I went to the Horseshoe Curve this past weekend and met a fellow who claimed to have a Train Communications Scanner app on his smartphone.  He ran off before I could get any details.  I have been unable to find one in any of the app stores.  I have found police and fire scanner apps but none for trains.  Does anyone have any information if such a scanner exists?

Bob

Pittsburgh Independent Hi-Railers

Original Post

Ok, I downloaded an app, Scanner Radioolice & fire.  It was a link from the Railroad Radio.net site.  It works, just curious, they have 5 frequencies that are labeled Union Pacific, with different locations.  If I wanted to hear talk with the 4014, would i just pick the location closest to where it is?

The locations are:

Pope County - Arkansas

Cole County - MO

Lincoln County - NE

Multiple Counties - CA

DuPage County - IL

Thanks

 

Tony, you'll need to do a bit more digging and research to find the right frequency to listen in on the 4014. A railroad may have several frequencies in use in any given area. One may be the road channel, another for the dispatcher, MofW forces may be on another, signal maintainers on their own channel, etc.

Railroad use 186 VHF frequencies in the 159-161 Mhz band. HERE is a list of all the frequencies and their AAR (Association of American Railroad) Channel assignments.

CLICK HERE to go to a web page that may help you with the specific channels you need for Union Pacific. You want to look only at their channels in the 160-161 mhz band. The higher frequencies in the 452 Mhz area are not what you're looking for.

HERE'S another site that may help.

Good luck.

Rich Melvin

Tony H posted:

Ok, I downloaded an app, Scanner Radioolice & fire.  It was a link from the Railroad Radio.net site.  It works, just curious, they have 5 frequencies that are labeled Union Pacific, with different locations.  If I wanted to hear talk with the 4014, would i just pick the location closest to where it is?

The locations are:

Pope County - Arkansas

Cole County - MO

Lincoln County - NE

Multiple Counties - CA

DuPage County - IL

Thanks

 

The county seat for Lincoln County, NE is North Platte, so when 4014 is in the vicinity you may be able to hear her. Bear in mind that the signal strength varies with stationary communications towers having the greatest reach, locomotive cab radios considerably less and handheld radio packs the least able to be heard over distances. Depends where the receiver setup is located and the antenna/radio quality.

West Chicago is in DuPage County, IL.  Again, what you may or may not be able to hear depends upon where the receiver setup is and the sensitivity of the antenna and radio.

Most of the online railroad streams monitor the road frequency in the local vicinity and sometimes dispatcher and yard frequencies as well. 

What you are hearing on that app is streaming audio of a radio scanner that has been digitized and shared on the internet. It's just like being in Chicago and listening to streaming audio of KTLA radio in Los Angeles via the Web.

As a decades-long scanner user, I would highly recommend a dedicated portable scanner over any phone app. I currently have a Uniden base/mobile touch screen digital unit called the Homepatrol II. It is equipped with rechargeable batteries and can work off a USB charger/power supply or an auto USB port. Covers both VHS and UHF bands and mine came optionally preloaded (extra charge) with my local frequency database. Very sophisticated with a variety of menu options and can take any SMA antenna connection or an adaptor for other connectors. Price about $450, and well worth it. Both VHF & UHF frequencies can be monitored with a short "rubber duck" antenna, but I also use a taller retractable metal antenna for the aircraft and railroad VHS bands for improved reception.

vita sine litteris mors est  (Seneca)

I have to agree with Tinplate Art here and recommend using a dedicated scanner as opposed to a phone app.

Many of today's digital scanners can be programmed from your computer. You can enter frequencies and descriptions for those frequencies in the computer instead of spending hours using the tiny keys on the scanner. Once done, you can quickly transfer them all to the scanner.

I have an old Motorola HT1250 that I used for many years in my Ohio Central Railroad work and my years on the 765 crew. I programmed all the AAR channels into it via a computer program similar to a spreadsheet. I understand that this is a 2-way radio and we're talking about scanners here, but the same principle applies.

Rich Melvin

Dominic Mazoch posted:
A cell phone is a 2 way radio. Is it possible there is an app which could turn your cell into a scanner. Now anntena and battery useage would be issues.

The phone app does not turn your phone into a scanner. It merely plays streams that others have put on the internet.  It works like this hypothetical example:

I have a radio scanner that picks up the ABC Railroad in my local area of Anytown, USA. I feed my scanner's audio output into a computer which digitizes the audio and sends it out to the world via my internet connection. Joe Blow in Lost Wages, NV decides he wants to listen to my stream, which is just one of many on the internet. He puts the app on his phone and selects my stream. He is merely listening to the audio stream that I am providing. It is no different than getting the iHeart Radio app and listening to streaming commercial radio stations from other parts of the country.

As for scanners, the most important thing to consider before purchasing one is the sensitivity in the band that you wish to listen to. RR radio transmitters are not very high power, and are relatively close to the ground except for the dispatcher's antenna which is generally on a radio tower, often located on the highest terrain in the area.  The more sensitive your receiver is, the more you will be able to receive.  Of course, like everything else, the more sensitive the receiver, the more expensive the radio.

I use an older two-way VHF hi-band (the band that the railroad assigned frequencies are on) transceiver made by Yaesu. In scan mode it operates exactly like a receive-only scanner. It has banks, so I can program groups of frequencies, grouped by railroad or geographic location. It also has a priority scan for a single selected frequency so that if that channel "talks" the radio jumps to it. It has extremely good sensitivity and noise rejection and is often the only radio "talking" when I'm around other railfans. Some of the worst radios as far as sensitivity are the popular Uniden Bearcat radios. They are cheaper but you get what you pay for.

I also have a valid FCC Ham license and carry it with me. Some states have laws prohibiting scanners in moving vehicles and some localities prohibit the use of scanners, even when on foot. Because of the supremacy of federal law, my license trumps any state or local law, so long as I am not using the radio to aid me in committing a crime or evading capture by law enforcement. 

 

Nick Chillianis posted:
Dominic Mazoch posted:
A cell phone is a 2 way radio. Is it possible there is an app which could turn your cell into a scanner. Now anntena and battery useage would be issues.

Some of the worst radios as far as sensitivity are the popular Uniden Bearcat radios. They are cheaper but you get what you pay for.

 

 

Yep, I've had nothing but trouble with mine. It works but only marginally well. Admittedly was attracted by the lower price so your advice is spot on.

TCA, LCCA

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