ATCS monitoring

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Wed May 11 03:18:00 EDT 2005

Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 01:47:09 -0700 (PDT) 
To: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at> 
From: nw-mailing-list at
Subject:  Re: Boyce ATCS server  
This is most interesting.  I must learn more!  Can
anyone enlighten me on what potential this has?  
On the Bristol Line, I can pick up trains on the
scanner between the control points of Glade Spring and
Marion only.  I can hear the dispatcher if a train is
in between these two points, or if they are calling
the whole line, thus they transmit off of Marion's
transmitter I suppose.
Am I correct in assuming that this allows someone to
listen to the entire line?  What else can it do?
Ben Blevins

May 11, 2005

Hello, Ben:

The ATCS radio transmissions are different that
dispatcher or road voice channels.  It is about the
same as the cell phone frequencies.  If you were to
listen to it, it would sound like static since they
are digital transmissions.

Assuming you could pick up the signals from one or two
control points, you could import the data into ATCS
software.  Assuming you or someone else develops a
layout file that looks like a dispatcher's track plan
on your computer monitor, you could see whether a
track section is occupied or not, and whether an
absolute signal (one without a number plate) was set
for train movement.

This arrangement works best when several people close
to tracks that have ATCS installations can pick up the
signals and set up an internet feed.  You or others
with ATCS software installed can monitor several feeds
and use the composite information to show a track
layout that extends beyond the horizons of your own
reception.  So, for example if someone were able to
monitor near Bristol, another at Wytheville, one at
Radford, etc. one could monitor train movements over
the Radford Division.  For those interested in
photographing trains, this can be a more reliable way
of knowing when to be trackside.  O. Winston Link's
approach was calling dispatchers for line ups; ATCS
monitoring can serve a similar purpose.

Good morning,


Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-2121 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - weekend afternoons 
in the former N&W station on VA rte 723 
117 East Main Street 
Boyce  VA  22620-9639
Visit at

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