Old 12-03-2011, 07:45 PM   #1
Mr. Pick
Senior Member
 
Mr. Pick's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 662
Default Scanners

I had 3 open hours this morning that I could use to go shoot trains. Yesterday evening I spotted what I think is a great spot at the battlefield for a shot, so I headed there. Sun was intermittent behind clouds, then shining. Forgot my book, so nothing to read. Parked, walked the half mile to the spot, set up tripod, and waited. 2 hours and 45 minutes and no trains. Not even a distant whistle. Time is up, so I walk up to track and verify there are no trains coming, pack up and get 1/4 mile back to the car and I heard one coming. Sun was out full too.

Which brings me to scanners. Think I'm going to have to invest in one, the above has happened more than once. I've done a little research. Anything I need to know? Anything to be sure to include or exclude? Any recommendations?
Mr. Pick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-03-2011, 08:03 PM   #2
Mark Gayman
Member
 
Mark Gayman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Utah
Posts: 95
Default

Two things come to my mind: 1) Scanner must have an external connection (BNC, N, SMA, etc.) that will allow you to upgrade the supplied antenna, and 2) Replace the antenna that comes with the scanner with one that is centered in the RR band, about 160 MHz. Smiley Antennas makes sturdy rubber ducks, and other designs, with BNC and SMA connectors. I use one of theirs on my scanner and my ham radio.

EOT device frequencies are generally in the UHF band and can complicate the choice of an antenna, if you want to scan both bands. A dual band ham radio antenna (2m and 70cm) might work for receiving both RR bands.
__________________
Rath copy 6 east Wood copy 3 west (Form 19 is my way to run a railroad)

---------------------

Last edited by Mark Gayman; 12-03-2011 at 08:23 PM. Reason: Added text about EOT band and dual band ham antenna
Mark Gayman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-03-2011, 09:27 PM   #3
wds
Senior Member
 
wds's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Canada
Posts: 793
Default

1 more thing, if you buy a little pocket scanner like the Uniden NASCAR one get a chunk of chain with a split key ring on one end and a dog collar clip or carabiner on the other. Wind the split ring through one of the little holes on the belt clip and clip the other end to a belt loop. That way when you drop it in the deep brush somewhere - as I have done a thousand times - you don't lose it forever (as I have done only once). Or you can geek out and get a mobile setup for your car and only railfan at places with drive-up access, like so many people I see these days. If you really want a big antenna on your car to look like an uber-cool railfan (did I just hear somebody scream "oxymoron"??), you can still have one for your pocket job and swap it for the rubber one when you go hiking. Don't get one of those 16 or 18 inch whip jobs, they get caught on seatbelts and stuff when you're on the chase and end up breaking off all the time.
wds is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 01:07 AM   #4
Mr. Pick
Senior Member
 
Mr. Pick's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 662
Default

Thanks. Good advice. I'm going to be getting a portable. I'm used to parking and then hiking in.
Mr. Pick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 01:17 AM   #5
troy12n
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 5,333
Default

I had good luck for years with a Uniden BC80xlt I bought in the mid 90's. It's 50 channel and very easy to use/program but it's not made anymore. You can likely find one on ebay for very cheap. It only recently died and that was because I dropped it and it broke the BNC connector for the antenna off. I just bought a way too expensive and complicated scanner that I am embarrassed to say I am having a hard time figuring out how to use it in an efficient manner and program it. It's a BC346xt. I dont recommend it as a first scanner.

Whatever you do, get a nice antenna. I paid way too much for my antenna too, but it's good.
troy12n is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 03:34 AM   #6
Greg P
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Baltimore MD
Posts: 1,003
Send a message via AIM to Greg P
Default

I am a HAM Technician so I use my HAM Radio for listening. You can't really scan with it; but you can set it to the frequency and leave it on there.

One thing I wish I had bought was a radio that monitors two frequencies at once.

I use a Pro-83 scanner for ATCS and either my HAM or a Pro-433 for scanning.

An antenna that is mounted outside the car will help, such as on the top or back. Car bodies weaken signals.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CALL THE TRAINS IF YOU DO THE HAM OPTION.

People are doing it apparently...
Greg P is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 06:21 AM   #7
JimThias
Senior Member
 
JimThias's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 9,800
Default

This is the one I've been using for several years and I've been very happy with it.

__________________
.
Rhymes with slice, rice and mice, and probably should be spelled like "Tice."

This pretty much sums it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Thias
JimThias is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 06:42 AM   #8
nikos1
Senior Member
 
nikos1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 1,775
Default

Avoid radioshack scanners, I have one at its terrible and from what I've heard so far thats a widespread opinion. I lost it anyways so I guess I will have to search for a new one too at some point.
__________________


Wedge shots of blue HLCX SD60's http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php?userid=7861

More wedge shots of blue HLCX SD60's http://nikos1.rrpicturearchives.net/

Video wedge shots of blue HLCX SD60's
http://youtube.com/profile?user=nikosjk1
nikos1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 07:10 AM   #9
mark woody
Senior Member
 
mark woody's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Mudgee N.S.W. Australia
Posts: 641
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
This is the one I've been using for several years and I've been very happy with it.

Hey Jim is that a bearcat UBC73xlt looks very similar to mine, only trouble is our trains all have sat phones so no one uses the radio, QR crews sometimes talk to each other though. different in South Australia and Victoria I'm told must go there sometime.
mark woody is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 12:11 PM   #10
milwman
I shoot what I like
 
milwman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Cedar Fall's, Iowa
Posts: 2,474
Send a message via Yahoo to milwman
Default

This Makes a great radio for Rail fanning. It takes a bit of thinking to set up but there is some nice software that will help with it, Get it !!! A much better price and great store to. http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/ht/5270.html
__________________
Richard Scott Marsh I go by Scott long story

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22299476@N05/

Last edited by milwman; 12-04-2011 at 01:17 PM.
milwman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 01:03 PM   #11
Mr. Pick
Senior Member
 
Mr. Pick's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 662
Default

Alright, I'll starting looking for one. Thanks.
Mr. Pick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 04:52 PM   #12
Mark Gayman
Member
 
Mark Gayman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Utah
Posts: 95
Default

New, out of the box, ham gear is disabled from broadcasting on frequencies outside of the ham bands. It usually requires internal modifications to "open up" ham gear to transmit on all receive frequencies.
__________________
Rath copy 6 east Wood copy 3 west (Form 19 is my way to run a railroad)

---------------------
Mark Gayman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 05:08 PM   #13
milwman
I shoot what I like
 
milwman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Cedar Fall's, Iowa
Posts: 2,474
Send a message via Yahoo to milwman
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Gayman View Post
New, out of the box, ham gear is disabled from broadcasting on frequencies outside of the ham bands. It usually requires internal modifications to "open up" ham gear to transmit on all receive frequencies.
Yea and vary illegal if you not Licensed on it.
__________________
Richard Scott Marsh I go by Scott long story

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22299476@N05/
milwman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 05:23 PM   #14
bigbassloyd
Senior Member
 
bigbassloyd's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Hilldale, West Virginia
Posts: 3,740
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by nikos1 View Post
Avoid radioshack scanners, I have one at its terrible and from what I've heard so far thats a widespread opinion. I lost it anyways so I guess I will have to search for a new one too at some point.

Pro-97 + traintenna here. You must have a dud, or you fail in scanning...

Loyd L.
__________________
Social Media elevates the absurd and mediocre to a point where they aren't anymore, and that is a tragedy.

My personal photography site
bigbassloyd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 07:46 PM   #15
wds
Senior Member
 
wds's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Canada
Posts: 793
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
This is the one I've been using for several years and I've been very happy with it.

Ditto that! And yup although I bought my second one at Radio City, it's exactly the same as the first, which was a Radio Shack Special.
__________________
Click Here to view my photos at RailPictures.Net!
wds is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 08:16 PM   #16
troy12n
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 5,333
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbassloyd View Post
Pro-97 + traintenna here. You must have a dud, or you fail in scanning...

Loyd L.
Ditto on the pro-97 as well. I bought one around 2003 black friday for a steal, but it ended up falling off a bridge and into the water after about only 2 years of use. It was easy to program, and had tons of channels.

One thing about newer scanners that I do not like is no analog pot for controlling squelch and volume. A real point of contention for me on my new scanner.
troy12n is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2011, 11:59 PM   #17
JimThias
Senior Member
 
JimThias's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 9,800
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by wds View Post
Ditto that! And yup although I bought my second one at Radio City, it's exactly the same as the first, which was a Radio Shack Special.
I'm on #3. And each time I've purchased one, I've paid less than the time before.

1st one...dropped too many times and the speaker stopped working.
2nd one...left it on top of my rental vehicle in California and drove away. Got 30 miles away before I realized it.

3rd...2+ years old and working great!

The thing I love about this scanner is how easy it is to program. Very user-friendly manual.
__________________
.
Rhymes with slice, rice and mice, and probably should be spelled like "Tice."

This pretty much sums it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Thias
JimThias is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 12:17 AM   #18
sd9
Senior Member
 
sd9's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 799
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
This is the one I've been using for several years and I've been very happy with it.

That's the same one I got, bought on-line at Uniden, (I really cheap-out and bought the reconditioned one,) it's about 5 years old now, still going. I use the rechargeable batteries and keep it plugged in the cigarette lighter so it always stays charged, the other thing I like, it has the quick scan on weather bands and marine, since there's a canal that runs through this area with two train lift bridges it sometimes comes in handy to pick up the marine traffic
sd9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 12:24 AM   #19
Hatchetman
Part-Time Railfan
 
Hatchetman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1,381
Default

Give me a model number on that Uniden.
Hatchetman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 12:34 AM   #20
sd9
Senior Member
 
sd9's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 799
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchetman View Post
Give me a model number on that Uniden.
Model BC92XLT
sd9 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 02:10 AM   #21
TAMR159
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 367
Default

I've spent untold amounts of time and money in scanners and radios, and consequently I've learned quite a bit about what works, what doesn't, what gets the best reception, what's practical, etc.

To cut straight to the chase, I would recommend an amateur radio like has been recommended on here along with a tuned antenna. Yaesus, Icoms, and Kenwoods are all very solid radios that will run circles around any scanner in terms of performance (they are much more sensitive, meaning they will hear transmissions much further away than scanners, and they are more selective, which means they can reject a lot of the "bleed-over" that scanners suffer from [such as NOAA weather channels bleeding over]).

Some will tell you to get a dual-band radio so that you can listen to the low-power databursts from EOTDs in order to know when the train is near: I haven't had the EOTD channels in any of my radios in a good 5 years, and I really can't recall any time in which it was an issue, but it's all your own preference. Just realize that when you're trying to accommodate two bands (VHF, which is 2M in the Ham world, and UHF, which is 440 in the Ham world), you're going to be sacrificing a bit of performance on the VHF band...but if the crews out your way never say a word on the radio, then it may be worthwhile. If you do get a dual-band radio, I would advise to stick with a VHF-only antenna; the goal of having EOTD frequencies in your radio is to know when the train is near, so why would you want a high-gain antenna to pull them in when they're further away? Plus you're not sacrificing performance on the VHF band, which is where you'll hear all of the really important information anyway.

Now if you really want to get serious in it, you could do what I do: use commercial radio equipment, a la Motorola, high-end Kenwood radios, etc. They're built to military standards and will generally outperform any amateur radio out there (though not nearly to the extent that an amateur radio will outperform a scanner...you're at least playing in the same ballpark when comparing amateur radios and commercial radios). I've heard stories of Motorola radios being submerged in water, taking some really nasty drops, and all sorts of other things, and they continue to work perfectly fine...although as their primary use is in situations where peoples' lives depend on it, you'd probably expect such performance. The downside is they can be an incredible pain in the rear when it comes to programming them (the software is restricted to certain parties in some cases, you need a dinosaur computer to program many Motorolas, can't change any frequencies on the fly, etc.)...amateur radios are all face-programmable, meaning you simple punch the frequency into the front of the radio, so you don't have any of these problems.

Regarding scanners...about the only instance in which I see value in them is when you *need* to be able to listen to a wide variety of frequencies (low band VHF, high band VHF, UHF, and 800/900 MHz), and, for whatever reason, you absolutely *have* to have this capability in a single device. Otherwise you can purchase an amateur radio for the same price (and even certain commercial radios), so why even consider the scanner route?
TAMR159 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 02:30 AM   #22
troy12n
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 5,333
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by TAMR159 View Post
I've spent untold amounts of time and money in scanners and radios, and consequently I've learned quite a bit about what works, what doesn't, what gets the best reception, what's practical, etc.

To cut straight to the chase, I would recommend an amateur radio like has been recommended on here along with a tuned antenna. Yaesus, Icoms, and Kenwoods are all very solid radios that will run circles around any scanner in terms of performance (they are much more sensitive, meaning they will hear transmissions much further away than scanners, and they are more selective, which means they can reject a lot of the "bleed-over" that scanners suffer from [such as NOAA weather channels bleeding over]).

Some will tell you to get a dual-band radio so that you can listen to the low-power databursts from EOTDs in order to know when the train is near: I haven't had the EOTD channels in any of my radios in a good 5 years, and I really can't recall any time in which it was an issue, but it's all your own preference. Just realize that when you're trying to accommodate two bands (VHF, which is 2M in the Ham world, and UHF, which is 440 in the Ham world), you're going to be sacrificing a bit of performance on the VHF band...but if the crews out your way never say a word on the radio, then it may be worthwhile. If you do get a dual-band radio, I would advise to stick with a VHF-only antenna; the goal of having EOTD frequencies in your radio is to know when the train is near, so why would you want a high-gain antenna to pull them in when they're further away? Plus you're not sacrificing performance on the VHF band, which is where you'll hear all of the really important information anyway.

Now if you really want to get serious in it, you could do what I do: use commercial radio equipment, a la Motorola, high-end Kenwood radios, etc. They're built to military standards and will generally outperform any amateur radio out there (though not nearly to the extent that an amateur radio will outperform a scanner...you're at least playing in the same ballpark when comparing amateur radios and commercial radios). I've heard stories of Motorola radios being submerged in water, taking some really nasty drops, and all sorts of other things, and they continue to work perfectly fine...although as their primary use is in situations where peoples' lives depend on it, you'd probably expect such performance. The downside is they can be an incredible pain in the rear when it comes to programming them (the software is restricted to certain parties in some cases, you need a dinosaur computer to program many Motorolas, can't change any frequencies on the fly, etc.)...amateur radios are all face-programmable, meaning you simple punch the frequency into the front of the radio, so you don't have any of these problems.

Regarding scanners...about the only instance in which I see value in them is when you *need* to be able to listen to a wide variety of frequencies (low band VHF, high band VHF, UHF, and 800/900 MHz), and, for whatever reason, you absolutely *have* to have this capability in a single device. Otherwise you can purchase an amateur radio for the same price (and even certain commercial radios), so why even consider the scanner route?
You need an FCC license to posess/use a ham radio. You dont need that for a scanner.
troy12n is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 02:45 AM   #23
MagnumForce
Senior Member
 
MagnumForce's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 602
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by troy12n View Post
You need an FCC license to posess/use a ham radio. You dont need that for a scanner.
You most definitely do not, you only need a license to transmit.
__________________
-Brent Kneebush
Defiance, Ohio
MagnumForce is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 03:38 AM   #24
wds
Senior Member
 
wds's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Canada
Posts: 793
Default

As for hearing things far away, I keep my antenna's intentionally a bit on the short side. I really don't want to know what's going on on a Sub that's an hour's drive away. If I want to go there and shoot that, I'll drive there and stick with my short-range reception so I don't hear what's going on in the area I just left!
wds is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2011, 04:03 AM   #25
JimThias
Senior Member
 
JimThias's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 9,800
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by wds View Post
As for hearing things far away, I keep my antenna's intentionally a bit on the short side. I really don't want to know what's going on on a Sub that's an hour's drive away. If I want to go there and shoot that, I'll drive there and stick with my short-range reception so I don't hear what's going on in the area I just left!
The stubby that came with my scanner is on it 100% of the time. I used to have a mag-mount antenna for my car, but it broke. I only put it up when I was intent on finding trains, but I felt it always screamed "GEEK!" when people saw it, so I've never bothered to purchase another one. My stubby antenna works just fine. Plus, Michigan rail traffic is so well-reported on a forum based here in my area that not many trains slip by without anyone posting about it.
__________________
.
Rhymes with slice, rice and mice, and probably should be spelled like "Tice."

This pretty much sums it up: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Thias
JimThias is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 05:16 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.