People are always asking me, “What’s the best scanner for rail-fanning?” Almost any scanner will do from the simple $100 unit to the $500 plus units. A scanner gives you a behind the scenes look inside railroading. If your using the scanner for both public safety and rail-fanning you will need to do your research on http://www.radioreference.com to see if your public safety is using analog or digital, conventional or trunking. These things play a huge roll on selecting a scanner.
If you’re getting a scanner just for rail-fanning a basic scanner will do. Most railroads are analog conventional (non-digital and non-trunking). These scanners are simple to program and they don’t hurt your wallet. I would recommend one of the two Uniden portable scanners BC75XLT and the BC125AT.
My favorite of the two scanners is the BC125AT. This scanner is simple to program, but it has some of the great features from the higher end scanners. Which include alpha tag display, PL Tone programmable, one touch service search, and close call.
With each frequency you program you can assign a name to the channel. Example:
|Amtrak Road|160.9200| this makes it easy to see who’s talking, no need to remember who is on what frequency.
PL Tone (Private Line)
What is PL Tone? These are programmed to block out other user’s or inference, when programmed you will only hear the user on that Frequency and PL tone. Most railroads don’t use PL tones they are CSQ which means no PL Tone.
These are pre-set searches for Maine, Civil Air, CB Radio and so on. The service search I use the most is the Railroad search. This is a huge help when looking for new frequencies. The scanner will scan up and down the listed frequencies assigned for railroad use.
When the scanner is in Close Call mode it will instantly tune into signal nearby. This is a great way to find railroad frequencies nearby. I will use this feature when I’m at a Railroad Museum if I’m not having any luck with the Railroad Service search.
The BC125AT can be programmed by the keypad or by software. Programming through the keypad is pretty simple, but getting the Alpha Tags can be a bit of a bear, you need to scroll through the alphabet. Normally I don’t’ worry about the Alpha Tag, I can always add that later with software. When it comes to computer based programming, you can use the free Uniden software or the more advanced BuTel ARC125 software. With the BuTel ARC125 software you can import Railroad frequencies from http://www.radioreference.com (with subscription). With the software you can edit, add, and remove things from your programming with a few key strokes.
Train Aficionado Railroad Frequency Database
With your help we can make an online source with the most detailed information for rail fanning with a scanner. Our Frequency Database will include the following: freight, passenger, rapid transit, trolley and railroad related museums. – Read more and help us with our database
In the box
- BC125AT Scanner
- Wideband Rubber Duck Antenna
- Programming USB Cable
- Two Rechargeable AA Batteries
- Wrist Strap
- Belt Clip
You can power the scanner using either rechargeable or alkaline batteries. Using the programming USB cable, you would connect an optional USB AC (wall) or DC (mobile) power adapter (5V 1A). Very much like the power adapters you use for your smartphone.
What other things should I buy with my BC125AT Scanner? A carrying case is always a good thing to protect your scanner from bumps and scratches. Something with belt loop or clip that stays secure to your waist. The stock antenna does a a pretty good job, but you may want to get a VHF antenna tuned 150-160Mhz. A tuned antenna will improve reception.
Uniden BC125AT Rail-Fan Package
Please check out this great Rail-fan package from Scanner Master –
“Uniden BC125AT Rail-Fan Package (w/Railroad Guide)”
The package comes with the following:
- Uniden BC125AT Portable Scanner
- Leather Case with easy off/on the belt
- AC and DC Power Adapters
- VHF Professional Antenna (Tuned for Railroad Band)
- FREE Scanning the Railroads Guide
& your local State Railroad Frequencies