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Railfan Technology > Who needs a scanner?

Date: 09/10/20 03:45
Who needs a scanner?
Author: bobwilcox

I'm seeing reports that NS and CSX have substituted PTC, iPads and IPhones for radios?  Is it time to retire the railfan scaner after 40 years?

Bob Wilcox
Charlottesville, VA
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/20/20 02:57 by bobwilcox.

Date: 09/10/20 07:50
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: WW

PTC and cell phones do eliminate some radio traffic, but they won't eliminate a lot of it.  A feature of two-way radio use can be an advantage or disadvantage--everyone hears it.  Excess radio traffic is a disadvantage when listeners have to sift through all kinds of stuff that may not pertain to them.  But, it can be advantageous when listeners can hear traffic that may, directly or indirectly, concern them.  A lot of the impetus these days is to eliminate traffic from the radio waves that people, other than the sender and receiver, don't need to hear, and to keep traffic on the radio that other people may need to hear.  It's a balancing act.

One thing that I think you will see--the busier the mainline, the less radio traffic you are likely to hear.  PTC, cell phones, and CTC will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting.  Where radio traffic will likely persist is in areas under Track Warrant Control and in unsignalled territory--these also happen to be the areas where railfans most need to glean information about what is out there.

Date: 09/10/20 15:15
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: RFandPFan

I haven't heard any plans on CSX to stop requiring that crews read off signals on the radio or to silence defect detectors, so you can still listen for approaching trains.

Date: 09/10/20 15:15
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: NormSchultze

And the EOT freqs are your friends.

Date: 09/10/20 16:57
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: wpamtk

Messages from talking defect detectors are extremely useful in knowing when trains are around (and on which track if there's more than one), and I can't imagine them going to another mode any time soon. There's a nice spot near me (on a two-track CTC main line) where visibility is limited by hills and curves; when you hear the exit message you know you have about 4-5 minutes to line up your shot.

Date: 09/12/20 03:39
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: robj

I'd think the ipads etc are for a lot of the "extraneous things".  Track bulletins, slow orders, pickups and setouts, and info like train size etc, departure times.


Date: 09/12/20 08:27
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: WW

BC-125AT radios are far easier to program compared to many other radios.  It's particularly easy with the PC software.  That said, as a person who has literally programmed thousands of radios over the years, I don't like to program radios unnecessarily or in a rush out in the field.  That's another reason that I program all the AAR channels in my radios.  The programming is "once and done."  A keystroke or two in the field adds or deletes a channel from a scan list.  No muss, no fuss.

Date: 09/14/20 12:57
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: skyview

No question Im hearing less radio traffic here in Colorado than years past, still, there is certainly traffic that helps when railfanning, so no, I wouldnt pitch the scanner yet!

Date: 09/24/20 12:11
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: Floridarailfan

We were winding up a good railfanning afternoon at Folkston yesterday, just about ready to leave, when our scanner announced a southbound train about 5 miles away, so we stuck around.  It turned out to be a really interesting mixed freight, that we would have missed without a scanner.

Date: 10/19/20 16:56
Re: Who needs a scanner?
Author: Rick2582

Keep the ability to hear the analog signals in your toolkit, but update your capability for digital as WW says.  Be ready for anything as much as you can, encryption is possible also someday.
I work for a gov't agency - they updated their comms to include digital, 800 mHz, etc. but rely on 40 mHz analog comms out in the hinterlands.  The 800 mHz network can't cover as much territory without a heap more base stations.
VHF still has its place, though perhaps more in a backup role.
Example:  the UP radio tech tells me the analog VHF PBX system is still operative, at least on the UP Valley sub.  I listened in one day and heard a PBX call made almost immediately.  I was surprised.

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