Handheld railroad scanner - recommendations?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Jet Peddler, Apr 11, 2019.

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  1. Apr 11, 2019 #1

    Jet Peddler

    Jet Peddler

    Jet Peddler

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2018
    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    Texas
    Looking to buy a handheld railroad scanner to take on Amtrak trips. Looking for something of decent quality but don't want overkill or something that will break the bank.

    Any thoughts, experience or recommendations on which ones to look at?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Apr 11, 2019 #2

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2004
    Messages:
    559
    Location:
    QB 101
    I'm partial to Yaesu products. I replaced my ancient Radio Shack scanner with a Yaesu FT-60. It's a ham radio/scanner that can transmit in the ham radio frequency range, 140-144, give or take. I'm not a ham, so I can't use it to transmit anyway.

    Regardless of which brand you buy, buy one that has a 'matched' programming program to go with it. RT-Systems has one for every Yaesu out there, from what I can tell. The extra $40 or so for the programming software is well worth the investment.

    Like you, my primary use for the scanner is while riding Amtrak. In fact, at the moment, I'm spending a night in hotel in Portland OR as the 4th night of a 12 day, 9500 mile Amtrak joy ride (9 nights in a roomette) mostly on AGR points. Using the RT-Systems program, I easily entered all AAR radio frequencies on their respective channel numbers. Then, I have 10 frequency lists (in memory 'banks' (eg, spread sheet columns) for each Amtrak route. It's like a spreadsheet where each row is an AAR channel number, and each column that has an X in it means that bank (column) will stop on that frequency when it's transmitting. I actually built an MS Excel spreadsheet which currently has 14 columns on it, one for each Amtrak route. I then swap in/swap out column 10 whenever I need one of those routes on the spread sheet, print it, then bring up the RT-Systems program, plug in my channel numbers for the 'new' route, and with a couple of clicks, download it all to the scanner.

    Is the Yaesu an overkill for a run of the mill railfan? Perhaps. But the ease of programming it is light years ahead of manually entering each frequency one digit at a time like my old Radio Shack.

    There's a number of RR frequency 'tuned' antennas available that cover the 160-161 range of frequencies. The $20 or so spent buying one of those is well worth the money as they'll almost double the range your radio can receive.
     
  3. Apr 11, 2019 #3

    andytiedye

    andytiedye

    andytiedye

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    It's really easy to get a license, if you ever want to make full use of that fine radio you have. The ARRL and other organizations organize classes and exams.

    KC1IP
     
  4. Apr 12, 2019 #4

    piedpiper

    piedpiper

    piedpiper

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    May 2, 2007
    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    look for a scanner that has at least 200 channel memories in 10 banks - that way you can program the 8 major Amtrak routes and have 2 banks of 10 left for your smaller route trips - I use a Radio Shack PRO-60
     

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