Road vs Dispatch

jonwienke

More Info Coming Soon!
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jul 18, 2014
Messages
11,327
Location
VA
Road is typically chatter between members of the train crew, and the defect detectors. Dispatch is communications between dispatch and the train crew.
 

n4jri

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jan 10, 2004
Messages
1,322
Location
Richmond, VA
Think of the Road channel as what everything on a given stretch of track monitors as a hailing freq, kinda like Marine Ch-13 on a river. You might have maintenance crews using other freqs for their own ops trackside, or porters using other freqs for activities in sleeper or diner cars, but anyone who wants to speak with the engineer or conductor will be doing it on the Road channel. Even if Dispatch has its own frequency, it'll most likely still use the road channel to actually hail the train. Once contact is established they may talk on either the road or dispatch channel, depending on their policies or whims.

Dispatch involves control of the rail lines and giving individual trains the authority to use those lines--often involving some kind of network where the radio signal is relayed to a remote location. (like CSX in Jacksonville, FL or NS in Atlanta, GA) If Dispatch has its own frequency (or pair), the train engineer will likely use that frequency to hail the dispatcher and conduct the necessary business. But if Dispatch needs to hail the train, I believe it'll do so on the Road channel.

Also note that there may be a Yard channel, which would function as the road channel within yard limits, or at least on yard tracks. Road channel might still be used in a yard, particularly if a train is just passing through.

73/Allen (N4JRI)
 

PJH

Database Admin
Database Admin
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
3,559
The road/dispatch thing is primarly an east coast thing, specifically CSX and former CSX railroads.

"Back in the day", the dispatchers had essentially open radios - so they heard everything that was going on. However "back in the day" many things were still handled by hand signals, trainorders and other non-radio dependent methods of operation. As tower and control operators were eliminated and more responsibility fell onto the dispatchers - along with advances in CAD and radio technology, the workload and radio use increased. With the older radio setups, some railroads took the dispatchers off the "road" channel and put them on their own "dispatcher channel".

Depending on the railroad's operating practices, the dispatcher could turn on the "road channel" and ask for a crew to come to the dispatcher channel for further authority, updates or whatnot. Conversely, the road crew could change to the dispatcher channel and do the same.

In other cases, some railroads would go with the duplex setup whereas the crews and dispatcher used a "split" channel setup to talk to the dispatcher - Dispatcher transmits on channel A, train receives on channel A. Train transmits on channel B and dispatcher receives on channel B. This reduced some of the chatter than other trains would receive, similar to how some taxi company's were setup so that rival cabs couldn't steal fares, but reduced what the drivers heard on the radio.

Most railroads now use a single channel (west of Chicago we shall say). The dispatcher radios at the office are normally muted, and if a crew needs to talk to the dispatcher, they use a DTMF code which will alert the dispatcher that someone wants to talk to them. The larger railroads typically use a Avtech console with receiver voting. It will show on the console which tower heard the best signal from the train so the dispatcher can select the best tower to talk on.

Some smaller railroads may use PBX systems, and other small ones or regionals have been known to use LTR or DMR systems for their needs.

So after all that text, if you want to monitor railroads with such "split" channels, you need to scan both.
 

wa8pyr

Technischer Guru
Lead Database Admin
Joined
Sep 22, 2002
Messages
4,716
Location
Ohio
The road/dispatch thing is primarly an east coast thing, specifically CSX and former CSX railroads.

<snip>
Most railroads now use a single channel (west of Chicago we shall say). The dispatcher radios at the office are normally muted, and if a crew needs to talk to the dispatcher, they use a DTMF code which will alert the dispatcher that someone wants to talk to them. The larger railroads typically use a Avtech console with receiver voting. It will show on the console which tower heard the best signal from the train so the dispatcher can select the best tower to talk on.
I'd say along and west of the Mississippi only. NS is slowly switching over to a two-channel setup (road and dispatcher) like CSX has used for years, due to increased radio traffic.
 

W9BU

Lead Wiki Manager
Super Moderator
Joined
Jul 18, 2004
Messages
6,094
Location
Brownsburg, Indiana
NS is slowly switching over to a two-channel setup (road and dispatcher) like CSX has used for years, due to increased radio traffic.
Don't forget that in many former Southern territories, a half-duplex mode was used where the trains talked on one frequency and the dispatchers talked on a different frequency. I think NS has moved away from that, though.
 

wa8pyr

Technischer Guru
Lead Database Admin
Joined
Sep 22, 2002
Messages
4,716
Location
Ohio
Don't forget that in many former Southern territories, a half-duplex mode was used where the trains talked on one frequency and the dispatchers talked on a different frequency. I think NS has moved away from that, though.
They're slowly in the process; half-duplex is being removed as they convert the base stations. I heard from someone on the CNO&TP that increased radio traffic was causing issues in that trains and track workers couldn't hear what other trains and track workers were saying on the DS channel.

Two-channel operation for NS is part of the consolidation of dispatcher desks after moving everybody to Atlanta. Supposedly each DS desk will have a dedicated road channel and a dedicated dispatcher channel.

The Columbus District through here has the Kenova desk up to Rickenbacker and the Sandusky desk from Rickenbacker to Columbus; both are sharing 161.190 along with the PTC desk and road traffic and TSAs, and it's stupidly busy on the radio.

The Kenova District from Portsmouth east has been on 161.250 for years and isn't really having any major radio issues. I'm a but surprised they haven't already changed the Columbus District for the Kenova desk, as there are only three base stations to deal with: Ringgold, Summit Hill and Portsmouth. They could change the Columbus District to 161.250 with relative ease.
 
Top