FEC Feed Grows Up

Software-Defined Radio is impressive! I'm testing it for a time on my F.E.C. Fort Lauderdale feed.

I recently started playing with SDR-Console to investigate whether it could make a reasonable alternative to Uniden scanners for my railroad feed(s) and am blown away at its capabilities.

SDR-Console (among other programs) can monitor multiple frequencies simultaneously, as long as they all lie within the chunk of spectrum being sampled. With the Florida East Coast Railway using 3 primary channels lying within 300KC of each other this is a piece of cake!

The cool part is that, unlike a scanner, the SDR doesn't sample a channel and then move on; it just hears everything at once without missing anything. So you can look at the spectrum display and see signals pop up on the road channel while a train is reading back a Form 82-T on the dispatcher talkback channel. It can be confusing, but it is neat, NEAT, NEAT!!

Another benefit of SDR is that you control the vertical, you control the horizontal; you can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. Because Uniden scanners have been proven not to have true narrowband i.f. filtering the SDR provides superior signal to noise ratio when the proper narrow bandwidth is selected. This improves intelligibility of weak signals on top of being just plain more sensitive than my Uniden 996XT scanner that I had been running.

I can also steer each received frequency to a different audio channel so the Road channel appears on the right while the Dispatcher talkback frequency is heard on the left channel. You won't miss a quick transmission while waiting for the scanner to toggle back and forth because SDR is always listening!

And unlike a commercial-grade radio from Mother Motorola, you're not stuck with the programming (via finicky PC programming), you can just change the frequency or any other parameter on the fly and be happy while still enjoying better than average radio performance.

Now I gotta figure out the best way to run this stuff economically out in the field. Stay tuned!