Changing Tracks

I’ve been here before but last time it wasn’t forced upon me. I gave up train-spotting at the end of the 1980’s because most of my favourite classes of locomotive had been withdrawn from service. I could have stayed and continued to enjoy the hobby that I’d been doing since I first went to work but I chose to move to Plane Spotting and the rest I have already told you in various posts though my How I got into Football post probably is a good point to start for anyone new to my blog. When I retired 3 years ago, getting back to train spotting / photography was very much one of my target activities. It didn’t truly kick-off straight away but early this year I was up for it and did a couple of great trips out. Everything looked set for my rail future – much of which would have been blogged on here. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit 😦

It’s been 5 months and currently any use of public transport for leisure purposes is frowned upon. I’d love to be tripping down to Clapham Junction for a morning’s trainspotting but that’s not an essential journey. Though I do wonder if it becomes essential if it’s important for my mental health? I guess that’s beyond the understanding of government agencies and I doubt that most of the muppets that rushed to the seaside in their droves in the current heatwave would understand either despite placing everyone else at risk of illness / curtailment of freedoms by their actions 😦 Basically, I can’t do my railway hobby if I abide by the rules and I’m not about to place the keyworkers in those industries at risk for the sake of my hobby.

However, I need to be doing one of those observational hobbies for my personal well-being. I enjoy a bit of Birding but unless I go all over the country visiting reserves, etc then there’s only the limited number of species in my local area 😦 One good positive note in passing – The Great Tits have raised 2 broods in our nest box this year πŸ™‚

So I’ve been mulling over the non-computer game options available to me (bearing in mind that I’m also missing football!) I think it’s time to go back to Plane Spotting. I can do that from home and I have most of the things I need to start off again. I have a good Frequency Scanner in the Uniden Bearcat 780XLT which means I can monitor transmissions on the local frequencies. I also have an Icom IC-E90 which receives the Airband frequencies. So I’m well covered in terms of important equipment. There’s also a lot of useful websites providing flight tracking that weren’t there or were in their infancy last time I was involved in this – it’s almost like having radar in your living room! The only negative is the need of a good quality spotting scope. I used to have one of the Kowa ones and it was good but it has suffered from disuse and will need to be replaced. That isn’t cheap but in the interim I can use my binoculars that I use for birding and trains.

I fired up the Bearcat Scanner today. It’s receiving well. The frequencies I programmed in are still correct for my area with the exception of the one for Heathrow Director – that has changed from 119.725 to 119.730. I thought, “best I get that corrected in the memory.” I spent 20 minutes trying to update the memory on the scanner before I realised that it can’t handle the intervals between .725 and .750! It’s too old to have that fine tuning built in! You may now laugh at my confusion when I was punching away at the buttons and not understanding why the memory wouldn’t accept the input frequency! πŸ˜‰ Fortunately, it doesn’t matter because AM transmissions are very broadband and I’m using a very good Ham Radio 2/4 metre antenna which means I’m getting the transmissions anyway πŸ™‚

For the record – You can check out the base-station here… https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/BC780XLT

And the portable Icom IC-E90, here… http://www.rigpix.com/icom/ice90.htm

I’ve ordered a Kowa TSN-602 and associated zoom eyepiece but I don’t know when that will arrive – I’ve been waiting for a delivery from The Czech Republic since June 05 and that only reached Heathrow yesterday – 20 days on a journey that usually takes 5-7. These are the ongoing hidden effects of Covid-19 – my mental health, the availability of items, the need to be careful out there… I hope you are all keeping safe and well.

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