|ATCS Monitoring Site atop White Tank Mtn|
View Toward UP Gila Sub from atop White Tank
If you find this feed and the coverage it provides useful, and that it adds to your enjoyment of railfanning, consider helping to defray the site's approximately $900 cost with a donation of $5, $10, $20 or more by clicking on the PayPal "Donate" button above. Donations will go toward server expenses and the potential for new server locations in the Southern California area. Please note that your donations are not tax-deductible. Also note that the donations go to Jon Adams, who acts as treasurer for the funds.
Current Status (12 January 2015)
receivers are working. Computer and UPS are nominal. Have removed the
LNA permanently due to high levels of intermod at the site. New
Sinclair RR band filter is in place.
For ATCS monitoring, the site has 2 two-channel receivers operational. Receiver #1 is monitoring the UP White Tank BCP (150.500/161.415 MHz) and receiver #2 is listening to the Oatman Mtn BCP (160.575/161.295 MHz). This is not a great location for the Oatman channel, but to date we can't find a home for a receive site somewhere along that lonely stretch of Interstate 8. All ATCS data is available via n7uv.dyndns.org:4890.
For Railroad Radio voice channel monitoring, there's a single Spectra scanning a number of local UP, BNSF and ACR channels. For more on that, check out our Phoenix BNSF/UP/ARZC voice radio coverage at RailroadRadio.net.
A persistent challenge with
many of the mountaintop sites is finding Internet access at the right
price (i.e., zero cost per month). White Tank is no exception. Getting
an ATCS Monitor receiver here first meant getting network access to the
site. Through the efforts of a number of hams, we accomplished this back
in July 2013, only to have a strong windstorm move the antenna on the
mountain then, after that was repointed and tightened firmly, to suffer
a loss of the mountaintop end of the microwave network link in late August.
It took 4 months before we could get back up the mountain to repair the
microwave link, and to get the VHF receivers on the hill to monitor the
UPRR-custom VHF ATCS channels.
Finding a Suitable Receive Site
This radio site had a little extra space for the receive equipment. The current antenna is a mobile whip on a ground plane at about 15'. Maybe one of these days we'll improve that!
Modeling Radio Coverage
With any radio receive site, it's important first to have an estimate of what kind of coverage might be expected - it's one thing to eyeball it, but radio waves don't necessarily behave like light. Sometimes better, sometimes worse!
The Radio Mobile coverage model for the White Tank site is conservative, but indicated that the site could be capable of seeing as many as 15 MCPs. What's never known for sure is exactly the condition of each of those MCPs - what kind of antenna, how much transmitter output, where the antenna might be placed (behind a building or a highway overpass). All these affect the potential reception range. The model looked good.
Site Cost and Ongoing Expenses
The equipment cost for this site assumes the best deals on eBay, not including the cost and effort for installing the Internet link to the mountain. Also not included is the cost of getting to/from the site, blown tires, a 120+ mile round trip from Scottsdale, which requires a real 4WD vehicle as there's a 0.5 mile long 20% slope stretch originally scraped out by Caterpillar Corporation decades ago to test their own bulldozers. We do this because it's great to see the trains moving around on the display, to pick up the voice traffic as BNSF, ARZC or UP trains moving in and out of the Valley of the Sun. We also did it for the comraderie and fun. We hope you share our enthusiasm.
The site will continue to require occasional maintenance. While much of the computer maintenance can be done remotely, hardware repair, upgrade and general maintenance requires one of us to be there to get things done. But it's a fun hobby, and we all enjoy participating.
Stay tuned as we add new features in the upcoming weeks and months. We will work to improve coverage by fine-tuning existing sites and adding new ones.
Support Our Efforts by Donating
If you find this feed and the coverage it provides useful, and that it adds to your enjoyment of railfanning, consider helping to defray the site's construction and maintenance cost with a donation of $5, $10, $20 or more by clicking on the PayPal "Donate" button below. We intend the donation process to be transparent and will keep a running total published on this site. If you wish to have your donation acknowledged publicly, add a note when you send it in. Donations will go toward server expenses and the potential for new server locations in the Southern California and Arizona areas. Please note that your donations are not tax-deductible. Also note that the donations will go to Jon Adams, who acts as treasurer for the funds.
Just think of how much gasoline this site can save you by not having to guess where trains may be. Depending on the volume of the donations and our ability to find potential sites, this group may be able to continue to expand coverage in Southern California and the desert southwest. By donating, you will be a valuable part of our effort, and allow us to procure quality, reliable equipment for future sites.
Thanks in advance for your generosity!
Jon Adams N7UV and the group.
jon (at) jonadams (dot) com