Tracking Trains: Monitoring Railroad ATCS Control Signals with an RTL-SDR

Over on his YouTube channel GusGorman402 has uploaded a tutorial which shows how he monitors ATCS (Advanced Train Control System) signals from trains. ATCS signals are 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.

In the video he first shows how to determine the frequency of trains signals in your area by using the US FCC database. He then shows how to download and install the ATCSMonitor software which is used for decoding the signals, and then walks us through configuring the correct settings within the software. The train signal audio is piped from SDR# to ATCSMonitor via VBCable, and received with an RTL-SDR and simple whip antenna.

Later in the video he shows how to fully set up the software with train databases so that the actual spotted train names show up. He also shows how to set up the dispatcher display which visually shows the current train locations and track configurations.

GusGorman402 has uploaded the tutorial in two videos. The first shows the full tutorial, configuration and demo for trains in the BNSF fleet. The second video shows how to monitor the Union Pacific fleet which uses a different protocol, which requires a slightly different set up in ATCSMonitor.

7 comments

    • admin

      Probably not okay. A lot of devs of small niche software only give it out to real confirmed users. Niche software devs are often hit by code thieves in other countries who repackage and start selling their free software as their own. So I guess hiding behind a Yahoo group is one way to control who has access.

  1. Anonymously Anonymous

    I have joined atcsmon yahoo group completely in 24 hours and installed the software. Provided video is not very good help. I discovered on contrary to the video ATCSMon will install kits in zip archive format and save that as profile. ATSC Mon beginner help pdf is a must to completely set it up. I have 25 miles of rail line in view of my indoor antenna using either BCP or MCP TF-4 frequencies. I have the superior NooElec NESDR Smart.

    • irritated

      Ughh yeah. So you can’t download ATCSMon unless you are a group member. You have to apply and be selected to join the group…

      From the Yahoo Group:
      Note to prospective members: Upon requesting membership, a
      questionnaire will be sent to the email address used when
      applying. You must forward your answers to the email address
      appearing on the questionnaire, or membership will be denied.

      • Shawn C.

        I used to be a member of the group. I grew disinterested and unsubscribed. Then, a year or two after that, I had a demo and thought it would be neat to show the software in action. When I re-joined, I replied with sarcastic answers to the questions. The guy denied my request to join. I then emailed him personally, apologized and said that I have two Yahoogroups of my own. I review all of the membership requests to make sure spam bots are not trying to join. But, I don’t feel the need to ask a questionnaire. Denied again.
        I did manage to get the program from a friend who is a member. But, the guy really made me mad by being an elitist jerk.

    • Eddie

      I completely agree.
      I closed down my yahoo account after the massive security outage a couple of years ago and the CEO left.
      I only used it for the forums however as it was always overflowing with ads and low quality news.

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