Train frequencies going digital?

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dispatcher812

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There was a posting in a yahoo group that I belong to about the possiablity of the frequencies used by the railroads going digital. Has anyone else heard this? I am looking into getting a handheld scanner. I have the chance to get a BC246 cheap but its not digital and digital ones are, well, expensive. I do have one in my truck that is digital (796D) but all I have around here is the State Police and one fire department that is currently switching over to digital. I don't have a need for a digital scaner for fire or police (yet) and want to use the hand held for mostly trains. Kevin
 

bryan_herbert

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Theyve been discussing this since the FCC started giving deadlines for narrowbanding. The problem is which platform to go with (P25? Nexedge? MotoTRBO?) and how will it compare to analog terrain wise. Its already going to cost a fortune having to swap out every repeater, base station, mobile and HT to meet narrowbanding requirements, digital will rack up the cost another $3000 per unit depending on which digital platform they go with. Another question they have to ask is will going digital require more mountain top transmitters sites and if so how much will that tack on to the cost. Dont forget, this will have to be done system wide with every company (Union Pacific, BNSF) that shares lines with other private railroads. For example, if Union Pacific decided to go with MotoTRBO, that would mean BNSF and Metrolink here in Southern California would also have to go MotoTRBO because its a proprietary system, it cant communicate with P25 or Nexedge, nor can any scanner on the market monitor it leaving us hobbyists screwed as well. Nexedge is the same way, it just costs 2/3 less. P25 is more logical because whether youre in digital or analog mode as long as the radio is P25 capable the users can understand each other though its still quite expensive. So needless to say the decision is still years down the road, but you will need a narrowband capable receiver in the next couple years.
 

radioman2001

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Here in the NYC metro area there is no time frame for digital, at least for RTC over the road channels. TCCI the coordinating body for the railroad frequencies has internally mandated that any digital modulation must be NXDN. Not sure how they can do it, but apparently the FCC isn't saying anything. TCCI also is not coordinating any adjacent 6.25 channels in an attempt to prevent MOTOTRBO from becoming the digital format of choice, also don't know why the FCC isn't saying anything. So I wouldn't expect to see any digital for the near future, especially on the RTC channels. Support or yard operations have their choice of formats, but you are just not going to get any new channels allocated unless they are for NXDN.
The proper way to go is with a radio that supports all the formats, and let the customer decide which to use.
 

kb2vxa

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"...but you will need a narrowband capable receiver in the next couple years."
Not necessarily, my old Rat Shack scanner simply rounded off to the next closest frequency and the narrow band channels still were heard no problem. A commercial receiver will do the same and there is little chance the signal will appear on the edge of the IF passband. You won't have a bleedover problem either since railroads never use first or even second adjacent frequencies.
 

nunyax

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MOTOTRBO is for VHF, UHF as well as 800/900.

Looks like NXDN (NEXEDGE, iDAS) is the recommended choice for railroads:

"The Association of American Railroads' Wireless Communications Committee (WCC), which represents the Class One Railroads such as Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, has recommended that any railroad purchasing VHF tri-mode radios for use in the 160 MHz band specify NXDN™ common air interface compliance for 6.25 kHz very narrowband operation. " Link
 

stevelton

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Railroads have already started buy NXDN digital radios. So unless they are just spending money for nothing, they ARE going NXDN. This is the best chioce. Cheaper than P25, and it to can listen to both nxdn and analog at the same time. Ritron has already build and I am selling them for them a clean cab locomotive radio. NXDN digital will work just as well as analog they are using now. You loss a little in some areas, and gain some in other areas. There shouldnt need to be any extra towers built.
Also, nxdn in CAI will talk with any other brand of nxdn radio. SO kenwood can talk to Icom, can talk to Ritron, can talk to Pyramid, to Daniels, ect. At least with nxdn, they CAN build a scanner to receive it, there just isnt that much of a market for it YET, but once railroads switch, someone will build a NXDN scanner. The last quote I wrote for a local shorthline railroad for a digital ready handheld was $695. Where is this $3000 price coming from? A real nxdn radio for 700, and a p25 scanner for 500. At least the radio can be programed with other VHF analog channels for receive only and ham channels for those that are Ham radio operators. And the Icoms can be sold with a programming kit, no special license of permits, no $300 for a license fee like Moto.
Give it time, it will all work out.
Steven
 

DPD1

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There was a posting in a yahoo group that I belong to about the possiablity of the frequencies used by the railroads going digital. Has anyone else heard this? I am looking into getting a handheld scanner. I have the chance to get a BC246 cheap but its not digital and digital ones are, well, expensive. I do have one in my truck that is digital (796D) but all I have around here is the State Police and one fire department that is currently switching over to digital. I don't have a need for a digital scaner for fire or police (yet) and want to use the hand held for mostly trains. Kevin
Don't worry about it... People have been saying it's going to happen any second for years now. It's probably still years off, and even when it does, the main road channels will be last to go, if ever. The new radios have mainly been mobiles, but they do both analog and NXDN. The secondary services would be first to change, not the actual road stuff.

Get what you want and have fun.
 

stevelton

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Yes, if you buy a NXDN digital radio, you should be able to receive any railroad transmission. Railroads will have no need to change there simplex based conventional radio system to anything other than a digital version of the same thing. No trunking, no encryption.

If you buy the radio and have it programmed from a dealer, they wont program it to transmit, so you would be completely legal. But if you buy the programming kit and do it yourself, make sure that all the channels have the transmit inhibit checked.
Check on ebay, I have seen a few of the older Icom F3061 hand helds with the digital card on there. But with the older model, there arent any firm ware updates, so if something changed do the line, you would not be able to flash it to bring it up to date with the other radios being used.

The F3161D handheld and the F5061D mobile are the latest NXDN ready models that Icom makes, and the go new for close to the same price. One copy of the programming software will work for both radios, but they each use a different programming cable.

Steven
 

franks_ham

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Oh boy!

[rant]This topic again?! Seems like it comes up every other week instead of every 3 months now![/rant]

Last I checked all above statements are true. NXDN will be the railroads choice "digital" and from this post on another train site things look good...

NXDN - Good news and bad news. you can read this without becoming a member.

Regards,

-Frank C.
 

karldotcom

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U.S. locomotives that are interchanged or are used in run-thru service have to have a narrowband capable radio installed by July 1, 2010 per AAR rules. I would assume that is true for Canadian locomotives used in the U.S. also. (although, it seem the requirement is just for narrowband, not digital / NXDN compatible) Perhaps they will be on analog narrowband.

No new wideband radio (under 512mhz?) can be sold in the United States after Jan 1, 2011.

U.S. railroads will operate on narrowband by Jan 1, 2013 (as will most users in the US using radios under 512 mhz)

As far as I know, the switch to very narrowband (NXDN) was tentative at 2018, but not set in stone.


Here is the most detailed document I have seen on it, and its from Canada Rail.

http://www.railcan.ca/documents/circulars/1930/2009_06_05_Narrowbanding_QA_final.pdf


That said, with all this MotoBro and NXDN, etc coming out I am not too sure how many new scanners I will be buying in the near future. Heck the railroads could still be operating narrowband analog in 2018 for all I know. I am not sure how much sense it makes for RRs to set up digital trunking sites at their major yards in big cities....unless they eliminate nextels, phones and add a lot of traffic not currently heard on used on the RR bands now.
 
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vicjorgee

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Here in my terminal, the three base radios in use throughout the yard office are now Kenwood NX-700, all three having been placed into service in the last 6 months.

The local managers all now have NX-700 mobiles in their vehicles. Every one of our locomotives that I encounter as I swap out with the inbound crews now has a JEM Communications "tri-mode" clean cab radio on board, with the exception of my switch engine. The JEM radio is a "shell" of sorts with a, in my company's case, Kenwood NX-700 hiding inside of it. ( See the description here= JEM Radio )

Meanwhile, I have been "testing", as my trainmaster put it, a Kenwood TK-290 handheld for about the last two years now, supposedly to see if it would be a viable candidate to use on the ground. Personally, I loved it; very good radio. However, I guess the test failed, as I was apparently the only guy around here that had one. My batteries finally gave up last week and when I went looking for replacements, the boss had none. The only Kenwood batteries available in my terminal were those that were compatible with TK-2180 handhelds, which a few managers and yard clerks are packing around.

So I went to the comm guy to get a new handheld. While waiting for him to decide what to give me, we talked about his recent trips to the local mountain tops and the pile of now empty Kenwood NXR-700 boxes laying around his office. He has been replacing all the sites with the new NXR-700s. He then teased me with the Kenwood NX-210 portable he had sitting on a charger on his desk. He only had that single one, which he has been using to test the mountain top installs.

He then dug out a still new in the box Motorola MT-2000 for my replacement, but promised, knowing my radio geekness, that as soon as more NX-210s started showing up, he would make a point to demand the new MT-2000 back from me in exchange for a NX-210.

So the big change is coming. All the new Kenwoods I have mentioned (NX-700 including the guts of the JEM radios, NX-210, and NXR-700) function three ways, as the "tri-mode" moniker on the JEM radio suggests=

1- Wideband FM, the nice big, fat, 25Khz spacing, analog voice signals, which I having been using in my 13 years playing trains now and railfans have enjoyed listening to.

2- Narrowband FM, the 12.5Khz spaced frequencies, still analog voice, that railroads are required to begin using by 2013, and railfans will still be able to hear, except that they will have to crank up the volume on their scanners or reprogram their radios to make out what is being said.

and 3- Digital FM, the 6.25Khz spaced, digital NXDN transmissions, that the railroads are required to start using by 2018, and that, as of today May 2010, railfans would have to have their own NXDN radio to be able to hear.

Talk is abundant on the net that the RR's are looking at just going straight from the current 25Khz method to the 6.25Khz digital NXDN by 2013, skipping a step and saving the $$$ of having to change twice. That dollar savings is fairly minor, though, seeing as the "change" will mostly mean that us working stiffs will need to remember to use the right channel on the radio. That being said, the infrastructure, at least on my RR, is in place right now in my area, to operate on all three of the above described modes. It is just a matter of changing the current "channel" on the radio. The only exception being that there is only ONE portable that can do it all, and the comms guy has it. Hopefully I will get the next one if and when it shows up.

The extra wild card thrown into this is that, now that PTC is becoming a reality thanks to the Chatsworth Metrolink crash, more emphasis (READ= MONEY!) is being placed on the comm gear that will be needed to make it work. That alone may mean the RR's will delay as long as they can on the narrowbanding issue.

So, the reality is, who knows for sure when, and even if, the RR's will actually go digital. The Feds demand it by 2018. The Feds also demanded that broadcast television be digital by February 17, 2009, but that didn't happen till June 11, 2009, now, did it? And the RR's have lotsa pull in the halls of the Feds. So things can change really quick.

One thing is for sure. If the RR's DO go digital finally, railfans will know it real quick when their listening gear goes silent.

P.S.- Please keep off the tracks. There are many great places to watch me work, take a shortcut to your destination, show the world what a stud you are, etc., without being on the tracks. I can only go one way, and that is on the tracks. I'm way bigger and I will win. Period.
 
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DPD1

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I think what keeps confusing this issue is the 2013 mandate, vs the digital mandate. The 2013 is not that big a deal. It really won't hamper anybody. Yes, they have been replacing with NXDN radios, but those radios do both analog and NXDN. Railroads go through tons of radios, and the fact that some new radios have NXDN, doesn't mean that they will be using that system-wide anytime soon... It just means they saw no point in NOT upgrading with those. The main mandate they're trying to meet, is the 2013, which is not a big deal. Doing the digital is no little thing. It's not just a matter of swapping equipment. Studies are going to have to be done, and there will most likely be some areas that are used as field tests. So it is a huge undertaking, and I would be surprised to see any major changes happening on road channels anytime soon. In yards and stuff, maybe... But not road channels. To my knowledge, they haven't even started using any of the new splits for any road channels yet. So that shows how slow it is.

In my experience, the rail fan community is quite large, and I really don't ever see a time where there won't be some sort of affordable option to monitor, even whenever the digital kicks in. But I don't think that will happen in any large way for quite awhile. But no doubt... The second somebody hears 5 seconds of a NXDN signal in some yard somewhere, we'll be right back here warding off the doomsday predictions. :) Just an FYI... I think it was at this time last year that somebody posted RR monitoring was over, because digital was going to start any day. And I think there was one the year before that and the year before that as well. :)
 

timkilbride

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"...but you will need a narrowband capable receiver in the next couple years."
Not necessarily, my old Rat Shack scanner simply rounded off to the next closest frequency and the narrow band channels still were heard no problem. A commercial receiver will do the same and there is little chance the signal will appear on the edge of the IF passband. You won't have a bleedover problem either since railroads never use first or even second adjacent frequencies.
You must not work for a railroad. Where I work, our channel 2 & 3 are AAR 13 & AAR 14. This is a problem in all our yards when you have two switch engines going using channel 2(AAR 13) & channel 3(AAR14).

Tim K.
 

wwhitby

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and 3- Digital FM, the 6.25Khz spaced, digital NXDN transmissions, that the railroads are required to start using by 2018, and that, as of today May 2010, railfans would have to have their own NXDN radio to be able to hear.
What's your source for the 2018 date? Everything i've read so far is only speculation that the FCC will mandate 6.25 KHz in 2016 or after. However, that's only specualation as no firm date has come down from the FCC. In fact, the FCC delined to mandate a 6.25 KHz transition date http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-271692A1.pdf. They do say that if you want to go to 6.25 KHz instead of 12.5 KHz, you can do so, but they aren't going to set a date right now.

Warren
 
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evolocomotive

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Digital conversion

FWIW, some of the Railfan know it alls on here, once again have opened mouth
and inserted foot, A major Class 1 that I work for is going July 1st..

Obviously I can't reveal who I work, but I will say that July 1st is coming soon...
 
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