Welcome to the Naperville Railroad Scanner

The feed is at http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/?feedId=3023

If this URL doesn’t work, go to radioreference.com and click Illinois, then DuPage. Click on the one that says BNSF and ex-EJ&E near Naperville.

So anyway...

The feed is located about half a mile north of the Naperville BNSF/Metra/Amtrak station, which is at Milepost 28.6 from the bumper at Chicago Union Station. It's running on a Pentium 4 with Windows XP Pro (also chewing on a couple of BOINC projects). The scanners are an early-'90s-vintage Radio Shack Pro-23, and a slightly newer (but actually more troublesome) Pro-2039. See "history" below for antenna details.

If you want to listen to my feed on the go and have a smartphone or tablet, I highly recommend an app called Scanner Radio, by Gordon Edwards. I tried several other apps and had trouble with all of them. Mostly, they quit receiving the feed without indicating any problem; I'd just notice I wasn't hearing anything and have to quit and restart. Scanner Radio has never had this problem for me. Also, it's the only one I found with a balance control so you can listen to just one side of a stereo feed such as mine. Scanner Radio can receive any feed from radioreference.com or railroadradio.net. I know it's available for Android, Blackberry, Kindle Fire, and just recently became available for iPhone (called Scanner Radio Deluxe in the App Store). There are free and pro versions; I just use the free one. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/scannerradio (I don't know if you have to be a member of Facebook). Note: my Android phone contract has unlimited data. I don't really know how much data Scanner Radio uses, but if your plan is not unlimited, make sure you don't go over.

What am I scanning?

The feed is in "stereo": all the BNSF frequencies are on the left audio channel and the CN and UP are on the right.



What it is and what you can hear



BNSF East End Dispatcher, Chicago Sub (Cicero to Aurora), defect detector at MP 27.2, Eola Yardmaster. 8 Amtrak trains per day, a buttload of Metras, and numerous freights. Amtrak engineers call all signals except straight-ahead clears; you can usually hear the conductor's highball, too. The Amtrak agent has a handheld radio. You'll probably also hear the Union Avenue Dispatcher (Cicero to end of property at Roosevelt Road), which is combined with East End on some shifts.

Deciphering train symbols: Sometimes you will hear things like "Gal brick" or "Chick kick." These are the BNSF freight symbols. "Gal brick" is GALBRC, or Galesburg to Belt Railway of Chicago's Clearing Yard. "Chick kick" is CHCKCK, Chicago (Cicero Yard, I think) to Kansas City, Kansas. NTW is Northtown Yard in Minneapolis. LPC is Logistics Park Chicago. Most other city names are simply pronounced, such as South Seattle or Portland. If you hear a symbol with BTM in it, it's a coal train from (or empty returning to) Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming. Usually, coal trains and empties are the only ones that give their entire symbol including all the numbers and letters.

More about LPC: Logistics Park Chicago is actually on the south side of Joliet. Trains from the northern parts of BNSF will announce themselves (on my left channel) to the East End Dispatcher as they approach Aurora, who will line them into the East Yard at Eola (often into the Running Track, which is between Main 3 and East Yard 1.) Usually, they will change crews at Eola and the new crew will call the CN dispatcher (right channel). Desk 11 will either give them permission to come up the hill and enter CTC at Liberty, or tell them they have to wait for other traffic. Then the crew will switch back to the BNSF (left side again) and ask the Eola yardmaster for permission up the hill, and report when they have cleared the yard. Trains coming from LPC will call Eola for permission down the hill a few miles before they get to Liberty, and I believe they will notify Desk 11 when they have cleared CTC at Liberty.



Amtrak "home" channel -- occasionally Amtrak crews want to have a private chat without the host railroad listening in, so they "go to home."



Primary switching channel at Eola.



Also used for switching at Eola.



BNSF C&I Dispatcher (Aurora Sub, Aurora to LaCrosse, WI) radio base at Hinckley. You might also hear the defect detector at MP47.2 (between Sugar Grove and Big Rock).



BNSF Mainline Dispatcher (Mendota Sub, Aurora to Galesburg) radio base at Montgomery. Illinois Railway (still usually referred to as Railnet) trains call the dispatcher to come off their line at Montgomery and run to Eola. You may also hear the defect detector at MP43.8 (between Montgomery and Bristol). I have even heard the dispatcher on the Somonauk radio.



CN RTC Desk 11, Leithton Sub (formerly EJ&E Western Sub Dispatcher, Joliet to Waukegan). There are defect detectors at MP7.8, MP18, and MP25.5. JB Tower in West Chicago talks to any train that wants to cross the UP there and often uses the radio instead of the phone to talk to Desk 11. Desk 11 will grant permission to enter CTC to CN trains coming off the River Sub at River (Plainfield), BNSF intermodal trains at Liberty (south connection at Eola) to go south to LPC in Joliet, BNSF coal trains at Eola going north or south, and UP trains going south at West Chicago. He also gives track warrants to trains between Pratt (end of double track CTC 3 miles north of JB Tower) and Spaulding, and those going to the River Sub. (Remember, the CN channels will be on the right audio channel.)

Note about CN: CN now uses the former GM&O channel (160.92, AAR 54) for road operations on all its lines in the Chicago area. Trains switch to the dispatcher channel for the line they're on only to talk to the dispatcher. I have chosen not to scan 54 for the time being.



CN Matteson Sub (formerly EJ&E Eastern Sub Dispatcher, Joliet to Gary). Not really sure how good reception will be this far away, but what the heck. (This channel was locked out sometime in 2011 due to receiving nothing but static bursts.)



CN (former EJ&E) yard channel. Probably won't get much this far from Joliet, but again, what the heck. (Locked out 4/25/10 due to lots of unintelligible static.)



Union Pacific Dispatcher 11, Geneva Sub from Chicago to, I think, the end of Metra territory at Elburn. (Beyond there it's still the Geneva Sub, but it's Dispatcher 12 on 161.04, ch. 62.) I added this channel sometime in 2011.

Train schedules

There are 94 weekday Metra trains, 59 of which stop in Naperville, plus extensive weekend schedules. For specifics, go to metrarail.com.

Amtrak: (odd numbers westbound, even eastbound)



Carl Sandburg



Illinois Zephyr



California Zephyr

Can be at Naperville as early as 1:30pm and is not required to wait for scheduled time. Check its status at Galesburg on Amtrak.com; it should be here almost exactly 2 hours later (on rare occasions it's been as little as 1h55m).



California Zephyr



Southwest Chief

Can be at Naperville as early as 2:05pm and is not required to wait for scheduled time. Check its status at Galesburg on Amtrak.com; it should be here almost exactly 2 hours later (on rare occasions it's been as little as 1h55m).



Southwest Chief



Illinois Zephyr



Carl Sandburg


2/12/2012 Updated this page with all the changes since 5/31/2010, plus revised Amtrak schedules. Dropped the table row with the CSX channel and put in the row about UP. Added the blurb about the Scanner Radio app and the paragraph about CN's ch. 54.
2011, various undocumented dates Locked out all CN channels except 91, locked out CSX, added UP.
5/31/2010 Revised parts of this page, including adding the paragraph about LPC.
5/30/2010 Locked out 160.32 on the right side.
5/28/2010 Observed that 161.1 sometimes gets bursts of NOAA weather and 160.875 gets what sounds like a ham repeater. Not sure what to do about it.
5/23/2010 Added BNSF freight symbols to this page and adjusted Amtrak times.
5/16/2010 Changed the MP3 sampling rate in ScannerCast to 32K bits/second, which I should have done when I first went stereo. There's still a little bit of squirreliness, but static now sounds like static and weak signals sound almost as intelligible as they do live.
5/11/2010 Added 160.29, another CSX channel for the ex-RI west of Joliet. A listener said they now use this for the dispatcher.
4/25/2010 Locked out the CN yard channel.
Turned down the volume on the CN scanner a bit more to see if it helped audio quality.
4/18/2010 Added the CSX channel for the ex-RI west of Joliet.
Changed out the CN scanner for a little while, but I think it sounded worse, so I put the 2039 back. Found out the hum on the CN side comes from the scanner itself; I hear it if I plug headphones directly into the scanner.
4/2/2010 Finally changed out the antenna's PVC cross piece with copper, painted the whole thing, and put it up on the roof. I think it helps a bit. Audio squirreliness is still driving me slightly nuts. May have to go back to a single feed.
3/24/2010 Got another scanner from eBay, an RS Pro-2039. Programmed it with 3 EJ&E channels and put it in place of the previous one. Still getting a hum on that channel, and reception seems less than it should be. Giving it some more thought.
3/21/2010 Moved this page to my new web site, davidstreeter.net.
Late February, 2010 Bought a used scanner off eBay, a bit too cheap; had to modify it to get its audio into the computer. Set it up to receive CN and feed the right side, while the original scanner had CN locked out and became the left side.
12/1/2009 Switched from RadioReference's software to ScannerCast for sending to the site. The reason is that Windows can start it as a scheduled task when the computer starts up, so I won't have to restart it if the power goes out. (Later, RadioReference made a customized version of ScannerCast their official software.)
11/29/2009 Signed up with radioreference.com, applied to become a feed provider, got approved, and started feeding through them; shut off the shoutcast.com feed. This was incredibly easy -- why didn't I do this in the first place???
11/28/2009 Changed the antenna cable to one long enough to reach the roof. Moved the antenna about six feet off the ground and discovered that it's underengineered -- the PVC cross piece isn't strong enough to hold the copper elements vertical.
After email to info@railroadradio.net got bounced as spam by Google, contacted a user, who advised me to try radioreference.com instead.
11/23/2009 Assembled an http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Homebrewed_Off-Center_Fed_Dipole antenna and connected it to the scanner. It's just sitting on the ground, leaning against the side of the house, but it's still a big improvement.
11/21/2009 Moved the computer to the basement so I wouldn't have to listen to its incredibly loud fan. Set the scanner to scan the railroad channels, but it was in the basement with the computer and still using its own rubber ducky antenna, so most of what got served was bursts of static. Started researching homemade antennas.
11/20/2009 Bought a new power supply for the scanner. After days of fiddling, finally got the server to reliably send NOAA weather radio to the 'net and back to me on another computer.
(more or less)
Went to railroadradio.net looking for advice on how to set up a feed and found it, following their link to alabamarailfan.com to read his tutorial. His links to winamp.com and shoutcast.com are mostly out of date, and I finally had to give up on his suggestion to use the old version 2.85 of Winamp (it crashed every time I clicked connect) and go ahead and update to the latest version, but most of his procedures are truly helpful.
11/7/2009 Acquired a used computer in really good shape for an amazingly low price. Spent next several days researching audio streaming software.

Future plans:

Computer has two sets of audio inputs built in, so I could add a second stream, maybe the UP. Not in a hurry to do it, though.

This page created on 11/25/2009. Last modified 2/12/2012

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