• Radios Aboard Amtrak

  • Discussion related to railroad radio frequencies, railroad communication practices, equipment, and more.
Discussion related to railroad radio frequencies, railroad communication practices, equipment, and more.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by Richard Y
I recently got back from a round-trip from Calif up to Whitefish, Montana. Took the Coast Starlight up to Portland, then the Empire Builder from Portland to Whitefish, the next day.
I am curious if others have taken along various radios on their Amtrak trips. I took a 2 meter hand-held, little Grundig FR 200 SW & AM/FM radio, and a "rocket radio" crystal set! (As you expect, couldn't work anything with the crystal set, but does pick up a few stations by attaching to water pipes, etc, and other grounded structures).
I worked quite a few repeaters on 2 meters. Best one was in Corvalis, Oregon, which covered a range up to southern Washington and northern Calif.
The Grundig radio was interesting. I had a delux bedroom, so could try a little shortwave and AM DX'ing by holding the radio up to the window.
A few shortwave stations came in..heard Gene Scott in the 5 mHz area. Also heard a few other (mostly religious) broadcast stations.
AM radio was the most challenging. The stretch between Hood River, Oregon and Spokane, Wash turned out to be the hardest to pick up local AM stations. I did pick up a strong stn in Vancouver, BC, another one ("Midnight Trucking Network") out of a very strong station in Boise, ID, and KSL in Salt Lake City. I could listen to the "Coast-toCoast" program (with George Nooray/Art Bell) from Portland all the way back to Calf (on stations in Portland, Eugene, Klamath Falls, Reno, Nev, and Sacramento, Calif. Was not able to pick up any "Coast to Coast" affilliates in the stretch from Hood River to Spokane.
Did not mean to ramble on. I would be interested in other forum member's experience in radio dx'ing aboard Amtrak.
Dick/ WA6ZFM

  by kr4bd
In 1999, my family and I traveled on Amtrak from Chicago to Portland, OR on the Empire Builder: Then Portland to Emeryville, CA on the Coastal Starlight and then back to Chicago on the California Zephyr. It was a most pleasant experience as all of us are "train buffs". However, I would not recommend such a trip if you are the "antsy" type that is always in a hurry, like my old boss who got impatient on 2 hour jet flights where he could not use a telephone! We were frequently delayed by one thing or another, including "slow orders" across Montana for extremely (high) outside temperatures. We were several hours late getting to Portland but the trip to Emeryville was pretty much "on time".

My wife and two sons are also hams. So, we all had our two meter HTs so we could communicate with each other on the train. I also had a scanner tuned to what was happening along the way. This was in 1999 (pre-9/11) so I am not sure if they would allow the two meter radios to be used today. The conductors were not concerned about the radio use. In fact, I encountered others on the train using scanners and even gave one guy the two meter frequency my family used for our communications.

Prior to the trip, I researched railroad frequencies to monitor on the internet and found that information to be very helpful.

Tom, KR4BD

  by w2dsx
Sounds like a beautiful train ride coupled with some SWL'ing... I'm jealous!

It's been awhile since I did something similar, but do regular commuting on the LIRR and Metro-North in the NYC area. I usually can't do anything related to non-FM as the railroads are mostly electric trains with alot of noise/hash wiping out weak signals, especially with third rail DC equipment. The area just got new equipement that runs off of third rail but uses AC traction motors, and I can hear them on 6 meters as they go through my neighborhood. I thought it would be worse on Metro-North's New Haven line with their use of 12KV AC catenary, but it's not bad, unless there's ice on the wire causing momentary loss of contact with the pantograph. Otherwise, I just use FM - 2m or 70cm...

73, Jim w2dsx

  by va3ori
I've taken along a scanner and a handy-talkie, but never a receiver capable of shortwave reception. I can't really imaging wanting to listen to Gene Scott ANYWHERE, much less whilst riding a train! :D

vy 73, Ori

  by Richard Y
A number of years ago, we used to get Gene Scott, 24hrs a day, on a religious channell on TV cable. At that time, he had just been through a legal entanglement with, if I recall, the Internal Revenue Service (might have been the FCC). As a form of celebration over winning his legal case witb the IRS, he brought out some 1-2 ft tall "wind-up" monkeys, and had them scattered all over the floor. The monkeys were run on batteries, and they would strut around with their jaws flapping up and down. Each little monkey was wearing a T-shirt, with "IRS BUREAUCRAT" written on the front of each T-shirt. Gene Scott then proceded to hit each of the monkeys, over the head, with a large wooden mallet. Not your average fare for a TV preacher.
Gene Scott is a brilliant man and really knows his bible. But like you, Ori, if invited to join his chuch I would run in the other direction at full speed.
I think I worked Gene Scott, quite easily, on shortwave because he is on at least 3 frequencies between 5.0 mHz and 6.5 mHz. I did not pick up a whole lot of SW stations, however. The little Grundig radio was ok for shortwave, but it's only a $45.00 radio, so it has its limitations. I believe the Sangean ATS 909 has come way down in price, so might consider one for the next Amtrak trip.


  by Aa3rt
I am the trustee for the W3BPT (146.85) repeater in Blossom Point, MD. The repeater covers Charles County, MD and does well into northern Virginia, especially the stretch of former RF&P trackage between Washington, DC and Fredericksburg, VA from Stafford to Quantico.

On a couple of (very) rare occasions, I've had QSOs with hams on Amtrak trains passing through this area. If you ever find yourself travelling this way, give me a shout! 73, de AA3RT
  by bingdude
I have listened with a walkman on NEC trains, both under the caternary and not. In general if you get the radio as close to the window as possible you can get acceptable AM and probably SW reception. In fact, one guy I used to see brought along a suction cup and looped the slack of his headphone cord through it (on some units that is the antenna--especially on FM).

One thing to note on commuter trains, particularly the LIRR, they generate RF. Lots of it. I have heard whines and whistles on my CAR radio on the AM band while waiting at grade crossings when a diesel LIRR train passes by. Same noise I hear all over the AM band when on board. Never found out what generates it, but it isn't 3rd rail as these trains were out of 3rd rail territory.

I wonder if those cars have an FCC part 15 exemption?? :-)