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Railfan Technology > Yaesu scanner to buy?

Date: 02/20/21 17:27
Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: lsc

So in addition to being a railfan I'm also a sailor and am coming from a Standard Horizon (Yaesu) hx890 marine radio.  Is there anything in there portfolio that would be good for railfanning?  I assume that there are better antennas than the stock one, and would be interested in what people are currently using.


Date: 02/20/21 18:22
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: WW

Please, please, do a search of this forum of the hundreds of posts that have been made about radios to use for railfanning.  I, and probably many others, get tired of re-posting the same information over and over.

Date: 02/20/21 19:19
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: TCnR

Yeasu HAM radios do not transmit in the Marine Band, not sure if that's a criteria or not.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/20/21 19:19 by TCnR.

Date: 02/21/21 06:58
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: K9AI

Simple answer is, "no." Buy a scanner, you'll be happier and get better performance.

Amateur radios are optimized to transmit and receive in the ham bands. Many have extended receive but unless you are willing to accept the comprise of lower sensitivity (at 160 MHz) and slow scanning speed they should not be your first choice. 

Commercial radios work well  (Kenwood, Motorola, etc...), but also have disadvantages. Commercial radios are not designed to be end user programmable. You will have to have a local radio shop program the radio for you, or invest in software and cables and learn to do it yourself. If you're coming from a channelized, pre-programmed marine radio this may involve a commitment in time and money that may not appeal to you.

I come from a public service, amateur radio background but the first thing I did when joining Train Orders was to search out the radio topics. There is a wealth of information available.

73, K9AI


Date: 02/22/21 06:25
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: WW

I'll take a moment to repeat this.  First, for the record, I'm a licensed amateur radio operator, I hold a commercial business band license, and I've worked with commercial radio systems, including railroad systems.  The best radio these days that offers a relatively decent level of performance with very affordable cost is the Uniden BC-125AT portable scanner.  I can't speak for its mobile counterpart(s) because I haven't used.them.  With narrowbanding (back in 2013), amateur radios fell off of my recommended list because there are only a couple that will tune the "splinter" analog channels that the railroads are now authorized to use.  (See a ton of my previous posts about this.)  For the railfan who wants to invest in a radio that will perform at top level and are willing to pay for that performance, plus get NXDN digital capability that the railroads will eventually convert over to, then the Icom and Kenwood NXDN portables and mobiles that I've mentioned numerous times previously are an excellent choice.  Yes, they must be pre-programmed by computer (usually by a dealer or tech), but all 450+/- VHF analog and digital channels now available for railroad use in the VHF band can be programmed into the radio via computer, with the user being able to keyboard select on the radio what channel(s) to monitor--very similar to how many scanners are set up for railfanning.  The Icom and Kenwood commercial radios are also very physically robust--much more so than the BC-125AT, for example, that I highly recommend be protected in a leather case when carrying.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/22/21 06:27 by WW.

Date: 02/23/21 07:24
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: K9AI

I'm going to echo the comments about the Uniden BC-125AT. The BC-125AT with the Smiley antenna is a outstanding performer. Leave the stock antenna in the box. I have the BCT15X in my office. It's connected to an outside antenna (J-Pole) up about 12 feet. It does very well. The little stock whip is useless. I do not know how well it would perform mobile with a mag amount antenna. I suspect it will do ok.

When I got back into railfanning last year I read every post on radios I could find. Based on WW's recommendation here I found a Kenwood NX-210 on ebay and added the Laird RR antenna to it. The software and cable were easy enough to find. Honesty, the Uniden BC-125AT seems to be more sensitive than the Kenwood. But the Kenwood future proofs me - if the local RRs ever switch to digital in my lifetime.  I plan on adding a Kenwood mobile in the near future.

If someone really has their heart set on using an armature radio for a RR scanner I suggest checking out the Radioddity GS-5B. Its very sensitive, even with the stock antenna, and is cheaper than the BC-125AT.  

Date: 02/23/21 08:06
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: WW

^A quick comment about programming the Icom or Kenwood commercial models--and I have programmed hundreds of them.  Frequently, I've seen issues when someone says that one of these radios seems "deaf" to weak signals.  Often what I find when I dig into the programming in the radio is that some innocuous settings in the radio are set incorrectly.  If one looks at the the full programming software for the radio, there are something over 1,000 various settings that can be made in numerous tabs.  Most of them affect nothing that a railfan would use in the radio, but there are some sprinkled through all those settings that can, and if they are set incorrectly, they can affect the radio's performance.  In one case (not a railfanning radio), I spent 8 hours trying to figure out how to program a Kenwood so it would receive properly on a digital channel, without success.  Finally, I called Kenwood tech support, described my problem, and tech told me to check ONE setting on a tab that seemingly had nothing to do with what I was programming.  When I set it to what the tech recommended, it fixed the issue.  Despite having been programming that model of Kenwood for years, I would have never known to look for that parameter.  Now I check it on every Kenwood that I have to program for that type of digital use.  Icoms can have some the same programming "quirks."  Oh, and about the NXDN mobiles--I have both the Kenwood NX-700 and the Icom IC-5061D.  I like both radios very well and both are excellent performers.  Both are becoming more available on the used market, as there are now a couple of generations of newer mobile models out there from both Icom and Kenwood--those newer models are also very good, but they are much more expensive and most of the upgraded features on the newer models are of little or no benefit for railfanning.

Date: 02/23/21 11:26
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: K3HX

FT-270 with MFJ-1717s antenna and the programing kit from RT Systems.

DX Engineering or GigaParts are good places to do business.

I've used this setup (or the previous Yaesu model) for many years with good results.

Tim Colbert K3HX

Date: 02/23/21 13:36
Re: Yaesu scanner to buy?
Author: exhaustED

K3HX Wrote:
> FT-270 with MFJ-1717s antenna and the programing
> kit from RT Systems.
> DX Engineering or GigaParts are good places to do
> business.
> I've used this setup (or the previous Yaesu model)
> for many years with good results.

Me too, good set-up.

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