Harris AL-1500 locomotive radio

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KC9LQV

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The railroad museum I volunteer at was given a Harris AL-1500 locomotive radio. (An old MoPac radio, to be precise.) It would be nice to see if it works, and possibly use it as a receiver in the RF nightmare that is Haley Tower.

Outwardly, it appears to be a Railroad Spectra clone, but I have not been able to scare up any information about this unit.

In reading about the Spectra, I get the impression that at least the power and mic jacks are AAR standards. True? Does this mean I can use the Spectra's power pinout for the power supply? The unit has a large red "72/12" stenciled on the side, so I know it's set up to accept dual power.

Other than that, it's a blank slate. Any info would be appreciated. A link to a spec sheet, schematic, brochure, or manual would be awesome. Thanks in advance.
 

w2smw

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The power connectors are all the same and are a standard amphenol, I just got one from Mouser and I can e-mail you off line.The Harris radio is a is in along line of canges to to the old GE radio line
 

w2smw

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Update.... the power connector is an Amphenol MS3106A-18-4S and the cabel grip is an MS3057-10 and the 12v are pins B & D. Check on Batlabs for info on + & -. I think the Harris radio may be the same as the Harmon Trackstar radio of which I have. The only ones that are now making clean cab radios and I am not 100% sure is GE, model 12R, and Ritron, as Motorola has stoppped making a clean cab Spectra.
Thanks
Steve W
 

KC9LQV

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Thanks. Now that I know I can use the same electrical pinout, I'll probably just use test clips and see if I can get it fired up. If it's a boat anchor, I don't want to spent $20 on a connector. If it *does* work, though, I'll invest in one.

Actually, I really hope it does work. Sure, it'll be cool to play with, but I'll be really interested in seeing how it picks up compared to the scanners and ham rigs I'm used to using, and if it does a good job fighting off all the RF the computers are putting out.

I will probably clean it up and try to fire it up tonight. I'll post pics if anyone's interested.
 

KC9LQV

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Well, I finally got time to set down with this beast and start poking around. I got it relatively cleaned up, built a test lead, and fired it up. It appears to work all right. I've only had it running a few minutes, but as I was uploading the pictures, I picked up the CSX dispatcher on the St. Louis line. I'm pretty far from the tracks, and have only a temp antenna hooked to it, but it's on and picking up stuff!

An interesting note, there seems to be a number of duplex sets preprogrammed into the radio. Stepping through the presets with the up and down buttons normally changes the frequencies in matched pairs, but occasionally there will be an "odd split", then it resumes matched pairs again. The RX and TX frequencies can't be controlled independently.

Well, this is interesting. Once I get a proper power connector built, I may have to take it on the road where I can make an accurate assessment of how well it receives. I'm not sure exactly what we'll do with it, but it's certainly neat.
 

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w2smw

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Glad to hear your results and very good pictures. Some RR used duplex channels for signaling and set them up different, my Hrmons and maybe Motorolas are able to change RX&TX separately to acheive it.
Again good luck with your radio. and good railhamming
73
Steve W2SMW, Buffalo NY
 

KC9LQV

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I took the beast on the road this weekend and was reasonably impressed. It wasn't picking up as well as the ham rigs I'm used to using, but I suspect that has as much to do with tighter squelch as anything.

My next step will be to take it to the museum and let it run upstairs where all the RF interference is. If it's at least as sensitive as the scanner we're using now, but immune to the interference, I may set it up there to operate permanently. I'll have to add an audio out jack, so I can feed it into the Moto T1602 console, but that should be easy.
 

w2smw

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Sometimes I think they reduce sensitivity to eliminate interferrence from other rr on the channel and have the radio in the cab only picking up from the base radio or remote radio that is calling them in a defined area and not the complete railroad.
73
Steve W2SMW
 

KC9LQV

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Can you take the covers off, and take some pictures? The Aerotron ALPHA has a VCO board that looks just like a Harris VCO from the ALPHA series car phone. I would be interested in seeing if the Aerotron ALPHA Clean Cab is a Harris with the Aerotron sticker on it.
Yeah, I'd be happy to post some internal pics. I'm going to have to open it up to investigate adding an audio out jack. Just give me a couple of days.
 

KC9LQV

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Radioman2001, what was it exactly that you're wanting to see? I took the top covers off, and at the moment I'm a little leery of doing too much disassembly and risk turning a working radio into a non-working one.

If you can be a bit more specific, I might be able to find what you're looking for. But otherwise, I'm hesitant to dig much deeper. Sorry.

The inside of this thing is built like a tank. Every board and assembly is laying in it's own metal chassis. No wonder it weighs a ton.
 

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KC9LQV

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PS. When I took the cover off I was immediately greeted with that "old radio" smell. Which I love. ;)
 

Nasby

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Can you post a pic of Haley Tower too? Maybe with the radio sitting at the desk?
Thx in advance!
 

KC9LQV

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Can you post a pic of Haley Tower too? Maybe with the radio sitting at the desk?
Thx in advance!
If I install the radio in the tower, it won't be on the desk, since that wouldn't be authentic.

What I have done for Haley is taken the appropriate radios for the era we're recreating, gutted them out, and either installed scanners in them, or fed a line out the back that can be hooked to a scanner that's hidden out of sight. That way, the actual sounds from the appropriate railroads come from the radios on the desk. It also recreates the crosstalk that was so common with both radios going at once.

For the old L&N radio, a Motorola Mocom 70 consolette was used, for the Conrail radios, a Motorola T1602 remote was used. (We also have a GE Custom MVP for the Conrail setup, but it's complete and operational ... it just needs new crystals made.)

The radios have the scanner audio fed through the volume pot on the chassis, and LEDs installed and wired to the mic to provide the power on and TX indicators, just like the real ones did.

So if this Harris beastie goes into the tower, I'll likely hide it, and the power supply, in a cabinet that sits behind the operator's desk. That's why I mentioned adding an audio out jack to the chassis earlier. The fact that it can't scan isn't an issue, because the radios in the tower only monitored a single road frequency anyway. (They had other channels available, but had to be switched manually.)

If anyone is interested in seeing how I did those, I'd be happy to post some pics. I documented the work I did on the Mocom 70 consolette pretty thoroughly.
 

AK9R

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If anyone is interested in seeing how I did those, I'd be happy to post some pics.
I'd like to see the photos. If there are a lot of them, maybe you can get them posted to a page on the Haley Tower web site.

Hmmm...Now all you need is an old pack-set radio to put in the caboose that Bill and the gang are working on. I remember TP&W crews coming into Logansport Yard A with those things back in the late 70's. The size of a lunch box, room in the base for two 6 volt lantern batteries for power, and a full-length half-wave whip sticking out the top just waiting to poke somebody's eye.
 

KA9HRD

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I'm new here. Just a point of interest with the Radio mentioned. Worked for the Railroad as an Engineer for 30 years and used that same type Radio. The Tone buttons were for contacting Train Dispatchers while running. Course, you may already knew that. But thought I would mention that, just in case. I have an old one here, that has a number pad, to punch in the different frequency's for the different roads that we would travel. It covered all Railroads frequency's across the country. Picked it up at a swap meet some years ago.
 

radioman2001

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That sure looks like a Harris, the VCO in the the open radio picture, closest to the bottom left was also used in their VHF car phone. That same VCO was used by Aerotron for the Alpha, which interestingly enough was also the name of the car phone series. the processor with the 1984 copyright date is probably a 6802, same as the Aeroton. Looks like Harris did build the Alpha.
 
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