Scanning the Rails

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Eric in East County

Train Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
71
Whenever we travel via Amtrak, we always pack along a little handheld scanner to monitor radio traffic to and from our trains and between members of the on-board crews.

For many years now, we’ve been using a Uniden SC230 scanner, which was and is perfectly adequate for picking up the VHF radio frequencies used by Amtrak trains as well as Los Angeles Union Station and Chicago Union Station.

For our trip this coming summer, we purchased a BC125AT scanner which also receives the UHF frequencies used by Amtrak. These include 452.9000 used by Terminal Services, and Family Radio Service channels 1-14, which are used on some Amtrak trains by on-board service personnel. (Have any of you ever monitored Amtrak radio traffic on UHF?)

We were able to program our new BC125AT scanner using our computer, rather than having to undergo the tedious process of entering each individual frequency using the scanner’s buttons and knobs.

There is talk that the American Association of Railroads (and Amtrak) will eventually be switching over to digital radios. (Has anyone heard anything more about when this change-over will be taking place?) We have a Uniden HomePatrol scanner, which we use for monitoring police and fire activity out here in East San Diego County. It’s one of the newer models that can also receive digital radio signals, so we might eventually end up using it to monitor Amtrak radio traffic as well. In the meantime, we’ll continue to use our conventional scanners.

Eric & Pat
 

railiner

Conductor
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Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,555
When they ever go to digital transmission's, your monitoring may be over, if they scramble them (as in cell phones)...
 

Eric in East County

Train Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
71
Many of our East San Diego County police, fire and emergency agencies have “gone digital” but have not scrambled their transmissions.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,008
There has been speculation that railroads would go digital for a long, long time. Like 10 years. I am only going to worry about it when I start seeing something concrete. In the meantime, I will enjoy my scanner.
 

FrensicPic

Conductor
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
2,940
There has been speculation that railroads would go digital for a long, long time. Like 10 years. I am only going to worry about it when I start seeing something concrete. In the meantime, I will enjoy my scanner.
I don't expect digital anytime soon either with the railroads. In the meantime, enjoy and don't worry about it.
 

MccfamschoolMom

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
92
Youtuuba's YouTube channel has tons of LD Amtrak train journey videos in which he uses a scanner to pick up the train crew chatter; perhaps he's also following when Amtrak might be switching over to digital radio signals. It might be worthwhile to visit his channel page and see if one can message him about it.
 

FrensicPic

Conductor
Joined
Jan 15, 2012
Messages
2,940
Youtuuba's YouTube channel has tons of LD Amtrak train journey videos in which he uses a scanner to pick up the train crew chatter; perhaps he's also following when Amtrak might be switching over to digital radio signals. It might be worthwhile to visit his channel page and see if one can message him about it.
Amtrak will not switch to digital until the Class I's they operate on switch and that will be gradual. Think of the length of the long distance routes and the number of different Class I's that a single Amtrak route may encompass. "Yard" and related (security, admin, etc.) radios will switch to digital sooner; "road" channels will take some time. Dual-mode radios will be a necessity during the transition.

Digital does not automatically mean encrypted.

I'll be fine with my Uniden BCD396XT for the foreseeable future.
 
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