Back in June Gus Gorman showed us via a YouTube tutorial and demo how to monitor ATCS (Advanced Train Control System) signals from trains. ATCS is found in the USA and is used for things like communications between trains, rail configuration data, train location data, speed enforcement, fuel monitoring, train diagnostics and general instructions and messages. Gus used an RTL-SDR and the ATCS Monitor software to decode the signals and give us a view of the current state of the railway line.
In his latest video Gus gives a better demonstration of the software by parking outside a train station so that he can receive many more signals from the trains. At the start of the video he shows the track view of BNSF trains, and then later switches over to the Union Pacific track view.
To run GNU Radio for Windows you will need a 64-bit version of Windows 7/8/10. It appears that the installation is as easy as running the installer and waiting for it to download and install the 1.7 GB worth of files.
Also, over on his blog author designing on a juicy cup posted about how he’d been able to get the GNU Radio Windows binaries to run a ATSC HDTV decoder from a file recorded using an SDRplay RSP (ATSC is too wideband for an RTL-SDR to decode). ATSC is the digital TV standard used in North America, some parts of Central America and South Korea. He writes that one advantage to using GNU Radio on Windows is the ability to use a RAM drive for faster file processing.
ATSC is the digital HD TV standard used within the United States and Canada. It is 6 MHz wide so the RTL-SDR with its maximum bandwidth of about 2.8 MHz cannot decode this signal. However, higher end SDR’s such as the SDRplay, Airspy and HackRF have larger bandwidths that can easy cover 6 MHz.
The process the author used was to first record a RAW IQ WAV file in HDSDR in Windows, making sure that any DC spike correction is applied. The WAV file is then opened in a premade GNU Radio flow graph in Linux and processed into an MPEG file. The process is not real time. The authors article shows a step by step tutorial on how its done.
In an update post to his results the author also notes that to successfully do a recording at the maximum SDRplay bandwidth of 8 MHz a RAM disk or perhaps SSD is required so that samples are not dropped.