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P40Power

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I was wondering, since there introduction on Metroliner trains in 1986, has the Railphone service been popular? Has anyone ever used it? If so how did it work and how much did it cost? I didnt notice any on the Amfleets Ive seen, but are their special antennas on the car to transmit the calls? Id imagine the service is made obsolete by cell phones, but I wonder if quite a few people still use it since alot of refurbished business class cars have them like the one I rode in. I was gonna make a call but I didnt have a credit card to insert into the thing!!
 

battalion51

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I think for the most part railfones have been installed in Business Class cars and cafe cars on Amfleet I's (as well as on the Acela Express and Auto Train lounge). There is a small six inch antenna on the car that transmits the signal. I personally have never seen one used, and they are probably fairly obselete thanks to cell phones as you mentioned.
 

AlanB

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Well I've never personally used one, however I have seen them used on many occasions. They are obviously making money off of them, or the company would not have bothered to install them into the Acela Express trains.

I do know that, just like the Airfones that Amfleet mentioned, they are not cheap. On the other hand there are many areas where a cell phone does not work, unless you have a satalite cell phone. Also if you don't have nation wide cell phone service, then using your own phone can get expensive too by the time you pay roaming charges and airtime.
 

Anthony

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Amfleet said:
The service is by GET Railfone, the same people as GET Airfone (I think the spell "phone" with an "f"). So you'll be paying quite a lot to make a phone call.
actually, it's GTE :) now Verizon I believe. They are a local carrier out this way in California.
 

Anthony

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Amfleet said:
I have Verizon too in the east. I actually remember noticing it was Verizon Airfone on a trip back in April.
Oh they actually changed the brand in the planes now? Wow, for the longest time they just left it as GTE... I guess they finally got around to it.
 

Amtrak Watcher

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GTE Railfone (now part of Verizon) is a complicated joint venture between Amtrak, Verizon, and some state governments, which gets some additional funding under some Federal titles having to do with disabled persons. The service is a standard cellular payphone service, which is used in many places where wires are too expensive to install. The Railfone service on Amtrak uses the existing analog cellular base stations along the routes.
 

P40Power

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Yeah I figured these railfones wouldnt be cheap. Thanks for pointing out that its spelled with an f, Ive never noticed that! The business class car I was in had an open area railphone with a fold down seat on the side, I would have thought they would have made it inclosed for some privacy like older cars have. Some of the unrefurbished cars on the train had a railfone booth next to the bathroom which was TINY! In 1994 on the Snowflake Special, the cafe car had a large enclosed railfone booth at one end of the car almost like a phone booth out on the street. Im gonna try to look my best to see the 6 inch antenna, it probably blends in with the rest of the car quite well! Thanks for the info on "Railfones"!
 

AlanB

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P40Power said:
The business class car I was in had an open area railphone with a fold down seat on the side, I would have thought they would have made it inclosed for some privacy like older cars have.
Even the first class car on the Acela doesn't have a booth. The phone has a fold down seat and a partial enclosure of three sides. However the fourth side on the aisle is left open with no door.

On a busy train, it's not unusual to find luggage placed in the phone area.
 

P40Power

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That is strange, I mean they are talking about courtesy with cell phones and stuff, I can imagine you can run into the same problems with the railphones. Hey I can imagine that the railfone would come in handly for people like me if I really needed to make a call, since I dont believe in using cell phones much. Also you say that the railfone will work in places that cell phones wont, like the B&P tunnels and such?
 

Amfleet

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P40Power said:
That is strange, I mean they are talking about courtesy with cell phones and stuff, I can imagine you can run into the same problems with the railphones. Hey I can imagine that the railfone would come in handly for people like me if I really needed to make a call, since I dont believe in using cell phones much. Also you say that the railfone will work in places that cell phones wont, like the B&P tunnels and such?
It's weird though. My cell phone shows on the little screen that there is service while in the tunnels going into New York and Baltimore.
 

AlanB

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P40Power said:
That is strange, I mean they are talking about courtesy with cell phones and stuff, I can imagine you can run into the same problems with the railphones.
It's not to much of a problem frankly. First of all they don't put a railphone in the quiet car. Secondly you are still somewhat secluded from the rest of the car, as apposed to the person sitting right next to you. Finally since it looks and feels like a typical phone, plus the connection is better, you don't find people screaming into the phone.

That's always my favorite stupidity. When the connection is bad people start talking louder and even screaming into the phone, like that is going to help. It's the same mentality that causes people to talk louder when they are trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak their language well. If they don't understand you, yelling and talking slowly isn't going to help them understand you.

Well yelling into your cellphone isn't going to make the signal get better either. Yet most people do it anyhow.
 

Amfleet

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It always amazes me with people cell phones and travel. There was one guy on the Downeaster that called someone, yelled into his cell phone asking if the person could hear him, then told the person on the other end he was on a cell phone, and then told the person he would se them later. The point behind this would be...????
 

P40Power

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The thing that gets me the most with Cellphones are the people who are constantly on them to make themselves look important or something. They drive around in their big SUVs talking away in the cell phone, you see them walking down the street talking on their cell phones, you see them shopping on their cell phones ... it really annoys me. And the people I see doing this arent some hot shot business executives talking important business, its average people talking to other people about crap that they could stand to wait till at home or something to call them about . . .uggh!
 

Amtrak Watcher

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Your personal cellular phone is confined by technologies and marketing restrictions to where it can get service. Railfone, roughly speaking, looks around for any available (analog) cellular base station as it tries to establish a connection for you. In fact, even though Railfone has a significant player in Verizon, it seldom uses Verizon infrastructure, especially in rural settings. It is, therefore, more likely you can get Railfone service than personal cellular service, even though both use the existing cellular infrastructure. This is particularly the case for digital cellular subscribers who often can't get service in rural locations.

Amtrak originally got involved with the system back in 1988 for a host of reasons. One was to encourage the cellular operators to install cellular radio repeaters along lonely sections of track so that the operating staff could enjoy fewer dead spots in their cellular coverage. There was only minimal activity on this issue. The whole situation has changed with various incompatible digital cellular installations in the 1990s, and will change more as the analog infrastructure Railfone uses starts to disappear during the present decade. The legal requirement for analog channels on all 850 MHz cellular base stations was recently lifted.

There is some talk of offering phone service via the next-generation (digital) private radio systems some railroads are installing for their own use, but I would not hold my breath. Thanks to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Railfone may outlive the already fading Airfone system, which is already turned off on some airlines.
 

Viewliner

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I recall either using or Almost using a Railfone on the Metroliner with my dad in 1999, it was expensive. I do agree that the need for Railfones have dramatically been reduced thanks to cell phones.
 

tubaallen

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Many superliner sightseer lounges are having them these days. I also saw one superliner coach this summer that had one downstairs, where a luggage rack would normally be.
 

AMTRAK-P42

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The last RAILPHONE I used on a northbound capital was very fuzzy. I would assume this was just a unit in need of some work, as alot of you seem to report good things about them. I will try it again on my next trip.
 

The Chief

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It worked fine. Fast connection, good quality, strong audio. It was about $8 for a 10-minute call. Either Amtrak or the wireless Railfone service provider could give you the current rates.

On another note, when I rode the Calif Zephyr in December from Chicago-Sacramento, I found that out West my wireless phone could only pick up a signal coming into -- and going out of -- the station-stop towns. I had to plan my calls, and almost script what I was going to say because the window (of time) was so short. Not that I made that many calls, but it's good to know.
 
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