Best mobile for rail receiving

Status
Not open for further replies.

iceman977th

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
324
Location
Catlettsburg, KY
I'm looking to purchase an analog mobile radio dedicated to receiving railroad frequencies. Right now I use a Radioshack scanner with an old tri band antenna, which works alright, but I'd like to have one set up with a high gain VHF antenna tuned for receiving rail. What does everyone use or recommend? I'd like to get my hands on a NXDN radio to go ahead and be ready for when rail decides to change to digital, but unless I can find one for a decent price, it will have to wait. Also, what would everyone recommend as far as high gain antennas?
 

N8IAA

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
7,087
Location
Fortunately, GA
I'm looking to purchase an analog mobile radio dedicated to receiving railroad frequencies. Right now I use a Radioshack scanner with an old tri band antenna, which works alright, but I'd like to have one set up with a high gain VHF antenna tuned for receiving rail. What does everyone use or recommend? I'd like to get my hands on a NXDN radio to go ahead and be ready for when rail decides to change to digital, but unless I can find one for a decent price, it will have to wait. Also, what would everyone recommend as far as high gain antennas?
Kenwood TM-281A, around $138. Easy to program.
Buy a Larsen 2m NMO 5/8 wave antenna. It is cut for the ham band, but will work great for railfanning.
No need to cut to the whip, unless you are planning on transmitting:D
Larry
 

mikepdx

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
824
Location
Corbett, OR USA
Nice little rig

I agree with the Kenwood TM-281A.

Almost a give away price, I think.
Earns high marks on eham.net reviews. http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/9994
Hot receiver, will do 2.5, 6.25 splits.
It is a true narrowband receiver and transmitter.
Many ham rigs claim to be narrowband, but
they are only so on the transmit side.

At the cost of labor today,
It will likely be a throw away radio tho if
needing service out of warranty
(unless you can do it yourself).
 
Last edited:

iceman977th

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
324
Location
Catlettsburg, KY
Kenwood TM-281A, around $138. Easy to program.
Buy a Larsen 2m NMO 5/8 wave antenna. It is cut for the ham band, but will work great for railfanning.
No need to cut to the whip, unless you are planning on transmitting:D
Larry
Everywhere I see them on eBay is $179 BIN, couple used ones for cheaper though. I do plan on transmitting, but not on rail, it would see occasional fire and personal use, but not often. It's primary function would be to monitor railroad frequencies.
 

Wally46

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
237
Location
Clinton, Iowa
Rail is the one thing I can't listen to anymore. It's always the same thing. Two guys rattling back and forth numbers really fast and they have to spell out every word. Nothing personal, but it gets old lol. If I worked for the rail that would be different I suppose.
 

N8IAA

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
7,087
Location
Fortunately, GA
Everywhere I see them on eBay is $179 BIN, couple used ones for cheaper though. I do plan on transmitting, but not on rail, it would see occasional fire and personal use, but not often. It's primary function would be to monitor railroad frequencies.
Then you are getting the wrong radio. Not to sound like the RR police, this radio is not certified for anything but ham radio use. I was being sarcastic about the rail road transmissions. There are cheap Chinese radios certified for what you are speaking about.
I presumed that you were talking about railroad and maybe ham.
Larry
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
15,275
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
There are also a number of suitably type accepted radios on e-Bay that will do all you want.
Programming won't be as easy, but the performance and capabilities will be appropriate for what you need.

Take a look at:
Motorola MCS-2000. There are a few of these on e-Bay right now, and some sellers can/will program for you. Later, if you decide, you could program your Fire agency channels in there (provided they are analog VHF)
Motorola CDM-1250 or CDM-1550. Newer and a bit more expensive (maybe), but still great radios.
Don't overlook older Kenwood and Icom radios.
Programming can be a bit more difficult on these commercial radios, but there are plenty of us out there than have the right equipment and are willing to help out.
Nothing at all wrong with the Chinese radios, but if you were going to invest in one radio, you might want something a bit better.
 

iceman977th

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
324
Location
Catlettsburg, KY
Then you are getting the wrong radio. Not to sound like the RR police, this radio is not certified for anything but ham radio use. I was being sarcastic about the rail road transmissions. There are cheap Chinese radios certified for what you are speaking about.
I presumed that you were talking about railroad and maybe ham.
Larry
Well this won't be used except maybe as a backup. I rarely ever have a need to transmit on fire, and if I do, I already have a portable with me, so there's no point really. I'll have another radio dedicated to that if I do end up needing it more anyways. 99.99% of the time it will be used to monitor rail.
 

iMONITOR

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 20, 2006
Messages
8,992
Don't forget, railroads also use UHF, and the Kenwood TM281A would be missing all of that.
 

N8IAA

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
7,087
Location
Fortunately, GA
Don't forget, railroads also use UHF, and the Kenwood TM281A would be missing all of that.
I used to monitor the 400MHz frequencies. Where I live, there is nothing to hear. All the railroad comms in my vicinity are VHF. Not missing a lot there.
Larry
 

iMONITOR

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 20, 2006
Messages
8,992
I used to monitor the 400MHz frequencies. Where I live, there is nothing to hear. All the railroad comms in my vicinity are VHF. Not missing a lot there.
Larry
It's mostly used in, and around the yards.
 

k6cpo

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2013
Messages
920
Location
San Diego, CA
Well this won't be used except maybe as a backup. I rarely ever have a need to transmit on fire, and if I do, I already have a portable with me, so there's no point really. I'll have another radio dedicated to that if I do end up needing it more anyways. 99.99% of the time it will be used to monitor rail.
Keep in mind that the Kenwood TM-281A is an amateur band only radio when it comes to transmitting. For that reason, it will be useless as a backup for your other services. And even if it were capable of transmitting on fire frequencies, it likely it isn't FCC certified for that service.

As far as personal use is concerned, you're going to need an amateur radio license (if you don't already have one) to use it for that.
 

iceman977th

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 25, 2009
Messages
324
Location
Catlettsburg, KY
Keep in mind that the Kenwood TM-281A is an amateur band only radio when it comes to transmitting. For that reason, it will be useless as a backup for your other services. And even if it were capable of transmitting on fire frequencies, it likely it isn't FCC certified for that service.

As far as personal use is concerned, you're going to need an amateur radio license (if you don't already have one) to use it for that.
Ah okay, I misunderstood when I read the replies the other day. Well that's good news when I do go to get my ham ticket (been planning on doing it but never in town when I can go test lol). Sorry about that.
 

KiloEcho4ZDJ

Member
Joined
May 18, 2014
Messages
13
Location
Elkhorn City, Ky.
I use my Yaesu FT-2900R for receiving rail comms when Im not using it for amateur radio. I also have a Motorola mobile but the Yaesu has a much better receiver in it. I use a 5/8th wave NMO mount 2 meter antenna.
 

k6cpo

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2013
Messages
920
Location
San Diego, CA
I use my Yaesu FT-2900R for receiving rail comms when Im not using it for amateur radio. I also have a Motorola mobile but the Yaesu has a much better receiver in it. I use a 5/8th wave NMO mount 2 meter antenna.
Wide band receive is one of the nice features of the current ham mobiles and handi-talkies.

I have two Yaesu FT-7900 dual-band mobile radios, one in my truck and one in the house. I have both programmed for a number of the local ham repeaters and simplex frequencies. In addition, I have local railroad channels, several marine band channels and some of the VHF frequencies used by CalFire and USFS.

My handheld of choice is a Yaesu FT-60 dual band. I'm going to be taking Amtrak's Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles next month and I'm planning on programming the appropriate railroad channels into the FT-60 for the trip. This way, I don't have to carry an HT for ham use and a scanner for the railroad. I can do both with the same radio.
 

tunnelmot

Member
Joined
May 9, 2007
Messages
260
Location
Conroe, TX
I am also for the Kenwood 281.
I have the 271(basically the same thing). I have to local rail, fire and other odd and end VHF stuff in there. The 271/281 is based on the TK commercial line. Just go to the Kenwood home page and compare the specs on the TH 281 to the TK series. I do believe the main components are the same. Same chassis, etc. So, with the 281, you are basically buying a commercial grade radio with FPP capabilities. The S/N ratio is superb for rail monitoring. I use mine with a 5/8 mounted on the bed. Rail is another side hobby of mine, and I have always preferred a single band radio that does VHF well, as opposed to a scanner. Rail is simplex, and it is beneficial to use a band specific radio for maximum performance.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top