View Full Version : Railfanning + Ham Radio

11-16-2006, 07:37 PM
I know there's a few Ham's on here from their sigs or usernames. I just recently got my licence and will be soon purchasing a radio.

Now, after some thinking and discussion with some other local railfans, we wondered if there was a ham railfan frequency?? I know it couldn't necessarily be the same across the country. Then again APRS has it's own freq. But it certainly would be nice to have one (with alternates) to pass information along to other railfans in the area, esp where one might miss some scanner traffic, or radio ahead for what power a train has.

Who all is licensed, and what do you use your radio for while hunting trains?

(now, KI4RXJ)

11-23-2006, 06:55 AM
I'm not sure if these frequencies are valid across the country, but these are the railfan freqs in the Chicago area.

146.490 2 meter Primary channel
146.565 2 meter Secondary (backup) channel
446.050 70 cm
223.620 1.25 meter
1294.425 23 cm

I haven't used these personally, I'm more concerned with trying to pick out the pertinant scanner traffic. Whenever I get around to actually programming my radio, I'll have to put them in and try them out.

I use my HAM radios while out railfanning. Kenwood TH-D7A for outside the vehicle and a Kenwood TM-V708A for in the car. With the TM-V708A, you can be listening to 2 different frequencies at the same time without scanning. So if I'm at a junction, I listen to both railroads at the same time. The TH-D7A also has that feature, but the second frequency must be in the HAM bands, so I can only tune into 1 railroad freq at a time.

Hope this helps!

Bryan J. Howell

J. E. Landrum
11-24-2006, 05:08 AM
In Cincinnati we use the W8YX repeater on 147.060+

Congrats on getting your license! 73 de Erik, K8DTI

02-02-2007, 10:37 PM
there are different two meter frequencies used across the country. The universal (national) two meter simplex calling frequency (fm) is 146.52 and I would suggest you call there first. After you get some experience in a local area, you will know the frequency of the local repeater and may want to scan between that freq, 146.52 and the RR detector frequency, but of coarse two out of those three require local knowledge..
BTW, for many reasons I recommend purchasing (second hand) an HT, Icom IC-W32, which although not the smallest, will also transcieve on 440-450,144-148 ; & recieve up to 470 mHz for some of the RR freq up there as well as the 160-162 RR freq.. and of coarse scan from two to 100 channels on each band.. they were $279 when new.
Congrats on your license, EdM (K2LCK)..

02-03-2007, 05:15 AM
Just my input and a little OT.... my having ~25 years of experience... if you want a real radio for the railroad, get a Motorola. An Mt1000 or Saber would be good, and they can be had on screwbay, but you need to know what you are looking for.

I get a kick out of it when I am out with a buddy and my Saber with its rubber antenna grabs detectors 20 miles away and his POS scanner isn't even breaking squelch on an outside antenna. (while getting killed by local paging transmitters) Not to mention the superior audio and build quality of a commercial radio.

The only hammy radio I have ever had that's any good for the RR is the Yaesu VX-150, and they're cheap, ~100 bucks with really good receive sensitivity.


02-04-2007, 02:45 PM
(while getting killed by local paging transmitters)

you hit it, right on the head.... All amplifiers can get captured..and needed is the preselection that RR only radios have and scanners cannot have (except the $1000 and up ones, which aren't really scanners, but are radios that scan). And while I am on a roll, the FASTER a scanner scans, the poorer it is able to "listen".. The IC W32 HT has the added capability of listening to two frequencies at the same time..
And "probably true" on the Yasue HT, but I got burned by a Yasue radio (ate batterys) years ago, went over to Icom and have not had a need to return. At least the amateur radios specified sensitivity, scanners do not,.................. wonder why??? Ed K2LCK

02-05-2007, 03:32 AM
good to see the thread getting a bit of a revival,

I recently got a Yaesu FT60, (with wideband RX). It's been a great radio so far. I've been looking to get a Motorola maxtrac for the vehicle, but just waiting for a good deal so far. Same goes for ATCS radios.. been using a buddy's radio shack scanner, but It's getting to be time to upgrade.

Ken Carr
02-05-2007, 05:36 AM
I have the VX-150 and it works fine, granted I might grab a HT one of these days but in the mean time for $100 or less you have a great receiver for RR Freq's just my 2 cents

02-06-2007, 01:23 PM
Well, all the amateur radios are more or less the same and all the scanners, table or HT are more or less the same. More or less. The next problem, after selecting amateur over scanner, is antenna. Rubber duckies are really really bad (because, wouldja believe, the length of the radio!!!!).. Sit your HT on the roof (metal) of your car. The best easy answer to the antenna problem is a mag mounted antenna on the roof of your car, or if you must get away from the car, a 17' adjustable antenna on your HT. (adjusted to 17") There are many many antenna solutions, none of the good ones include the rubber ducky however..

02-12-2007, 03:26 AM
Regarding antennas, I've got a Radiall Larsen 2/70 NMO antenna for my handheld, and it's been a dream! I live in an downtown apartment at the 116 milepost, and with the antenna mounted on a cookie sheet (magnet mount) sitting on the counter, I can pickup signals being called at the 126, and the 108.

Going mobile with it, we have picked up stuff in Columbus, GA (40 railroad miles away), just outside of Montgomery, AL (about 50 rr miles), and as far north as Gold Ridge/Waverly, AL (maybe 20 miles north into the hills).

02-12-2007, 01:10 PM
great, the cookie sheet is the winner as it is the rest of the antenna...the roof of your car will do the same... or a filing cabinet,etc.... btw antennas work at their design frequency and odd multiples of that freq so any two meter antenna will work on 450. As far as the manufact, doesn't matter, they are all more or less the same, know the manufact only if you want to buy one like it.. enjoy.. and I don't know how to say this diplomatically, but I think it must be said: I heard X at Y is meaningless unless one is going back there. The variables involved are anything from antenna height, antenna height above the surrounding trees, humidity, whether the trees have leaves, summer/winter, temperature, adjacent police radios and about a dozen things I can think of, including , some will say,(in error) the phases of the moon.. The variables are just too great, from an aircraft at 10,000 feet the range is in hundreds of miles.. SRI, and the note at the bottom could be taken literally, at least the first part of it.. ed

07-22-2007, 10:23 PM
Hello All,
Just wanted to say hi. I am both a rail fan and ham. Once, when the Frisco 1522 was on it's way back from Galesburg RR Days, my wife and I stopped at a small turnout near the highway and tracks north of Macomb, IL. As we waited, three other cars pulled up. All were hams, rail fanning as well. Now, I live in N.E. MO, I am 20 miles from the BNSF and 60 miles from the UP. We did see the UP 844 at rest a few weeks back.

07-23-2007, 04:24 PM
Technically I'm a ham, although the one time I started to transmit I blew a fuse in my power cable and haven't bothered replacing it. My mobile rig stays setup inside my office tuned to the local BNSF frequency instead.