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Radio on Rails

People with mobile phones, people with walkman's, even now people with laptop computers are becoming more and more popular. Seeing people with these devices is quite common on public transport especially on the train. Such devices are also common on the tram or bus. (Laptops would not be as common though on the tram or bus.)

So why not a person caring a handheld radio 2 way around talking to another person that is also on another train traveling somewhere?

Then why not use an amateur handheld radio?

I travel to Melbourne to RMIT on the train. From home it usually takes me a good 1 hour and 45 minutes at the least to get from home to RMIT in Carlton, Melbourne. There are plenty of things to do on the train, like study or commonly - catching up on some sleep.. ;)

Apart from doing these and other various things on the train, I have been taking my handheld, a 144 - 148 MHz (2m band) radio, on the train with me. I do not have a 70cm radio, so I have not experimented with this band on the train. Working from inside vehicles and with the inability to have an external antenna does not produce the best of signals. Through experimenting, various ideas of better operation on under these circumstances have been worked out.

The standard 'rubber ducky' antenna that comes with most handhelds is quite often not much better than a dummy load. They are no good for getting a decent signal out of a train, bus or tram. A better option is a 1/4 wave antenna. For 70cm or 2m then this sort of an antenna is not a bad size. You can even use your 2m 1/4 wave antenna as a 3/4 wave on 70cm. This comes in handy when you don't want to carry around too many antennas, although a 1/4 2m antenna can be a little more difficult to carry around from the experience that I have had. (I found it a little bigger than the size of my bag, and it therefore did not fit in easily and being made out of wire it is easily bent out of shape.)

If you are going to try out your handheld radio in the train then here is a few things that you should consider.

Have an appropriate antenna. Most likely the generally small rubber ducky that comes with the handheld will not be good enough. Although some of the new ones are a little better and appropriate for some bands.

I have found that the best spot to sit on the train is next to the window on the side and to face the way that you want your signal to get out on. If you can get a window seat so that you can see out of about the center of the window, then this is highly preferable.

Tony - VK3JED - has done quite a bit in the area of train mobile and he gives a more detailed description of working in these conditions on a various types of train carriages on his home page.

You might also like to have a look at the home page of Peter - VK3YE who has information about various things, including train mobile operation.

There is a small group of amateur radio operators that operate on "train mobile" while traveling to work etc. If you are interested in knowing more then feel free to send me an e-mail.

I have also experimented with packet mobile both on public transport and in the car....

Above all else, enjoy the hobby!

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