Author Topic: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)  (Read 4961 times)

shane_man15

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How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« on: November 21, 2010, 11:22:37 PM »
I've been wanting to do this for a couple months now, but I have no experience with electronics.
I just want to plug and play basically. I know that's not possible, but if there are some things for us "noobs" to understand, please help me out.

I would to get a mobile feed set up on my car, but I need to know some cheap radios that I can work with and all the other stuff.

Could anyone help me out here?
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2010, 11:38:08 PM »
Hopefully Indyspy will chime in.

I know many guys put Discriminator taps in the scanner and draw the frequency direct to an IMic and then into the PC. 

That or get a PC app for your mobile phone and look in on your PC at home running the program..

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2010, 11:49:47 PM »
I've been wanting to do this for a couple months now, but I have no experience with electronics.
I just want to plug and play basically. I know that's not possible, but if there are some things for us "noobs" to understand, please help me out.

I would to get a mobile feed set up on my car, but I need to know some cheap radios that I can work with and all the other stuff.

Could anyone help me out here?
Well, I have a laptop, and I was gonna give it a shot with my dad's radio which is capable of those frequencies, but he won't let me touch it.  I'm hoping to buy a cheap scanner that is capable of those frequencies and put a discriminator tap in it.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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indyspy

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2010, 08:34:20 PM »
No clue on tapping scnners, I use an ICOM PCR-1000 receiver that is pre tapped.
If in doubt, Notch it out!

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2010, 08:42:49 PM »
If I was going to do it, i'd find a radio that was already done!

I know there are several websites if you google "Discriminator tap" then add your scanner in, it will give you some sites. 

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 07:06:34 PM »
If I was going to do it, i'd find a radio that was already done!

I know there are several websites if you google "Discriminator tap" then add your scanner in, it will give you some sites. 
All those websites do is tell you how to do them. What to connect and stuff. Worst case is I'll just get a data thing with the discriminator already in it.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2010, 03:01:36 AM »
I have used ATCS both mobile and in my camper for about 6 years and find it to be a great helt giving advance notice of movements.  This way I can decide if I have enough time to move to a new location or just cat nap for awhile.  I use it mostly south of Terre Haute and from Garrett Indiana to Willard, Ohio.  I use a Uniden BC-780XLT which was very east to tap and bring out a wire to a external jack which I added.  I use either a laptop of a deck top PC in my camper and an older, smaller laptop in the car.  Caution,..Watch out that you dont look at the monitor and try to drive.  Its very dangerous, Like texting and driving.  Also bright sun will make viewing hard in a car.  Go ahead and find an inexpensive scanner, tap it and enjoy.

Tom Carroll
Whiteland, Indiana
W9CSX


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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2010, 05:46:04 AM »
Tom, What did you use for a sound card?  Or did you use the one in your computer?
I've been wanting to setup a mobile unit and fit it into a breifcase.  Mainly to decode new installs which seem to happen somewhat here on CSX CE&D.
Thanks

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2010, 10:20:53 AM »
I think the problem I'm having is finding a scanner in my budget and having someone help me tap it.
I'm one of those visual learners. ;) So I have to be shown how to do this or have some guidance on it anyways.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Rob

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2010, 09:09:38 PM »
Ok, I will enter this convo now due to my personal experiences, I tapped an old scanner i had around, worked "ok" for learning, but really did not cover much distance. after hearing of the people in the ATCS group who sold maxtracs at what i consider being a very resonable price (65-75 dollars plus shipping) i gained a lot, and even recently bought a preamp and splitter for the purpose of using a single antenna for 2 radios, even using this setup the preamp helped both radios over what they were alone with just an antenna, and in my living room with my mobile antenna one night, the preamp alone allowed my bcp maxtrac to show ACK's sent on the Channel 5 (NS in Ohio a ways) Now I do not know if any Indiana bcp's use channel 5, but if they do they have to be a ways from Warsaw where i am, and i am by a lake in a low area. Have not tested mcp radio alone with preamp, might do that this weekend in areas i know historyof what i monitored before.
As an example of changes over time of performance, with tapped scanner, i would have to be down near Wabash river to find anything near Wabash, and then hardly pick up any 2 mcps, now days when i am down there i pick up Wabash to E Lagro, plus both ends of Speicher on the Marion Dist. and amazingly, E Sidney will show up!
In short I am sure others will follow agreeing to invest first in which ever maxtrac radio is most useful to you, mcp or bcp, then in time add preamp, then if you use 2 radios, the splitter is not too costly. All in all , over a year and a half, i have bought items in 4 steps, and at not too much cost as follows:
Antenna,  MA9-7N $18.01 currently, magnetic roof mount for it MM-110N $10.76 currently from streakwave wireless online total spent 28.77
next i purchased a mcp radio from a ATCS group member for $70 plus $15 shipping total for that $85, but have to say worth it.

next i purchased a bcp radio from same source for $65 plus $15 shipping total $80 and again, worth it!

my latest additions of preamp, splitter and cables for all was from a different ATCS group member who also sells radios , i got the preamp, splitter and cables made for between everything to use them for right at $72  an yet again, worth it for my uses.
So the grand total of $266 over around 2 years is not too bad if you are really wanting to use ATCS in the field.

EDITED FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
When you use a scanner you can not win a argument over scanner laws, where as I will not say you will not run into a police officer who would try to argue the maxtracs are capable of receiving police communications, but in fact , they can not, so I considered the maxtracs for that reason alone, you never know when you will get pulled over and have an issue, which so far, I have not been, so not had  to worry much :)
And also, add 29 dollars to my final step, as i had to buy an imic for the second radio, now i am near $300 total, but like i said, over 2 years building this setup.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2010, 09:23:30 PM by Rob »
Rob

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2010, 09:15:56 PM »
Your location would suggest buying a maxtrax bcp radio btw. I can email you the email address of a ATCS group member who will not only give you prices for the radio, but will offer free "phone support" if you need it. Email or private message me if you would like his email address and name.
Rob

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2010, 09:52:46 PM »
Your location would suggest buying a maxtrax bcp radio btw. I can email you the email address of a ATCS group member who will not only give you prices for the radio, but will offer free "phone support" if you need it. Email or private message me if you would like his email address and name.
That would be great! PM me the email if you have to.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Train horns are also my thing.

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2010, 10:08:59 AM »
Did you get info from him yet?
Rob

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2010, 10:48:09 AM »
Did you get info from him yet?
Not yet. I never had the chance. I was too busy people watching at the Greenwood mall yesterday. LOL.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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sataraid1

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2010, 09:30:44 AM »
Maxtrac radios are a good and economical receiver for ATCS use, but don't buy blind. Not all of them are created equal. As long as you know what you're buying, you'll be okay. There are some features that *must* be present in a radio, and the model number doesn't always tell you what you need to know.

Also bear in in mind that Motorola shops are beginning to refuse to program them, especially trunking models, which covers 90% the ATCS-capable radios out there. You'll almost certainly need to "know someone" who can work on them.

Forget most of what you read on the ATCS Wiki site. The Motorola information there is needlessly confusing, and not very current.

If you want more information, let me know, I'd be willing to help.

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2011, 12:17:29 AM »
I have recently tapped a radio that is capable of 800 & 900 MHz and I also purchased an iMic to be able to have a Line-in for the software to be able to understand the scanner.

Me and Christian were out in Hamilton, OH and were trying to monitor both CSX and NS, mainly NS, and I kept getting FEC errors. Nothing actually showing up on the list of MCP/BCP info.
I get the feeling something, obviously, is not right. I was also told that the input volume needed to be at or below 2dBs. I tried various different volumes with no success.

Everything I'm saying is pretty much amateur, but I need a little help. Can anyone help me out?
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2011, 03:45:54 PM »
Look in the "Configure" tab and click "Options" then look at your "Data Source". I assume you have the Data Source as "Sound Card"? Can you hear the data bursts coming out of your scanner? Maybe the radio is not working like it should. Other than that, not sure what the problem could be.

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2011, 03:56:32 PM »
Here's a video that shows the data bursts coming in on your radio. This was a mobile unit running ATCS down in Florida. Go to the youtube page to see the video description.Did you hear anything like this?



sataraid1

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2011, 11:43:18 PM »
Have you used the "Analyze Signal" function to make sure you're getting a proper audio level into the software?

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2011, 11:44:55 PM »
Have you used the "Analyze Signal" function to make sure you're getting a proper audio level into the software?
I've tried, but I'm not sure if I understand how to use it correctly.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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sataraid1

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2011, 10:45:11 AM »
While the radio is feeding audio to the computer, click the Analyze Signal button. After a couple of seconds, it will present you with a waveform of the audio into the computer.

The audio needs to be as strong as possible without clipping. If the peaks of the waveform go off the scale (are flat on top or bottom) it's too loud. Use the gain slider to dial it back until your peaks just barely reach the top and bottom of the scale.

Similarly, if the waveform is very slight, it's not loud enough. If it's flat, there's no audio getting into the computer. The gain can make up for a modest amount of volume, but not a lot. If the gain slider in ATCS won't get the peaks where they need to be, check to see if your computer's audio system has a volume in adjustment. Also check to see if ATCSMon is configured to "listen" to the audio port you have selected.

Fortunately, this is one of the few places where the ATCS Wiki actually has useful information:

http://atcswiki.greatlakesnetworking.net/bin/view/Main/OtherWindows#Analyze_Signal

HTH

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2011, 11:19:20 AM »
While the radio is feeding audio to the computer, click the Analyze Signal button. After a couple of seconds, it will present you with a waveform of the audio into the computer.

The audio needs to be as strong as possible without clipping. If the peaks of the waveform go off the scale (are flat on top or bottom) it's too loud. Use the gain slider to dial it back until your peaks just barely reach the top and bottom of the scale.

Similarly, if the waveform is very slight, it's not loud enough. If it's flat, there's no audio getting into the computer. The gain can make up for a modest amount of volume, but not a lot. If the gain slider in ATCS won't get the peaks where they need to be, check to see if your computer's audio system has a volume in adjustment. Also check to see if ATCSMon is configured to "listen" to the audio port you have selected.

Fortunately, this is one of the few places where the ATCS Wiki actually has useful information:

http://atcswiki.greatlakesnetworking.net/bin/view/Main/OtherWindows#Analyze_Signal

HTH
From what I can remember, it was a lot like the first two pictures they display. Signal was just a little weaker than displayed on the pictures, but was strong enough that it was showing things similar to the bottom segment of lines, if that makes sense.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Train horns are also my thing.

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sataraid1

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2011, 10:50:06 PM »
Well, if you were seeing a waveform, then your sound card selection should be right.

Did you watch the packet window for data?

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2011, 10:15:10 AM »
Well, if you were seeing a waveform, then your sound card selection should be right.

Did you watch the packet window for data?
Yes, sir. Nothing seemed to pop up. All I got were FEC errors. Honestly, I'm a total n00b going into a new world unprepared, but normally I learn things as I go or try to find out somehow.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Train horns are also my thing.

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2011, 05:49:27 PM »
All I got were FEC errors.
Well, the FEC is a RailAmerica property now.  ;)
Modeling High Hood GP30s on the CERA based in Kokomo circa. 1996-1998.

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2011, 07:11:15 PM »
Well, the FEC is a RailAmerica property now.  ;)
*facepalm*  ;D
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Train horns are also my thing.

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sataraid1

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #26 on: June 28, 2011, 10:45:10 PM »
Does the same profile and layout work for you when pulling data from a server?

What type of antenna are you using?

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #27 on: June 29, 2011, 11:35:41 AM »
Does the same profile and layout work for you when pulling data from a server?

What type of antenna are you using?

I believe the antenna is his issue.

shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #28 on: June 29, 2011, 12:46:47 PM »
Does the same profile and layout work for you when pulling data from a server?

What type of antenna are you using?
Magnetic antenna from Radioshack.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Train horns are also my thing.

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shane_man15

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Re: How to set up an ATCS (for mobile purposes)
« Reply #29 on: July 01, 2011, 03:52:38 PM »
I figured the magnetic mount antenna from Radioshack that I got in November would work just fine mainly because it covers a spectrum of frequencies. If I need specifically an 800/900MHz antenna, then that's not a problem. It'll just have to wait for now.

Would the Pacific Wireless MA9-7N work good for both MCP and BCP use?
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

Modeler of the Muncie, Richmond, and Fernald Railway.
Train horns are also my thing.

GIMME A CORVETTE ALREADY!