Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Discussion related to railroad radio frequencies, railroad communication practices, equipment, and more.

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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby gprimr1 » Tue May 24, 2011 10:13 pm

This sort of behavior is very, very disappointing. People need understand this sort of behavior is what will significantly hurt our hobby.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby oldrr » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:31 am

Those with commercial or ham radios that will transmit on railroad frequencies may want to consider the following.

For self preservation, in other words, to keep out of trouble, I recommend the following.

If it's a commercial radio, program it so that it will not transmit on the railroad channels that you listen to. If worse comes to worse and you need to put in a transmit frequency, put in 154.6 mHz instead of a railroad channel. 154.6 is part of the MURS and no license is required. Do a search on MURS for more information.

I suggest programming the 5 MURS channels into the radio so that you can justify having a commercial radio. More on that later.

If it's a ham radio, recommend setting the transmit frequency to something outside the tx range of the radio. On my IC208H if you try to transmit out of the range o the radio it will displayy OFF.

The reason for doing this is to avoid being blamed for any illegal transmissions.

If you are approached by RR police or a railroad employee the best thing in my opinion is to demonstrate that your radio only receives on the RR channels.

You're not required to but it's a win-win. They don't waste time with you and you don't have to deal with them for more than a few minutes.

If you have a commercial radio and you're not authorized to operate on any frequency, at least having the MURS channels will explain why you have a radio that could be programmed for railroad channels.

It is not unreasonable to use a radio intended for one radio service to listen to other radio services.

It is suspcious if you have a commercial radio that could transmit on railroad frequencies but you have no other purpose for it other than to listen to the railroad.

Mind you, suspicious, unusual, but not illegal.

If you're a ham, you obviously have a reason for the radio. If the railroad channels are programming in and you scan them, if railroad employees ask you about it, it would be good to be able to key the mic and demonstrate that the radio does not transmit on the railroad channels.

If there are illegal transmissions being made in the area, it would be a good idea to demonstrate that it isn't you and if you have the time and desire you can offer to help find the offender.

Foamers, (railfans with more enthusiasm than brains), and railfans should keep the number of the railroad in their phones and plan on using it, not their own radios, to contact the railroad should there be a problem.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby oldrr » Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:50 am

Suppose that you have a commercial radio, the railroad channels are programmed in, your radio will transmit on the railroad channels.

You know better than to transmit on those channels and you never have and don't intend to.

A railroad employee who has been hearing illegal transmissions points you out to railroad police.

They come over to you armed and with power of arrest. The situation could be unpleasant, especially if they confirm that the radio does transmit.

It will be tough to explain why you have the radio and why someone with no reason to have a transmitter that works on railroad frequencies happens to be in area when there are illegal transmission occurring.

The ideal situation would be to explain that you have the radio for it's superior receiver characteristics and be able to demonstrate that it doesn't transmit on the railroad channels.

Having the MURS channels programmed in will also provide a legitimate reason to have a transmitter.

Ham radio ops have a good reason for the radio, it would still be good to be able to show that when you key the mic on railroad channels the radio transmits instead in the ham band or does not transmit at all.

If questioned the ideal situation would go something like this...

RR: Is that a transmitter?
Railfan: Yes, it's programmed for the MURS license free channels on transmit and receive and the railroad and weather channels for receive only.

RR: Is that a transmitter?
Ham Railfan: It's a ham radio, it transmits in the ham bands but receives the railroad and nearby weather channels.


In both cases you can explain that you use the radio to receive the railroad because of it's superior performance and the fact that you don't want to carry both a scanner and a MURS or Ham radio.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby oldrr » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:00 am

There is a school of thought that says that any frequency any time in an emergency.

I haven't researched it so I don't know how true it is. I've heard it so many times that I beleive it probably is true.

However, if you decide to hang your hat on that rule (if it is one) and transmit on RR channels to avert a potential disaster you need to be prepared to defend your actions in court.

Suppose that you come across a grade crossing with a stuck oil truck. You know that a train is close by, you feel that there is not enough time to go through the dispatcher and you decide to transmit directly to the train.

Even if you save the day, you may find yourself in court defending why you did not go through the dispatcher, why you didn't call the police etc.

You may have perfectly good reasons but still it may be expensive and unpleasant to have to go through the experience of defending your actions.

In that case I don't think too many railroad employees would be unhappy with you.

However, if your case is not so airtight or black and white, things may get very unpleasant and expensive.

Except in the rarest of rare cases, having a radio that will transmit on RR channels is a liability, not an asset for the railfan.

Reminds me of when I was a kid, someone through a rock at a camp counselor, I happened to have a rock in my hand, guess who got the blame?
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Freddy » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:07 pm

As a CSX guy I can make this REAL simple. If you're approached by a special agent and he asks if you can transmit, the first words out of your mouth are NO SIR. Then wait and let
him ask the questions before you go into trying to tell him about only having the weather channel,MURS or all the other features your radio has. Some of those guys are real p***ks,
and real short on wanting to hear explanations. And ditch the Mic. If he's gotten complaints about crosstalk and interference you're going for a ride.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Gadfly » Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:59 pm

When I first started on the railroad, I couldn't believe there were people who would DO this! I already related the story about the fella that was "bootlegging" on the Southern Railway freqs. He, like most of these people who are "rabid foamers", was proud of the fact that he (thought) he had some special permission (or right) to transmit on railroad frequencies. I turned him in, the railroad cops came and took him away! What a sad face that boy had!
Most railfans have better sense than to do that!

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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Ken W2KB » Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:48 pm

Gadfly wrote:When I first started on the railroad, I couldn't believe there were people who would DO this! I already related the story about the fella that was "bootlegging" on the Southern Railway freqs. He, like most of these people who are "rabid foamers", was proud of the fact that he (thought) he had some special permission (or right) to transmit on railroad frequencies. I turned him in, the railroad cops came and took him away! What a sad face that boy had!
Most railfans have better sense than to do that!

GF


Any idea what happened after that? Radio tranmission violations can only be prosecuted by the US Justice Department in the Federal District Court. The railroad police would have had to promptly turn the fella over to the feds. Unless the person confessed or was caught in the act, it would be difficult to prove. The FCC typically does an extensive investigation including methods such as triangulation, field strength measurements, analysis of recordings for noise signatures of the transmitter, voice analysis and so forth if they determine to try to get Justice to prosecute. Even for FCC's authority to levy civil forfeitures (non-crimial monetary fines) they usually will have field strength, triangulation, recordings and an inspection of the transmitter.

That said, as mentioned above, the defense of a charge will be very costly to the defendant.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby CarterB » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:13 pm

From my experience as a radio dealer and FCC licenser, I find that if a complainant fills out the FCC complaint forms and states the info on the perp, the FCC will jump all over it, especially if the user interfered with, is a common carrier.
I have successfully done so many times with gypsy cab companies that were interfering, illegally and without a valid FCC license to operate, with airport operations. FCC basically sent out cease and desist, with a letter saying $11K/day/instance AND confiscation of equipment if it happened again. That sure shut em up!!!
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Gadfly » Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:19 pm

Ken W2KB wrote:
Gadfly wrote:When I first started on the railroad, I couldn't believe there were people who would DO this! I already related the story about the fella that was "bootlegging" on the Southern Railway freqs. He, like most of these people who are "rabid foamers", was proud of the fact that he (thought) he had some special permission (or right) to transmit on railroad frequencies. I turned him in, the railroad cops came and took him away! What a sad face that boy had!
Most railfans have better sense than to do that!

GF


Any idea what happened after that? Radio tranmission violations can only be prosecuted by the US Justice Department in the Federal District Court. The railroad police would have had to promptly turn the fella over to the feds. Unless the person confessed or was caught in the act, it would be difficult to prove. The FCC typically does an extensive investigation including methods such as triangulation, field strength measurements, analysis of recordings for noise signatures of the transmitter, voice analysis and so forth if they determine to try to get Justice to prosecute. Even for FCC's authority to levy civil forfeitures (non-crimial monetary fines) they usually will have field strength, triangulation, recordings and an inspection of the transmitter..........................................................................(quote)

I know what happened. The railroad cops picked up the boy's radio(s) transmitted with it on 160 MHZ and it was received by the RR cops own radio. They questioned him on the spot where he sputtered and stuttered and admitted he did it, claiming that a "Mr. So 'n So" on the railroad told him he could do it. They then took him away where THEY filed the appropriate complaint with FCC, keeping the radio as evidence. Bear in mind that this problem had already been happening to us, and the RR cops already knew there was a bootlegging operator out there. The guy was charged by FCC for unauthorized and unlicensed operation of a transmitter and fined (then $5,000).

This actually happens more often than you think, and I will only say this to those foamin' joes who think they have some business "helping" the trains. You are violating Federal law, creating a hazard to the railroad, and violating the Union's Craft and Scope rules. It is a very serious matter, folks! It is NOT like one of those chicken band (CB) radios where anything goes and anybody is welcome to talk. It doesn't matter if Mr. "So 'n so" told you could do it, or some railroad bigshot said you could, it is still a Federal matter. Do NOT do it! If I hear anyone doing that, you can put money on it: I will do my best to find you (in my area) and report you to the proper authorities----Including FCC.


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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Gunsnclapton » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:08 am

I was working a charter for a bunch of mileage collectors this spring. One of them had his radio programed to our frequency. Sure enough, one of them got on the air and gave the engineer permission to move ahead to where he was standing. Our engineer had a thing or two to say to him after that.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Freddy » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:22 am

I won't even get into the Homeland Security aspect of all this,as in fake dispatcher Allah Al Habib might tell a train 'CSX Q678 has permission to pass the stop signal at the North
End of Pelham Alabama according to the rules.' or something along those lines. Basically somebody playing fake dispatcher
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby litz » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:56 am

Didn't someone get caught doing just exactly that with the CTA ?

(trying to play "fake dispatcher", although not from a terrorism standpoint)
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby Gadfly » Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:16 pm

Once again this issue has reared its ugly head. I am told that there was a "foamer" in the area who was talking to the trains, usually at night. He said he had permission from "so 'n so" to talk on the road channel. He apparently did it when Sou 630 came to town a few weeks ago. A few of the train crews *know* this guy and use his first name when he comes on the air. I don't know HOW they caught him, but the railroad cops heard(?) it, or there was someone on the steam train that didn't like it--dunno----but he was paid a "visit" at his home and warned not to do it again.

Let me emphasize: it doesn't matter WHO you think you are, unless you are an employee engaged in actual railroad work, you have NO business whatsover yapping on railroad frequencies! NONE! I can't believe that rail buffs and "foamers" become so wrought up over this stuff they actually believe they have some "connection" to the railroad, or an "employee" by virtue of giving an employee a lift, or something. I mean, you've REALLY got to be seriously dillusional (Mental case) to believe you can do this!!!!!!!

A rail foamer can get into trouble in several ways over this:

1. The obvious one is being turned in by an employee for it.

2. You can get in trouble for violating the union scope rules and causing a "time claim" which costs the railroad money and could get YOU sued in a civil action

3. By creating confusion, even wrecks, by transmitting confusing and unlawful instructions to a train: YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING, NO MATTER *WHAT* YOU READ IN THOSE FAN MAGAZINES, and you are not qualified on the Rules.

4. By violating FRA safety and operating rules in the use of a unauthorized communications device.

5. By using uncertified equipment, often amateur radio equipment, to transmit on Part 90 (commercial) frequencies.

6. Any one of these, or any combination in tandem with each other.

Each of these transgressions can net you many THOUSANDS of $$$ in fines and even JAIL time. The railroad is NOT *your* toy. It has some fascinating and fun aspects, which attracts rail buffs and always has. But it is, when it comes down to it-------NONE OF YOUR BEESWAX, unless you are a stockholder! :) And I must admit, while visiting Spencer recently, I saw some people whom I'd call..............well, *strange*! And you have to wonder if anyone of these were likely to go "over the top" with their hobby. I'm talking about the overboard ones, the ones with the striped overalls and Kromer caps covered with patches, fake pocket watches, red bandanas, scanners, and LOADED with cameras! :) Some of them had a really strange look in their eye! LOL! For one thing, NOBODY ever dresses that way anymore, and if an employee showed up with the striped stuff on, he'd be LAUGHED off the RoW!

Railfanning is, of course, fun, and there's nothing wrong with it, But stay OFF the RR property, and OFF the company radio; you do NOT belong there!!!!!!!!


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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby JWright » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:29 pm

oldrr wrote:Those with commercial or ham radios that will transmit on railroad frequencies may want to consider the following.

For self preservation, in other words, to keep out of trouble, I recommend the following.

If it's a commercial radio, program it so that it will not transmit on the railroad channels that you listen to. If worse comes to worse and you need to put in a transmit frequency, put in 154.6 mHz instead of a railroad channel. 154.6 is part of the MURS and no license is required. Do a search on MURS for more information.

I suggest programming the 5 MURS channels into the radio so that you can justify having a commercial radio. More on that later.

If it's a ham radio, recommend setting the transmit frequency to something outside the tx range of the radio. On my IC208H if you try to transmit out of the range o the radio it will displayy OFF.

The reason for doing this is to avoid being blamed for any illegal transmissions.

If you are approached by RR police or a railroad employee the best thing in my opinion is to demonstrate that your radio only receives on the RR channels.

You're not required to but it's a win-win. They don't waste time with you and you don't have to deal with them for more than a few minutes.

If you have a commercial radio and you're not authorized to operate on any frequency, at least having the MURS channels will explain why you have a radio that could be programmed for railroad channels.

It is not unreasonable to use a radio intended for one radio service to listen to other radio services.

It is suspcious if you have a commercial radio that could transmit on railroad frequencies but you have no other purpose for it other than to listen to the railroad.

Mind you, suspicious, unusual, but not illegal.

If you're a ham, you obviously have a reason for the radio. If the railroad channels are programming in and you scan them, if railroad employees ask you about it, it would be good to be able to key the mic and demonstrate that the radio does not transmit on the railroad channels.

If there are illegal transmissions being made in the area, it would be a good idea to demonstrate that it isn't you and if you have the time and desire you can offer to help find the offender.

Foamers, (railfans with more enthusiasm than brains), and railfans should keep the number of the railroad in their phones and plan on using it, not their own radios, to contact the railroad should there be a problem.


If a ham radio is able to transmit on the railroad frequencies, then it's been illegally modified and that's cause for attention and possible fines from the FCC as well...

Some radios, particularly the Chinese made ones are certificated for both ham and commercial bands. I have a Wouxun 16 channel commercial radio I use for operations at the museum I volunteer for. It will also work on the amateur bands. I didn't need all 16 channels for museum work so I programmed several for Marine VHF and the rest for various amateur repeaters in the area.
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Re: Illegal Use or "Bootlegging" on Railroad Frequencies

Postby litz » Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:04 pm

Going back to the charter trip w/the foamers ...

This is a HUGE problem any time you do a foamer trip ... esp. if it's a rare mileage trip.

You can 100% be sure there will be dozens of radios on that train that can listen.

And that at least a few of those can transmit too.

So if you ever operate a trip like that, be really extra careful 1) about what you say ... and 2) verifying anything you receive.
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