FRS Radio Purchasing Guide

The Motorola Talkabout line of FRS/GMRS radios and accessories is fast becoming the standard of model railroad operating groups in the area. Motorola is a big company, with a good track record in the communications industry. The experiences of several operating groups has shown that the Motorola radios work reliably and their headsets seem to hold up the best.

A wide range of options and accessories is also available. When selecting a model to purchase for use in model railroad operations you do not need much in the way of options and accessories.

  1. A low-power radio with a range of mile is certainly sufficient. Remember that is real miles not scale miles.
  2. Get one with all 22 FRS channels and one that has privacy codes for each channel. Many model railroads use different channels and privacy codes for each division.
  3. All the radios can use either the Rechargeable Battery Pack (Motorola #53615) or 3 AA cells (single use or rechargeable). It is good to have spares on hand.
  4. The radios are usually sold in pairs. You can buddy up with someone if each of you only want one radio. If you by a two-pack with a battery charger, you will have to decide who gets the charger and who has to use AAA cells or purchase a separate charger.
  5. The phone jack on the radios appears to be a proprietary design; cell phone and game phone plugs do not work; nothing at Radio Shack works with the FRS radios. The VOX: Headset & Microphone (Motorola #53725) has been the general standard for model railroad operations but is getting hard to find and no longer appears on the Motorola website. The Ear Piece with Boom Microphone (Motorola #56320) is replacing the VOX: Headset & Microphone; some operators find it more comfortable over extend periods of time.  Flexible Ear Receiver (Motorola ##53728) is also a possibility and a few dollars cheaper; with it you listen over the earpiece but talk through the microphone on the radio. 

Learn how to turn off all the bells and whistles. Radio traffic during an operating session is often fast and furious. It is extremely unnerving if a tone sounds, a bell rings, or the radio plays the Starred Spangled Banner every time someone keys up. This goes for VOX also; there is enough background noise in a train room to keep the squelch open; learn how to turn off your VOX. Each model has a different way to activate/deactivate these features so keep your owner's manual with you; you friend has a different model he probably won't be able to help you.

Check out Crawford Cycle and Marine Supply ( They carry the full line of Motorola Talkabout FRS/GMRS radios and accessories. Their website is well laid out and it is relatively easy to find what you are looking for.


Last updated: 11/27/10