Old 01-26-2010, 01:19 PM   #1
Scolagiaco
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Default Railfanning gone totally bad.

Amtrak Police and station personel are not letting visitors(non-ticketed passengars) near the trains at most stations. I found out the hard way over the weekend during my once a year major railfanning expedition. I started out at my hometown in kissimmee and headed north to Folkston and then back over the span of 4 days.
Just last year, I had no problem at all being on Amtrak property both at Jacksonville and the Sanford Auto-train stations. At the Jacksonville station, I usually camp near the south end of the station platform with a good view of the trains leaving Moncrief going north. It took less than 30 seconds after I passed through the waiting room and out the door when a station employee came running after me and chased me out. He told me that nobody is allowed on the platform until the train pulls into the station, and then you must have a ticket to be on the platform...PERIOD! I didnt challenge him at all, I just said, "Sorry sir, I didnt know" He then recognized me and his mood backed down a bit. "You come by here once in a while, right?" and I just replied yes. He calmly mentioned that the rules have changed here in JAX, no longer railfan friendly no matter who you are. All passengars must wait in the waiting room, the conductor will meet ticketed passengars in the waiting room where the conductor will then check your ticket and send you out to board the train.
Same goes for Sanford Auto train station, but my visit became alot worse. Its been a few years since I visited the autotrain station in Sanford, and I left Folkston early enough to where I would be in Sanford around 3pm, just in time to catch the switching action and departure from the station. When I first pulled in, I told the employee at the check in booth I was just here to do some railfanning and he let me through and instructed me where to park as usual, no biggie. I was excited to be there cause it has been a couple years, I know some of the station train crews that work at Sanford, and If im early enough, they let me ride in the engine as they are putting the train together. I scoped out the switch engine for a second and didnt recognize the engineer, so no cabride today. I did know the conductor but I couldnt get his attention. I then walked away and started heading to check out the 2 P42's at the north end of the station as usual. Now, get this. I walked passed 5 station employees, 1 Seminole county sherriff officer(he was just hanging out watching the trains to, LOL), the engineer taking P052 north, and a station clerk. NONE of them said a word to me, and trust me, I didnt look like a passengar. Big scoped camera, a motorola handheld 2-way railroad radio, and no carry-on or luggage. I walked right passed the P-42's, onto the gravel and sat down on a tree stump. Perfect view of the engines, I even got wave and a pose from the engineer as he was boarding the engine and I had my camera on him the whole time. A few minutes later, a voice came over the PA system, "Would the owner of the black mustang please report back to your vehicle at once!" That would be me, and I was thinking, "whats up now?!?" Anyway, I went back to my car, nobody was there so I headed into the station waiting area, but before I even got close, an Amtrak Police officer and that Seminole county sherriff officer came walking out and both headed right for me. The amtrak officer asked me what I was doing here. I was polite and I just said that I was watching. Watching? he asked me. And I said, "Yes, watching, railfanning." He drilled me with question after question and then my radio started going nuts and the sherriff looked at my radio which I had layed down it down on top of a trash can cover so I could get my ID out for the Amtrak officer. He asked me what kind of radio it is, and I told him its a motorola csx radio that I bought on ebay 2 years ago. That statement got the Amtrak officer's attention EXTREMELY FAST!!!!! "How did you get that!?!? I said on Ebay, for $50 dollars. He asked, "Does it transmit?" I said, yes, I beleive so but I dont use it, I just like the fact that its range distance is great, and I can hear more chatter than a scanner can. The Amtrak officer asked me if I realized that I just broke a few laws and I can be arrested right here, right now for having it in my possesion. I said to him, Sir, honestly, I didnt think anything of it. I bought the radio, it needed some things replaced on it in order for it to work, like the antenna because it was torn and about ready to break off, and the battery was bad, so I bought a charger, new antenna and a new battery as well from the same guy that sold the radio to me on ebay. Long story short, no harm, no foul, he took the radio from me, called the CSX police, took down all my info, banned me from the station unless I have a ticket to travel on Amtrak and he said that goes for all your railfan buddies so spread the word, 0 tolerance. So all and all I lost the radio, $200 bucks I invested on getting it to work just so I can hear the trains better, and my pride.
So, to everyone, if your railfan plans include the JAX and Sanford Amtrak stations, take them off your list, they dont want us railfans there at all....unless you pay to be there....
I'll miss it alot.

Scott
Kissimmee, FL
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Old 01-26-2010, 02:31 PM   #2
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He asked me what kind of radio it is, and I told him its a motorola csx radio...
And there was your mistake. Why would you even admit to having a railroad radio?

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Old 01-26-2010, 02:55 PM   #3
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Really sorry to hear about all of that, but two bits of advice I'd give you for the future.

1) If you see a police officer where you are going to railfan (there when you arrive), walk up to him and tell him what you are doing there. I have done this in the past and it's always ended up in a "Don't trespass, don't walk past that line, take your pictures," type response. Now, it may not. You may end up with a, "You can't take pictures here," response, which will result in you having to write a letter to his department asking for clarification, but if he's already there and you start taking shots with him in range of you without telling him what you're doing (no matter what the law is) it just isn't likely to go that well.

2) When I'm around LEOs I just turn my scanner/radio off. Even if I'm in a location where it's 100% legal, I know they'll find it intrusive.

Both of these are just words to the wise, honestly. Neither is based in law at all, and in fact I'm sure others will respond vehemently that I'm telling you to act with less than your rights... but sometimes the best thing to do is to put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment and then react to them how you think that they would be most comfortable with a person like you in your situation.

Again... really sorry to hear that you went through all of that. I do understand how much it sucks.
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Old 01-26-2010, 03:20 PM   #4
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And there was your mistake. Why would you even admit to having a railroad radio?

- Chris
Chris,
Im not going to lie in a police officers face. Thats the last thing I would do. He already saw it on my belt before I took it off. I made it clear to him that I dont transmit messages out at all. He beleived me but it is what it is as he said. I have no problem with losing it, I wasnt up to any criminal activity. its just better than a hand-held scanner because of its range, and I told him that straight out.
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Old 01-26-2010, 03:32 PM   #5
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Freericks, I've run into LEO's before. I was railfanning at Taft Yard just south of Downtown Orlando and I kept going back and forth between 2 spots, 1 to see the switching and a second spot to catch an intermodal train that comes off the main at the center of taft yard. I came back down from the "intermodal spot" and noticed a person come out of his SUV in a suit and tie just looking around by the main. It was a CSX officer, and someone tipped off that I was there. Forgot to mention, there is an old road that terminates right at that switch that the intermodal trains use to enter the yard. Anyway, I jumped back into my car and raced down there to talk him and I interduced myself to him. He said someone saw me there and called. He was ok with me being there and he was just doing his job. I even whipped out my modelrailroad club ID and showed it to him. He thanked me for coming down and telling him I was there. He then gave me his card, told me if I ever see something that doesnt look right to please call him. We shaked hands, he said he loves having you railfans out here, railfans are loyal to the host railroad and we dont mess with things.
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Old 01-26-2010, 04:58 PM   #6
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I certainly hope you intend to write a few letters regarding this matter. From what I can tell, this incident occurred in the parking lot, a public area where you had the right to be. As for the radio, only the ACT of transmitting is illegal - if you transmitted over it in front of the cop, then it'd be a whole 'nother story. Did this radio have CSX markings on it? If so, then it could very well have been stolen and sold on eBay, which you obviously had no way of knowing. Either way, I'd write a few letters...one to the Amtrak police, another to the CSX police, and perhaps the Sheriff's agency to see what became of the radio. Unfortunately, railfans are indeed not allowed in the station areas as per the new rules, so there is little you can do here (even if the cop was a prick).

Should the radio be indeed stolen and you won't get it back, there are other options. An amateur radio in the VHF band along with a Ham radio license (very easy to acquire) is virtually bullet-proof, in that no LEO can take it away from you simply for listening in to the railroad (and if they do, they're likely in the wrong and could face disciplinary measures themselves). I'm guessing the radio was a run-of-the-mill Motorola MT-1000 - they're plentiful on eBay and there are plenty of places that can program them for you (they can also be programmed so that they will not transmit).

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Old 01-26-2010, 05:09 PM   #7
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I certainly hope you intend to write a few letters regarding this matter. From what I can tell, this incident occurred in the parking lot, a public area where you had the right to be. As for the radio, only the ACT of transmitting is illegal - if you transmitted over it in front of the cop, then it'd be a whole 'nother story. Did this radio have CSX markings on it? If so, then it could very well have been stolen and sold on eBay, which you obviously had no way of knowing. Either way, I'd write a few letters...one to the Amtrak police, another to the CSX police, and perhaps the Sheriff's agency to see what became of the radio. Unfortunately, railfans are indeed not allowed in the station areas as per the new rules, so there is little you can do here (even if the cop was a prick).

Should the radio be indeed stolen and you won't get it back, there are other options. An amateur radio in the VHF band along with a Ham radio license (very easy to acquire) is virtually bullet-proof, in that no LEO can take it away from you simply for listening in to the railroad (and if they do, they're likely in the wrong and could face disciplinary measures themselves). I'm guessing the radio was a run-of-the-mill Motorola MT-1000 - they're plentiful on eBay and there are plenty of places that can program them for you (they can also be programmed so that they will not transmit).
It was a Motorola P110 Radius with the CSX logo and serial number. It was rather old and didnt work at the time like I stated before. He had some accessories for it on the side which I paid him for as well.(battery, spare antennas, and new universal type chargers.
I was at a greenburg train show and the guy had some radios along with a printed out sign of the Ebay Logo. He said I can pay here as long as I pay the reserve and its mine, otherwise go log in to ebay and place your bid. It didnt seem fishy at first because alot of car dealers do that when they need to move sales along. The car is on ebay but if you come by the dealership and buy the in person, they just remove the listing on ebay. I have bought cars like that. It probably was stolen, the cop even said that and he also said its common. I already contacted Amtrak and waiting for a reply.

Last edited by Scolagiaco; 01-26-2010 at 05:13 PM. Reason: left out info by accident
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Old 01-26-2010, 11:16 PM   #8
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I certainly hope you intend to write a few letters regarding this matter. From what I can tell, this incident occurred in the parking lot, a public area where you had the right to be. As for the radio, only the ACT of transmitting is illegal - if you transmitted over it in front of the cop, then it'd be a whole 'nother story. Did this radio have CSX markings on it? If so, then it could very well have been stolen and sold on eBay, which you obviously had no way of knowing. Either way, I'd write a few letters...one to the Amtrak police, another to the CSX police, and perhaps the Sheriff's agency to see what became of the radio. Unfortunately, railfans are indeed not allowed in the station areas as per the new rules, so there is little you can do here (even if the cop was a prick).

Should the radio be indeed stolen and you won't get it back, there are other options. An amateur radio in the VHF band along with a Ham radio license (very easy to acquire) is virtually bullet-proof, in that no LEO can take it away from you simply for listening in to the railroad (and if they do, they're likely in the wrong and could face disciplinary measures themselves). I'm guessing the radio was a run-of-the-mill Motorola MT-1000 - they're plentiful on eBay and there are plenty of places that can program them for you (they can also be programmed so that they will not transmit).
Totally inaccurate. You cannot posess a two way radio that is capable of AAR frequency transmit without an FCC license. To the OP, the cops had EVERY right to confiscate your radio.
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:13 AM   #9
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Totally inaccurate. You cannot posess a two way radio that is capable of AAR frequency transmit without an FCC license. To the OP, the cops had EVERY right to confiscate your radio.
Sorry, TRF, but what you state is inaccurate. Two-way radios capable of transmitting on the AAR band can be legally purchased by anyone; before I got my ham ticket, I purchased a two-way from a reputable online dealer and was not asked to provide a call sign. It is the actual act of transmitting in the band without authorization (e.g., being a railroad employee) is illegal.
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Old 01-27-2010, 06:13 AM   #10
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Perhaps it varies from state to state?
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:28 PM   #11
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Sorry, TRF, but what you state is inaccurate. Two-way radios capable of transmitting on the AAR band can be legally purchased by anyone; before I got my ham ticket, I purchased a two-way from a reputable online dealer and was not asked to provide a call sign. It is the actual act of transmitting in the band without authorization (e.g., being a railroad employee) is illegal.
If it is not programmed with RR channels like when you bought it or at least not able to transmit on them if they are in for the purpose of railfanning, it is then not capable. My FD radio is "capable" in your terms if I program it to be.

Bottom line: If you railfan with a "radio", cut the tongue out of it like I did in my "play" radio. Then it is not capable.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:12 PM   #12
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Sorry, TRF, but what you state is inaccurate. Two-way radios capable of transmitting on the AAR band can be legally purchased by anyone; before I got my ham ticket, I purchased a two-way from a reputable online dealer and was not asked to provide a call sign. It is the actual act of transmitting in the band without authorization (e.g., being a railroad employee) is illegal.
I see what you are saying David! I will re-phrase, nobody ( reputable ) will sell you a pre-programmed railroad radio without an FCC license, that is illegal. Was your radio pre-programmed with other than Citizen or Ham frequencies? Here is the next question, why would you want one and risk it? Trust me, to a railroader you will not look "cool" or trusted. Just buy a scanner and be done with it! With that all said, the cops still had every right to confiscate the OP's radio!!

P.S. Have you ever smoked weed? Yeah, but... I didn't inhale... Yeah, okay.... Pretty much same theory with the radio here folks!

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Old 01-27-2010, 09:40 PM   #13
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Bottom line: If you railfan with a "radio", cut the tongue out of it like I did in my "play" radio. Then it is not capable.
Precisely...I absolutely love the performance of a commercial radio to that of a scanner (much better reception, better resistance to intermod, better audio quality, etc.). Mine is set up to receive-only on every railroad channel - if you attempt to hit the PTT button, it'll just let out a loud beep until you let go (and never actually transmit anything). The only way to reprogram it is to have an authorized dealer with the correct software do it for you (they also require letters of consent from the person's employer confirming their employment and giving permission to set up the radio to transmit).

Again, as far as I know, it's only the act of transmitting that is illegal - however, it's wise to disable that feature anyhow (heaven forbid you forget to take the radio off your belt, get in the car, sit on it, and it starts transmitting...).
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Old 01-27-2010, 09:55 PM   #14
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Precisely...I absolutely love the performance of a commercial radio to that of a scanner (much better reception, better resistance to intermod, better audio quality, etc.). Mine is set up to receive-only on every railroad channel - if you attempt to hit the PTT button, it'll just let out a loud beep until you let go (and never actually transmit anything). The only way to reprogram it is to have an authorized dealer with the correct software do it for you (they also require letters of consent from the person's employer confirming their employment and giving permission to set up the radio to transmit).

Again, as far as I know, it's only the act of transmitting that is illegal - however, it's wise to disable that feature anyhow (heaven forbid you forget to take the radio off your belt, get in the car, sit on it, and it starts transmitting...).
A person (or company) is not allowed to posess a radio that has been programmed to transmit AAR frequencies without an FCC license..... If you transmit or not, it will be taken from you by the police.

P.S. Even if you own one, what do you plan to do with narrowband?! I hope all railfans do not posess any transmit bodies either way.

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Old 01-28-2010, 03:16 AM   #15
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P.S. Even if you own one, what do you plan to do with narrowband?! I hope all railfans do not posess any transmit bodies either way.
Have it reprogrammed for narrow-band operation...it's perfectly capable (another reason I purchased it).
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Old 01-28-2010, 04:02 AM   #16
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If it is not programmed with RR channels like when you bought it or at least not able to transmit on them if they are in for the purpose of railfanning, it is then not capable. My FD radio is "capable" in your terms if I program it to be.
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I see what you are saying David! I will re-phrase, nobody ( reputable ) will sell you a pre-programmed railroad radio without an FCC license, that is illegal. Was your radio pre-programmed with other than Citizen or Ham frequencies?
I never said it was pre-programmed; I never even said what radio I have. What would lead you to assume that I own a programmable-by-licensed-dealer-only Motorola? There are many more units available on the open market. Since we're apparently also bringing semantics into the conversation, "capable" is defined as "having ability," so a radio which can be programmed to transmit in the railroad band is "capable" regardless of the actual end use. (Example: Just because grossly exceeding the speed limit is both foolish and illegal on most roads in the world doesn't mean that a Bugatti Veyron is no longer capable of exceeding 200+ mph.)

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Here is the next question, why would you want one and risk it? Trust me, to a railroader you will not look "cool" or trusted. Just buy a scanner and be done with it!
My rig is a commercial two-way which I acquired because it had far better reception performance than comparably priced hand-held scanners which were available at the time I made the purchase. It is fully user-programmable and requires the user manually program the RX and TX freqs separately for each channel as a fail-safe against inadvertently making illegal transmissions; I skip the TX step since, as you correctly state, even as a licensed amateur radio operator, I am not licensed to transmit on the railroad band unless doing so during the performance of my professional duties is necessary and authorized by a railroad employee, at which point I would re-program the radio accordingly. Has that functionality been useful in the past? Absolutely. Did I de-program the TX function after my duties were concluded? You bet.

I don't buy gear for its coolness factor; I pay for performance, and there is no valid argument for why, in the pursuit of my hobby, I cannot possess a radio able -- but not programmed -- to transmit in a commercial band. The only thing I care about what railroaders think of me is that I'm not endangering myself, them or whatever else is around. And regardless, during the execution of one's duties on the railroad, will an employee really look so closely at the radio-transmission-receiving device I have to determine whether it's a radio or a scanner, or are they instead going to focus on the safe performance of their job? I would sincerely hope that the latter would be the case.

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P.S. Have you ever smoked weed? Yeah, but... I didn't inhale... Yeah, okay....
That's a personal attack which I take great offense to. You don't know me, you have no basis for making such insinuations, and you certainly shouldn't have to stoop that low to try to make a point.
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Old 01-28-2010, 04:18 AM   #17
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REMOVED

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Old 01-28-2010, 05:17 AM   #18
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A person (or company) is not allowed to posess a radio that has been programmed to transmit AAR frequencies without an FCC license..... If you transmit or not, it will be taken from you by the police.

P.S. Even if you own one, what do you plan to do with narrowband?! I hope all railfans do not posess any transmit bodies either way.
What, if any, facts do you have to back this up? I realize that railroaders are infinitely more qualified to bandy about any and all opinions involving anything railroad-related, but you may want to pump the brakes on this particular bit of "fact" until you consult some FCC regulations.
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Old 01-28-2010, 12:46 PM   #19
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I never said it was pre-programmed; I never even said what radio I have. What would lead you to assume that I own a programmable-by-licensed-dealer-only Motorola? There are many more units available on the open market. Since we're apparently also bringing semantics into the conversation, "capable" is defined as "having ability," so a radio which can be programmed to transmit in the railroad band is "capable" regardless of the actual end use. (Example: Just because grossly exceeding the speed limit is both foolish and illegal on most roads in the world doesn't mean that a Bugatti Veyron is no longer capable of exceeding 200+ mph.)



My rig is a commercial two-way which I acquired because it had far better reception performance than comparably priced hand-held scanners which were available at the time I made the purchase. It is fully user-programmable and requires the user manually program the RX and TX freqs separately for each channel as a fail-safe against inadvertently making illegal transmissions; I skip the TX step since, as you correctly state, even as a licensed amateur radio operator, I am not licensed to transmit on the railroad band unless doing so during the performance of my professional duties is necessary and authorized by a railroad employee, at which point I would re-program the radio accordingly. Has that functionality been useful in the past? Absolutely. Did I de-program the TX function after my duties were concluded? You bet.

I don't buy gear for its coolness factor; I pay for performance, and there is no valid argument for why, in the pursuit of my hobby, I cannot possess a radio able -- but not programmed -- to transmit in a commercial band. The only thing I care about what railroaders think of me is that I'm not endangering myself, them or whatever else is around. And regardless, during the execution of one's duties on the railroad, will an employee really look so closely at the radio-transmission-receiving device I have to determine whether it's a radio or a scanner, or are they instead going to focus on the safe performance of their job? I would sincerely hope that the latter would be the case.



That's a personal attack which I take great offense to. You don't know me, you have no basis for making such insinuations, and you certainly shouldn't have to stoop that low to try to make a point.
David, I was not attacking anybody. I was making a general statement about having a radio able to transmit and never using it. See what I mean?
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Old 01-28-2010, 12:47 PM   #20
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What, if any, facts do you have to back this up? I realize that railroaders are infinitely more qualified to bandy about any and all opinions involving anything railroad-related, but you may want to pump the brakes on this particular bit of "fact" until you consult some FCC regulations.
The information that I provided was totally inaccurate and I am sorry for leading astray...
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Old 01-28-2010, 04:38 PM   #21
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The information that I provided was totally inaccurate and I am sorry for leading astray...
You seem to do that pretty often. Must be a railroader thing and their attitude of "I'm right no matter what". While Dave made many accurate points, I would still like to comment on your irrelevant comment stating that us "railfans", buy the radios for a "coolness" factor. That comment in itself is quite inaccurate, and bluntly, ridiculous since many of us have stated we bought the amateur/commercial radios simply to receive better reception. Any HAM radio will do at least 5X better than the best handheld scanner. That is a proven fact that I've read from many accurate sources. I can personally say on my behalf that I am far more satisfied with the performance of my HAM over a scanner that I previously used.

Your comment stating we (again, speaking on the behalf of the railfans) should buy scanners and be "done with it" is again, inaccurate, as there is no rule saying we're not allowed to purchase radios. Obviously, common sense would tell you that transmitting is not allowed without an FCC license, regardless if you're transmitting over a HAM frequency or an AAR channel.

Perhaps you're not directing us (the other people who have stated in this thread that they've purchased an amateur/commercial simply for an upgrade in reception) on the behalf of the "coolness" factor, but it definitely seemed that way and I wanted to clarify that and express my own opinion.

Chase
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:28 PM   #22
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Um... Chase... RF apologized.
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:39 PM   #23
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Railfanning? Cool? In the eys of most of my friends, railfanning *might* be just above stamp collecting on their "Coolness factor" ratio. I've actually never heard anyone use the term railfan and cool in the same sentence when not talking about the weather.

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Old 01-28-2010, 06:37 PM   #24
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First, I want to apologize about last night's post. I was inappropriate in placing it, and my only excuse is an "unclear" head

Now, for my logical response on the subject:

If you purchase a VHF radio, it is capable of being programmed to transmit on any frequency within it's specs. RR, Fed. Gov't, or anything else may fall in those parameters.

Is it illegal? It is not illegal to possess a radio with the capability of transmitting. The offense occurs when you squeeze the button. Just like it is not illegal to go to the retailer of one's choice and purchase drain cleaner, cold medicine, and matches out the wazzoo. You will raise a flag, but the offense occurs when you take those items and manufacture it in to meth. Or, in Pennsylvania it is illegal to detonate certain fireworks without the proper license. However, it is NOT illegal for us to go to Ohio and purchase them and bring them back-just don't light the fuse.

Kevin's response was in the right direction. Why anyone would have a radio for railfanning with the ability to transmit is beyond me. We already get enough flack from the uninformed, why add to it? He was also right in his reputable dealer post. A "dealer" will not program a radio to transmit for you unless you have the paperwork to prove that you have permission to talk on each frequency. We established that Scott didn't buy the radio from a dealer.

Thanks to sites like Ebay and Craig's list, anyone can buy a radio, programming software, and a cable and program anything they want into a radio. I have the stuff to do most older Kenwood radios. Am I an authorized, licensed Kenwood dealer? No comment. Ebay does seem to be cracking down on the software department, but I suspect it is more for the pirating over every Tom, Dick, and Harry programming things into radios that they have no right to use.

Scott,

IF in fact you were not transmitting with your radio, you may have a valid reason to fight to get your radio back. Although you were technically trespassing, so I don't know how that may fall under the committing a crime with the radio on your person. I would contact either or both the local Amtrak police and I think you said Sheriff's Dept. and explain the situation to them better and try to get your radio back. If you get it back, take it directly to you local Motorola dealer and toss them the $40 to make it unable to transmit.
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Old 01-28-2010, 07:19 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EMTRailfan View Post
...and my only excuse is an "unclear" head
Hate when that happens.

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