• Maine Central Radios 1970's

  • Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by mwhite
Does anyone know what make and model portable radios Maine Central used in their cabooses during the 70's? I want to find one for my caboose. It doesn't need to be in working condition. it was placed in a rack on the cupola wall that measures 12" x 3" inside.
  by Noel Weaver
I have to wonder if the MEC ever had radio equipment in their cabooses, a lot of railroads didn't see the need to spend the money considering that the portables in use were getting better and better as the time progressed.
Noel Weaver
  by mwhite
I was told by a former MEC shop worker that they did and that was the purpose of the rack. Unfortunately he couldn't recall the model of the radios, except he thinks they were Motorola. He said they had a telephone style hand piece.
  by mwhite
But you may be right in that they may not have equipped the cabooses until the 80's. My caboose was sold in 1989. I'm not sure what date it was taken out of active service.
There were a couple of possibilities. The Motorola Railroad radios of that era were the Motrac and the Motran. The Motrac had some tubes in it, the Motran was all solid state.

There were two mounting options. There was a "one piece" that had the control head mounted to the top of the radio and a telephone handset fit in a cradle on the top of the whole assy. Usually this was a two channel control head if I remember.

The other mounting option was the standard AAR radio mount chassis with remote head (2 or 4 channel as usually seen in Locomotives).

Both radios could be set to run on 72 (64) volts or 12 volts DC.

Can't remember the model numbers (think they began with R43, maybe if you Google it). These radios were a variation of the standard Motorola land mobile product, factory made with special power supplies and interface for Railroad use.

Fixed hundreds of them for Conrail in the 70's. :-)
  by mwhite
Thanks RRCOMM. I'll check into those as possibilities!
  by mwhite
I spoke to a contact of mine that worked at Waterville Shops in the 60's and beyond. He said they used "Motorola Radio Packs". He said they had a telephone style handset that cradled on top, and that they were battery powered. I think they could have been either Motorola Motorola H23AAC or FHTRU Pack Sets. Does this ring any bells for anyone? Here is a photo of the H23AAC Image. The FHTRU was similar.
OK so it's probably not a Locomotive radio like I suggested.

If it is the pack set you would NOT have power wiring to the rack. Those were the last of the all tube portables, they used subminiature "pencil " tubes like those used in hearing aids and Proximity Fuses. Powered by dry cells. Low voltage filament batteries and high voltage "B" batteries. Only saw a couple of these in my career, they were on the way out at Conrail's birth.

I don't remember seeing any of the B&M guys at the BET radio shop or Billerica still fixing these in the mid 70's but any thing’s possible

In the Caboose there may be an external antenna terminated in a PL259 coax connector to screw in place of the portable 1/4 wave antenna (this was before the era of the "rubber duck" portable antennas.

End of "foggy memory" history lesson :-)
  by mwhite
It was definitely battery powered since the caboose had none. Also, I see no evidence of an external antenna. I read on one site that these Motorola radios had their own antennas and used several different battery configurations depending upon the model and date of manufacture. Once I find the specific model MEC used I want to see if I can purchase one for display in my caboose.

Thanks for the info!
  by Watchman318
The mention of the handset made me think of these: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/549228117030046978. I saw another photo of one with a standard push-to-talk microphone on it. I'm not sure if Motorola called those the "Handie-Talkie," or if that name was for a later generation of "brick" portable.

Back in the early Seventies, I actually used one like that, which was from back when our local police agencies (and MA State Police) were still on VHF Low systems. Being low band (30-46 MHz.), it had a pretty long antenna, the tip of which could be held in a clip on the opposite end of the radio so someone didn't get whacked with it. If railroads had frequencies around 160 MHz. back then, the antenna would have been shorter. I can't recall if it had a handset or a PTT mic or speaker-mic. As big as they were, it might have even had a separate speaker on it, as earlier mobile radios did before all the self-contained/solid-state/miniaturized equipment came along.

I don't know if you might find one like that for sale at a ham radio "swapfest" (flea market), but the MIT Radio Society is having one on 04/17/16. Some clubs in Maine might have swapfests, too.
  by mwhite
Watchman318: Yes, that's what I'm guessing it looks like. Good tip to check out the swapfests.
  by Engineer Spike
I remember in the 1980s a B&M conductor's modern (for the 1980s) radio crapped out. While it was being fixed, they gave him one similar to the one pictured, only somewhat newer.

On some D&H buggies, they had a stand for this style radio. There was a coax line from the roof antenna on top of the monitor. I guess that D&H had these radios, but the car was one of the former Reading ones.
  by mwhite
A friend of mine has one of these radios from the Bangor & Aroostook it is a Motorola Handie-Talkie model H23BAC.