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Railfan Technology > Hand Held Scanner


Date: 09/04/20 06:16
Hand Held Scanner
Author: WichitaJct

I think my old Radio Shack hand held scanner has given up. Could some one recommend a reasonably priced (< $200) hand held scanner? Thanks. 



Date: 09/04/20 07:15
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

Uniden BC-125AT.  Do a search of likely over 200 individual posts about this in this subforum.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/04/20 14:46 by WW.



Date: 09/04/20 09:22
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: TCnR

Date: 09/03/19 11:53
Radio scanner recommendations

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?9,4860165,4860174#msg-4860174

Careful with the model number, BC 125AT. There's similar Uniden / Bearcat models that fall short.



Date: 09/05/20 15:54
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: bodkin6071

The 125AT's smaller cousin, the BC75XLT which can be found at Walmart for $79 is no slouch. Also already comes with the RR frequencies in it. I have this scanner set up as a base unit in my workshop hooked up to a outdoor Radio Shack 1/4 wave antenna on a mast 25 feet in the air, mounted on the side of the building (steel pole barn) and it receives great.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/20 09:31 by bodkin6071.



Date: 09/05/20 18:59
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: photon_trap

Uniden BC-125AT but only because there are not many options these days. Compared to old scanners (in my case a radio Shack Pro-91) the Bearcat does offer programming via PC (with a Radio Reference subscription or other cut and paste). To me, it's nice, but for RR use, I programed all 99 AAR Freqs and Im covered. One time deal, it could be done manualy in under 30 min. Now that the freqs are loaded, that feature is null. If you listen to other things that feature might be more useful to you than me. 

What I do not like, first and formost is the fact that you have to "dig" for the squelch control. Is it really hard? No. but when you are on the move and frequently adjusting (often while driving) it's a freaking PITA, and it's frustrating they chose that design to save a few cents. I also consider that you have to do this a zillion times in use, thus multiplying the negative  The other thing I hate is, like so many modern devices, the pots have detents which drives me nuts. Volume or squelch, the sweet spot is always between detents.

These days Im using my vhf radio a lot more and leaving the scanner at home because I only need the local road chanel at a time

-JA



Date: 09/05/20 21:05
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: TCnR

Agree, not having a squelch knob is a tough habit to break. I have a Yeasu FT 270 that does not have a squelch knob and has squelch level as a menu item. Have to push a few buttons and rotate knobs to find it. Much prefer the FT-60r, but that has good and bad things as well. The whole Bearcat 125 thing is for a basic, simple scanner with decent performance at a reasonable price.



Date: 09/06/20 07:43
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

Ok, here is where a commercial portable--yes, they can cost a lot to buy and program--outshines the simple scanner or even an amateur radio.  Go all out for my personal favorites--the Icom IC-F3161DS or DT (the 3261 is the same basic radio with better audio and more water-resistance), ,or the Kenwood NX-200 (the NX-210 is the same innards with larger keys on the keypad) NXDN radios--and you can set up the radio and many of its key functions to exactly what you want.  For example, press a button or two to get to the squelch to set it, no problem.  In fact, the most of the keypad keys can be customized to what you want.  Of course, the other advantage is that these are 500 channel radios, so every permutation of AAR analog and NXDN VHF channels can be programmed into the radio (with dozens of empty channels to spare), meaning that programming of the radio seldom has to be changed once it it programmed the way you want it to function.  Other advantages?  Battery life is typically 8-12 hours or more and can be pretty quickly recharged with a factory rapid charger.  The radio is physically tougher and will stand up to years of daily use (my 3161 is about a decade old now and still going strong).  Best of all, these radios have superior sensitivity, selectivity (especially better), and generally louder audio.

In my personal case, I use commercial NXDN mobiles (the companion mobile models to the portable models listed above) in my vehicles.  For more "casual" non-serious railfanning I will carry the BC-125AT scanner if I'm away from my vehicle.  For "serious" railfanning, I always carry my commercial portable when I'm away from my vehicle.  And, a I've posted many times, when the railroads finally cut over to NXDN digital, the BC-125AT and any other analog-only radio becomes pretty useless for railfanning.



Date: 09/06/20 12:51
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: DivergingClear

WW, a question about scanning with either the IC-F3161DS or NX-200... is it possible?  Well, I'm pretty sure it's possible, so a better question is - is it convenient when "on the go"?

One way I might use my VX-150 (which I'll likely keep around until it dies, or NXDN forces a change) is to select a few road channels to scan through based on my location.  So maybe channels 14 and 69 in location X, channels 32 and 70 in location Y.  This is kind of a pain (lock out all the channels I don't want, leave in the ones I do; scan), but it is doable.  Can this be done with the commercial radios?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/20 12:51 by DivergingClear.



Date: 09/07/20 09:29
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

DivergingClear Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> WW, a question about scanning with either the
> IC-F3161DS or NX-200... is it possible?  Well,
> I'm pretty sure it's possible, so a better
> question is - is it convenient when "on the go"?
>
> One way I might use my VX-150 (which I'll likely
> keep around until it dies, or NXDN forces a
> change) is to select a few road channels to scan
> through based on my location.  So maybe channels
> 14 and 69 in location X, channels 32 and 70 in
> location Y.  This is kind of a pain (lock out all
> the channels I don't want, leave in the ones I do;
> scan), but it is doable.  Can this be done with
> the commercial radios?

Yes, both the Icom and Kenwood portable and mobile models can be set up to scan in the programming.  On mine, I program one of the user-defined keys to start/stop the scan, and another to add/delete channels from a scan list.  I program the radio initially with no channels on a scan list, then add them from the keypad as I need them.  It is also possible to PC program multiple scan lists in the radios, as well.  For example, on my 3161, I had a scan list for the channels that I used at work, and another scan list for my "railfan" channels.  Generally, commercial radios don't scan as quickly as some scanners, but, unless you're scanning something like 20 or 30 channels, you really don't notice it.  The advantage of having all the AAR channels programmed into the radio is that every channel is there if you need it.  Many times I've seen railfans out in the field trying to frantically program a channel into their scanner from the keypad that they didn't know that they would need.

Coincidentally to your post, my venerable Vertex VX-150 died a few days ago--it was nearly 20 years old.  It served me well, though the last few years I used it pretty much exclusively for amateur stuff, not railfanning.  My VX-170 lives on, though, again, I use it primarily for amateur stuff these days.



Date: 09/09/20 21:55
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: video7105

My Motorola MCS2000 100 AAR channels programmed in, with a 12V Battery Auto adapter and a portable screw in external antenna adapter, to the roof magnetic mount does a wonderfu job..  Picked it up in eBay for under $130.  Sorry that was a MTS2000

Dave


Here's one on ebay

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Motorola-MCS2000-II-25-watt-Dash-Mount-Radio-146-174-VHF-w-microphone/323913954218?epid=1301592275&amp;hash=item4b6ac6b3aa:g:9RoAAOSwYY1ehQtP



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/09/20 23:11 by video7105.



Date: 09/10/20 07:56
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

The biggest disadvantage of the MCS-2000 is that it lacks sufficient memory channels to accomodate all the AAR splinter analog channels created by narrow-banding.  If one is going to buy a radio, it needs to have around 200 channels to accomodate all of those channels.  I'd pass on this one.  (As an aside, my Kenwood TK-290 portable is one of the VERY best analog portable radios out there when it comes to performance, but like this radio, it only has 160 channels, so it sits gathering dust in a drawer.)



Date: 09/10/20 09:47
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: exhaustED

Why do you need to program every AAR channel, it's not like you can be in every railroad location simultaneously?



Date: 09/10/20 17:28
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

exhaustED Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why do you need to program every AAR channel, it's
> not like you can be in every railroad location
> simultaneously?

Because I don't always railfan in the same locations all the time.   In one place might need AAR channels 020, 024, and 066, the next I might need 023, 060, .096, and 097, for example.  Having all the channels preprogrammed in the radio means I don't have to fiddle around with trying to enter frequencies in the field.  And, on commercial radios, you CAN'T (with only a very few exceptions) field enter frequencies from the keypad--they can only be programmed via  PC-based programming software.  I have not purchased a portable or mobile radio with less than 200 channels since about 2001.  My current commercial radios are 500 channels.



Date: 09/10/20 19:19
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: exhaustED

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> exhaustED Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Why do you need to program every AAR channel,
> it's
> > not like you can be in every railroad location
> > simultaneously?
>
> Because I don't always railfan in the same
> locations all the time.   In one place might
> need AAR channels 020, 024, and 066, the next I
> might need 023, 060, .096, and 097, for example. 
> Having all the channels preprogrammed in the radio
> means I don't have to fiddle around with trying to
> enter frequencies in the field.  And, on
> commercial radios, you CAN'T (with only a very few
> exceptions) field enter frequencies from the
> keypad--they can only be programmed via  PC-based
> programming software.  I have not purchased a
> portable or mobile radio with less than 200
> channels since about 2001.  My current commercial
> radios are 500 channels.

That's fine and is your choice, but if a radio generally is superior to others but 'only' has 160, not 200 channels, I know which one I'd rather have, and it would be favouring quality of performance, not number of programmable channels.



Date: 09/11/20 16:39
Re: Hand Held Scanner
Author: WW

exhaustED Wrote:

> That's fine and is your choice, but if a radio
> generally is superior to others but 'only' has
> 160, not 200 channels, I know which one I'd rather
> have, and it would be favouring quality of
> performance, not number of programmable channels.

The NXDN portables and mobiles that I use have excellent performance charactertistics, both on analog and NXDN channels.  My old Kenwood TK-290 portable is a stellar performer, but sitting side-by-side to my NXDN portables, there is essentially no discernable difference in analog performance.  If I had to venture a guess, the TK-290 might be able to take a little bit more physical abuse, but my Icom IC-F3161DT has been knocking around for about a decade now, with its only repair a 5 min. solder fix on its antenna mount.



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