So here we are again. Same radio, different day. In our last adventure, we discovered that my newly acquired Motorola Spectra Railroad Model was stuck in a boot loop with the FAIL 01/90 error code, the general hardware fault code. Unfortunately, it was not going to be as simple as program and go with this radio.
As well as being a ham radio operator, I also am a huge rail buff. As such, I had long wanted to add a railroad radio to my collection. Unfortunately, the only ones to be found for sale were either old radios from the 80’s with limited feature sets, or newer Astro radios from the big M that were way more than I was willing to pay for a radio.
Fortunately I was able to stumble on a for-parts Motorola Spectra on ebay for a very, very decent price with shipping. The radio was advertised as untested, but pulled from a working environment. I jumped on the item and within a week it was at my door.
So began a not-so-fun journey into the mystical ways of railroad-grade equipment and poor documentation.
DMR is the hot new digital mode that everybody seems to want a piece of, even though it’s been around for several years. The real reason everyone’s been jumping aboard is the rise of inexpensive DMR portables, specifically ones like Tytera’s MD-380.
For $170 US you get a fully functional UHF digital radio that can do both conventional analog 70cm as well as DMR communication. Previously radios like the XPR line from the big M were going for upwards of $500 used, so this is a welcome price drop. It’s not unlike how Baofeng revolutionized entry-level radios a few years ago when they came out with a dual-band HT for $35. Now people with a modest budget will be able to get on DMR repeaters and talk to people all over the world, without a costly HF rig.
I was able to get my hands on one of the 380’s for cheap and have been playing around with it for the past few weeks.