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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 5:02 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9730
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
I have the working knowledge; I just never took the exam because I could never pass the Morse test, and by the time that was waived I had other things distracting my time and money. But I have a lot of time helping out the Baltimore Amateur Radio Club to my credit as well...........

What you're saying is legally true.

My concern is the suitability of the equipment in question to a railroad environment.

Further, there's a world of difference in the needs of Brother Rowlands' small Youngstown Steel Heritage place, the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the Illinois Railway Museum, the Strasburg, and the Grand Canyon Railway, as a bunch of random examples. One has to transmit a couple hundred feet. Another, 65 miles one-way.


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Wed Oct 14, 2020 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Wed Oct 14, 2020 7:59 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1876
Location: Southern California
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Further, there's a world of difference in the needs of Brother Rowland's small Youngstown Steel Heritage place, the Rockhill Trolley Museum, the Illinois Railway Museum, the Strasburg, and the Grand Canyon Railway, as a bunch of random examples. One has to transmit a couple hundred feet. Another, 65 miles one-way.
That is the initial question that must be answered before achieving a solution to one's needs.

How long a line do you have? Then: Is your operation such that you desire (or required) to follow or mirror the needs and regulations of a short line, etc.?

Is your sole need to call your operation base/ticket office to get clearance for the return trip -- so you don't hit a following piece of MW equipment (shades of National Capital decades ago)?

Is your need solely to advise your operation base/ticket office that you have a passenger medial emergency and to call 911 to meet you at some location?

For that matter, it is advisable to invited your local emergency responders (fire, EMT, etc.) to acquaint them to the access to your property/site if they need to come.

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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 12:08 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:06 am
Posts: 229
If credentials are a necessity is well over 4 decades of RF maintenance & engineering in radio, television and some 2-way with FCC 3rd, 2nd, 1st and General phone tickets and Amateur Extra enough?

Good thoughts are being shared in that your venue will tell you what you'll have to have to fulfill whatever expectations you have of a system. Too much money? Reduce the expectations while still being able to meet your requirements. Reduce the $ too far and you won't be able to meet your requirements. Balance, Grasshopper.

If you need something good for more than a quarter-mile and if you don't have someone already in your organization conversant with both the equipment and the rules & regs then calling in pros is usually money well spent.

To illustrate one point, I designed and then shepherded a system through the licensing process as a Railroad Radio system for a 15" gauge organization. Why? Partly because there were some volunteers who told me I couldn't do it. The primary reason was for a properly coordinated and almost private channel practically free of interference except for certain atmospheric conditions. Yes, there are other users of that frequency but they are distanced well away and rarely ever interfere. Many commercial 2-way offerings are shared systems and while transmission crashes aren't terribly common they are possible. If it is a busy system then time of day can turn possible into probable. How vital is it that your transmission get through? That is heavy on the list of requirements.

The fellow at the AAR I spoke with did chuckle a bit at first but understood the line of thinking and was happy to perform the coordination.

Yes, there are many options for communications but how important is the traffic you'll be handling?...........................mld


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 3:59 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 36
Utilizing non type accepted radios or not complying with license requirements can put your organization at risk both from FCC sanctions, or legal liability in the event of an accident.

All organization should include a full communications plan both for day to day operations and emergencies.

Example:

Yard operations during train make up on channel: x
Monitored by operations personnel and stationmaster.
Stationmaster utilizes a consolette and monitors yard, line of road and guest services channel. They utilize three separate consolette radios with fixed high gain antennas mounted on a wooden pole.

All employees are trained in radio discipline and identify transmission by proper require ment eg engine reporting mark and number, train name or ID, position title and last name. Emergency broadcast by stating emergency 3 times, the ID of the station broadcasting and a brief description and location. EG "Emergency, emergency, emergency, Island of Sodor train 17, has undetermined emergency brake application at mile post 17 east bound.


Making sure personnel are monitoring the proper channel and know how and when to transmit or respond allows for a more streamlined and safer operation. For areas with exempt crossing, a DTMF triggered gate or lights can automate crossing flagging, while at the same time provides better traffic control and dies not require Island and approach circuits or have issue with rusty rails.

I do see many shortlines and museums cheaping out and using legacy radios that are not narrowband compliant, this is another case where huge fines can be levied. Leave those old radios in a display case.

Railroad radio is professional radio not something for rank amateur games, and that is a slight jab at "ham" operators that think their cobbled together junk is suitable for a professional usr


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 9:10 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
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I am worried that we're starting to talk a bit past each other, and things will get lost in confusion.

If you are a railroad operation and you intend to operate on the reserved railroad band -- which involves Brother Mitchell's point about equipment robust enough to survive in many everyday railroad uses -- then you will need to know the rules that apply to that use, including changes to them over time (notably in 2013 and coming up in 2025), and abide strictly by them. Unless government policy has changed since the '90s, they will not notify you of changes to the law, but they can and often will find you 'guilty' of violating the law as changed, and as then currently interpreted. The assumption appears to be that everyone can afford to have a good lawyer who stays abreast of every change on retainer.

Personally, I think that most outfits that have a need to use true railroad radio would do well to outsource the design and perhaps the maintenance of their equipment to someone in that field -- perhaps not a dealer, but someone who knows radio specifically. Note that legacy equipment is NOT supported. Read carefully what Bob said about not operating older equipment where it might cause interference to current narrowband equipment. You can't. You shouldn't.

B&S in Louisiana had a very large investment in 2-way Motorola radio for service trucks, needing a roughly 50-mile radius. This included a substantial tower, transmitter, and transceivers built into multiple vehicles. All of this became essentially worthless except for 'collector' or salvage value at a stroke when its bandwidth was reassigned by the FCC ... did it still work? Beautifully. But it would constitute significant interference to fire it up even a day after reallocation.

Organizations that can't afford to run railroad-grade equipment could use one of the other appropriate-range methods, perhaps including FRS, again if they understand and comply with the regulations and restrictions on those bands. The problem is that many people never bother to read up on what those are. I know not one single person who used Citizen's Band according to regulations when going on the air ... not one. In fact I can't even remember what my supposed assigned call sign was supposed to be. Not that the FCC inspectors will probably have the time to get around to every small user of a service like FRS, but let's say you communicate with some unlicensed music playing in the background, which is technically a violation of 'no commercial use' restriction on broadcasting for more than a few moments, and someone complains. Be prepared to answer without advance warning.

Bob's note about established radio discipline is also well to consider. While I doubt many preservation operators use radio as 'safety critical', there will certainly be times that being able to document full safe operation will prove useful ... and not being able to do so perhaps expensive.

Much of the 'local' radio chatter might much better be kept off reserved railroad radio, for example security or 'guest'-related communication. The temptation would be to extend that sort of device to operations-related radio, especially in times when cash is tight. At some point many organizations will have to decide between 'compromised radio' and 'no radio' especially when they were relying on 15mHz or analog-FM 7.5KhZ legacy radios and didn't see the future coming. I suspect that requesting donated services from 'pros' would be wiser than cobbling something together with the assistance of the ARRL.

(My experience is restricted to things like having an old-style radiotelephone 1st-class license (to let me do tech as well as on-air in college FM radio) and as a participant in television-related broadcast standards development.)

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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 12:33 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 36
RCD wrote:
All right how many of you guys giving advice are actually licensed radio operators? Paying somebody hundreds or thousands of dollars for radios for your small railroad if it's all line of sight is a really stupid idea. There are channels on FRS gmrs that you can use for commercial operation what would be a better thing would just to get MURS radios for $25 a pop.

-KC1ICC


I am, an extra class amateur, GROL holder, CETa, Security+, A+, Network+, I was on the rules committee for a class 1 for radio rules, worked with the AAR on frequency coordination, 5 years of field experience as a class 1 communication maintainer, 5 years as a senior telecommunications engineer, I know work outside the railroad industry, thanks EHH, as a senior systems engineer for the most widely known land mobile radio company. Best practices and following the law keeps your organization at the least risk. You are not getting quality radios for $25/piece.


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 12:42 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 36
Rick Rowlands wrote:
Personally I think the days of scratchy limited range radios should be over and replaced with technology such as push to talk cell phones.

An excellent point, though with considerations needed:
First is it needs to be a company issue device for EO26 compliance.
Second is coverage on your line, is it there and reliably so in your equipment.
Third is reliability and mission critical needs. You need to consider cellular cascade failure during an emergency. During the DC earthquake, the cell network was having issues, i worked with the Assistant division engineer to get list of all MoW work parties and used the dispatch radio to contact them to have them start running inspection runs, most of the territory had cell outages for hours due to everybody jumping on at once.


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:18 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:05 pm
Posts: 879
Location: MA
You can get Great Radios for $25 on the MURS frequency. At our Museum one of the HAM radio operators brought in a bunch of HT1000 programed for MURS. My $25 radio is lighter last longer and is easer to use than thoes old clunkers. Four main line railroad operations like Strasburg yes you're going to need to spend money on railroad grade radios with the appropriate licensing. But having some MURS radios around can be very helpful for coordinating ground crew and car host, without licensing fees. And for an operation like Youngstown Steel Heritage I'm sure MURS radios will work good enough. It's not you can always try the 900MHz radios for short-range communication through obstructions but thoes cost big bucks.


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 2:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 36
HT-1000 is not type accepted for MURS, it is legacy equipment that has long since had manufacturer support dropped. Also it requires a legacy computer running a pure dos environment to program the radio.

If some ham hack jobs this together, who is going to maintain it if the loose interest with the group or ground out their mortal coil?


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 3:01 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:06 am
Posts: 229
Bobulltech wrote:
All organization should include a full communications plan both for day to day operations and emergencies.
...

Railroad radio is professional radio not something for rank amateur games, and that is a slight jab at "ham" operators that think their cobbled together junk is suitable for a professional usr


Absolutely Spot On!
I'd failed to include that 15" gauge was not a "club" but museum/demonstration RR entity that carries the public and has a proper radio section in the rule book. That is part of the training and testing of the operating crew or I wouldn't have touched it. We also got a grant and donations to purchase the proper grade radios. Your mileage may vary.........mld


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2020 5:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9730
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Lesson (hopefully) learned:

Don't demand credentials or proof of expertise on this forum.................


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:53 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:05 pm
Posts: 879
Location: MA
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Lesson (hopefully) learned:

Don't demand credentials or proof of expertise on this forum.................

Why? You should prove that you know what you're talkin about. A lot of the people on here complaining about "toy radios" stated they have or do work for companies that make money selling extremely expensive equipment to industries. I don't need to pay an electrician to change a lightbulb and I am certain I can do just as good a quality of a job screwing one into the socket as the best of them. If you're Strassburger or Conway scenic yes you aregoing to need to get professionals to equip you with AAR and FCC radio equipment, although I have seen more and more Baofangs showing up on train crews. Just remember even Amtrak uses the same Radio Service (FRS) for their in train communications as the walkie talkies you can get at Walmart. The same people who say they won't trust their life and safety to anyting but $1,500 Motorola radio will use there $200 cell phone to call 911.


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 5:47 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 36
RCD wrote:
Why? You should prove that you know what you're talkin about. A lot of the people on here complaining about "toy radios" stated they have or do work for companies that make money selling extremely expensive equipment to industries. I don't need to pay an electrician to change a lightbulb and I am certain I can do just as good a quality of a job screwing one into the socket as the best of them. If you're Strassburger or Conway scenic yes you aregoing to need to get professionals to equip you with AAR and FCC radio equipment, although I have seen more and more Baofangs showing up on train crews. Just remember even Amtrak uses the same Radio Service (FRS) for their in train communications as the walkie talkies you can get at Walmart. The same people who say they won't trust their life and safety to anyting but $1,500 Motorola radio will use there $200 cell phone to call 911.


I do work for a company that sells a variety of radios from incredibly expensive to affordable.

I never gave a definite recommendation other than to remain legal and type accepted.

Amtrak OBS personnel using FRS, maybe a violation of operating rules, while I am qualified under NORAC rules as an engineering employee, I don't know the rules for OBS. If this was operating crews, engineering or mechanical I would take them out of service. All employees using common channels/equipment is important for emergencies such as evacuation, I believe this played a role in the wreck on the Bayou Cannot with the sunset limited in 1993.

As my role of formerly being an officer of a railroad, I would immediately take a crew out of service for using a baofeng on duty. This is a rule violation in most operating rules by not using a company provided or approved radio.

I saw an intermodal terminal catch a fine of $15k per radio in 2014 for using wide band radios.

I have used a $200 cell phone that's type accepted for it's service to call 911, I have also used a $8000 Motorola APX 8000 radio to contact fire dispatch to report a fully involved building fire while waiting on hold for 911. I have used a $700 Kenwood NX200 to stop a train with a seized bearing. I used a out of date Motorola p1225 DN to stop a train with riders, the radio while being out of support allowed me to contact the train crew and was type accepted.

So the original poster is getting a frequency coordinated by AAR. Which is great for their operations. Other organizations can use PTT over cellular or MURS, or leasing a commercial trunking talkgroup or conventional license channel or repeater pair, you need to understand your options, have a supportable solution, that is legal and type accepted.

Using outdated or illegal equipment does not make sense for any organization in these litigious times


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 6:37 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 860
Location: New Franklin, OH
I’m watching this thread with interest. In the past, we ran out on the general system so all our radios are Motorola CP200s that have since been narrow-banded. Yeah they were expensive but they have all proven to be quite indestructible over the years. Not one has failed. We still get right at 12 hours on a charge and the range is impressive. The only problem is that they’re not upgradable to digital like the newer CP200Ds. That’s gonna be expensive unless we can trade in our old ones or go another route.

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Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
Car Knocker, Gandy Dancer & Hog Jockey
https://orrvillerailroad.com


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 Post subject: Re: Two Way Radios for Small Railroads
PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2020 7:25 pm 
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Location: MA
Bobulltech wrote:
I would immediately take a crew out of service for using a baofeng on duty. This is a rule violation in most operating rules by not using a company provided or approved radio.
And if the compeny did supply it and or approve it? Serious question and some of these operations are nonprofit and seem to be happy with $25 Baofangs or don't mind there crew useing them. Are UV-5Rs leagle for railroad use?


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