Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by dylan92oakes
 
Does anyone know what runs they're assigned to now?

I've been looking to go get a ride on them, and some shots... but I have no idea when I can see them. I also think it'd be cool to get some shots of them street running in Michigan City.

Also, on a side note... do you know the radio channels South Shore uses if I were to ride out there?

Thanks for your help guys.
  by doepack
 
I recall seeing them recently on 109, the 1435 out of Randolph (er, sorry; Millenium Station) to Michigan City. Don't know if they're still assigned there (hey justalurker, I think you're being paged on this one...) :-D
  by justalurker66
 
doepack wrote:I recall seeing them recently on 109, the 1435 out of Randolph (er, sorry; Millenium Station) to Michigan City. Don't know if they're still assigned there (hey justalurker, I think you're being paged on this one...) :-D
I don't know all of the runs ... the last that was posted was "off peak" without numbers. Sorry.
dylan92oakes wrote:Also, on a side note... do you know the radio channels South Shore uses if I were to ride out there?
Based on FCC information:

# CH1 - 161.355 (AAR 83) Simplex; Birchim to Wagner (Mile 19-53, Porter and LaPorte Counties)
# CH2 - 161.355 (AAR 83) Repeater / 161.010 (AAR 60) Input; South Bend to Birchim (Mile 1-19), Wagner to Kensington (Mile 53-76)
# CH3 - 161.025 (AAR 61) Simplex; Illinois Central (Metra - Kensington to Chicago)
# CH4 - 161.100 (AAR 66) Simplex; Maintenance
All trains east of Kensington listen to 161.355

You should be able to listen to 161.355 to hear anything going on close to you (dispatcher and trains) ... if you are between Kensington and Ogden Dunes or east of "Birchim" (near Rolling Prairie) the trains transmit on 161.010 but listen on 161.355. If they are hitting the repeater you should be able to pick up the train through the repeater along with the dispatcher.

I'm not sure how NICTD feels about scanners on their trains. The headphone rules would obviously apply. Reception of the dispatcher from inside the tin can cars (no disrespect intended) may be limited. I'd probably set the scanner for 161.355 and 161.010 just in case.

Indiana Law restricts mobile/portable scanner use. The issue is radios capable of receiving signals intended for police emergency purposes. In general mobile/portable radio use is banned with limited exceptions.
See http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/t ... 35-44-3-12
(I'd love to find an inexpensive radio that is only capable of receiving railroad frequencies for legal portable use.)

I was about to post a scanner related question ... so I'm glad you brought it up. I've managed to pick up some of the transmissions from South Shore trains but they do not seem to be a very verbose railroad. I'd like to hear from others with experience what (in general) they have heard. I heard a couple trains getting permission to pass through work zones earlier this week but not much else. What should someone with a scanner expect to hear?
  by JLJ061
 
As far as the gallery car schedules, I know they are run on Trains 116, 109, and 211, not sure about other schedules.

On the scanner issue, I have traveled with a scanner for I'd say close to 20 years on SouthShore trains, and have never been approached by anyone regarding them. Of course while riding I do use headphones (common courtesy to other passengers). The law jal66 refers to only applies to possession in private automobiles, unless you have an amateur radio license.
justalurker66 wrote:I was about to post a scanner related question ... so I'm glad you brought it up. I've managed to pick up some of the transmissions from South Shore trains but they do not seem to be a very verbose railroad. I'd like to hear from others with experience what (in general) they have heard. I heard a couple trains getting permission to pass through work zones earlier this week but not much else. What should someone with a scanner expect to hear?
Until the CTC conversion is complete east of Michigan City, eastbound trains to South Bend have to receive track warrant authority between Karwick Road and South Bend Airport, while westbound trains clear their warrants as they pull into Shops.

Back in the day before CTC trains had to notify the Dispatcher when passing Emerson (east end of double-track in Gary), and eastbound trains had to obtain "Form V" clearance at Gary to proceed east onto single track ("All superior trains due at Emerson, E-M-E-R-S-O-N, at or before -noted time- have arrived"). Today all trains still notify the Dispatcher when passing Milepost 75 (just east of Kensington).

Since we're also on the subject, what frequency to the Shops carmen use while switching? While hanging around the Shops a few weeks ago I could see the carmen using their radios, but could not pick up their transmissions on my scanner, which is capable of searching the entire AAR radio band. Leads, anyone?
  by justalurker66
 
JLJ061 wrote:The law jal66 refers to only applies to possession in private automobiles, unless you have an amateur radio license.
Please read the link provided. Amateur radio is one of several exceptions and the law applies to mobile and portable use. "(1) can be installed, maintained, or operated in a vehicle; or (2) can be operated while it is being carried by an individual." (It is an odd law as possession and possession while committing a crime are both listed. With simple possession listed the second reference is redundant.) I'd expect portable enforcement to be light - the state police isn't going to charge thousands of NASCAR fans for using portable scanners at a racetrack in Indianapolis (an obvious mass portable scanner use) regardless of the wording.
Until the CTC conversion is complete east of Michigan City, eastbound trains to South Bend have to receive track warrant authority between Karwick Road and South Bend Airport, while westbound trains clear their warrants as they pull into Shops.
So not much said ... if the eastbound warrant covers the westbound trip the channel should be pretty silent. The other day I heard 18 get permission to pass Birnham (construction installing the CTC signals at the west end of the siding) and report the arrival at Karwick Rd. (BTW: There was also construction in Shops that day.) Later on I heard 22 remind the dispatcher that he had cars to add at Shops. I need a better antenna to make sure I'm not missing calls. I expected more communications - especially on the 11->22 and 15->422 trips where two trains are east of Karwick Rd.
Since we're also on the subject, what frequency to the Shops carmen use while switching? While hanging around the Shops a few weeks ago I could see the carmen using their radios, but could not pick up their transmissions on my scanner, which is capable of searching the entire AAR radio band. Leads, anyone?
The FCC shows an expired license near 154.000 ... I'd expect that they would use one of the three listed above. NICTD's FCC license covers 185 radios and only 120 of those would be needed for trains (two radios in cars 1-48 and one radio in each of the 100 and 300 series cars). That leaves room for some portables and MOW equipment on the license. If they are not on an AAR channel they could be using "family radio service" (unlikely, but Amtrak on board crews apparently do) or Nextel or another push to talk service or common carrier. It would be interesting to find out.
  by JLJ061
 
justalurker66 wrote:Please read the link provided. Amateur radio is one of several exceptions and the law applies to mobile and portable use. "(1) can be installed, maintained, or operated in a vehicle; or (2) can be operated while it is being carried by an individual." (It is an odd law as possession and possession while committing a crime are both listed. With simple possession listed the second reference is redundant.) I'd expect portable enforcement to be light - the state police isn't going to charge thousands of NASCAR fans for using portable scanners at a racetrack in Indianapolis (an obvious mass portable scanner use) regardless of the wording.
Exactly, it's pretty much impractical to enforce a law for simple possession, unless of course you get caught using it for illegal purposes, or it's found in your car. Other than that, I wouldn't worry. I also like to chase fires with my scanner in my spare time and have been seen by cops many times on the fireground, and have never been questioned about it. It all pretty much comes down to using simple common sense.
  by justalurker66
 
I've been listening ...

I put a decent antenna up on my house and ran my scanner into some audio capture software I wrote to catch what it can. I'm close enough to South Bend that I can get the repeater (when used) and occasionally more distant conversations from Michigan City. What I can report is the following:

Track Warrants. Using the standard format eastbound warrants are issued as the train approaches Shops ... usually before the Michigan City 11th St stop. Most are simple single direction warrants ... Karwick Rd to South Bend Airport. The train then reports that they are east of Karwick Rd. To hear this exchange one would need to pick up the trains directly (not via the repeater). Clearing the warrant at South Bend is done by telephone and the westbound warrant to leave South Bend is sent by fax, so one generally doesn't hear those transactions (even via the repeater). I've heard a couple of exchanges by radio when the telephone went unanswered or the fax was mentioned. The most activity will be when there is freight movement getting a warrant to move along the line then clear the main line for a passenger train and passenger trains getting warrants void and reissued en route as freights and extras get out of their way. There are also work betweens (for the freights) and special instructions as "do not pass Karwick Rd" for westbounds that are arriving against an eastbound train terminating at Shops. Dispatchers also stay in contact with trains when they are trying to work a meet.

BTW: Trains are referred to by their number and lead car - 422 Lead 17 - or their lead car if an extra or freight (eg: Car 21 for passenger equipment led by car 21 or 2007 for a freight train or light engine move led by said engine number).

Form B. Workers out working on the railroad. Early in the morning I've heard their radio checks and at the end of the day I've heard them void their lines. I've also heard the direct conversation between the employee in charge of the work zone and a train but that seems to be done directly, not via the repeater.

Other Stuff. The usual ... crossing warning failures, debris on track, failed signals, problems with cars. Reporting problems to the dispatcher and asking for permission (as needed) to pass absolute signals and CP signals that are red. I've heard some conversation about the Amtrak crossing in Michigan City when trains are waiting for a clear signal there.

Old vs New. The licenses for the radio system are set up so the dispatcher could transmit on the repeater input frequency from Michigan City and be heard through both the East Chicago and New Carlisle repeaters. I don't believe that is being used any more. It sounds like the repeaters are being controlled over the fiber optic system with discrete control over where the dispatcher can be heard. I kinda wish they would use the old system because then I could hear dispatchers talking to East Chicago area trains via the New Carlisle repeater ... but I understand the radio system is there to control the railroad ... not for my personal enjoyment.

There are times where I believe the dispatcher has the wrong buttons pressed and I hear him clear a train passing MP 75 or do the morning radio checks with the carman spotting trains on the main at shops ... but that may just be good radio reception. There are also times that I hear the dispatcher speaking through the repeater clearly but not the train ... as if they forgot to change to channel 2. I've heard the dispatcher instruct a train to change channels so I'm assuming "forgetting to change to channel 2" does happen. The train receives on the same frequency whether on 1 or 2 so it doesn't leave the train out of contact with the dispatcher ... it just makes it harder for a response to get back. Direct on channel 1 seems to work pretty good even from Olive (channel 2 should be used east of the west end of Birchim).

There also seems to be some variation in how things are said. Some spell out Karwick Rd and South Bend Airport, some don't. The meet points at Birchim and Olive are referred to by mile post or by name, depending on dispatcher. Despite the inconsistencies the instructions get across. And that's the important thing.


So ... for anyone considering listening - don't expect to hear much unless there is a freight or a problem or maintenance on the line. It just isn't a very verbose railroad. But it is worth listening to if you get a chance and you might get to hear something unique.