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Finding Specific Railroad Frequencies

A great place to start is the RRDB for your particular area. Sometimes, there is not any information to be had and this is where it can be fun!

If you live in the USA you can find all the railroad licenses in your area with a visit to the FCC's website

Next, select one of the Frequency (Range) queries and then enter 160.2150 and 161.5650 for the begin and end search frequencies.

For Service select Land Mobile - Private [LP]

For Radio Service select Industrial/Business Pool - Conventional [IG]

You can then download the results or search them and make a custom spreadsheet with only the fields you want and download it.

As always, be sure to submit any new information for inclusion in the RRDB!

If you don't find it here or in the database, feel free to post a message in the RadioReference's Railroad-Railfan Monitoring Forum.

Amtrak routes and frequencies can be found on the On Line On Track Amtrak page

VHF Frequencies

Railroad radios display the transmit and receive frequency as American Association of Railroads (AAR) channel numbers. For example, these numbers will be referred to over-the-air as "1616" for AAR channel 16 (160.350) or "1180" for AAR channels 11 and 80 in full duplex use (Dispatch transmits on one channel and the train transmits on the other channel).

AAR Ch	Frequency
02	159.8100	Canada Only
03	159.9300	Canada Only (Used by Trucking Companies in the US)
04	160.0500	Canada Only (Used by Trucking Companies in the US)
05	160.1850	Canada Only (Used by Trucking Companies in the US)
06	160.2000	Canada Only (Used by Trucking Companies in the US)
07	160.2150
08	160.2300
09	160.2450
10	160.2600
11	160.2750
12	160.2900
13	160.3050
14	160.3200
15	160.3350
16	160.3500
17	160.3650
18	160.3800
19	160.3950
20	160.4100
21	160.4250
22	160.4400
23	160.4550
24	160.4700
25	160.4850
26	160.5000
27	160.5150
28	160.5300
29	160.5450
30	160.5600
31	160.5750
32	160.5900
33	160.6050
34	160.6200
35	160.6350
36	160.6500
37	160.6650
38	160.6800
39	160.6950
40	160.7100
41	160.7250
42	160.7400
43	160.7550
44	160.7700
45	160.7850
46	160.8000
47	160.8150
48	160.8300
49	160.8450
50	160.8600
51	160.8750
52	160.8900
53	160.9050
54	160.9200
55	160.9350
56	160.9500
57 	160.9650
58	160.9800
59	160.9950
60	161.0100
61	161.0250
62	161.0400
63	161.0550
64	161.0700
65	161.0850
66	161.1000
67	161.1150
68	161.1300
69	161.1450
70	161.1600
71	161.1750
72	161.1900
73	161.2050
74	161.2200
75	161.2350
76	161.2500
77	161.2650
78	161.2800
79	161.2950
80	161.3100
81	161.3250
82	161.3400
83	161.3550
84	161.3700
85	161.3850
86	161.4000
87	161.4150
88	161.4300
89	161.4450
90	161.4600
91	161.4750
92	161.4900
93	161.5050
94	161.5200
95	161.5350
96	161.5500
97	161.5650
--	161.6100 Shared with Marine (Existing railroad users are grandfathered)

UHF Frequencies

Frequencies on the same line can be paired for possible full duplex or repeater use. 452.9375 is a common EOT device frequency in Canada. 457.9375 is a common EOT device frequency in the USA.

452.3250 / 457.3250
452.3750 / 457.3750
452.4250 / 457.4250
452.4750 / 457.4750
452.7750 / 457.7750
452.8250 / 457.8250
452.8750 / 457.8750
452.9000 / 457.9000
452.9125 / 457.9125	Telemetry
452.9250 / 457.9250	Remote Control/Remote Indicator
452.9375 / 457.9375	Telemetry/Remote Control/Remote Indicator
452.9500 / 457.9500	Remote Control/Remote Indicator
452.9625 / 457.9625	Telemetry/Remote Control/Remote Indicator

Narrowbanding (Refarming) the Railroad Service

Many rumors have circulated regarding the refarming of the railroad radio band and whether or not people will be able to monitor it once the changes are made. First of all, don't worry... These changes will progress very slowly. There isn't going to be a point where everything changes in a day, or even a month. It will take years before the whole rail system adopts a totally new standard. Once it does, you will still be able to monitor it. The way you monitor it may change, but it will still be open.

The basis for these changes are the various mandates that the FCC has imposed for radio systems... Their overall goal is to reorganize the radio spectrum so there's more room for all of the wireless equipment being put into use today, and also to try and create more interoperability between various services. One of the ways they're creating more space, is by narrowing the channel spacing in different service bands by splitting them.

The original AAR railroad radio band has a 15 kHz spacing between each channel. Modern technology allows channels to be spaced much closer together now, which creates more channels in a much smaller amount of radio spectrum. The FCC mandates that new radio systems use a smaller 12.5 kHz spacing by 2013. They also want new radio systems to eventually be capable of an even smaller channel spacing, mandating that manufacturers make all new equipment capable of a 6.25 kHz spacing by 2011, and that end users of new systems use a 6.25 kHz spacing by 2018. The new railroad band plan shown below is the one that would be adopted for the first 12.5 kHz mandate by 2013. This plan does not require radios to be digital. However, due to technical limitations for the much tighter 6.25 kHz channel spacing that will eventually happen, that plan will most likely require radios to be digital. It's this second new plan due in 2018 that has railroads experimenting with digital and trying to decide how exactly they will go about the change. Most radios being purchased now are capable of both analog and digital, or they're at least capable of being modified to digital.

So what will digital mean? For now it's hard to say exactly how it will all work. The most important thing to emphasize though, is that this will be a very slow change, and it will most likely NOT include any encryption on normal voice channels. For now, two digital protocols seem to be getting tested by the railroads and evaluated. The earliest one is APCO-25 or 'P25'. This protocol is already widely in use around the US on various civil and private radio systems. However, Motorola has indicated that they don't seem to have much interest in the railroad industry at this point, due to the fact that they've discontinued both the railroad Spectra and Astro Spectra radio models. Also in the running for the new digital protocol for railroad radio is the Kenwood / Icom format called NXDN. This protocol is newer and proprietary to Kenwood and Icom equipment. It's also cheaper to implement than P25. Having a proprietary digital protocol for the rail industry wouldn't be that much of a problem, because unlike civil services, the rail industry is fairly self contained. They don't need their system to be compatible with other services. It's been reported that the big roads have been testing not only P25 but also the NXDN protocol. Which one will be the winner is still up in the air; perhaps neither in the end. As of late 2008, some of the new radio equipment being fielded by the large roads is:

  • Norfolk Southern: Kenwood TK-290 portables, unknown mobiles.
  • CSX: Icom portables, Motorola mobiles and Kenwood portables.
  • BNSF: Kenwood TK-290 & TK-2180 portables, some Motorolas, Kenwood TK-790 and 740 mobiles.
  • UPRR: Kenwood TK-290 & TK-2180 portables.

Motorola no longer produces a dedicated 'clean cab' railroad radio, such as the Spectra or Astro Spectra. Motorola does have the P25 capable XTL2500 and XTL5000 mobiles, but these are not dedicated 'clean cab' style radios. There's basically three known 'clean cab' style radios other than the old Motorolas. They're produced by JEM, Wabtec (Kenwood NX-700s with custom control head), and GE (formerly Harmon). In 2008, Ritron Inc. introduced a newly-designed clean cab radio.

Proceed to Narrowband VHF Railroad Frequencies

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