• Some Newbie Help Looking at used Bearcat Scanners

  • 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 davidns8560

I guess I'm ready to delve a little deeper into my lifelong railfanning interest. Mainly I like to photograph trains. I used to live in the Metro NYC area. I could figure out train movements with an ordinary public timetable. Or just go trackside and wait. There was always plenty of action.

But nowadays I live in Ithaca, NY and the action is mostly freight, and often hard to find. Except for the CSX Rochester Sub about an hour to the north. It seems to be busy most all the time. So I figure a handheld scanner will help. BTW I read the newbie threads. I still have questions mainly about brands/models.

The Bearcat line attracts me. Quite a few used ones appear on eBay.

First I figured I'd go for the $96 Bearcat BC75XLT. But then some reviewers said it's insufficient as an all-rounder because it doesn't get digital frequencies. They say the $213 BC346XT is the cheapest model that does. But now someone says that's not true, either. An honest seller told me the BC396T or 396(XT?) is the best do-it-all handheld. Anybody got a handle this?

Also, will I need a longer antenna than the one these units come with? How do you connect a car antenna to the scanner, if advised?

My goal is to get some kind of a heads up when trains are coming so I can be ready with my camera. And also to find trains when nothing seems to be going on, if possible. I might also listen to aircraft and local police from time to time. Many reviewers say these Bearcats are a little difficult to program. I do have a PC to assist if that's advisable. But even so, how do I determine the specific frequencies I will need for CSX/NS/FGLKS and other Central NYS railroads? Does Amtrak have its own frequency?

Do guys ever try and call the railroads themselves to find out when there might be a movement on a seldom used but known to be active line?

Thanks to all. I hope these questions aren't annoying!

David in Ithaca, NY
  by Aa3rt
David-I received my first scanner, a Realistic (Radio Shack) PRO-31, a 10 channel programmable scanner, approximately 30 years ago so I could monitor my local branchline, then under Conrail ownership. Now I own more scanners than I care to admit in addition to holding both commercial and amateur radio licenses.

It sounds like you are being overwhelmed with conflicting information from different sources. One of the best on line sources of information is http://www.radioreference.com/" onclic ... urn false; You'll find forums there relating to scanners by different manufacturers, different activities (i.e. railroad, marine, aircraft and public service monitoring).

If you're just wanting to start out by monitoring railroads and aircraft the BC75XLT would be a fine first choice. I don't know what the local police in your area use, you may need a digital capable scanner to receive them but an uncomplicated scanner to start out in railroad monitoring is probably your smartest choice.

Pardon my cynicism but the "honest seller" with the BC396XT sounds to me like he's just trying to make a sale unless he's that genuinely concerned with your ability to listen to digital police communications.

A mag-mount antenna on the roof of a vehicle will greatly improve your reception when mobile.

Two dealers I've dealt with recently (In the last 24 months) are ScannerMaster http://www.scannermaster.com/ and Bearcat Warehouse http://www.bearcatwarehouse.com/new-index.aspx. Both have provided exemplary service with absolutely no complaints from me.
  by davidns8560
Thanks for your input and the links. I understand your cynicism, but I have the impression the seller really is honest, because he told me he's selling his Bearcat 346 when I inquired about it, in order to upgrade to the APSCO-capable BC396. If all I'd miss out on is the police, I guess the BC75XLT would be fine. But I think I read that the railroads are starting to go digital, too. Which I took to mean the BC75XLT would soon be outdated.