scanner freqs dead area

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rf_99

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once i leave santa barbara there is no active radio traffic besides a passing cruise ship on an ltr system or might be getting san luis obispo's ltr system. But the area is from pt concepcion to about arguello i was on the amtrak bound for Slo on the right side of the train. Any info on how to increase radio traffic for my next trip on amtrak?
 

code3cowboy

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there is a ton of stuff between SB and SLO, you go past Lompuke, Vandenberg, Santa Maria, the tosco refinery, and past all of southern SLO county, what do you want to hear?
 

gmclam

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I wonder if you're using the rubber antenna that came with your scanner, or if you have an external antenna on your vehicle.
- What scanner are you using?
- What antenna are you using?
- What frequencies/agencies are you trying to monitor?
 

KMA367

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Scanning on Amtrak

once i leave santa barbara there is no active radio traffic besides a passing cruise ship on an ltr system or might be getting san luis obispo's ltr system. But the area is from pt concepcion to about arguello i was on the amtrak bound for Slo on the right side of the train. Any info on how to increase radio traffic for my next trip on amtrak?
I've always had terrible luck picking up much of anything once the train is south of Guadalupe until it gets past where 101 is again paralleling the tracks around Gaviota or Refugio, and then there's still not much to hear until you start getting to the outskirts of Santa Barbara. Remember that in the coaches and sleepers you're in a metal tube with some fairly small windows, and the best reception will be on the upstairs level of the "Superliner Lounge" car with its floor-to-ceiling windows the length of the car.

I've never tried punching in anything for Vandenberg AFB, which you pass right through, so you might want to try them, U.S. Department of Defense: Air Force Trunking System, Various, Multi-State - Scanner Frequencies.

I long ago gave up trying to hear the locals when I'm on the train (by the time you start hearing stuff you're already on your way out of their area - except perhaps for CHP, but getting any kind of low band reception on a portable inside a train is a neat trick) and I content myself with the railroad freqs. The Coast Starlight uses 161.55 from Moorpark to SLO, and according to On Track On Line - Amtrak Freqs Coast Starlight there's a UP Dispatchers' link on 160.485 around Surf-Pismo.

Good luck, and let us know next time you find anything through there.
 

KMA367

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Any other SLO area train freqs?
Not really. There's not a lot of switching or unplanned "meets" that need to be arranged (with a verbal "track warrant" broadcast by the dispatcher, and read back verbatim by the engineer), so the crews don't have much talk about.

When passenger trains are ready to leave San Luis Nabisco depot, you'll usually hear the conductor radio the engineer "Highball Amtrak #14 (or #11)," which the engineer will acknowledge, and a minute or two after they start moving they will do a check of the train brakes, upon which you'll hear "Highball the running air, Amtrak 14," meaning the brake lines are charged and working. And when the trains are coming into the station the conductor will often let the engineer know "That'll do, Amtrak 11," meaning the train's in exactly the right location to stop. Sometimes you won't hear that part if he/she is obviously stopping it in just the right place.

South from SLO to Moorpark the "road" frequency is 161.55, and north from SLO to Salinas it's 160.875.

You might want to put 160.74 and 160.32 in your scanner just for giggles, as they're used in adjacent areas and could conceivably get occasional (unofficial) use around SLO.

Also, freight trains have "FRED" (Flashing Read End Device) transceivers mounted to the rear coupler of each train, which regularly sends digital signals to a radio in the locomotive. Primarily they send brake-line pressure readings to the engineer. Basically the FREDs replaced cabooses.

They transmit on 457.9375 and the locomotive's radio "replies" on 452.9375. They're only 2-watts, and all you'll hear is the digital telemetry noise every 30 seconds or so if you're close enough. At least it lets you know there's a freight train within 2-watts radio distance of you.
 
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inigo88

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I noticed last time I dropped a friend of at Amtrak that the conductor carries a portable (looked like a Motorola HT1250). Do they always talk to the engineer on the road channel, like in your example? (Or do they have a secondary channel to go to so they don't prevent the dispatcher from being able to issue track warrants on the road channel?) Hope that isn't too OT. :)
 

KMA367

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I noticed last time I dropped a friend of at Amtrak that the conductor carries a portable (looked like a Motorola HT1250). Do they always talk to the engineer on the road channel, like in your example? (Or do they have a secondary channel to go to so they don't prevent the dispatcher from being able to issue track warrants on the road channel?) Hope that isn't too OT. :)
AFAIK they always stay on the road channel for the area they're operating in. If a freight goes off the main line and does switching in a large yard they would likely switch to the yard channel (if there is one), but otherwise they always have to keep tuned to the dispatcher - much like aircraft have to keep a radio tuned to their air traffic controller. They also need to be aware of other trains in their vicinity, even if on adjacent tracks. Crews always visually inspect each others' trains as they pass one another, and will usually say something like "Highball the roll-by, UP6476" after they pass, which is telling the other crew that their train looks OK - no smoking axles, no freight protruding out to the side, nothing dragging, etc.

I don't know the "mechanics" of how it's set up, but dispatchers may each control LONG - but really skinny - stretches of track (I believe UP Dispatcher 64 now handles from Salinas to Los Posas (Moorpark), not certain of that). Anyway in the past, and probably still, an engineer can use tone signalling to bring up a receiver and get the dispatcher's attention when he needs something. I suspect the dispatchers either don't hear (especially the portables) or learn to "tune out" the short messages among train crews that they don't need to be paying attention to.

Unfortunately I'm now living 100+ miles from the nearest railroad, so I don't get to listen to them anymore, other than some online train scanner feeds, so my information is probably getting stale.

And yes, a former co-worker from my LAPD days is now a conductor for Amtrak, and he tells me that they are indeed using HT1250 portables, as of a year or so ago.
 
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PJaxx

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And yes, a former co-worker from my LAPD days is now a conductor for Amtrak, and he tells me that they are indeed using HT1250 portables, as of a year or so ago.
OT for sure, but did he go from being a police dispatcher to a train conductor? How long or how much training did that take, and do conductors work such long distances as the railroad dispatchers cover? That almost seems like fatigue could become a safety issue.
 
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KJ6HCB

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My buddy is a train conductor for AMTRAK as well and lives in San Diego - he runs the Coast Starlight trip, coming up the coast as far as San Luis Obispo each day and back down to home. Sometimes hes gone almost 24 hours on a shift, while others they put him up for the night in hotels if they dont make it back to station for one reason or another.
 

code3cowboy

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Yes the crews stay on the road channel (or yard channel) and yak to each other on it as well. Sometimes Amtrak crews have an on board channel for those staff members not necessarily needing to know everything relating to the progress and operation of the train (last I spoke with an Amtrak staffer).

To hail a dispatcher they DTMF dial over the air and a tone is sounded both over the air and in the dispatchers ear.
 
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