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Railfan Technology > Mobile Scanner
Date: 03/09/20 07:58
I purchased a new vehicle, so I decided it was time to upgrade my scanner. I was previously using a Motorola HT1250 handheld with a battery eliminator (cigarette lighter adapter). I've had the radio for almost 20 years, it still works great so I'm using it as a handheld when away from the vehicle. As a retired law enforcement officer, I've used Motorola radios for over 30 years. My experience with them is that you can't kill the darn things. I also appreciate the audio quality and the ability to cut out intermod and static from other sources.
So I ended up purchasing a Motorola CM300D mobile radio. It has 99 channel capacity (good for all the AAR freqs.) and is pretty easy to use with custom programmable buttons on the front. It has to be programmed by a dealer (or someone with the program and cable) but once you get all the AAR channels in you're good to go. Since a good radio is useless without a decent antenna, I've always had mine installed at the Motorola shop. I use a 1/4 wave Stico antenna due to garage restrictions, cut to the proper length for the railroad band. Speaking to the local technician that services a few railroads, he told me it doesn't look like they are in a big hurry to switch to digital anytime soon, so I'm good for now.
This set up is a little pricey compared to retail scanners, but it works great, so I thought I would put it out there as a suggestion for someone looking for a good set up, especially if you are in an area like a big city with a lot of radio interference.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/20 08:00 by RFandPFan.
Date: 03/09/20 08:22
Re: Mobile Scanner
Nice radio. I have a PM400 which also functions well in the car. Only drawback with the PM400, it can only scan 16 channels from its 64 channel memory.
However, Motorola does not support NXDN digital format. If and when that happens with the railroads on a large scale, Moto users be out of luck. Some transit agencies are already using NXDN. Los Angeles Metro Rail (not Metrolink) comes to mind. Some rail operations around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach are using NXDN radios.
That's what drove my decision about a decade ago to show Moto the door and jumped to Icom.
Date: 03/09/20 11:49
Re: Mobile Scanner
> So I ended up purchasing a Motorola CM300D mobile
> radio. It has 99 channel capacity (good for all
> the AAR freqs.) and is pretty easy to use with
> custom programmable buttons on the front. It has
> to be programmed by a dealer (or someone with the
> program and cable) but once you get all the AAR
> channels in you're good to go.
This part above is not totally accurate. In analog channels, there are now nearly 200 AAR frequencies when one includes the splinter channels created by narrow-banding back in 2013. Nothing prevents the railroads from licensing to use those channels if they so choose. Add the NXDN "very-narrow-band" digital channels that will eventually come into wider use and the number of potential channels swell to over 400. There is a reason that the Class 1 railroads (and many of the smaller railroads) have been aggressively purchasing 500 channel NXDN-capable radios pretty much exclusively since 2013. By the way, since NO Motorola radio is NXDN-capable, the railroads have essentially abandoned Motorola as a vendor. Most all new locomotive radios now being sold are Ritron radios (which is NXDN-licensed). Mobiles and portable radio sales to most railroads are either Kenwood or Icom NXDN-capable radios (those two companies share the licensing for NXDN). As to buying a used (or new) Motorola, they tend to be more pricey than some of the very good Icom or Kenwood models that are out there. As far as performance, radios such as the Icom IC-F3161D or IC-F3261D or Kenwood NX-200 or NX-210 (the only difference between the 200 and 210 being the keypad) portables, and the Icom IC-F5061D or Kenwood NX-700 mobiles perform in my tests as well or even better than most of the Motorola offerings. In the case of Icoms, specifically, compared to the Motorola or Kenwood models, programming software and programming cables (if one desires to tackle that--which I don't generally recommend) are relatively affordable and easy to obtain. Both Motorola and Kenwood (ESPECIALLY Motorola) get pretty territorial about controlling who can obtain their programming software.
I do agree that Sti-co antennas, though at bit more pricey than others, are an excellent choice--especially the Flexi-wip model that is great for people who park in low clearance garages, etc. I've used them for years.
Date: 03/09/20 13:02
Re: Mobile Scanner
> This part above is not totally accurate. In
> analog channels, there are now nearly 200 AAR
> frequencies when one includes the splinter
> channels created by narrow-banding back in 2013.
> Nothing prevents the railroads from licensing to
> use those channels if they so choose. Add the
> NXDN "very-narrow-band" digital channels that will
> eventually come into wider use and the number of
> potential channels swell to over 400.
I've yet to see CSX, NS or FEC use any of the splinter channels or set up their radio for them.
Date: 03/10/20 15:20
Re: Mobile Scanner
> I've yet to see CSX, NS or FEC use any of the
> splinter channels or set up their radio for them.
Just because they aren't doesn't mean that they can't or won't. As to the radios, the current generation Kenwood and Icom mobile and portable radios that the Class 1 railroads are standardized on contain railroad specific firmware (not available to the general public) that makes it possible to select ANY AAR channel--analog or digital--right from the DTMF keypad. Most of the railroad remote bases and repeaters are also programmable by laptop with any of the AAR digital or analog channels, so that infrastructure is also largely already in place.
If one wants to go through the effort, one can also comb through the FCC licensing database to see what frequencies a particular railroad has been licensed to use. One may see splinter analog or very narrow-band digital (NXDN) channels showing up there, too.