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
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)
-- 161.6100 Shared with Marine (Existing railroad users are grandfathered)
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
Frequencies and Links
Related Software Applications
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