Railroad Scanners

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Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Joshua Niederkohr » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:26 am

Which scanners are the best for Michigan and Ohio Railfanning :?: I would like one that is good for shortlines, regionals, heritage units, and steam locomotives. I need one for the Ann Arbor Railroad, Adrian & Blissfield Railroad, Jackson & Lansing Railroad, Great Lakes Central Railroad, Indiana Northeastern, the Nickel Plate Road 765. In Ohio: Wheeling & Lake Erie, Northern Ohio & Western, Napoleon, Defiance & Western, Indiana & Ohio Railroad, Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad, Norfolk Southern Clinton Industrial Line, Norfolk Southern Chicago Line, CSX Willard Subdivision for Republic, Ohio, and Deshler area. Is there any Railroad scanners for smart phones, I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 :?:
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:33 am

You can get the Broadcastify app for iOS and Android to stream the vast majority of online feeds, such as our local SuperScanner out of Grand Rapids.

For a mobile platform, it depends on how much you wanna spend. I recommend a Uniden Bearcat BC125AT...it’s a workhorse which many of us carry and I’ve had mine for over 5 years now. I’ve dropped it, gotten it full of snow, etc and it keeps on going. Decent range with the stock antenna though you could invest in a better one. It scans channels fast enough that you can program all of the American Association of railroad channels into it and scan them all without missing things, so you don’t actually have to know what frequencies are involved in any given area. It’s easy to lockout channels for the sessions as well, in case you get unwanted static or whatever, and also has a hold feature as well. IIRC the model goes for around $100.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Waddy » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:15 am

Yeah the BC125AT is a good one. I got mine for less than $60 of ebay and I bought a Tram antenna with a BNC connector to extend my range. Easy to setup with the PC program too.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:40 pm

I have a Bearcat BC125AT as well. Holds up pretty nice and never had any issues with the scanner when I was in a Kalamazoo. The rubber ducky antennas that come with it are decent enough (I was able to pick up a defect detector on the South Bend Subdivision almost three miles away, so it gives me somewhat advance notice). Here in Lansing, I’m having a little more trouble, as CN comes through garbled, I couldn’t pick up CSX, and I was just barely receiving Ingham County Fire dispatch. I’ve made a few changes as well as updated some of the frequencies, but I have yet to field test anything.

You can read more about it here:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=35367
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:16 pm

NSSD70ACe wrote:I have a Bearcat BC125AT as well. Holds up pretty nice and never had any issues with the scanner when I was in a Kalamazoo. The rubber ducky antennas that come with it are decent enough (I was able to pick up a defect detector on the South Bend Subdivision almost three miles away, so it gives me somewhat advance notice). Here in Lansing, I’m having a little more trouble, as CN comes through garbled, I couldn’t pick up CSX, and I was just barely receiving Ingham County Fire dispatch. I’ve made a few changes as well as updated some of the frequencies, but I have yet to field test anything.

Nick, try programming all 97 AAR channels into two banks, and running both of those banks while railfanning. You won't miss a beat on any channel.

In my experience, so long as you have a scanner (like you do) which can scan all of the channels in less than a second, then it isn't worth bothering over one or two frequencies, trying to figure out what you need. That's how you miss stuff.

Also if you're using it indoors, in a building made of concrete and steel (like most dorms ;) ), you're going to get terrible reception in many cases.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby BL2-1843 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 3:32 pm

Have done that the last two years in northern Ohio, Good for searching, but it may take you 15 minutes to get through all 97 AAR channels because there is somebody talking on most of them all the time. Fun to listen to, but not when you want to know what the next train will be where your at, at given town. Because we know who talks on what channel for road trains and dispatchers at each place we go to, we keep those channels in in on separate banks and just listen to those wherever we are at.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:25 pm

Saturnalia wrote:
NSSD70ACe wrote:I have a Bearcat BC125AT as well. Holds up pretty nice and never had any issues with the scanner when I was in a Kalamazoo. The rubber ducky antennas that come with it are decent enough (I was able to pick up a defect detector on the South Bend Subdivision almost three miles away, so it gives me somewhat advance notice). Here in Lansing, I’m having a little more trouble, as CN comes through garbled, I couldn’t pick up CSX, and I was just barely receiving Ingham County Fire dispatch. I’ve made a few changes as well as updated some of the frequencies, but I have yet to field test anything.

Nick, try programming all 97 AAR channels into two banks, and running both of those banks while railfanning. You won't miss a beat on any channel.

In my experience, so long as you have a scanner (like you do) which can scan all of the channels in less than a second, then it isn't worth bothering over one or two frequencies, trying to figure out what you need. That's how you miss stuff.

Also if you're using it indoors, in a building made of concrete and steel (like most dorms ;) ), you're going to get terrible reception in many cases.


Unfortunately, it's not just inside. I have a tough time picking up CN/CSX trackside too.

Once I field test what I have now (it'll probably be tomorrow), I can make a better diagnosis as to what I still need to change.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:26 pm

BL2-1843 wrote:Have done that the last two years in northern Ohio, Good for searching, but it may take you 15 minutes to get through all 97 AAR channels because there is somebody talking on most of them all the time. Fun to listen to, but not when you want to know what the next train will be where your at, at given town. Because we know who talks on what channel for road trains and dispatchers at each place we go to, we keep those channels in in on separate banks and just listen to those wherever we are at.

That's certainly a valid way, no doubt. What's nice about the BC125AT is that you can hit lock-out on any channel that is transmitting, and then if you restart the scanner, it clears the lock-outs. So if you find yourself in say Chesterton, and don't wanna listen to the Barr and Garrett Sub DS, then you just lock out those channels.

I've actually found it quite rare that I'd had to lock out many channels. Usually I just scan them all, this is Michigan, after all! :lol:
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby BL2-1843 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:50 pm

Is your BC125AT a hand held scanner. My original scanner, a base set Bearcat 210 from 1974 ia still going strong and one of my best ones for receiving even though I have three separate outdoor antennae's attached to three of them. The BC210 will program only ten frequencies to scan at one time, but it too will unlock everything you have locked out when you turn the set off so when you turn it back on they are there again. I like that. My other scanners are all Radio Shack except for one Cobra which is the one in my view when sitting here at the computer. The other four are at various locations throughout the house, to manually be able to control them where I sit or in bed. The fifth is wired for speakers in the basement, both porches, and in the garage so I can go anywhere in the house or outside without missing a scanner conversation as I move about. Don't want to miss anything you know.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:09 pm

BL2-1843 wrote:Don't want to miss anything you know.

No kidding! :lol:
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby hoborich » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:37 pm

I have an old Radio Shack vhf/uhf scanner that still works like new. I can't see the model number, cause it's all worn off.
For a dorm room, they make window antennas that stick on the window with suction cups. Not great, but better than the rubber duckie.
For a vehicle, I tried hooking up a magnet mount CB antenna on the roof of my truck to the scanner, and it works great. It's not cut to the exact railroad frequencies, but still presents more capture area, and is a big improvement over the handheld antennas.
I personally like to know and use just the road and dispatcher frequencies for the area, unless you are turned on by a lot of "Bring er back, 10 more cars, that'll do", just as an approaching train is calling signals on another channel. :P

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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby NSSD70ACe » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:42 am

I just nabbed that antenna. Even if it doesn't work too well on the dorm window, I'll just put it on my car!
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby cbehr91 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:27 am

BL2-1843 wrote:Is your BC125AT a hand held scanner. My original scanner, a base set Bearcat 210 from 1974 ia still going strong and one of my best ones for receiving even though I have three separate outdoor antennae's attached to three of them. The BC210 will program only ten frequencies to scan at one time, but it too will unlock everything you have locked out when you turn the set off so when you turn it back on they are there again. I like that. My other scanners are all Radio Shack except for one Cobra which is the one in my view when sitting here at the computer. The other four are at various locations throughout the house, to manually be able to control them where I sit or in bed. The fifth is wired for speakers in the basement, both porches, and in the garage so I can go anywhere in the house or outside without missing a scanner conversation as I move about. Don't want to miss anything you know.

You have a dream set-up. I have a j-pole antenna on a mast on the roof. It does great. The coax runs straight to the radio in the living room (I live by myself, so I can have it squawking 24/7/365 and no one cares), but I would love to have a whole-home set-up.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby J3rsdm5 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:42 am

I also have a BC125AT, but hooked up to a PCTEL Maxrad MHB5800 on an NMO mount. I anticipated using it on my car, but 99% of the time, it sits on my desk. I can hear clearly to about 15 miles away, then static past that. I called the guy at theantennafarm.com, he said if I don't have a ground plane disk, it will burn up my scanner. Can anyone verify this?
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby Jetlink » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:11 am

J3rsdm5 wrote:I also have a BC125AT, but hooked up to a PCTEL Maxrad MHB5800 on an NMO mount. I anticipated using it on my car, but 99% of the time, it sits on my desk. I can hear clearly to about 15 miles away, then static past that. I called the guy at theantennafarm.com, he said if I don't have a ground plane disk, it will burn up my scanner. Can anyone verify this?


I'm not an expert. There are several on this site however. I know enough to be dangerous. The short answer is no, I do not believe you will burn up your scanner. Here is a discussion. There are two principals at play. An earth ground for electrostatic and lighting discharge and a ground plane for polarized radio wave detection. It gets a little confusing between the two.


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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby cbehr91 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:07 pm

No. You don't transmit with a scanner. Poor ground plane will, however, hurt your reception if you're using an antenna that needs one, which you are.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby J3rsdm5 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:33 pm

cbehr91 wrote:No. You don't transmit with a scanner. Poor ground plane will, however, hurt your reception if you're using an antenna that needs one, which you are.

Excellent, I have ordered one. Thank you!
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby cbehr91 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:21 pm

J3rsdm5 wrote:
cbehr91 wrote:No. You don't transmit with a scanner. Poor ground plane will, however, hurt your reception if you're using an antenna that needs one, which you are.

Excellent, I have ordered one. Thank you!

You don't necessarily need an industry ground plane disc. If it saves you a few bucks just get the largest pie plate or pizza pan you can readily find. 20" diameter give or take a couple inches would be best. Also, did you trim your antenna to a desired frequency? That will also help.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby J3rsdm5 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:04 pm

cbehr91 wrote:
J3rsdm5 wrote:
cbehr91 wrote:No. You don't transmit with a scanner. Poor ground plane will, however, hurt your reception if you're using an antenna that needs one, which you are.

Excellent, I have ordered one. Thank you!

You don't necessarily need an industry ground plane disc. If it saves you a few bucks just get the largest pie plate or pizza pan you can readily find. 20" diameter give or take a couple inches would be best. Also, did you trim your antenna to a desired frequency? That will also help.

I haven't yet trimmed it; unfamiliar with the process. I'm sure there's documentation somewhere I can get started with.
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Re: Railroad Scanners

Unread postby trnwatcher » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:41 pm

I used to run a web feed of the RR freq's in and around GR. Had a Bearcat desktop scanner hooked to a DPD Productions antenna. I had about a 15 mile radius on the reception. Antenna was about 18 feet off the ground. I used the DPD because it used the lighting ground as the ground pole. Unfortunately the entire set up was taken down 2 years ago when my condo assocation rebuilt my desk. The GR area supperscanner was just weeks away from going live so I never put mine back up.

On the handheld side i have a 200 channel (10 banks of 20 freqs) that I use for moile scanning. I have each bank set up for certain areas, I.E. one bank is for the GR area, one for NW Indiana, one for Detroit, etc. My other handheld is a 100 channel and I just have all the AAR freqs programmed in there and let it run through them all. It does get really chatty around Detroit, Chicago, etc but here in West MI the worst thing I have discovered is bouce from across the lake.
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