CSX using P-25 and encryption

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wwhitby

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From the railscan yahoogroup. Has anyone heard any P-25 or encryption in their area? I haven't picked up anything other then plain old analog in my neck of the woods.

Warren

3a. CSX encrypting...
Posted by: "Bill Davis"
Date: Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:35 pm ((PDT))

Uh Michael,

nope...you're wrong. I'm the author of the post in question and FOUR of us saw/heard it when it happened. First off they were on the RF&P sub DISPATCH channel, AAR 20, the radio tech came on saying "Ok, test Phase 3" which they then went into APCO buzz on the analog scanners, and on our 996 went clear as a bell under P25 mode. Then the next thing he said was "OK, test Phase 3B," then the analog went to a loud straight BUZZ and the 996 went into ENC for encryption, and nothing was heard, no
chirp no nothing. However, that wasn't the kicker....
Q438 had to stop and walk his train due to some sort of defect detector malfunction, then he had to walk his train. The same channel went ENC right after her notified the dispatcher and about 30 minutes worth of communications ensued with which nothing was hearable.
So, yes, they are encrypting down here and they are SIMULCASTING on the narrow band frequencies in P25 mode while still, mostly, on analog on the regular AAR 96 road channel and AAR 20 dispatch channel.
 

DPD1

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The story of the rail band going digital seems to be something like the radio version of Big Foot... Every few months somebody says they saw it happening and we should all throw our radios in the garbage... Then nothing happens. It's been going on now for about 10 years. The encryption twist is new though, that's a good one.

Dave
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BigLebowski

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I call BS. No railroad would encrypt a road channel. P25 testing, sure, but Motorola doesn't even make a P25 clean-cab radio anymore, and the GE 12R radios don't support P25 anyway.
 

K4NNW

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Three words... Check their licenses. I'd like to know why they'd be doing that, too. Granted, I kinda hope it's BS myself, since I don't wanna have to buy a P25 scanner to hear the rail action.
 

n4jri

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From the railscan yahoogroup. Has anyone heard any P-25 or encryption in their area? I haven't picked up anything other then plain old analog in my neck of the woods.

Warren
I live in Richmond at the south of the RF&P subdivision and haven't heard any thus far. I have a couple of friends who scan the rails pretty closely, and they have noted nothing unusual. Will look at th Richmond Rails yahoo group to see if anything has been reported. Given that I work about a mile from the Acca Yard, maybe I can knock something loose. P25 would be one thing, but I can't imagine encrypting anything used by a moving train.

73/Allen (N4JRI)
 

burner50

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Q438 had to stop and walk his train due to some sort of defect detector malfunction, then he had to walk his train. The same channel went ENC right after her notified the dispatcher and about 30 minutes worth of communications ensued with which nothing was hearable.
This is where I call BS.

I work for the largest railroad in the country with the newest of their handheld radios and there is nothing in my radio that is encrypted.
 
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kb2vxa

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Well Warren another Warren heard it on 160.9975 coming from what sounded like mobile or portable units from time to time. The frequency is not licensed to any regional railroad or other agency because the first adjacent 161.010 is used by Amtrak; the FCC doesn't normally assign co channel or adjacent channel operation in the same area.

"This is where I call BS."

I'd rather call it low power unlicensed operation common in law enforcement, the band is now shared with them and other agencies. On the other hand it could just be some bootleggers, they're pretty common around here on the marine and adjacent railroad band. That's not to say that railroads won't encrypt and for some communications probably will in this government sponsored fearful environment. After all they're the ones shoving "secure" radio down our throats via scare tactics and massive grant monies to back them up.

OMG, there's a TERRORIST with a camera! Nah, just another foamer and if he doesn't get off the track I'm gonna run him over.
 

burner50

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Well Warren another Warren heard it on 160.9975 coming from what sounded like mobile or portable units from time to time. The frequency is not licensed to any regional railroad or other agency because the first adjacent 161.010 is used by Amtrak; the FCC doesn't normally assign co channel or adjacent channel operation in the same area.

"This is where I call BS."

I'd rather call it low power unlicensed operation common in law enforcement, the band is now shared with them and other agencies. On the other hand it could just be some bootleggers, they're pretty common around here on the marine and adjacent railroad band. That's not to say that railroads won't encrypt and for some communications probably will in this government sponsored fearful environment. After all they're the ones shoving "secure" radio down our throats via scare tactics and massive grant monies to back them up.

OMG, there's a TERRORIST with a camera! Nah, just another foamer and if he doesn't get off the track I'm gonna run him over.
Well my point is they're not gonna use encryption when a guy is on the ground, the most dangerous part of this job, without having it completely tested and knowing it is safe and will not fail. As they guy in question I would REFUSE to do such a thing. If the carrier didnt like it they can talk to the union and FRA.
 
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DaveNF2G

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Scanners are not all that good at distinguishing among communications that they were not designed to intercept. Perhaps the signal was just some legitimate telemetry and the scanner evaluated it as "ENC" because it didn't match anything known.
 

burner50

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Scanners are not all that good at distinguishing among communications that they were not designed to intercept. Perhaps the signal was just some legitimate telemetry and the scanner evaluated it as "ENC" because it didn't match anything known.
On a road channel?
 

timkilbride

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On a road channel?
I will do some reading some reading tomorrow on my assigned day off(i'm holding a job now), but I think the FRA says you can't have "secure" communications. It all has to be in the open, accept for LE, they can have a "secure" communication setup. I will do some checking tomorrow.
 

rbm

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There used to be quite a lot of P25 on rail frequencies in my area of upstate New York. (160.395 MHz & others) But it was all power company (NYSEG) activity.

Maybe not all that's been reported is railroad activity.

The power company just moved their operations to the 152 MHz range a few months ago.

Rich
 
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trainman111

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Heh you can all try talking to Bill about this whole digital and encryption thing. I too live in Richmond and I know Bill Davis personally. I tried talking to him about this in a civil manner (asking him for the details like frequencies, what he heard, etc.) but all he could tell me was that I didn't know anything about radios and that I didn't know what I was talking about. So, now he's got everyone around here all worked up. It's odd though because I was at Acca Yard today (the beginning of the RF&P Sub.) and everything was analog and in the clear like it has been for lord knows how many years. It was the same for the Rivanna Sub., Bellwood Sub., Peninsula Sub., and the North End Sub. today too. All analog and in the clear. I'm going to have to call BS on this one too...
 

wwhitby

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Here's my take on this.

I don't know if this story is true or not, but if it isn't, then Mr. Davis concocted a story with a lot of detail. If he wanted to lie, he could have said something like "I heard P-25 and encryption on the RF&P sub today" and let it go with that.

As far as the railroad's use of P-25, its already happening but not for road or dispatch frequencies. I've monitored NS' Norris Yard in Birmingham, Alabama using P-25 for the signal maintainers, a yard channel, and another frequency that I can't remember right now. BTW, they use NAC 303. IIRC, there are other places in the US where P-25 digital is being used by railroads.

Does anyone read Trains magazine? Specifically, Don Phillips column? Recently, Don wrote a column where he said that the TSA is now turning their attention toward the railroads. Don's point was that the TSA will probably screw up the railroads and rail travel like they have screwed up air travel. Don said that he was taken into confidence by an official about several initiatives that he couldn't reveal publically.

The transmissions that Mr. Davis reported (again, if true) were obviously from a test of digital modulation and encryption, not transmissions that are from regular railroad use. FWIW, with the RF&P Sub being close to Washington, DC, where DHS is headquartered, my take on this was that this was a field test of digital and encrypted radio transmissions. Not a long term test, but proof of concept done in conjunction with CSX. It wouldn't have required new railroad radios, just HTs and possibly a digital mobile radio temporarily mounted in the cab of a lead locomotive. There may not have even been a radio mounted in a locomotive, it could have been in a high rail or other company vehicle, with HTs being used by a train crew.

Again, I don't know if this is true or not, but with today's climate of government paranoia, it wouldn't suprise me if it was. After all, who would have thought that we would have to take off our shoes to get on an airplane.
 

icom1020

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Does anyone read Trains magazine? Specifically, Don Phillips column? Recently, Don wrote a column where he said that the TSA is now turning their attention toward the railroads. Don's point was that the TSA will probably screw up the railroads and rail travel like they have screwed up air travel. Don said that he was taken into confidence by an official about several initiatives that he couldn't reveal publically.
someone sent me a link to this for portable detection equipment. http://www.asiatraveltips.com/news08/78-Security.shtml

I have only heard one P25 system and that is in UP' Albina Yard in Portland. It is strictly a yard trunked system with switch engines and special agents/maintenance people on it. The feds paid for most of it from what I understand as a demo.
 

wwhitby

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More from the railscan group:

3b. Re: apco25 / encryption
Posted by: "mike"
Date: Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:12 pm ((PDT))

Hi
I work on the NS research train and they added a new Kenwood radio last month with Apco 25(NOT DES ENCRYPTION) channels for CSX road and dispatch for SC and GA the rest of the states are normal as of today they are not using any digital comms yet. I do know that the radio was around $900.00 the tech i talked to said it would be a nightmare to put DES Encryption boards in every radio free or not.
 

DPD1

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I spoke with somebody today who mentioned they're replacing all their base transmitters on their road with new Kenwood models that will do the 12.5 split when the time comes. Personally I think that's the biggest change we should expect anytime soon, and that's not even mandated until 2013.

Companies the size of the big roads are always going to be trying new stuff. They have eco-friendly engines in various spots too... That doesn't mean the whole system is going to get them.

Dave
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Thunderbolt

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Around three years ago, I heard CSX Police using Project 25 modulation up here in Michigan. They were on 160.875 MHz, trying out their new Motorola Spectras. They were doing distance testing, comparing the range of analog to P25 in their vehicles. However, more changes are on the way.

Currently, CP Police has two talkgroups on the MPSCS TRS, which they use for long-distance communications in and around the state of Michigan. It is my understanding that their radios will be reprogrammed to operate on the statewide public safety trunking systems currently under development in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and eventually Wisconsin. This will allow CP Police to intercommunicate not only with local law enforcement agencies, but other first responders should any major emergency or disaster take place. Likewise, other railway police and federal transportation units have been invited to join the MPSCS, and other wide-area coverage trunking systems, in order to improve interoperability in the areas they cover.

I noticed that BNSF, CSX, NS, and UP have been gradually modifying their FCC licenses, to include digital data and voice modes, on many of their road and yard frequencies. I believe the most recent has been the BNSF, as many of their licenses have been changed over the past two years. However, I have not seen any small, or regional railroads make any moves at this time.

I talked with the head of the communications division at NS a few years ago, and he mentioned that the most likely area to switchover to P25 would be data transmissions, followed by voice traffic, especially after the future conversion to the new narrowband frequency plan. However, he did point out that by the time they start switching over to digital, they will most likely be using APCO Project 25, Phase II modulation. Apparently, they did an experiment with OpenSky technology, and it was a complete failure; thus, this event cemented their desire to go with Project 25.

73s

Ron
 
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DPD1

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I was given some info from a couple people today that seems to sound like the railroads may be leaning towards the NXDN protocol using Kenwood and Icom. This is a separate proprietary protocol, not P25. It's not surprising, because if you look at the specifics, this protocol actually makes a lot more sense technically than P25 does and would be cheaper. Just speculating, but I'm wondering if after the railroads tested P25 the last few years, they were approached with NXDN and decided it would be a lot more affordable. Unlike emergency services, transportation is pretty much self contained communications-wise... They could get away with a separate proprietary protocol, because they don't need the interoperability that civil stuff does. As long as the railroads agree as a whole, they're set. So Motorola realizes this is the way they're leaning, and just throws in the towel with the RR biz, eliminating the RR models altogether. This is actually worse in a way, because NXDN is proprietary, so nothing is available yet for cheap monitoring.

But at any rate, it will be years before all this transpires, and by then it will all be worked out. Worse case scenario, you get a commercial handheld to hear stuff until a scanner with that mode comes along. A lot of people are going the route of commercial gear for monitoring this band now anyway. If NXDN really starts catching on, a scanner could even be out before the railroads even change someday. But this is still not encryption, just digital.

Dave
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