• Where to find a radio scanner?

  • 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 Q-LANY
Hello fellow railfans. My name is Calvin B. and I live in Baltimore, MD. I figured since this part of Maryland is pretty much CSX territory, this would be an ideal site to ask this question. I wanted to know where can I find a radio scanner so I'll be able to know when a freight train is approaching a particular section. It seems like whenever I'm not around the tracks, that's when I miss the most action. I'll like to be able to pinpoint rail action on the CSX Philadelphia subdivision along Rt-40 which becomes the Baltimore Subdivision once it passes Bayview Yard. I also live very close to the CSX line that runs along Wabash Avenue underneath the Metro from West Cold Spring to Reistertown Plaza. Any assistance you can offer will be greatly appreciated. :-)

  by CSX Conductor
First off, you can get a scanner at any electronics store, such as Radio Shack.

Once you get a scanner, you will need to program it with the frequencies that you want to monitor.

I am not sure what frequencies you would need for that area, but maybe you can get more info here>>> http://www.railfanswelcome.com/index.html
  by Noel Weaver
In my opinion, there are better scanners than Radio Shack scanners.
My suggestion, send a note to the following outfit and request a current
Scanner World USA
17 Interstate Avenue
Albany, NY, 12205
or you can call them

They carry a selection of scanners and other radio related stuff.
Here is a link to their website:


Noel Weaver
  by Guest
The primary frequencies you'll need are 160.23 and 160.32. I seldom listen because the dispatchers clutter the air so much but you'll hear references to "Rossville" or "Van Bibber" among other things. These are meeting points on the Philly sub near Baltimore. Where you live the line is the former Western Maryland main into Baltimore. Five years ago there were two trains a day each way, one a "rockrunner" usually powered by SD50's and a mixed freight operating between hanover, Pa. and Curtis Bay. I'm sure that hasn't changed.

  by Q-LANY
Thanx a lot for your assistance. I'll be sure to keep record of those scanner numbers for CSX activity.

  by O-6-O
I have a RS Pro-51 scanner and while it's OK if it ever fails I would not
purchase another one. A coworker recently loaned me one of his hand
held HAM transceivers for me to compare and it leaves the RS in the
dust. It is an Icom IC-V8 model and the sensitivity,range and audio are
far superior. Ckeck out eBay or other on line sellers as these are not
much more than a scanner.


  by Aa3rt
CalvinB, I second Mr. Weaver's suggestion-I have dealt with Scanner World as have a couple of co-workers, always with good service and no problems with any order.

They also offer all the accessories you may need. If you're going to be taking your scanner trackside I always recommend extra batteries (rechargeable Ni-Cads) and a carrying case.

Don't know if you're aware of it but Riverdale, MD is a great train-watching spot. On Friday and Saturday evenings well into the fall, there's usually a group gathered at the MARC station watching the parade of trafic on CSX. They even have their own Yahoo group-try "RiverdaleRailfans".

  by Ken W2KB
And I suggest the highest capacity rechargeable nimh batteries you can find and a rapic charger.

  by CoastStarlight99
What does a handheld ham do?

It picks up RR freqs better?

but isnt that for transmiting on short wave stations or whatever?

  by starionwolf
My Icom IC-2100 mobile radio and handheld Yaesu VX-2R seem to be more sensitive than my Radio Shack scanner.

The sensitivity of my IC-2100 and VX-2R is 0.158 microvolts. Compare this to the 1 volt sensitivity that my Radio Shack Pro-64 has. :)

A handheld ham radio can usually operates below the frequencies that the railroads use. The railroads use frequencies between 160.0 and 161.6 MHz. Many hams use thier handheld radios on 144 - 148 and 440 - 450 MHz. Most radios have the capability of recieving railroad frequencies in addition to the weather, shortwave, marine and TV broadcast audio. :)

Shortwave ham radio trancievers operate on the shortwave bands. Some smaller and more portable radios cover the shortwave and 144 - 148 and 440 - 450 MHz ranges as well.

Hope this helps.

  by CoastStarlight99
So a HAM radio can transmit on HAM freqs, and pick up any frequency as well?

  by The S.P. Caboose
Yes, the HAM's can pick up the railroad frequencies. I wouldn't reccomend talk on them for legal reasons.

  by w2dsx
Some Ham (aka Amateur Radio) radios do have extended receive, and if you know what model it is, you can look up on the internet what it can receive. But some do not, and only receive on the band it's designed for, an example being an old "2 meter" radio, which may just get 144-148 MHz. You want something to get 160-162 MHz to hear the railroads, and I recommend getting the aviation freqs as well, which is 118-136MHz. Some radios get only certain modes, such as a aviation radio may only have AM, whereas most other voice traffic is FM. Commercial FM stations are wide FM or WFM, so look for a radio that can do the different modes.

Some Amateur Radio manufacturers make scanners, or receive only radios, and example being one that I use, an Icom Q7A, which gets AM, FM and WFM, and tunes from 30-1300 MHz (cellular blocked, all radios sold in the US are now cell blocked). Icom doesn't make it, but it's found on the net and is a little bigger than a pack of cigarettes.

Poke around in your area for a Ham radio club. Explain you are new to this and they may be able to hook you up with a reasonable used radio. I find that many hams are railfans. Also, you may be interested in getting your license, it's not hard to do, and if you get it, you are probably protected from the anti-scanner laws. I don't know what it's like down there, but in NY they can bust your chops over a scanner but you're off the hook if you have a license. More info can be found at www.arrl.org