to interpret the ETD information, but the railfan with a scanner will hear an ETD as an intermittent chirp - a useful tool in finding trains.

rrnut282

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2018, 11:39:40 AM »
Just make sure you're more than 5 miles from any yard where they store EOTs on a rack.  Sometimes (most of the time?) they keep chirping even when they're not on an actual train. 
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indyspy

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2018, 12:43:49 PM »
Just make sure you're more than 5 miles from any yard where they store EOTs on a rack.  Sometimes (most of the time?) they keep chirping even when they're not on an actual train.

More then a few ways to get a false positive.
One time there was one in the back of a crew van that was squawking away.

The EOT will chirp more rapidly if the train brake pipe pressure is changing. So if your clever, you can use that to tell if the train your following is doing something.
There is actually a program to decode the EOT information, but it isn't that interesting.
If in doubt, Notch it out!

High_Hood

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2018, 07:56:08 PM »
I second all the talk about putting EOT frequencies in your scanner, I have found many a train because I had this in my scanner.
Also if you get a scanner with 100 channels it is worth the time to program all of the AAR channels, makes it easy when you need to suddenly make an unplanned channel change.

CIOR

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2018, 04:14:14 PM »
Back in the day we pulled the battery on the EOT.  Saved the battery
If it went on the rack, battery was in charger and it was dead.  But that was a long time back.


indyspy

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Re: Question about scanners
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2018, 11:06:21 PM »
With the ones now that use an air turbine to charge the battery off the brakepipe, that is a thing of the past.
If in doubt, Notch it out!