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Railfan Technology > Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial


Date: 08/15/20 22:36
Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: ibuzzard

As stated, just got my first scanner, and as a technologically challenged person, I'm hoping to get help programming the RR frequencies, and learning about how to use it. I am pathetic! Hopefully, ASAP, I'm leaving on vacation next weekend. Thanks.



Date: 08/16/20 08:11
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: rhitchco

The Bearcat 125AT already has all of the railroad AAR frequencies preprogrammed, so no effort really required. Unless Bay Area/San Hose uses some non-AAR frequency; I have no idea.

Generally, just look at the manual and set the "service" for railroads and it will proceed to scan through all of the AAR frequencies. You can lock some or nearly all of them out if other frequencies are a nuisance. The manual explains how to do this, it's simple.

If you don't have the manual or not handy, you can get it here: BC125AT

Hope this helps,
rhitchco

 



Date: 08/16/20 10:16
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: WW

Yes, the BC-125AT has a search function for the RR band, but it will stop on any channel where there is signal--including interference, etc.  So, I don't use that function often, unless I'm trying to "sniff out" a channel being used that I don't know about.  The easiest way to program a BC-125AT is to downoad the free programming software to you PC and program the radio using the software and the provided USB cable (link to software download page: http://info.uniden.com/UnidenMan4/BC125AT ) .  Yes, there is a learning curve to do that but it isn't insurmountable.

The way I program mine is to program in all 180+ analog AAR VHF channels.  I've posted this link before to a list of those channels, here it is again:  https://dpdproductions.com/pages/railroad-frequencies-new-aar-plan . Note this list is in frequency order--I usually enter the channels in AAR Channel No. order when I program the radio.  You can ignore the Digital column on the chart--those are the NXDN channels that the BC-125AT can not decode.  The AAR analog channels are all narrow band.  I usually name them by their AAR channel no.  (001,002, etc.) because the railroads nearly ALWAYS refer to the channel by that number, not the frequency.  I program all the channels to be default "OFF" on the scan list--a channel can be added or deleted from the scan list by using the keypad of the radio.  The advantage of having all the AAR channels entered into the radio is that once you program them all in, you generally don't have to program the radio again, unless you want to add other channels.  

If someone wants a "generic" program file for a BC-125AT for railfanning, they can PM me about that.  I won't be able to provide that for awhile, my main PC died yesterday and I won't have a replacement for it for at least a couple of weeks.  Naturally, the BC-125AT program is on that computer.  Finally, as I deal with my computer issues, remember this humorous, but very true, admonition about all modern electronic stuff:  SOFTWARE WILL EVENTUALLY WORK AND HARDWARE WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL.

EDIT:  I was able to get my BC-125AT programming stuff on to my elderly laptop, so I do have a generic RR program file for the BC-125AT if anyone wants to request it.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/16/20 10:51 by WW.



Date: 08/16/20 11:12
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: TCnR

Going through the linked manual real quick the RR frequencies are not provided as a service bank, ref pg 50.

If a person knows the frequencies that they want to use the video clip seems to be pretty decent. Loading up a handful of frequencies seems to be the way to go. All the other banks would be locked out until something is written into them. If you know the frequencies and what they are used for, setting the radio to a single channel is appropriate. Most Railfan situations only need a small number of channels.

Once things settle down the software would be useful, expecially for noting which frequencies are keepers, or what areas they are used in. That would also clean up any early  mistakes, just write over the unwanted mistakes with the new files.

That close call feature always irritates me and I disable that. Consider the keyboard lockout feature as well until the radio becomes more familir. Both to lock out unwanted key strokes but also to know if it's accidently locked out. Suggest keeping it simple until the manual has been understood, which takes a while for most folks.



Date: 08/16/20 11:21
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: WW

The BC-125AT most certainly does have a railroad frequency search function.  It is found by Pressing [Func] [Srch] then [5].  Service Search Bank 5 is the railroad band.

I disagree with only programming a few of the AAR channels into the radio.  That means having to fiddle with entering new frequencies in the field by keypad if one finds that one needs a channel not already programmed into the radio.  Programming all of the AAR channels into the radio and locking them out of the scan function unless needed means that, if one discovers the railroad is using a different channel that what the railfan expected, he or she can simply go to that channel in the radio and/or add it to a scan list. I am a firm believer in the adage that the fewer times one must program a radio, the less likely one is to make an error or overwrite or delete something unintentionally.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/16/20 11:58 by WW.



Date: 08/16/20 11:33
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: TCnR

Suggest grabbing some regular batteries as well, the charging set up seems to be less than desirable. I'm not finding what kind of batteries it uses though.

Good info on the Service Bank set up for RR Band. The chart on pg 50 must have some other meaning then, or they've made an update.

 



Date: 08/16/20 11:56
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: WW

Charging is the weak spot of the BC-125AT.  Charge time is 14 hours--period.  Apparently, the USB charge port only allows a trickle charge, no matter the condition of the rechargeable batteries.  If one sets the charge time to a lower number--this can be done in the software--it doesn't charge the radio quicker--it just shuts off charging after the specified time.  That's a bad design.  One can also remove the 2 rechargeable batteries from the radio (they are standard AA Nimh batteries) and charge them in an external rapid charge,  or simply use standard non-rechargeable AA batteries in the radio (DO NOT TRY TO CHARGE NON-RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES IN THE RADIO).  The disadvantage to both of those solutions is that I believe constantly removing and replacing the batteries in the radio will physically wear out the somewhat flimsy tabs on the battery case cover.  It also means having to take the leather case off of the radio (and I've repeatedly recommended getting the optional leather case to protect the radio from physical damage likely if it gets dropped on a hard surface) to change out batteries.  The leather case is a tight fit and can be difficult to easily remove.



Date: 08/17/20 06:10
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: ironmtn

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Charging is the weak spot of the BC-125AT.
>  Charge time is 14 hours--period.  Apparently,
> the USB charge port only allows a trickle charge,
> no matter the condition of the rechargeable
> batteries.  If one sets the charge time to a
> lower number--this can be done in the software--it
> doesn't charge the radio quicker--it just shuts
> off charging after the specified time.  That's a
> bad design.  One can also remove the 2
> rechargeable batteries from the radio (they are
> standard AA Nimh batteries) and charge them in an
> external rapid charge,  or simply use standard
> non-rechargeable AA batteries in the radio (DO NOT
> TRY TO CHARGE NON-RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES IN THE
> RADIO).  The disadvantage to both of those
> solutions is that I believe constantly removing
> and replacing the batteries in the radio will
> physically wear out the somewhat flimsy tabs on
> the battery case cover.  It also means having to
> take the leather case off of the radio (and I've
> repeatedly recommended getting the optional
> leather case to protect the radio from physical
> damage likely if it gets dropped on a hard
> surface) to change out batteries.  The leather
> case is a tight fit and can be difficult to easily
> remove.

All true. I have been very happy with my BC-125AT, now a few years old. But I noticed early on that charging was very slow. I never liked that, and worked around it by making sure I put it on charge the evening before an outing, and then in the car to either finish up a charge, or top it up. Yes, that meant that I sometimes forgot, or if I decided on a outing at the last minute, I then had a less-than-fully-charged radio.

The connector for the charger on the side of the radio, or on the charging cable that comes with the radio, is also very weak mechanically. I do not know the type number offhand, but over time the insertion and removal of the charging cable has weakened the electrical contact connection to the point where right now I cannot get the radio to charge at all. It's not the batteries. A "charging" status doesn't even show up on the digital readout when I connect the charging cable, as it always did from day one, even when the radio was turned off. And that is all with only occasional and quite moderate use. I suspect that many railfans would probably use the radio a lot more often and somewhat harder than I have used mine.

The connector type looks similar to and size-wise appears to the eye to be the same as for an Android mobile phone -- but it's not. I remember looking it up sometime previously, and verifying that it is not the same connector. And if memory serves, the cable was a bit hard to find. I had wanted to buy one to have a spare, or have one in the car and one inside the house. For whatever reason, I didn't make the purchase then. So now I do not have an extra charging cable so that I could do an A-B test with it to determine if the current lack of a good connection is the fault of the connector in the radio, or the fault of the cable. Definitely a mistake on my part.

One more thing on charging. I've noticed that if I have the radio on charge and turned on to listen while in the car (a Volkswagen) that reception could be broken up. Probably some type of interference from the car's ignition or other electrical systems. An irritant, which I have had happen with other radios in other vehicles in the past. I am not that into using the radio to have even looked into making some change to try to solve the problem. If I need it to charge, I turn it off and let it charge while driving, or unplug the charging cable if I need to listen while driving. Of course your results in your vehicle will vary. Sorry, but the car got and will get zero modifications for the sake of a railfan radio (just as I will not drill a hole in my roof, or make a modification in the car elsewhere for an antenna -- absolutely out of the question). As with all of my devices, I run the device. The device does not run me. Period.

All of this is quite regrettable because the BC125AT really is a pretty good radio for light general use. I say that just as an average user, and someone not at all into all of the technical aspects sometimes discussed in this forum. (A forum which I am told that I ticked off in the past by positive and apparently, at the time, anathema remarks about the BC125AT when I first bought it). I was glad to see that over time it gained some respect. It's not an expensive radio at this time of transition in railroad radio communications, which is a plus in my book. I am not into radio that much that I would ever consider laying out a lot of money for a more perfect radio at a time when it may be made obsolete in the not-too-distant future. I appreciate that radio enthusiasts can feel otherwise, and they are absolutely entitled to their view. The radio has a good feature set and generally good reception. Especially for someone like me who uses the radio only occasionally and lightly.

But it definitely does have some weaknesses on the charging side. Which is too bad.

MC



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/17/20 06:14 by ironmtn.



Date: 08/17/20 10:27
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: TCnR

Trying not to get too far from the OP's question, when somebody asks for a radio scanner recommendation a number of us have suggested the BC125AT since it has good RF specs and is not too bizzare to understand. We've had a number of discussions about hobby radios and every one of them has some sort of issue, including cost. Seems to me to be a good idea to discuss the good and bad aspects especially in regard to the railfan hobby.

Curious how it worked out for the OP.



Date: 08/17/20 14:00
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: WW

The BC-125AT is about the best all around portable scanner for railfanning--BUT, it is still just an inexpensive scanner for occasional use.  A heavy duty radio it is not.  Many railfans still swear by the amateur Vertex VX-150/Yaesu FT-250 or Vertex VX-170/Yaesu FT-270 radios for railfan use.  They are very good radios, except for the fact that they--like nearly every amateur radio--will not tune the splinter frequencies in the railroad band that the railroads are now  (since 2013) authorized to use.  A hint here about that:  to check if an amateur radio will tune the splinter frequencies, look up the "tuning step" in the specs or the owner's manual--its minimum is usually 5 kHz.  To be able to be able to tune the splinter frequencies, it must be 2.5 kHz.  I have yet to figure out why the amateur radio manufacturers are not offering a 2.5 kHz tuning step in nearly all of their amateur radios.  The 2.5 kHz tuning step is unnecessary for ham use, but most hams do use the extended frequency monitoring capabilities (usually the full 136-174 kHz range on a VHF radio), and plenty of business users, etc. are using the splinter channels in the VHF business and public service band.  Oddly (and sadly, in a way) the Chinese manufacturers--because they build their radios to be versatile in the worldwide market--do build many of the their amateur radio offerings with 2.5 kHz tuning step spacing.  A big selling point for the BC-125AT scanner for railfan use is that it does have the 2.5 kHz tuning step capability.

My VX-150 and VX-170 radios are both approaching 15 years old and are still going strong--I doubt that the BC-125AT will live that long.



Date: 08/18/20 10:07
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: ibuzzard

Well, thanks to Youtube, and my wife, managed to get all the frequencies entered. My previous cheap Baofeng was able to be quickly programmed using an 8.00 dollar dongle (and RadioReference) purchased from Amazon. The Bearcat was all manually progrmmed. Thanks for all the suggestions and advice.



Date: 08/18/20 11:00
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: TCnR

Sounds like the included USB cable and the free software download at the two links above didn't work out.
Good to know.



Date: 08/18/20 16:45
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: WW

TCnR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sounds like the included USB cable and the free
> software download at the two links above didn't
> work out.
> Good to know.

I have used the software repeatedly with no issues.  The biggest issue that people usually face is with the COM port.   If the user tries to "read" the radio with the software and get a failure message, it's usually because it's trying to read the wrong COM port. If I get the "fail" message,  I usually just plug the radio in to the computer using the USB cable, turn the radio on, go to the Device Manager and look under the Ports Tabe to find which port the cable is using, then set to that COM port in the programming software.  



Date: 08/19/20 06:15
Re: Bay Area/San Jose - Need Bearcat 125AT Tutorial
Author: ironmtn

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> TCnR Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Sounds like the included USB cable and the free
> > software download at the two links above didn't
> > work out.
> > Good to know.
>
> I have used the software repeatedly with no
> issues.  The biggest issue that people usually
> face is with the COM port.   If the user tries to
> "read" the radio with the software and get a
> failure message, it's usually because it's trying
> to read the wrong COM port. If I get the "fail"
> message,  I usually just plug the radio in to the
> computer using the USB cable, turn the radio on,
> go to the Device Manager and look under the Ports
> Tabe to find which port the cable is using, then
> set to that COM port in the programming software.

I have also used the software repeatedly for programming with no issues. There was an initial setup procedure, which if memory serves, involved in part setting the proper COM port on your computer. But once that was done one time, it has always worked just fine. I have used it many times. The one-time setup procedure was documented on the Bearcat / Uniden website. Not too much of a hassle, as I recall.

That said, I have had a couple of folks tell me that their computer "lost" that setup for the COM port used by the software. They had to do the setup routine again to be able to use the programming software. That has never happened to me. I have a icon for the programming software on my Windows 10 computer desktop. It always starts up just fine, and at upload time, communicates with the radio just fine too. So, so much easier and better than manually setting frequencies on the radio.



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