radio jargon : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Here is one for you radio nuts. When I travel Amtrak on the CSX I usually take along my scanner. One thing I can't figure out is that sometimes the engineer or connductor will say "let's go private", after which I can't pick up any more conversation. Is this some type of special frequency or on board phone? If a frequency, is it available? Just curious.

-- jim coviello (, March 15, 1999


I do know that AMTRAK crews switch over to ch 49 (160.845mhz)when performing backing procedures into Tampa Union Station. I've always assumed that's to get off the busy CSX ACL road channel (160.590mhz). Don't think that would considered private, though. I hear them just fine.

-- Danny Harmon (, August 27, 1999.

Jim! Although I can't specifically answer your question, I can tell you that we occasionally do this in the Air Force. I'm a C-141 guy, and we used to use the same thing often while flying formations. If we want to talk privately, without someone else monitoring what we're saying, we change frequencies with the call "Cheap Suit". That's the signal for us all to switch over to 299.5 (or...$29.95...what it would cost to get a cheap suit). Pretty funny, huh? I heard a story about an old-timer pilot getting caught with the cheap suit call once...he was getting lousy service from a KC-135 during aerial refueling and made the call to complain to the rest of the formation about it. The tanker guys knew the cheap suit freq, came up on it, and gave him hell. Anyway, I suspect the RR guys are doing the same thing...just to keep curious ears away from their conversations. Best wishes!


-- John Golden (, August 20, 1999.

Both railroad management and the FRA take exception to use of those very busy and congested assigned railroad radio frequencies which is not directly related to the actual movement of the train. When necessary to communicate non-essential information, crew members have other ways of doing so. This varries by region and railroad. Of course, if it were devulged, it would no longer be private. Sorry.

-- Doug Riddell (, March 19, 1999.

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