Some airlines expressly forbid scanners, and any PED is generally subject to the 10,000 foot rule even if allowed. While there is no transmission, there are fears (perhaps unfounded, but they make the rules) that reception can be an issue. Unless things have changed, Delta and Southwest were definitely no, not sure of the others.Other things to consider:
Using scanners on railroads is not security critical - no big deal
However going through TSA security at airports may raise eyebrows
Use of scanners in flight is really an issue - use with extreme care here (ear piece headphones absolutely necessary)
Scanners are receivers and not transmitting devices - can't mess with transmissions - but then there are the uneducated - - -
On cruise ships some will not pass muster - especially Carnival Cruise Lines at San Juan PR - they were not very pleasant about it.
As with all scanners - privileged communications is open to monitoring by the public be careful of what you hear and passing it on
Transceivers and Satellite phones are another thing - check to see if the use if OK - verboten - void - don't even think about it !
Most of the police and government frequencies are on a trunking circuit where the signal is on multiple frequencies so you only receive part of
it before changing channels - really hard to follow all the juicy stuff in progress.
In some local areas using a scanner to monitor police activity is illegal - the bad guys out-witting the keystone cops !
But it really is fun to hear the chatter as to why the hell the damn train is late - other than no defects at mile post xxx
Amtrak is really deficient in dispensing information about delays - Ok 20 minutes no big deal but an hour come on give me a break !
YES some trains do pick up time and station stops are often brief - just enough time to keep the delays on the minus side.
And the usual Mission Impossible discloser:
The Secretary will disallow any use of communication devices by the parties
I'm unaware of any US airline that allows operating radio scanners while in flight but I'm also unaware of anything dangerous happening as a result. Mobile phones in transmit mode are likely a bigger issue but they only seem to affect the smallest of regional aircraft. If you were caught in the act it would probably just get a warning to turn it off and put it away but ignoring these instructions could be cause for civil penalties. Always avoid taking a scanner on international flights without proper research as the rules and regulations vary widely from country to country and simple possession can be a major offense in some areas.Some airlines expressly forbid scanners, and any PED is generally subject to the 10,000 foot rule even if allowed. While there is no transmission, there are fears (perhaps unfounded, but they make the rules) that reception can be an issue. Unless things have changed, Delta and Southwest were definitely no, not sure of the others.
As a kid I remember talking with a guy in Australia and Barry Goldwater in Arizonia on the Ham Radio of our neighbor.Just as a mater of interest, folk with scanners might like to know that radio amateurs (hams) can be heard on scanners, they operate FM between 144 Mhz and 148 Mhz in USA. There is another band between 420 and 450 Mhz. also. Some channels carry "repeaters" which boost the signals over larger distances, so one can sometimes hear folk using handheld walki talki type sets from over 50 miles away on your scanner.
Depending on the short wave frequency band, some hams do achieve world wide communication. Scanners tend to mostly be vhf / uhf coverage, which is much shorter range.As a kid I remember talking with a guy in Australia and Barry Goldwater in Arizonia on the Ham Radio of our neighbor.
Is that not illegal because it can transmit on Amtrak frequencies.A Baofeng UV-5R, a programming cable and a decent antenna can all be had for $50 these days, and probably less if you crawl Facebook marketplace.
You can program that Baofeng to "Dual Watch" the Amtrak "home" frequency and scan only the channels used on your trip.
Radioreference.com is a good source of more technical information including frequencies. For Amtrak frequencies by route, on-track-online is great.Consider having the scanner pre-programmed with all the radio chatter that you will likely have an affinity to monitor.
OR investing in a software program to self install the frequencies.
Trying to program each individual frequency on a teeny tiny keyboard half the size of a flip cell phone is madness !
Some good pointers there. I also "tag" all the frequencies with the associated AAR Channel number. Having a group of just the entire range of frequencies in addition to each route as listed in On Track On Line is also a good idea.Amtrak is on the host railroad's road channels. Road channels change at various points.
Your best asset is On Track On Line. They collect radio frequencies on all Amtrak routes:
Note that their frequency lists are entirely dependent on field reporting. The railroads shift their channels for a given area with some frequency, so everything may not be up to date, they need someone to detect and report the change. It would be a good idea to have one bank programmed with all the AAR channels so if you lose the road channel you can scan all AAR channels until you pick something up in the event a channel change happened that OTOL hasn't had reported yet. Your best bet for finding an unknown channel is to scan just before, during, and just after station stops, the conductor and engineer are almost guaranteed to be conversing then ("Two more" "That'll do. Stop." "HIghball Salinas on signal indication")
If you intend to railfan with a scanner on Amtrak with some regularity, programming your scanner channels to correspond with AAR channel numbers is a good idea. So if you hear the crew say "rolling to 36", you can just punch up channel 36. Also, the crews generally have no idea of the actual frequencies, they do know the AAR channel, though. That's how their radios are set up.
You are likely only to be hearing your train, detectors, the dispatcher, and very nearby freights with a regular, short rubber ducky antenna. Sometimes you won't be able to hear the dispatcher well. That's okay, any orders must be repeated back by the engineer and you will hear him.
There is not a lot of chatter, so don't worry if there is silence for long periods. One of the nice things about the Starlight is a lot of the Coast Line is not CTC. CTC ends somewhere north of Santa Barbara (CTC installation keeps creeping northward, so not sure of exactly where currently) plus there is CTC over Cuesta between San Luis Obispo and San Miguel. So you will get the dispatcher and engineer issuing, repeating back, and releasing track warrants to authorize movement. Traffic is light enough on the coast line that the dispatcher will often issue a track warrant all the way from San Miguel to Salinas, though, so there is not a lot of back and forth all the time on track warrants.