Well, several weeks ago, I heard the dispatcher tell ALL of the trains on the Cumberland Sub to stop at the next signal. He advised that train number XXX thought they saw a body lying on the tracks. Turns out that there was indeed a deceased individual that had been hit and killed by another train. In our area there have been reports to the law enforcemet authorities that a man liked to lie down beside the tracks and go to sleep. On another occaision, the Sheriff's Office reported to the dispatcher that there was a Vehicle stuck on the tracks. It was soon thereafter that a train had struck the vehicle. It had started braking but couldn't get stopped fast enough. In another instance, they thought they might have had a signal malfunction and did a roll call of all trains. I am located near the junction of the mainline of Norfolk Southern that runs from Hagerstown MD to Roanoke VA. There is a great deal of dispatch traffic. The same holds true of the CSX lines that run from Baltimore MD to Brunswick MD and Washington D.C. to Brunswick MD thence to Cumberland MD. Sometimes the Operations Center will assist in troubleshooting problems with the locomotives. There is always something to listen to because they call the signals as they go by them.
That in itself is the primary reason why I listen to rail frequencies on my scanners. I have an old Radio Shack 10-channel scanner that has the local CSX road and dispatcher channels programmed in it. That scanner is on 24/7. I live about 5 miles from a major CSX rail yard so there's lots of rail traffic in the area and, consequently, lots of radio traffic. I'd hear even more if I was scanning the yard frequencies, but that's just too much.
Why do I do it? Because I'm a railfan, I like to keep up on rail traffic in the area. The trains that go through my town run on a pretty consistent schedule, so it's interesting when something happens and they are off schedule. Also, by keeping up with the rail traffic, I'm aware of special trains that go through the area.
As someone else posted, there are emergency situations that happen on the railroad sometimes. In the past 10 years or so, there have been a handful of train vs. car accidents within 2 miles of my house that I was first aware of because of radio traffic on the rail frequencies.
One final point. A friend of mine is a locomotive engineer for Amtrak. He makes a regular run on the passenger train between Indianapolis and Chicago through my town early in the morning. Occasionally, he'll key up the radio and make an off-hand comment like "I wonder if RXR is awake." It's a friendly thing that I'd only hear if I was scanning rail frequencies.
yea i used to be a big railfan and i still am a lil used to go watch the rails for hours at a time and just sit there with an old man but after he died i havn't really been out but ive been thinking of it ..i always wanted a train scanner but i never got one until i got me bct-15 not im starting to pick up a lil rail traffic here and there
I'm a life-long railway enthusiast who received my first scanner as a Christmas present, specifically so that I could listen to the railway traffic on the local line.
Living in southern Maryland, there's a line that goes through town, running south to a power plant on the Potomac River in Morgantown, MD, just across the river from Dahlgren, Virginia. I was never really interested in scanners until a fellow enthusiast demonstrated his scanner to me a number of years ago, showing how he could monitor traffic on the line and even in the Washington, DC area, about 30 miles north of my location.
As the trains don't run on any set schedule, hearing the dispatcher give a train clearance on the line alerts me to the coming of a passing train.
I also have the EOT (End Of Train) device frequency programmed so when I hear the data bursts I know that a train is nearby. The EOT device is affixed to the coupler of the last car of the train, in these days of cabooseless operations, and sends the airbrake pressure reading to the cab of the locomotive in a short data burst.
The last 2 years, I've taken a vacation using Amtrak as my mode of travel. Listening to the scanner while on a passenger train can be most enlightening. For example, on my return trip last fall, the train came to a stop in the middle of a field somewhere east of Buffalo. I knew from listening to the scanner that a brake hose had ruptured and that repairs were going to take about 30 minutes about 15 minutes BEFORE the train crew announced to the rest of the passengers the cause of the delay.
As a former Coast Guardsman, I also monitor ship traffic on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
My interest in scanning eventually led me to obtain my amateur radio license and I'm now an extra class as well as holding a GROL-all because I got a scanner about 22 years ago in order to listen to trains passing through the town where I live.
Aside from being a railfan listening to the usual stuff there is also police action and like any it can get quirky. For example a dead burglar complete with tools was found on the tracks, he got too near the catenary while breaking into a warehouse. Then there's the funny stuff like a (it just had to be a woman) engineer stopping in a phase break and crying to the trouble desk trying to walk her through getting started again. Think of trains as really big cars with all the same problems on the highways and a bunch of CBers at the wheel.