Main Top Banner



 


Railroad Frequencies: New Digital Radio Plan

TrainTenna LP Antenna The railroad frequency lists are broken down into the six sections shown below. Clicking on each link will take will take you to a new page.

Please take a moment to check out our line of "TrainTenna" Rail Band Radio Antennas. DPD Productions TrainTenna antennas are designed specifically for the railroad radio band.
New Plan


The Railroad Radio Band for the Future

Many rumors have circulated regarding the "re-farming" of the railroad radio band and whether or not people will be able to monitor it once the changes are made. First of all, don't worry... These changes will progress very slowly. There isn't going to be a point where everything changes in a day, or even a month. It will take years before the whole rail system adopts a totally new standard. Once it does, you will still be able to monitor it. The way you monitor it may change, but it will still be open.

The reason for these changes are the various mandates that the FCC has imposed for radio systems... Their overall goal is to reorganize the radio spectrum so there's more room for all of the wireless equipment being put into use today, and to also try and create more interoperability between various services. One of the ways they're creating more space, is by narrowing the channel spacing in different service bands, by splitting them...

The original AAR railroad radio band has a spacing of 25 kHz for it's channels. Modern technology allows channels to be spaced much closer together now, which creates more channels in a much smaller amount of radio spectrum. The FCC mandates that new radio systems go from 25 kHz channels to smaller 12.5 kHz channels by 2013 (step spacing will go from 15 kHz to 7.5 kHz). The rail industry itself created it's own mandate to make this happen by July, 2010. It is unknown how seriously the industry will follow this. The FCC also wants new radio systems to eventually be capable of an even smaller channel spacing, mandating that manufacturers make all new equipment capable of a 6.25 kHz channel by 2011, and that end users of new systems use a 6.25 kHz channel by 2018 (time not set in stone). The new railroad band plan with the first 12.5 kHz mandate by 2013 does not require radios to be digital. However, due to technical limitations for the much tighter 6.25 kHz channel spacing that will eventually happen, the 6.25 kHz plan will require radios to be digital. It's this second new plan due around 2018 that has railroads experimenting with digital and trying to decide how exactly they will go about making the change. Most new radios being purchased now are capable of both analog and digital, or they're at least capable of being modified to digital. Recently the FCC has recommended that the rail industry skip over the 2013 mandate altogether and just start shooting for the 6.25 kHz standard. Some of the larger railroads have decided to start working on this by replacing radios with new models capable of doing both analog and 6.25 kHz digital. This however does NOT mean things are going digital anytime soon... It just means they're starting to replace equipment. Remember, all radios in a large area have to be capable of the new protocol before it can be used, including track-side transmitter sites. This takes a lot of time and money.

What will digital mean? For now it's hard to say exactly how it will all work. There is talk of trunking and other possibilities in the new plan. The most important thing to emphasize though, is that this will be a very slow change, and it will most likely NOT include any encryption on normal voice channels. Early on, the APCO-25 or 'P25' protocol was being tested for use as the standard in the rail industry. However, Motorola has indicated that they don't seem to have much interest in the railroad industry at this point, due to the fact that they've discontinued both the railroad Spectra and Astro Spectra radio models. It now appears that the standard digital protocol for railroad radio will probably end up being the new Kenwood / Icom format called NXDN (Sometimes referred to as IDAS by Icom). This protocol is proprietary to Kenwood and Icom equipment. It's also cheaper to implement than P25. Having a proprietary digital protocol for the rail industry wouldn't be that much of a problem, because unlike civil services, the rail industry is fairly self contained... They don't need their system to be compatible with other services. It's been reported that the big roads have been starting to replace mobile radios with NXDN capable radios. As of 2008-2009, some of the new radio equipment being fielded by the large roads is as follows:

Norfolk Southern: Kenwood TK-290 portables, unknown mobiles.
CSX: Icom portables, Motorola mobiles and Kenwood portables.
BNSF: Kenwood TK-290 & TK-2180 portables, some Motorolas, Kenwood TK-790 & 740 mobiles. 
UPRR: Kenwood TK-290 & TK-2180 portables.
P&W, MBTA & Amtrak (nationwide): Icom F5061 mobile and the F3161 portable.

Motorola no longer produces a dedicated 'clean cab' railroad radio, such as the Spectra or Astro Spectra. Motorola does have the P25 capable XTL2500 and XTL5000 mobiles, but these are not dedicated 'clean cab' style radios. There's basically four known 'clean cab' style radios other than the old Motorolas, and they're produced by JEM (Kenwood/Icom electronics), Wabtec (refurbished Motorolas), GE (formerly Harmon), and Riton, who is manufacturing a NXDN capable model.

So what does this mean for railroad monitoring? As radios are replaced with 12.5 kHz and/or 6.25 kHz capable radios, there will probably be some new 12.5 kHz channels slowly popping up... Most likely secondary channels used by yards, MoW, PD and so on. It's unlikely the actual road radio systems will be turned upside down, just because new channels are available. Most scanners will still be able to hear the new 12.5 kHz channels. As more equipment is replaced with 6.25 kHz equipment, both in the locomotives and at transmitter sites, it can be surmised that certain sections of lines may slowly start switching from analog to digital. Since the radios will be able to do both, it won't be an issue for crews to switch over while traveling through different areas. But it is very unlikely this will happen anytime soon. The mandate to use 6.26 kHz is years off, and there is no logical reason for the railroads to spend millions of dollars to change all their systems along the entire right-of-way overnight. By the time it does change, there's a chance NXDN may start showing up in scanners. It all depends on how popular the protocol becomes and how much scanner buyers ask for it. So start pestering the scanner companies now. Worse case scenario, you would be able to buy a commercial radio to listen. So the sky isn't falling! Have fun listening.

Below is a table based on the last rail band plan information released by the FCC.



Future Railroad Band Plan as of 2012

This plan was released in 2012 and is probably subject to change over the next few years. The first White column shows the original RR channel plan. The second Gray column shows the 12.5 kHz channel plan mandated by 2013. The third Red column shows the 6.25 kHz channel plan that will eventually happen. The "Assignments" column shows how channels would be organized, including blocks of channels that could be grouped by area, trunking system, or in other ways. The last column to the right indicates a 'C' if it would be dedicated to Canadian use near the border, or an 'A' if it would be dedicated to US use near the border. The color codes match the trunked channel blocks.

Original 25 kHz
Plan (Now)
12.5 kHz
Plan (2013)
6.25 kHz
Plan (20??)
New Plan Assignments
CH #
(MHz)
CH #
(MHz)
CH #
(MHz)
02
159.810
None
None
None
None
(Canada Only) Not Included in New Plan
C
03
159.930
None
None
None
None
(Canada Only) Not Included in New Plan
C
04
160.050
None
None
None
None
(Canada Only) Not Included in New Plan
C
   
104
160.1775
302
160.1775
(Canada Only) Simplex
C
05
160.185
005
160.185
303
160.185
(Canada Only) Simplex
C
   
105
160.1925
304
160.1925
(Canada Only) Simplex
C
06
160.200
006
160.200
305
160.200
(Canada Only) Simplex
C
   
106
160.2075
306
160.2075
(Canada Only) Simplex
C
07
160.215
007
160.215
307
160.215
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
107
160.2225
308
160.2225
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 1)
C
08
160.230
008
160.230
309
160.230
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
108
160.2375
310
160.2375
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 2)
A
09
160.245
009
160.245
311
160.245
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
109
160.2525
312
160.2525
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
10
160.260
010
160.260
313
160.260
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
110
160.2675
314
160.2675
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
11
160.275
011
160.275
315
160.275
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
111
160.2825
316
160.2825
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
12
160.290
012
160.290
317
160.290
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
112
160.2975
318
160.2975
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
13
160.305
013
160.305
319
160.305
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
113
160.3125
320
160.3125
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 1)
C
14
160.320
014
160.320
321
160.320
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
114
160.3275
322
160.3275
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 2)
A
15
160.335
015
160.335
323
160.335
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
115
160.3425
324
160.3425
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
16
160.350
016
160.350
325
160.350
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
116
160.3575
326
160.3575
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
17
160.365
017
160.365
327
160.365
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
117
160.3725
328
160.3725
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
18
160.380
018
160.380
329
160.380
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
118
160.3875
330
160.3875
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
19
160.395
019
160.395
331
160.395
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
119
160.4025
332
160.4025
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 1)
C
20
160.410
020
160.410
333
160.410
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
120
160.4175
334
160.4175
Base Transmit (Trunked P) (Police)
A
21
160.425
021
160.425
335
160.425
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
121
160.4325
336
160.4325
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
22
160.440
022
160.440
337
160.440
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
122
160.4475
338
160.4475
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
23
160.455
023
160.455
339
160.455
Base Transmit (Trunked P) (Police)
C
   
123
160.4625
340
160.4625
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
24
160.470
024
160.470
341
160.470
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
124
160.4775
342
160.4775
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
25
160.485
025
160.485
343
160.485
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
125
160.4925
344
160.4925
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 1)
C
26
160.500
026
160.500
345
160.500
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
126
160.5075
346
160.5075
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 2)
A
27
160.515
027
160.515
347
160.515
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
127
160.5225
348
160.5225
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
28
160.530
028
160.530
349
160.530
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
128
160.5375
350
160.5375
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
29
160.545
029
160.545
351
160.545
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
129
160.5525
352
160.5525
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
30
160.560
030
160.560
353
160.560
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
130
160.5675
354
160.5675
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
31
160.575
031
160.575
355
160.575
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
131
160.5825
356
160.5825
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 1)
C
32
160.590
032
160.590
357
160.590
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
132
160.5975
358
160.5975
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 2)
A
33
160.605
033
160.605
359
160.605
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
133
160.6125
360
160.6125
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
34
160.620
034
160.620
361
160.620
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
134
160.6275
362
160.6275
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
35
160.635
035
160.635
363
160.635
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
135
160.6425
364
160.6425
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
36
160.650
036
160.650
365
160.650
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
136
160.6575
366
160.6575
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
37
160.665
037
160.665
367
160.665
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
137
160.6725
368
160.6725
Base Transmit (Trunked P) (Police)
C
38
160.680
038
160.680
369
160.680
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
138
160.6875
370
160.6875
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 2)
A
39
160.695
039
160.695
371
160.695
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
139
160.7025
372
160.7025
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 3)
C
40
160.710
040
160.710
373
160.710
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
140
160.7175
374
160.7175
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 4)
A
41
160.725
041
160.725
375
160.725
Base TX / Mobile RX
C
   
141
160.7325
376
160.7325
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 5)
C
42
160.740
042
160.740
377
160.740
Base TX / Mobile RX
A
   
142
160.7475
378
160.7475
Base Transmit (Trunked Group 6)
A
43
160.755
043
160.755
379
160.755
Simplex
A
   
143
160.7625
380
160.7625
Simplex
A
44
160.770
044
160.770
381
160.770
Simplex
A
   
144
160.7775
382
160.7775
Simplex
C
45
160.785
045
160.785
383
160.785
Simplex
C
   
145
160.7925
384
160.7925
Simplex
C
46
160.800
046
160.800
385
160.800
Simplex
C
   
146
160.8075
386
160.8075
Simplex
C
47
160.815
047
160.815
387
160.815
Simplex
A
   
147
160.8225
388
160.8225
Simplex
A
48
160.830
048
160.830
389
160.830
Simplex
A
   
148
160.8375
390
160.8375
Simplex
A
49
160.845
049
160.845
391
160.845
Simplex
A
   
149
160.8525
392
160.8525
Simplex
C
50
160.860
050
160.860
393
160.860
Simplex
C
   
150
160.8675
394
160.8675
Simplex
C
51
160.875
051
160.875
395
160.875
Simplex
C
   
151
160.8825
396
160.8825
Simplex
C
52
160.890
052
160.890
397
160.890
Simplex
A
   
152
160.8975
398
160.8975
Simplex
A
53
160.905
053
160.905
399
160.905
Simplex
A
   
153
160.9125
400
160.9125
Simplex
A
54
160.920
054
160.920
401
160.920
Simplex
A
   
154
160.9275
402
160.9275
Simplex
C
55
160.935
055
160.935
403
160.935
Simplex
C
   
155
160.9425
404
160.9425
Simplex
C
56
160.950
056
160.950
405
160.950
Simplex
C
   
156
160.9575
406
160.9575
Simplex
C
57
160.965
057
160.965
407
160.965
Simplex
A
   
157
160.9725
408
160.9725
Simplex
A
58
160.980
058
160.980
409
160.980
Simplex
A
   
158
160.9875
410
160.9875
Simplex
A
59
160.995
059
160.995
411
160.995
Simplex
A
   
159
161.0025
412
161.0025
Simplex
C
60
161.010
060
161.010
413
161.010
Simplex
C
   
160
161.0175
414
161.0175
Simplex
C
61
161.025
061
161.025
415
161.025
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
161
161.0325
416
161.0325
Base Receive (Trunked Group 1)
C
62
161.040
062
161.040
417
161.040
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
162
161.0475
418
161.0475
Base Receive (Trunked Group 2)
A
63
161.055
063
161.055
419
161.055
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
163
161.0625
420
161.0625
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
64
161.070
064
161.070
421
161.070
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
164
161.0775
422
161.0775
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
65
161.085
065
161.085
423
161.085
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
165
161.0925
424
161.0925
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
66
161.100
066
161.100
425
161.100
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
166
161.1075
426
161.1075
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
67
161.115
067
161.115
427
161.115
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
167
161.1225
428
161.1225
Base Receive (Trunked Group 1)
C
68
161.130
068
161.130
429
161.130
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
168
161.1375
430
161.1375
Base Receive (Trunked Group 2)
A
69
161.145
069
161.145
431
161.145
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
169
161.1525
432
161.1525
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
70
161.160
070
161.160
433
161.160
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
170
161.1675
434
161.1675
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
71
161.175
071
161.175
435
161.175
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
171
161.1825
436
161.1825
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
72
161.190
072
161.190
437
161.190
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
172
161.1975
438
161.1975
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
73
161.205
073
161.205
439
161.205
Base Receive (Trunked P) (Police)
C
   
173
161.2125
440
161.2125
Base Receive (Trunked Group 1)
C
74
161.220
074
161.220
441
161.220
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
174
161.2275
442
161.2275
Base Receive (Trunked P) (Police)
A
75
161.235
075
161.235
443
161.235
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
175
161.2425
444
161.2425
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
76
161.250
076
161.250
445
161.250
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
176
161.2575
446
161.2575
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
77
161.265
077
161.265
447
161.265
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
177
161.2725
448
161.2725
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
78
161.280
078
161.280
449
161.280
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
178
161.2875
450
161.2875
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
79
161.295
079
161.295
451
161.295
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
179
161.3025
452
161.3025
Base Receive (Trunked Group 1)
C
80
161.310
080
161.310
453
161.310
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
180
161.3175
454
161.3175
Base Receive (Trunked Group 2)
A
81
161.325
081
161.325
455
161.325
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
181
161.3325
456
161.3325
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
82
161.340
082
161.340
457
161.340
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
182
161.3475
458
161.3475
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
83
161.355
083
161.355
459
161.355
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
183
161.3625
460
161.3625
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
84
161.370
084
161.370
461
161.370
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
184
161.3775
462
161.3775
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
85
161.385
085
161.385
463
161.385
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
185
161.3925
464
161.3925
Base Receive (Trunked Group 1)
C
86
161.400
086
161.400
465
161.400
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
186
161.4075
466
161.4075
Base Receive (Trunked Group 2)
A
87
161.415
087
161.415
467
161.415
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
187
161.4225
468
161.4225
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
88
161.430
088
161.430
469
161.430
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
188
161.4375
470
161.4375
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
89
161.445
089
161.445
471
161.445
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
189
161.4525
472
161.4525
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
90
161.460
090
161.460
473
161.460
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
190
161.4675
474
161.4675
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
91
161.475
091
161.475
475
161.475
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
191
161.4825
476
161.4825
Base Receive (Trunked P) (Police)
C
92
161.490
092
161.490
477
161.490
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
192
161.4975
478
161.4975
Base Receive (Trunked Group 2)
A
93
161.505
093
161.505
479
161.505
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
193
161.5125
480
161.5125
Base Receive (Trunked Group 3)
C
94
161.520
094
161.520
481
161.520
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
194
161.5275
482
161.5275
Base Receive (Trunked Group 4)
A
95
161.535
095
161.535
483
161.535
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
195
161.5425
484
161.5425
Base Receive (Trunked Group 5)
C
96
161.550
096
161.550
485
161.550
Mobile TX / Base RX
A
   
196
161.5575
486
161.5575
Base Receive (Trunked Group 6)
A
97
161.565
097
161.565
487
161.565
Mobile TX / Base RX
C
   
197
161.5725
488
161.5725
(Canada Only)
C

Home - About Us - FAQ - Railroad - Military - Scanner - Aviation - MURS - GMRS - Ham - Marine - Cables - Custom
General Freqs - RR Freqs - RR Glossary - RR Streams - Mil Radios - Air Gallery - Emer Gallery - RR Gallery - Sea Gallery - Links