Newbie just learning how to use a scanner

dadonatrain

Member
Joined
May 6, 2024
Messages
19
Location
Clemson, SC
I just asked my first scanner Q in the general scanning board and now I’ll ask more Q on this board since I’m new to railfanning and that’s what I really need to learn how to use a scanner for.

I'm going to do a road trip up to NE Ohio next week to railfan Berea, Bellevue, Vickers and Walbridge areas near Toledo, and Fostoria. I don’t own any scanner yet and I’m not sure what to buy. And I KNOW I don’t know how to use one yet!

Does “programming my scanner” mean telling the scanner to only scan the frequencies I know the RRs use, and not also the police, fire, etc other frequencies I have no interest in? I’m still trying to learn terminology.

If that’s right, does that mean I could program the scanner only to scan the smaller number of frequencies I know are used in, say, just Berea while in Berea? And then reprogram again in Bellevue, and so on? Or would it be simpler just to tell the scanner “scan all the RR channels no matter where I am.”?
 

BC_Scan

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Joined
Aug 26, 2006
Messages
692
Location
Vancouver BC
correct, today there is more ways to skin a cat latest is SDR software defined radio (via PC)
traditional old school the way I like is a scanner with memories you program to exact freq, based on know list all availabel on this site
many diff scanner available , new or used Uniden or Whistler really only game in town (yeah sure others) not in the scope of this convo at moment
consider uniden as they have a unique feature called close call , allows for closed quarters or other deployment will capture near bye walkie or transmitter allowing to find unique fxs not previously know or other, many good scanners you could buy used lovingly used in a non smoker environment that would fit the bill for first timer , some scanners have all the services pre programmed
another steep learning curve for many ,is dynamic memory architecture which is glorified for more memories then you can shake a stick at , old school is program one at a time by hand in 10-1000 memory bank consecutive, which 95 % of us hear have done since back in the day
better way today is PC to scanner for free via software (simple) and customize your list and add while on the fly
so my friend you have many options here
ask away and enjoy (great hobby BTW) welcome
 

bearcatrp

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Apr 11, 2005
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2,672
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Land of 10,000 taxes
Another option is the new uniden 160. Has the RR already programmed. Also has NXDN and DMR included. Good radio for $249.
 

Nasby

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Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
2,660
Location
Ohio
For your trip any handheld scanner will work.
No need to spend a lot of cash for one.
Take a look at the used market such as Facebook marketplace. There are some good deals ($20 and up) for basic analog scanners.
Many scanners already have a preprogrammed search for railroads.
If they don’t have that feature, programming is very simple.
You’ll only need to program less than a dozen frequencies for the area you’re headed to.
Click on the database section here on radio reference and then click on the Ohio map. There you’ll find a list of Ohio railroad frequencies.
 

dadonatrain

Member
Joined
May 6, 2024
Messages
19
Location
Clemson, SC
Ok. Thx to all who have answered me so far, here and elsewhere. Now I have another question.

I’ve programmed my BC125AT with all 97 AAR frequencies. I’m out in the country beside the main NS line btwn Atlanta and Charlotte where there isn’t much traffic to practice on!

What does it mean when the scanner hovers for a few seconds on a bank and a channel but I don’t hear anything? Am I just out of range? Is my squelch set wrong? I’ve set squelch like Danny Harmon said. One notch above what it takes to silence the noise. For me that’s 3.
 

FrensicPic

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Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 16, 2012
Messages
254
Location
Los Angeles
Ok. Thx to all who have answered me so far, here and elsewhere. Now I have another question.

I’ve programmed my BC125AT with all 97 AAR frequencies. I’m out in the country beside the main NS line btwn Atlanta and Charlotte where there isn’t much traffic to practice on!

What does it mean when the scanner hovers for a few seconds on a bank and a channel but I don’t hear anything? Am I just out of range? Is my squelch set wrong? I’ve set squelch like Danny Harmon said. One notch above what it takes to silence the noise. For me that’s 3.
A lot of times there just isn't much radio traffic. Even in busy areas there may not be constant chatter!
 

Bob1955

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2016
Messages
868
Location
Eastchester, NY
correct, today there is more ways to skin a cat latest is SDR software defined radio (via PC)
traditional old school the way I like is a scanner with memories you program to exact freq, based on know list all availabel on this site
many diff scanner available , new or used Uniden or Whistler really only game in town (yeah sure others) not in the scope of this convo at moment
consider uniden as they have a unique feature called close call , allows for closed quarters or other deployment will capture near bye walkie or transmitter allowing to find unique fxs not previously know or other, many good scanners you could buy used lovingly used in a non smoker environment that would fit the bill for first timer , some scanners have all the services pre programmed
another steep learning curve for many ,is dynamic memory architecture which is glorified for more memories then you can shake a stick at , old school is program one at a time by hand in 10-1000 memory bank consecutive, which 95 % of us hear have done since back in the day
better way today is PC to scanner for free via software (simple) and customize your list and add while on the fly
so my friend you have many options here
ask away and enjoy (great hobby BTW) welcome
Very well explained, BC_Scan.
 

Bob1955

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2016
Messages
868
Location
Eastchester, NY
Ok. Thx to all who have answered me so far, here and elsewhere. Now I have another question.

I’ve programmed my BC125AT with all 97 AAR frequencies. I’m out in the country beside the main NS line btwn Atlanta and Charlotte where there isn’t much traffic to practice on!

What does it mean when the scanner hovers for a few seconds on a bank and a channel but I don’t hear anything? Am I just out of range? Is my squelch set wrong? I’ve set squelch like Danny Harmon said. One notch above what it takes to silence the noise. For me that’s 3.
dadonatrain- You have done everything correctly so far.
They are trying to get you to purchase a $649.95 Uniden Bearcat SDS100 and you may not need that scanner as it is reportedly not good on analog frequencies and the 125AT is a top of line handheld for aircraft and basic conventional use. The other scanner is top of line for great simulcasting digital signal reception.
DMR memory is an entirely different thing all together and is better but for your use that's simple, your 125AT is all you may need but if I were you if you haven't done so already is buy the best Panasonic AA batteries and not use the cheap Chinese rechargeable batteries that your handheld scanner came with and also purchase from "Antenna Farm" ONLY, a Diamond RH-77CA extended range rubber duck that is 15" long if that length doesn't bother you and it will increase that scanners range three-fold.
Happy mid-Sunday afternoon.
Stay safe,
Bob (KB2GQK) Eastchester, NY
 

dadonatrain

Member
Joined
May 6, 2024
Messages
19
Location
Clemson, SC
Thx Bob1955. I’ve got Panasonic AAs and the Diamond is on order.

But I’m still not sure I’ve got things like squelch set right. I know I’m in an area with little traffic so long periods of silence are to be expected. But when the scanner pauses for a second or two, long enough for me to read the bank and channel number and frequency, doesn’t that mean the scanner has detected radio traffic on that channel? If yes, I just want to know why I do not hear any audible speech or even static. Am I just out of range or do I need to adjust some setting on the scanner?
 

alphazulu

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Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
63
I claim no expertise but I find you have to be within a couple miles of a rolling train or the nearest dispatch antenna to hear the communications. Of note, I do live in a valley with hills that block distant transmissions. Perhaps a trip to a nearby rail yard to pickup some conductor - engineer chatter just to make sure your settings are correct? Very good choice of scanner and the Diamond RH-77CA is an excellent antenna.

dadonatrain, et al, nice railway map
 
Last edited:

dadonatrain

Member
Joined
May 6, 2024
Messages
19
Location
Clemson, SC
I claim no expertise but I find you have to be within a couple miles of a rolling train or the nearest dispatch antenna to hear the communications. Of note, I do live in a valley with hills that block distant transmissions. Perhaps a trip to a nearby rail yard to pickup some conductor - engineer chatter just to make sure your settings are correct? Very good choice of scanner and the Diamond RH-77CA is an excellent antenna.

dadonatrain, et al, nice railway map
Thank you for this! Yes it helps a lot.

As for the map pgm, trust me, I got that one bookmarked! I’ve been a map freak and a visual Learner all my life, so this and the fragis and the arcgis maps are all in my iPad favorites page! 😆
 

chief21

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Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Messages
1,817
Location
Summer - Western NC; Winter - Tampa Bay FL
When your scanner stops on a frequency, it could be just the tail end of a genuine transmission or some blurb of interference from a nearby frequency.
One way to minimize the first possibility is to program your scanner to scan only frequencies that are known to be active in your area. The more frequencies you scan, the more likely you might miss genuine signals while the radio is scanning other channels. Better to scan only 10-15 verified channels rather than 100 channels that "might" be active.
 

raymondjtoth

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Messages
192
Location
des plaines il
I own a bc125at if want a scanner nothing in it and program what, you want and see alfa name tag you can dose dpl/pl tone to keep other radio on antenna from going into other. One good thing with bc125at is can use butek software, pay once for it upgrade for life. Also on butel is can import for rr this site, but in order to import on butel software you need pay membership to radioreference.com once do that input user name and pass in butel, will check site see if good to go, then you tell it state/country and then, country like I'm in il, so I chose il them cook county for county hit what want will download, list. Check what want, tell it bank want in. Then hit import will set what need, will see it in butel bank, once have all want you hit upload to scanner and off it gose to scanner, then disconnect, will hear what just program in scanner hope helps. Bc125at is not digital so know, sorry so long explaining this so understand butel software, Better then uindent one and faster download from scanner and uploading to scanner let us know if any more help ray toth
 

dadonatrain

Member
Joined
May 6, 2024
Messages
19
Location
Clemson, SC
Hi everyone. I’ve caught up on the replies since I was last online (couple weeks ago). Thank you. I have a followup q on scanning only known active freqs vs all 97 channels.

Tomorrow I plan to sit trackside at Thurmond, WV, in the New River Gorge(ous scenery) on the CSX New River Gorge sub, to see Amtrak 50 come through Thurmond en route to Washington and New York. I’ve done some homework and I’ve learned that this CSX sub uses channels 8 (road) and 14 (AM disp). I also read that Amtrak uses its host railroads’ freqs, so I assume if I monitor only 8 and 14 I should maximize my chances of hearing train talk.

That said, the biggest issues will be Amtrak performance at all and the fact that I’ll be about 1,000’ below most human occupancy while IN the gorge at river level! So I may not get any signals anyway!

But my real question is: in this case, should I program my Bearcat 125AT to scan only channels 8 and 14 for this trip?

Thx again for helping this newbie.
 
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