NX-700! My newest radio!
NextEdge! Yes, NXDN. Kenwoods digital secure format. I have purchased the software, and as far as I know, am the only person in the area who can legally program these radios. But why would I want them? No one else has NXDN in the area yet... Ah, but that is one advantage. Simplex VHF on ham with NXDN digital? sounds fun...
But that is not really the main reason. As part of the Federal mandate to push all class 1 railroads to adopt a Positive Train Control system, the railroads have decided to agree upon NXDN as their new radio format. Sighting its secure and not widespread usage, the railroads agree that it is perfect for them. A system that is unique to them for the most part, which few people will be able to listen to.
Railroads across North America are now being issued Kenwoods and Icoms (capable of IDAS, Icom's version of NXDN). The rail spectras of old are being phased out now that narrow-banding is required. They are being replaced slowly by clean cab radios made to be compatible with NXDN, such as this one from Ritron.
The AAR channels are getting a bit of an overhaul. The 97 channels are being divided up into many more channels as they narrow-band, and some of them are being assigned to trunking groups. Trunking? Yes, NXDN trunking is already in place in some urban centers for yard and rail police ops. So far however, I haven't heard of any major mainline usage of the trunking system. Which is good news for us.
The trunking system can still be monitored by scanning the trunking systems channels in NXDN mode. You will not be able to select the talk groups, but you will hear most traffic. In my case I just created a group with all the narrow-band AAR channels together.
In any case, being a rail buff, in both a hobby sense, and a professional sense, I am ready for the switch. But I imagine many rail fans will not be quite as ready as I am. So far no scanner manufactures have plans to make a NXDN compatible scanner, and the only way to really go is to purchase NXDN radios. Until then, I am able to program most NXDN Kenwood radios for anyone who needs it.