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small railroad needs help with motoTRBO

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ij327

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I am a manager at a small railroad in California. We switched to MotoTrbo digital in early 2015 and are experiencing significant issues with missed calls. We operate on a set of talkaround VHF frequencies; one digital channel for park operations, one digital channel for our narrow gauge rail service and an analog channel for our standard gauge service.

We currently use CP200d portable, and xpr2500 mobile radios. Our main issue is with missed radio calls on the digital channels. Our railroad is located in the mountains and our trains travel through dense Forrest and valleys.

I was hoping to find out if installing repeaters would solve our issue with missed calls. I was also looking to find out what would be a good portable mototrbo radio that has a display. I was looking at the XPR3500 but I am worried it may not be durable enough for our application. I also looked at the XPR7550 and XPR6550.
 

slapshot0017

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Well the big question is that if you had a problem before you installed this system. If not then we can start with how your equipment was programmed and installed. If not then you may need a repeater, but then you would have to apply to the FCC and the AAR for another frequency to use as your input.

I can understand DMR for your park operations, but not for your rail service and if you are FRA certfied I would suggest you fix this communication problems immediately or there will be huge repercussions...

I am also the communications tech for my railroad as well. We have NXDN capable equipment, but will stay analog until the big players can make up their mind. My personal opinion is that move to digital is unnecessary, but to each there own.
 

ij327

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We had a few dead zones on the Narrow Gauge (which is not FRA) when we were analog and our standard gauge goes out of range about a mile away from our Depot (that is FRA). The decision to go digital was from my superiors. And they definitively went the cheap route with the CP200d.

For park operations DMR has worked fantastically, its on the narrow gauge that we are experiencing issues.
 

NavyBOFH

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First... might be a topic to ask in Industry Discussion or Digital Voice sub-forums... I suspect this isn't specifically a Motorola issue since the radios themselves work... its a power output/frequency issue.

Digital should work fine in a high noise/high motion environment - the AMBE vocoder is the same type as used by P25, and P25 was accepted (supposedly) for its superior voice while moving at high speed... so I don't think format would be the issue.

That being said - VHF should work fine for long distance as long as you're not in a densely populated/built area... and you said the analog system worked well.

I think the biggest issue is the "talk around" part... are you operating in simplex? Are there any repeaters in operation? Simplex will always be line-of-sight, so 5-6 miles ideal. Now from the depot to your furthest point, what distance are you expected to cover? Do you have the appropriate license for a repeater pair? Are you funded for a repeater?

I know from an amateur standpoint... a UHF DMR repeater with my China-made handheld will allow me to clearly hit the repeater from inside my house from ~15 miles away... with the short stock antenna. The repeater itself covers a good 35-40 mile radius. With the NC PRN network... we have most of VA, NC, and SC covered.

Also for durability sake - you can go for the XPR7550 models... they really are built like a tank... but if budget is an issue I'd heavily advise shopping around. There are many type-accepted models with good durability... just need to decide if a $800 radio will be better than say a $450 Vertex with a good track record as well... and have a shelf of spares for WHEN they break... because people will break radios regardless of brand.
 

ij327

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We don't have any repeaters at the moment, the furthest we need to go with the digital radios is 2 miles and a 900 foot elevation change uphill. Farthest we need in analog mode is 12 miles with a 500 foot elevation change downhill.

We have to remain VHF since our stand gauge operation uses another railroad's right of way for a portion of the trip.

I am not currently funded for a repeater, but our radios are an essential part of our operation. So if a repeater is needed they'll drum up the funding for it.

As for the portables I was thinking of 7550's for managers and either keeping the cp200d's for the crews or getting them the 7350's which don't have the screen or keypad. They want to stick with motorola since our local dealer is motorola and the company has been motorola since we got our first radios in the 80's.
 

slapshot0017

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We had a few dead zones on the Narrow Gauge (which is not FRA) when we were analog and our standard gauge goes out of range about a mile away from our Depot (that is FRA). The decision to go digital was from my superiors. And they definitively went the cheap route with the CP200d.

For park operations DMR has worked fantastically, its on the narrow gauge that we are experiencing issues.
Well if it was a quick uneducated decision, like it sounds, this is what's going to happen.

Your biggest issues sounds like the valley isn't cooperating. We run a 50 watt base with 50 watt mobiles in some hilly terrain, but nothing you are probably facing.

Try jacking up the power on everything if you can to the highest output power allowed by your license. I wouldn't suggest relying on portables for train to base or vice versa as you can see it doesn't work.

What distance do you have to cover? The class 1's use a voter system tied to either a microwave system or telephone line so they don't need repeaters and only use one license.

There are many options to help remedy the situation, but it depends on what your willing to pay and who you have doing it.
 

Inglewood

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The whole thing about MotoTRBO is that it is dead easy to add repeaters provided you can mange the IP backhaul. Do you have fiber along your right-of-way? If so you are way ahead in the game.

If you have the freqs then a multicast system can be built up using the roaming feature where the mobiles automatically look for coverage. Voting is nice but adds heaps of complications particularly if, as it sounds, you want to keep some control of this yourself. If limited on freqs then some sensible planning can allow a combination of multicast and frequency re-use which is easier to manage along rail corridors than in wide-area systems. Do not go around cranking up the power if you want to keep using portables, 20W on 'TRBO repeaters is plenty and surprising well balanced with good portables. I like the Chinese radio but jeez louise they have no place on a railroad...
 

N4KVE

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I was also looking to find out what would be a good portable mototrbo radio that has a display. I was looking at the XPR3500 but I am worried it may not be durable enough for our application. I also looked at the XPR7550 and XPR6550.
All 3 of these radios are very rugged, & I own them all. I recently went on vacation, & the 3500 is what I took with me.
 

mmckenna

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I am a manager at a small railroad in California. We switched to MotoTrbo digital in early 2015 and are experiencing significant issues with missed calls. We operate on a set of talkaround VHF frequencies; one digital channel for park operations, one digital channel for our narrow gauge rail service and an analog channel for our standard gauge service.

We currently use CP200d portable, and xpr2500 mobile radios. Our main issue is with missed radio calls on the digital channels. Our railroad is located in the mountains and our trains travel through dense Forrest and valleys.
Based off your description, I think I know where you are located, and it's pretty close to me. In fact we can often hear the steam whistle at work....

The valley/hill issue is going to be an issue. VHF or not, topology of the area is real. I've got 2 100 watt VHF repeaters up above this area, and coverage is still difficult.

When you say "missing calls" do you know if this is happening to all the radios in the same area, or is it limited to just certain radios?

Is this happening with just the portable radios, or the mobiles and portables?

Did the old analog system work for your needs?
 

ij327

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Based off your description, I think I know where you are located, and it's pretty close to me. In fact we can often hear the steam whistle at work....

The valley/hill issue is going to be an issue. VHF or not, topology of the area is real. I've got 2 100 watt VHF repeaters up above this area, and coverage is still difficult.

When you say "missing calls" do you know if this is happening to all the radios in the same area, or is it limited to just certain radios?

Is this happening with just the portable radios, or the mobiles and portables?

Did the old analog system work for your needs?
Most of the missed calls are on the portable units the managers wear. I personally think a large portion of the issue is from improper training and the fact that the CP200D doesn't have a screen. Which confuses the managers when the radios are in scan mode.

Hopefully getting radios with displays will help with that issue.



Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 

ij327

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The whole thing about MotoTRBO is that it is dead easy to add repeaters provided you can mange the IP backhaul. Do you have fiber along your right-of-way? If so you are way ahead in the game.

If you have the freqs then a multicast system can be built up using the roaming feature where the mobiles automatically look for coverage. Voting is nice but adds heaps of complications particularly if, as it sounds, you want to keep some control of this yourself. If limited on freqs then some sensible planning can allow a combination of multicast and frequency re-use which is easier to manage along rail corridors than in wide-area systems. Do not go around cranking up the power if you want to keep using portables, 20W on 'TRBO repeaters is plenty and surprising well balanced with good portables. I like the Chinese radio but jeez louise they have no place on a railroad...
We don't have any fiber, that would be a pretty hard sell to the CEO.

It seems like the system simply wasn't set up properly. Unfortunately due to the nature of our operation 90% of the communication is happening on portables. Ideally we would be able to move most of the communication over to the mobile units which for the most part have no problems communicating with one another. But that would require a major restructuring of our operations, and I think they aren't going to be keen on doing that.

I believe we have two licensed frequencies, on one we have two DMR channels and on the other we have the one Analog channel. But I could be wrong, they may have just licensed another frequency for the new park operations channel.

At the moment all of our units are operating at their maximum operating power, which for the mobiles is 45 watts.
 

SCPD

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Reading thru the thread, it sounds like everything is portables and mobiles in the engines. You say your standard gauge goes out of range a mile out. Is there a base station at the depot? Perhaps the first step is to put up a gain antenna at the depot, hook it to a mobile on a power supply, and see if the range improves. I'd also think about higher gain antennas on the engines.

Also, how long have you had radios? If it's been 20-30 years, you could have loss from old feedline and corroded antennas. If it's been that long, I'd consider new antennas and feedline for the mobiles, and if you already have a base at the depot, a new antenna and feedline there also.

Taking these steps first will be cheaper than getting into repeaters.
 

ij327

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Reading thru the thread, it sounds like everything is portables and mobiles in the engines. You say your standard gauge goes out of range a mile out. Is there a base station at the depot? Perhaps the first step is to put up a gain antenna at the depot, hook it to a mobile on a power supply, and see if the range improves. I'd also think about higher gain antennas on the engines.

Also, how long have you had radios? If it's been 20-30 years, you could have loss from old feedline and corroded antennas. If it's been that long, I'd consider new antennas and feedline for the mobiles, and if you already have a base at the depot, a new antenna and feedline there also.

Taking these steps first will be cheaper than getting into repeaters.
Everything was replaced in February with the move to digital. The narrow gauge goes in and out of range intermittently along the route.

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 

Kitn1mcc

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The Cp200D is a good radio i have several and they work. great . Were in cali may want to give jeff a call and Sandy's communications to help you guys out
 

NavyBOFH

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Reading thru the thread, it sounds like everything is portables and mobiles in the engines. You say your standard gauge goes out of range a mile out. Is there a base station at the depot? Perhaps the first step is to put up a gain antenna at the depot, hook it to a mobile on a power supply, and see if the range improves. I'd also think about higher gain antennas on the engines.



Also, how long have you had radios? If it's been 20-30 years, you could have loss from old feedline and corroded antennas. If it's been that long, I'd consider new antennas and feedline for the mobiles, and if you already have a base at the depot, a new antenna and feedline there also.



Taking these steps first will be cheaper than getting into repeaters.

Those are all good recommendations. I wrote my reply half-asleep and didn't think of that stuff. Good feed line, antennas, and antenna height will make a HUGE difference over modulation and output power. Though something tells me a repeater at a geographic high point would still fit the bill better based on comments about being in a valley and such.


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RRR

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You aren't using encryption, are you?

Voice quality decreases, and instances of missed and garbled calls increase on the fringe with Enc enabled.
 

ij327

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So just a quick update, we are going to be demoing the xpr7550 and 6550 and see if having the managers at least be on the correct channels at the correct times will help. After the demo period we are going to decide if we still need to look into repeaters, Or if the issue was user generated. Thank you all so so much and I will keep you posted with what we do.
 

SCPD

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Base

So just a quick update, we are going to be demoing the xpr7550 and 6550 and see if having the managers at least be on the correct channels at the correct times will help. After the demo period we are going to decide if we still need to look into repeaters, Or if the issue was user generated. Thank you all so so much and I will keep you posted with what we do.
If you answered this, and I missed it I apologize.
Are you running a base station at the depot?
 

slapshot0017

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So just a quick update, we are going to be demoing the xpr7550 and 6550 and see if having the managers at least be on the correct channels at the correct times will help. After the demo period we are going to decide if we still need to look into repeaters, Or if the issue was user generated. Thank you all so so much and I will keep you posted with what we do.
Just know that with the repeater option unless you have a frequency pair for each service you are going to need to go through either the AAR, FCC or both to get that.

It's going to be some money and then you're going to need space for a repeater and equipment for the repeater.

You're managerial troubleshooting should be a step in the right direction.

I don't know your terrain, but your best option after that, if you have a base station or can use one of the locomotive radios, would be to maybe check with someone who can make a coverage plot for you. And then go from there to see what your coverage actually looks like.

I don't know if this was asked, but do you guys interchange with anyone?
 

ij327

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Just know that with the repeater option unless you have a frequency pair for each service you are going to need to go through either the AAR, FCC or both to get that.

It's going to be some money and then you're going to need space for a repeater and equipment for the repeater.

You're managerial troubleshooting should be a step in the right direction.

I don't know your terrain, but your best option after that, if you have a base station or can use one of the locomotive radios, would be to maybe check with someone who can make a coverage plot for you. And then go from there to see what your coverage actually looks like.

I don't know if this was asked, but do you guys interchange with anyone?
We have trackage rights on about a half mile of track with a railroad that seldom operates as far north as we do.

The plan is to do a coverage map on the radios. We moved the antenna on the depot so now we're able to communicate with the mobiles in the locomotives for 90% of the route which is a substantial increase from before.

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 
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