The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

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The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby waterlevelroute » Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:52 pm

Hello and Happy New Year to everyone!
I know spring is a long ways away here in Erie PA but I want to my homework now, with the help of some of you who have done this already. I live along the CSX/NS main lines here in Erie and I love listening to the railroad chatter. I currently have a Radio Shack discone antenna attached to a Pro 2006. Normal range seems to be 10 miles to the east and west with 20 miles in "good" radio weather. My goal is to reach 15 miles west, being able to reach not only NH-Albany but also NI-Indy on a regular basis. I have read with interest reviews of the train tenna, diamond f23h and cushcraft crx150b antennas. My main limitation is the antenna must mount on a tripod on the roof. A-which is the best antenna given that I can receive signals both east and west from my home and B- which antenna is best equipped to stand up on a tripod give the breezy and snowy winters we endure here along Lake Erie.
Also, how difficult is erecting the 2meter antennas and how about cutting them to the 160-161 mhz frequency? Is the difference between train tenna and the 2 meters really that large?
I appreciate any comments and thank you for what ever help you can offer. Lee
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Re: The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby Gadfly » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:27 pm

It's hard to accurately say. It depends on exactly what conditions that exist at your site. With any VHF antenna, you are limited in some ways to line-of-sight which means that hills, water tanks (reflective), even trees (forests) can affect your range. The BEST antenna for VHF (or 2 Meters) is what is called a "beam", that directs a signal in, basically, ONE direction. This requires a rotator and becomes more elaborate. There are several omni-directional antennas such as the StationMaster (not necessarily a "train" antenna in and of itself), and you might want to get a ham radio catalogue off the internet and browse thru it (learn the names of antenna suppliers from that). Remember: you are looking for a VHF antenna, It has nothing itself to do with "trains", but more -it is a matter of the frequency coverage you are interested in. Whatever VHF antenna you use, HEIGHT is your friend, and the HIGHER you can get a VHF omni-directional antenna (Or ANY VHF antenna for that matter), the better you will usually receive. I don't have any antennas specifically tuned for railroad listening, so I can't tell you how much difference there would be from 2 Meters to 160 MHZ. I have a 2 meter beam at 70 feet on a tower, so I can turn my antenna 360 degrees for max reception. I am sure it would work better if it were tuned to 160, but I am more interested in 2 Meters than I am in listening to RR's, tho I do have a scanner antenna on the tower, too, and a scanner if I take the notion. :wink:

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Re: The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby kitn1mcc » Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:29 pm

get an antenna built for VHF only. get some good coax high quility low loss.
you could also step up to a VHF 2-way programmed for RX only to help with RX sensitivity
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Re: The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby wwhitby » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:40 pm

Get an antenna tuned for 160 or 161 Mhz, and get it up as high as you possibly can. Many higher gain ham antennas do allow you to tune for the railroad band (my Cushcraft ARX-2b does so.)

You'll also need quality coax - my current favorite is good LMR-400 type. You may want to either get a good Ham mobile to use as a base radio, or a used but in good condition VHF commercial radio. You could even consider a low noise amplifier, but be prepared to spend anywhere from $75-150 to get one.

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Re: The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby Ken W2KB » Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:56 am

If indeed, you are close to the line and desire to receive signals from two directions mostly on a straight line, you could consider a pair of vertically oriented beams with one pointing in one desired direction, and the second beam in the other direction. There are commercial versions, but will probably be more costly than ham antennas. A 2 meter beam can have its elements shortened to cover 160MHz; the element spacing will not be correct, but not than bad. There are matching devices available from ham suppliers to correctly join the coax from the two antennae to a single feedline to your receiver.

What I described is typical for coverage of linear rights of way such as pipelines, electric transmission, railways, etc.
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 :: Cessna 177B Cardinal N16019
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: My Personal Site
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Re: The Ultimate antenna, with strings attached

Postby dummy » Fri May 07, 2010 12:36 pm

keep in mind if you are close to the lake then you might want to program a few candian freqs for the railroads on the north side of lake erie. the lake is a great ground plane. im currently about 5 miles south of lake ontario between rochester and buffalo and can hear the radio chatter from canada quite often. im using an old beacat programmable 40 ch. one of the first ones out. and a traintenna about 50ft in the air.
can usually be found along the CSX mainline between cp382 and cp393 watching,videotaping or just photograghing trains with my wife and 6 year old son.
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