Why Play Radio… 

 

For about 50 years or so, rail fans have used radio scanners to listen to the railroad frequencies in the land mobile FM portion of the 137-174 MHz band.  The railroad frequencies are right below the National Weather Service 162 MHz frequencies and can be found in the 159 to 161 MHz range.

Because the land mobile band is close to the Amateur Radio two-meter band, and many amateur radio transceivers can receive the Weather Service band, those transceivers are capable of listening in on the land mobile frequencies.  You cannot transmit, but you can listen.

 

The other evening I was at local rail fan spot waiting on a Norfolk Southern heritage unit.   Some other fans arrived.  I have noticed this before, but it was especially obvious that evening.  One of them was using a cell phone and a scanning app.  I do not know which one, but Broadcastify is a common app.  They have receivers and capture the radio traffic and put it on the internet where it can be accessed via an app or website.   There is a time lag as all this happens.  My amateur radio receiver, set to 160.980 MHz FM, would pick up something.  About a minute later the nearby cell phones would begin making noise and we’d hear the same conversation again. 

 

I have spent well over 30 years in pursuit of the perfect “scanner”.  I think I have almost found it…and used it for many years now.  But I am still slightly amused when I see someone rolling in and they sort of look down on this “old guy clinging to his outdated technology”.  Then they are amazed when I hear stuff they have not heard yet.

 

Radio is cool!

 

For more articles on two-meters amateur radio, railroad frequency lists, and related topics follow the trail to

 

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

Explore the content behind the GENERAL INTEREST TOPICS heading.

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

“… I am still slightly amused when I see someone rolling in and they sort of look down on this “old guy clinging to his outdated technology”.  Then they are amazed when I hear stuff they have not heard yet.”

Photograph (headshot) of ham radio operator KB3PQT.

Frank, KB3PQT

Rail Fan and
Amateur Radio Operator

 

Morse Code Telegraphy History

A ham radio friend shared this information with me via email.  While reading, I found the original source of several morse code shortcuts that are commonly used by ham radio operators.  Hams call these shortcuts “prosigns”.

The information seems to have originated from the winfldigi group.io forum.  Those are the people who should be credited with providing and sharing the knowledge reproduced below.


First, let’s look at the history of the prosign “AA” (di-dah-di-dah).  Those above a certain age may recall when it was common practice to place a comma after each line of an address, or so it was taught in many one-room school houses.  This practice, of course, long ago fell by the wayside.  

When the nascent telegraph industry began developing standards for transmitting telegrams, they imported this then standard practice.  It had the added benefit of acting as a prosign indicating where the address or signature line ended.  Because the telegraph industry in North America used the original American Morse Code, the American Morse Code comma was used for this purpose (di-dah-di-dah).  

When wireless telegraphy first emerged, American Morse was commonly used for radio communications.  As a matter of fact, for the first decade of the 20th century, American Morse Code was the standard on the Great Lakes and for many coastal steamship companies.  The reasons are obvious; there were plenty of well trained telegraph operators around. all of whom were proficient in the American Morse Code.  Of course, eventually, the Continental Code (International Morse) was adopted as standard for maritime communications due to it’s international nature, issues of safety of life at sea, and so on.  However, many of the earlier telegraph procedures were imported into commercial wireless telegraphy and Amateur Radio.  Here are some prosign examples:

 

AR (di-dah-di-dah-dit) is actually “FN” in American Morse Code representing “FINISHED.”  This was sent at the end of a telegram, and it continues to be used at the end of ham radio transmissions, which are essentially telegrams themselves which are just part of a conversation or group of message exchanges.

 

SK (di-di-di-dah-di-dah) is actually “30” in American Morse Code.  In the Western Union wire codes, “30” represented “close of work.” It was commonly sent at the end of press stories, at the conclusion of transmitting a file of telegrams, or similar practices.  Hams today use it to indicate the conclusion of a QSO in much the same way.

 

ES (dit di-di-dit) is actually the ampersand (&) in American Morse Code.  Like many American Morse characters, it has an internal space, which is slightly shorter in timing than that used between individual characters.  In this respect, it shares this characteristic with other Morse characters having internal spaces, such as C, R, Y, Z and O.

 

One still occasionally hears hams use the Morse letter “C” (di-di  dit) to ask if a frequency is in use or to indicate it’s in use.  

 

…..and so on.  

 

So, when radio amateurs began handling message traffic, they simply imported the techniques of commercial operators and adopted the “AA” prosign, or American Morse comma to indicate the end of a line in an address.  

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