AAR Channel Frequencies

The American Association of Railroads has assigned channel numbers to each of 96 radio frequencies in the 160-161 MegaHertz bands. These frequencies are used in the United States and Canada. Channels 7-96 are used in the U.S. for railroad operations. Channels 2-6 are used in Canada for rail operations only. In the U.S. channels 3-6 are used by railroads for truck operations.

The following table converts from AAR channel number to the appropriate radio frequency (MHz).

Channel Frequency
2 159.810
3 159.930
4 160.050
5 160.185
6 160.200
7 160.215
8 160.230
9 160.245
10 160.260
11 160.275
12 160.290
13 160.305
14 160.320
15 160.335
16 160.350
17 160.365
18 160.380
19 160.395
20 160.410
21 160.425
22 160.440
23 160.455
24 160.470
25 160.485
26 160.500
27 160.515
28 160.530
29 160.545
30 160.560
31 160.575
32 160.590
33 160.605
34 160.620
35 160.635
36 160.650
37 160.665
38 160.680
39 160.695
40 160.710
41 160.725
42 160.740
43 160.755
44 160.770
45 160.785
46 160.800
47 160.815
48 160.830
49 160.845
50 160.860
51 160.875
52 160.890
53 160.905
54 160.920
55 160.935
56 160.950
57 160.965
58 160.980
59 160.995
60 161.010
61 161.025
62 161.040
63 161.055
64 161.070
65 161.085
66 161.100
67 161.115
68 161.130
69 161.145
70 161.160
71 161.175
72 161.190
73 161.205
74 161.220
75 161.235
76 161.250
77 161.265
78 161.280
79 161.295
80 161.310
81 161.325
82 161.340
83 161.355
84 161.370
85 161.385
86 161.400
87 161.415
88 161.430
89 161.445
90 161.460
91 161.475
92 161.490
93 161.505
94 161.520
95 161.535
96 161.550
97 161.565

Note that these frequencies are not the only frequencies used by railroads. Some railroads also use frequencies in the 4xx.xxx MegaHertz band, particularly around 45x.xxx, 46x.xxx, and 47x.xxx.

Most official railroad radios that synthesize the frequencies have a window that shows the AAR channel number for transmitting and the AAR channel number for receiving. For example, Amtrak’s primary Road frequency in the Northeast Corridor is 160.920 MHz, Channel 54. The window on the railroad radio would show 5454 (transmit on AAR channel 54 and receive on AAR channel 54).

Railroads also use some frequencies to transmit end of train telemetry. Some EOT devices, for example, transmit the train’s brake pressure to the closest tenth of a pound and whether the EOT is moving or not every 40 seconds or whenever there is a change. AAR has allocated 457.9375 MHz and 452.9375 for EOT telemetry with the latter used at the head end to transmit control signals. Most railroads use these frequencies. However, Norfolk Southern uses 161.115 MHz (AAR Channel 67) for EOT devices.

Since EOT devices transmit at two watts, the transmission will travel about 3 to 5 miles. Thus, by setting your scanner to scan these EOT frequencies, you get a warning whenever a train approaches. The problem with this strategy, of course, is that as soon as your scanner picks up anything on 457.9375 or 452.9375, it will lock on that channel. Thus, this strategy works best if your scanner makes it easy to change the channels that are scanned so that you can stop scanning 457.9375/452.9375 when you know a train is close.

Weather Radio Frequencies

The United States, Canada and Bermuda operate their government weather radio stations on the same band.

The original numbering was from the order in which the frequencies were assigned, with 162.55 at first the only frequency, then 162.4 and 162.475 added later to prevent RF interference. The others mainly came into use in the 1990s in less-populated rural, areas and as fill-in broadcast translators relaying an existing station into remote or mountainous areas.

Canadian broadcasts are also transmitted on travelers’ information stations on FM and AM, especially near national parks. Bermuda has only one station dedicated purely for weather, on 162.55 MHz from Hamilton, now operated by the Bermuda Weather Service. It has a second station, however, for marine conditions and forecasts, ZBR, at 162.400 MHz.

All stations transmit a 1050 Hz tone immediately before issuing a watch or warning, and this serves to activate the alert feature on many older radios. Except for Bermuda, all U.S. and later Canadian stations transmit WRSAME codes that allow more advanced receivers to only listen for certain warnings that carry a specific code for the local area, and often to alarm only for serious warnings (for example, a flood warning could be ignored by a person living on a mountain, while a tornado warning is an immediate emergency in all cases).

Frequency Old name New name
162.400 MHz WX 2 WX 1
162.425 MHz WX 4 WX 2
162.450 MHz WX 5 WX 3
162.475 MHz WX 3 WX 4
162.500 MHz WX 6 WX 5
162.525 MHz WX 7 WX 6
162.550 MHz WX 1 WX 7

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