How to set up ATCS monitoring, based upon my recent experiences.

    First, familiarize yourself with the information in the ATCS Monitor Wiki Documentation Project for examples, solutions and explainations about ATCS Monitoring.  Then, familiarize yourself with the the Yahoo Group for ATCS_Monitor, or better yet, join the group.  Membership is granted after application to join the group in only a few days (or less).  There is no membership charge.  Spend some time reading the information in that group.  This group has a tutorial section with files that are helpful for people starting out with ACTS monitoring.  If you are not a member of this particular group, many of the links on this page will not work until you become a member and log-in as such.
Index of this page:
Computer Hardware
Scanner Hardware
Antennas, Cables, and Connectors
Installing the ATCS Monitor program
Loading Some Maps and the MCP Data associated with them
Let's watch the trains on the map via the Internet
Let's watch the trains on the map via radio scanner input (no internet feed at this time)
Ports, TCP and UDP
DSL or Cable) Router-Switch Configuration
How to set the Local Area Network (LAN) address for your ATCS computer
Give Your Server an Internet Name so it can Serve the World
Let's watch the trains on the map via the Internet and with our own scanner's input
How to make a Box to contain ATCS Monitor and Radio for a remote server that is compact.
Using FreedomPop USB Wifi devices to run ATCS Monitor on the road
Tips on using FreedomPop Mobile Hotspot USB devices to run ATCS Monitor remote servers

    After I familiarized myself with the above files, I set out to see if I could set up my on ATCS monitor and server.  The first thing to do was to set up a shopping list of what was needed.

    Download a copy of the ATCS Monitor program files from the Yahoo Group site.  If you are not a member, you will not have access to the files.   The files are available here.  Install version 4.1.0 which is called  ATCSMON410.exe  on the web page.  Then install version 4.2.6 beta which is called
ATCSMON426beta.exe (4.2.6 beta is really not a beta version anymore but the latest stable version of ATCS Monitor).  Version that needs 4.1.0 to be installed before 4.2.6 is installed.
    The ATCS Monitor program is written to run on a full version Windows operating system (not a notepad mini Windows operating system).  It seems that most people have success with WinXP, and the newer versions of Windows (newer than WinXP) may be a bit trickier to install. 

Computer Hardware:
    You will need a computer with a sound card to run the program. The sound card needs an audio "line" input socket to work.  A mere "microphone" input socket is not good enough.  And, your computer will need an internet connection if you want to run an ATCS Monitor server. 
    When I first started playing with ATCS monitoring I used my old laptop computer from work that had WinXP on it.  Like most laptops, it has sound capability with a
"microphone" input socket but it does not have an audio "line" input socket.  In order to get an an audio "line" input for my laptop computer, I used a USB device, the Griffin I-Mic.  The I-Mic is easy to use.  One end of the I-Mic plugs into a USB computer port and the other end receives the 1/8" phone jack from your scanner radio's discriminator output.  (more on the "discriminator" below).  There is only one switch on the I-Mic, set it to LINE and not MIC.
    As it turns out, I was not overly happy with using my laptop for ATCS monitoring.  It worked fine, but that laptop always ran hot and I needed it for work.  I wanted a computer that would run 24hours, 7days a week, and would be tasked only with running ATCS monitoring.
    So, I went out and picked up a used desktop Compaq computer with WinXP on it.  I got it at a local computer store, (DCparts) in Lakewood Ohio.  For $175, I got a fully working computer
with WinXP, a sound card in it, keyboard, a better than expected screen, and an optical mouse and a 40g hard drive.  That was plenty horsepower for ATCS monitoring. The computer came with only WinXP on it and some anti-spyware program ("SUPERantispyware"), along with Open Office.  This computer turned out to be the fastest one in the house.  There was no bloatware on it to bog it down.  It boots up in about 40 seconds. It runs cool and is very quiet.
    Here is a photo of the whole set-up with the antenna on the left (the white vertical pipe-like thing), the radio on the ground and to next to the radio, the computer leaning against a file cabinet, and the display on top of the file cabinet.

Scanner Hardware
    You will need a radio scanner to receive the ATCS transmissions.  The scanner must be able to receive the desired frequency.  The frequencies needed are here.  In my case, I needed 897.9375mhz for the Norfolk Southern MCP transmissions.  A partial listing of scanner radios that can be used is on the ATCS yahoo site. 
    The scanner will need to send out the data to your computer. 
The output of the scanner is fed, via an audio cable, to the audio "line" input port of computer that is running the ATCS Monitor program.  But, this audio cable does not attach to the scanner's usual earphone or speaker output outlets.  These have filtered and processed sound signals that do not work with ATCS monitoring.   The scanner output that that we need for our purposes needs to be raw and unprocessed, coming from what is called a scanner's discriminator tap.   In order to have discriminator tap output, we can get a scanner that has such a thing (not very common in scanners), or make our own discriminator tap output jack  This link shows how various scanners can be modified to have a discriminator tap.

    Mind you, that ATCS radio data transmissions that we are to monitor are very brief "chirps".  The "chirps" last only for a fraction of a second and occur only every minute or so.  In order for the scanner to pick the "chirps" up, the scanner must be set to stay at the desired ATCS radio frequency all the time.  If the scanner is set to "scan" a number of frequencies, it will miss the brief data "chirps".  You cannot use the one scanner to both listen to voice audio on one frequency and expect the same scanner to capture the data "chirps" on the ATCS frequencies. 

    In my path to ACTS Monitoring in 2011, I found two radios that I like.  In the next two sections, I'll mention their features.

The first scanner radio discussed here is the:
discontinued Radio Shack Pro2006, which is easily available on E-bay.  I got mine for $75.  Here is a photo of my Pro2006 sitting on the floor doing its thing.  This scanner is a multi-frequency scanner with a wide frequency range.  So if you don't use it for ATCS monitoring, it can be still used like most other scanners for other scanning needs.   But the Pro2006 is being discussed here because it also can receive the ATCS frequencies.  The scanner runs on 120V household current, can run on battery power, and I have run it with a 12V cigarette lighter adapter in my car.  The antenna input connector is a female BNC type.
    For us to use this scanner for ATCS monitoring, it needs a discriminator tap and a web site in Holland discusses this: (see photos from a web site in Holland).   As there is plenty of room inside of the
Radio Shack Pro2006 scanner, it is fairly easy to install this discriminator tap along with a little 1/8" phone jack in the back of the scanner for the discriminator output.
    Note that in my case, instead of using a resister-capacitor filter as mentioned in the above web page, I used a cheap 2.2uf (2.2microfarad) capacitor from Radio Shack and NO resister at all.  The local railfans say this is the way to go.  The capacitor that I used is Radio Shack part number 272-0997 and is "non-polarized" so it does not matter which way you solder it in. 
    To install the
discriminator tap, I first needed to drill a hole (1/4 inch) through the metal back of the scanner for the discriminator tap's phone jackThe pencil in the photo points to that location.  By the way, carefully figure out where to drill the hole for the discriminator tap's phone jack so that it does not interfere with the stuff inside the scanner or its lid.  I made a big effort to capture all the metal shavings from the drilling process and even had the unit upside down when drilling so the metal shavings would fall out with gravity.  The Radio Shack part for the 1/8" phone jack that I used was 274-0246.
    Solder one end of your new 2.2uf (2.2micofarad) capacitor to the top-most tip of TP2 in the scanner.  By the way, TP2 is a "TestPoint2" and is basically a zero Ohm resistor, mounted vertically. 
    Here is a general interior view of the scanner, with the pencil pointing to the newly installed black colored capacitor.  The skinny red and green wires that sloppily head to the right from the pencil are the two wires of the
discriminator tap.  The red wire joins the capacitor with the center or deepest contact of the phone jack that was placed in the back panel of the scanner in the above paragraph.  The green wire joins the ground of the scanner's circuit board with the remaining other two non-center (not the deepest) contacts of the same phone jack.  Here is another photo, and another, and yet another.  In that last photo, the pink arrow points to the 1/8" phone jack that was put into the 1/4 inch hole that we carefully drilled.  The pencil points to our newly installed capacitor.  The red arrow points to TP2 which we soldered the capacitor to, and the green arrow points to the the location on the circuit board where the green wire from our new 1/8"phone jack was soldered to a pre-existing dimple or blob of solder on the circuit board floor. 
    After this is done, double check your work.  Carefully check for and remove stray metal shavings and stray wires fragments before powering up the scanner.  At this point the Radio Shack Pro2006 scanner is ready for ATCS monitoring duty.  Set the frequency, attach the antenna cable to the scanner's BNC female connector.  Connect the discriminator tap's 1/8" phone jack to your computer's sound card ( or I-Mic) using some audio cable (1/8th inch or 3.5mm, stereo, male-to-male).

The second scanner radio discussed here is the:
Motorola Maxtrac.   This is also available on E-bay, I got mine for $50.  Here is a photo, the Maxtrac is on the right, and the 13.8v DC power supply is on the left.
    The Maxtrac scanners are unusual in a few ways.  They only can be run on a few frequencies, six to be exact.  The Maxtrac scanner frequencies are programed by people who have to knowhow and equipment to do so.  Thus, buying any random Maxtrac scanner will lead to problems unless the scanner frequencies are clearly communicated from the seller. 
    When I bought mine on E-bay, I searched E-bay with the words "Maxtrac" and "ATCS".  Only one vendor showed up in the E-bay results.  That vendor sells Maxtrac scanners that are programed either to the six ATCS MCP frequencies or the six ATCS BCP frequencies.  The Maxtrac scanner from the vendor I dealt with are programed by the vendor to be mute, (no sound output).  He also has attached an audio cable to the Maxtrac's discriminator output, so we are pretty much good to go.  The Maxtrac scanners don't scan various six frequencies, but monitor whichever frequency (one of six) that you choose by pushing a button.  For a few extra dollars, the vendor throws in some power wires (pencil pointing to the positive pole on the Maxtrac) because:
    The Maxtrac scanners run on automobile voltage.  Thus they can be plugged into a car's cigarette lighter outlet.  If you want to run the Maxtrac off household power, a 13.8v DC power supply will be needed.  I got one from...E-bay for $12, and it even has a power outlet shaped like a car cigarette lighter outlet.  The Maxtrac antenna input connector is a female "mini UHF" type. Here is another photo, the Maxtrac is on the left, and the 13.8v DC power supply is on the right.
    The nice thing about the Maxtrac scanners is that they are already set for discriminator output.  No drilling or soldering is needed.

Antennas and Cables and Connectors

    ATCS radio signals are broadcast at close to 900mhz.  There is a BCP and MCP frequencies for each major railroad that use the ATCS system.

BCP = Base Communications Package
MCP = Mobile Communications Package

     The BCP signal is similar to a central dispatcher signal.  On railroads like CSX, the BCP signal contains interesting information that is echoed back from a wide geographic area of railroad Control Points or interlockings.  So, by monitoring the the BCP frequency in CSX, much information may be easily had about a wide area of Control Points.  This is because the BCP signal is strong and covers a large territory.
     Alas, on the Norfolk Southern (NS), the BCP signal does not echo any useful data from the
railroad Control Points.  So, we have to monitor the MCP frequencies.  Each Control Point that is equipped with ATCS on the NS dutifully chirps its status every minute or so on the MCP frequency.  The problem is that the MCP transmitters are very low power, and the ~900mhz signal is very easily blocked by buildings, trees, small hills, etc.  So, when monitoring the NS MCP's, we are lucky to pick them up at a distance of more than a few miles.
     In the case of the NS, the only way to generate an active map with live ATCS coverage that covers dozens if not hundred of miles is to share the signals via the web.  Only when many railfans monitor the MCP ATCS signals locally in a wide area and then share the local data via an ATCS Monitor server can a wide geographic area of ATCS activity be painted.  Then, a person viewing ATCS monitor in a given area can tune into a list of servers in a geographic area (or an aggregate server that already combines many smaller servers' data) and enjoy a large maps filled with data being collected at many local sites.

    Each person monitoring MCP's on the NS will make make a bigger contribution to the map in his region when as many Control Points as possible can be pulled in off the radio waves.  To do this, the radios mentioned above in this web page are a start.  What also is needed for maximizing ATCS MCP reception is as much elevation as possible, favorable geographic location, and a decent antenna with appropriate coaxial cables. 
    An antenna that is tuned near the 900mhz frequency is desirable.  Omindirectional antennas look like vertical rods and pick up signals (and confounding noise) from all directions equally. 
    Other antennas such as Yagi's and Hentenna's
are directional and have more elaborate construction and can be aimed.  Directional antennas may be able to pick up weak signals at a further distance than omindirectional antennas while minimizing signal noise from other directions.
    Coaxial cable type and length is also important.  The ~900mhz ATCS signal that an antenna pulls in is weak and does not like to travel in cables.  It also does not want to go far in a cable.  From my "research" into this matter, it seems that simple coax cable that is used for cable TV is not the best choice.  A more suitable cable would be something like RG-8,
LMR-400 or LL-400 coax cable.  This cable is a bit thicker and stiffer than regular cable TV cable. 

    My house is located on the shore of Lake Erie.  A nice location, except for the fact that my elevation is very low, and thus not very good for long range ATCS radio reception.  The nearest railroad MCP to my house is "Elmwood" in Rocky River, Ohio.  It is about 3600 feet from my house.  When using the crudest of antennas, or even a short piece of bent wire, I could pick about 50% of the the Elmwood MCP signals.  That "50%" was the error rate that the ATCS Monitor program was reporting.  While 50% sounds bad, it is good enough to monitor a signal for our purposes.
    But, by using such simple crude antennas, I could only receive signals from the Elmwood MCP and not from other further away MCP's.  The next closest MCP signal is the "Bay Village" transmitter.  It is located 3.5 miles from my house, and with my simple crude wire antennas, I could not pick up the signal at all. 

    Thus began my quest to improve radio reception. 

    First of all, a better antenna was needed.  I searched the web for an antenna that sounded decent and treated myself to this one, a "HyperLink Technologies HG908UPRO 900MHZ Outdoor Omni-Directional V-POL 8DBI (HG908U-PRO)" antenna.  It is study looking, seems to cover the right radio frequency.  Once winter ended, I thought I could mount it on my roof without creating too much of a visual disturbance to the wife.  This antenna, like most ~900mhz antennas that can be obtained from radio supply internet web sites, is fitted with a female 50Ω type N connector (50Ω = 50ohm). 
    A section of good coaxial cable was needed to connect the antenna to my scanners.  (When I was doing all of this, I was not sure which scanner would work better, so somehow I ended up having both a Radio Shack Pro2006 and a Motorola Maxtrac.  To this day, I cannot decide which scanner works better at receiving the ATCS signals).  Here is my antenna sitting in my wife's office bolted to some lumber, the antenna cable can be seen running out of the bottom of it.
    The length of cable that connects the antenna to the scanner needed to be as short as possible.  The signal strength at ATCS frequencies does not travel well through long coaxial cables, not even in high quality cables.  Thus the problem of having an antenna high up on a roof connected to a scanner and computer down inside the house via 50 feet or so of coax cable cast doubts in my mind as to what the best way to do this would be.  A long cable run would perhaps negate the advantage of a high mounted rooftop antenna.  Ideally, the scanner would be mounted high up on the roof along with an antenna.  But scanners and computers are not waterproof and thus need to stay indoors. 
    For testing purposes I decided to set up an antenna indoors, upstairs in my house.  I would use a short 4 foot section of LL400 coax cable to connect the antenna to the scanners, and then the scanners would be connected to the computer via audio cables as described much earlier.
    So, my two scanners have different style connectors.  I found a vendor that makes custom lengths of LL400 coax with end connectors that can be specified by the user.  I specified a four foot section of LMR-400 with a male 50Ω type N connector at each end.  This type of cable is fairly stiff and if I were to do it again, I would have used a more flexible type of cable, the "LMR-400-Ultra Flex"  rather than standard "LMR-400".  And then, I picked up some adapters that would let me connect this cable's male 50Ω type N connector to the scanners:
    If I were certain which scanner I was going to use, I would have skipped the little adapters above and simply ordered the custom LMR-400 cable with a male 50Ω type N connector at one end of the cable and at the other end of the cable I would use either a male 50Ω BNC connector or a male mini UHF connector (depending upon which of the above scanners I was going to use).

    Setting all this up and then running ATCS Monitor program, I sadly found that I still could not regularly pick up further MCP's than before.  Happily, the Elmwood MCP reception (which had a 50% error rate when using a bent wire for an antenna) was now showing a better error rate of around 10%.  So, something was better.  By moving the antenna all around my house, I still could not pick up any other MCP's signals.   A disappointment to me.
    So, throwing good money after bad, I decided to pursue a directional Yagi antenna instead of my omnidirectional one.  I picked up a 900 MHz 12 dBi Yagi antenna with the usual female type N Connector and hooked up up to my scanners.  Since this was a directional antenna, I had to aim it in various directions and had the option of moving it around the upstairs of my house.  Since I know where the MCP's were in relation to my house, I could aim the antenna at them with some confidence.  The ATCS signals are vertically polarized, so I set the Yagi's orientation with the little metal spike elements pointed up and down. 
    After all this effort, I still had little to show for my efforts.  I still picked up the nearby Elmwood MCP perfectly, and every once in while (maybe 10 times in a 24 hour period), I would pick up the Bay Village signal.  And, on random times, I would pick up signals from other parts of the Cleveland area, and for a very short time, ATCS signals from Michigan.  So it looked like I would have to settle on only intercepting the local Elmwood signal with any degree of reliability.
    Springtime came to Ohio.  I had one final plan.  If I were to get higher, perhaps I could mount the antenna above my house and see if a signal from further MCP's could be reliably picked up.  On a warm day, I climbed up onto my roof with one laptop computer, lots of power chords, one Pro2006, one Maxtrac and it's power supply, and my Yagi antenna with a 4 foot length of LMR-400 cable.  I set up camp on the very top of my house and started the ACTS monitoring.  Again, no decent signals beyond what I always was getting from inside the house. 
    With the information gleaned from my rooftop experiment, my plan to set up an external rooftop antenna ended.  If I could not get a decent MCP signal from the top of my house using only 4 feet of LMR-400 cable, I did not think a roof top antenna with longer a longer length of cable going down into the house was going to work either.

Mobile Magnet Mount Antennas:
When running ATCS Monitor in a car, I use Magnet Mount Antennas.  These are 2 part devices, consisting of a tuned antenna (870 MHz to 950 MHz) that connects to a bottom magnetic mount with different radio connector options.  I like these magent mount antennas so much that several of my stationary serves in buildings use them and simply sit on the inside window-sills of host locations.

These come from the Pasternack electronics supply company.

PE51010  Wire Mobile Antenna Operates From 870 MHz to 950 MHz With a Nominal 5 dBi Gain NMO Mount Input Connector.

PE51022-10  NMO Magnetic Mount; DC - 2400 MHz; With 12 Foot RG58 Coaxial Cable; Mini-UHF Male.  (good for use with a Maxtrac).

PE51022-6   NMO Magnetic Mount; DC - 2400 MHz; With 12 Foot RG58 Coaxial Cable; BNC Male.  (good for use with a Pro2006 scanner).

Installing the ATCS Monitor Program

        I have heard that ATCS Monitor will work on newer versions of Microsoft Windows (Newer than WinXP), but it seems that some people have problems if they are not in the "administrator mode" on the computer.  I also have heard that sometimes the newer versions of Windows may lack specific Fonts (Century Gothic) that are needed for the ATCS monitor maps.  These fonts are apparently available in MS Office but not in Windows7 per se.
    And, I gather that older versions of Windows (pre WinXP) will not run ATCS Monitor without adding Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) or "Jet".  That alone seems to be a needless hassle as plenty of old WinXP units are to be found at a low price.

    As mentioned way up near the top of this document, I installed the ATCS monitor file (ATCS Monitor 4.1.0 Full Install / Upgrade) that I downloaded as an installation file from here.  I installed it on a WinXP Professional system as the "administrator mode" of the WinXP computer.  I let that downloaded installation program run itself, and let it install the ATCS program and files into the default computer folders (directories for the older guys like me) that ATCS wanted to be in.  Here is a view of the folder structure that I ended up with.  On the ATCS Yahoo site there are some tutorials that can helpful, some are in the form of PDF files, and some tutorials are in video format.
    The ATCS installation program made a folder called "ATCS Monitor" and put it into the "C:\Program Files\" folder, thus  the folder path "C:\Program Files\ATCS Monitor\" resulted.  The actual program to run ATCS Monitor resides in this folder. 
Within the ATCS Monitor" folder, the installation program made five more sub folders, "Downloads", "Import", "Layouts", "Logs", "MCPs", and "Notes".  
Loading Some Maps and the MCP Data Associated with Them

    Time for some fun.  If we have the ATCS program loaded and running on a Window computer, and if we have an internet connection, we can load some maps from the ATCS Yahoo site and watch the trains on the computer screen, almost as a railroad dispatcher would.  The maps are located here, and they are subdivided into link to different railroads. 
    From my experience, I chose the "Norfolk Southern" link, and then the "Dearborn Division" link, and finally found my target, the "NS Cleveland Area" map.  (Note, maps have been updated since this 2012 version) When I downloaded that NS Cleveland Area zip file, I put it into my ATCS "Downloads" folder.  The Zipped "NS Cleveland Area" file contains two zipped up files, a database MCP file, and a layout file which is basically the map. 
    Note that sometimes these ATCS zip files will have an "ini" file included, but not always.  There was no "ini" file included in the zip file we are working with here, and that omission will add an extra small step later.

    So, now we shall install these files from that "NS Cleveland Area" file.  Happily, the ATCS Monitor program can unzip and sort the files into the proper places, as long as you put the zip file in the ATCS "Downloads" folder to begin with.
    With ATCS Monitor running, find and click the tab labeled  "Actions" and then the "install" tab.  This will load the part of the ATCS Monitor program that loads files from your downloaded zip files.  You will see something like this, and here you click on the "Downloads" folder and then click the zip file inside the downloads folder that you wish to install.  (In this example case, "NS Cleveland Area").  After that, we encounter this screen.  I always UN check the little box "Delete Kit after Installation" otherwise the little zip file gets deleted.  Hit the "Install" button near the bottom of the screen.
    Now we have a little bit more to do.  The layout map and the database of  MCP's just got loaded some magical places in the ATCS program by the last thing we just did.  But, we have to tell the program which map we want to use with this MCP database.  (Many maps can work with the MCP data and over time, a user may have a big assortment of maps to choose from.  We currently just have one map, the "NS Cleveland Area.lay" map). 
    Since we just installed a layout map called "NS Cleveland Area.lay", we shall tell the ACTS Monitor program to use it with the installation we did two paragraphs above.  Find and click the "Configure" tab and then the "Options" tab and and this screen is encountered.  In this closeup view, find the box labeled "Layout File" and by using the "Browse" button, scroll up and down until you find the layout file of interest, (here it is "NS Cleveland Area.lay").  Then hit accept or OK.
    We are just about done.  Go to the upper left "File" button on ATCS Monitor, click on it and then "Save As" and give the file a name you like, like "my atcs map" and hit OK.  By doing this, we have generated an "ini" file named "my atcs map.ini".  The "ini" files are stored in the main folder for ATCS, namely, "C:\Program Files\ATCS Monitor\"
    Exit the ATCS Monitor program and re-launch it, find "File" and click on your freshly made "my atcs map.ini", and your map with it's MCP's will be launched.

Let's watch the trains on the map via the Internet (no scanner input yet)

    We need to tell the ATCS program where the data stream is coming from.  The data can come from an Internet connection, or from the scanner radio.  To use both sources simultaneously, the scanner radio data input has to be set to a server and then fed to the Internet connection (two instances of ATCS Monitor will need to run at the same time to do that), more about that later.
    We shall start out simple.  We want to see ATCS Monitor working, using the internet as a source.  Load your recently made file "my atcs map.ini"  .  Go to the "Options" tab again, click it, and then the "Data Source" tab.  Click on the "Network Connection" button.  Notice that of the four possible Data Sources only one can be used at a time and .  Here we clicked on "Network Connection" and much of the stuff on the menu box gets grayed out. 
    In the Network Settings box, there is some stuff to be entered.  Here we will tell the ATCS Monitor program were to look for ATCS Monitor servers that are broadcasting data on the internet.  The ATCS Yahoo page has a big listing of these servers.  Some are active, some are dormant.
    In our example section, we see we can add internet sources by clicking the "Add" button on the right. (example of the Berea server being added).   I have a bunch listed, they come with an internet address and a Port number.  A check in the box to the left indicates I want them to be active.  Here is my listing, it is in parts because the Network settings box is too short to display box it all at once. part 1, part 2, part 3

A checked box for "Server mode Listener"     port 4802      Base=30000,60    (this is a reference to my ATCS Monitor server, and it exists here in this listing for reasons that escape me).

    Once you have entered the server lists, save your ATCS file again ("my atcs map" or whatever you fancy).  Exit and relaunch ATCS Monitor and reload your "my atcs map.ini" file.  If you did this correctly, after a short time, data will be scrolling down the screen, and if you click on "Dispatcher Display", you should see something like this.  Control Point signals are either cleared (green) or red.  White lines are track, Green lines are tracks lined up for trains, red lines are tracks with trains on them, small squares on turnouts are an indication of turnout repositioning. 
    Red Control Point labels are actively receiving ATCS data.  White Control Point labels are not receiving any ATCS data, almost always because the data is not being captured and re-broadcast by any local railfans.  On the above map, only 5 of about 35 Control Points are picking up ATCS data, (the lonely Elmwood one being my contribution to the effort).  In time, more ATCS Monitor servers may come on line and more un-monitored white Control Points will become red ones.
    Now that we did so much work, save this file with a file name, something like "my atcs map internet.ini" from earlier

Let's watch the trains on the map via radio scanner input (no internet feed at this time)

    For this example we need to tell the ATCS program that the data stream is coming from our scanner radio instead of the internet.    Remember: The data can come from an Internet connection, or from the scanner radio.  To use both sources simultaneously, the scanner radio data input has to be set to a server and then fed to the Internet connection (two instances of ATCS Monitor will need to run at the same time to do that), more about that later.
    Hopefully the scanner is hooked up to the computer via the instructions from earlier in this document.  Don't forget to turn the scanner on, and have the right frequency dialed in.
Load your recently made file "my atcs map.ini" .  Go to the "Options" tab again, click it, and then the "Data Source" tab.  Click on the "Sound Card" button.  Notice that of the four possible Data Sources only one can be used at a time and .  Here we clicked on "Sound Card" and some of the stuff on the menu box gets grayed out.  In the "Device" box, a short listing of things that the computer recognizes as sound cards will be shown.  In my case, we see a "SoundMAX Digital Audio" entry for my sound card.  If I were to use a Griffin I-Mic USB sound card, the I-Mic would be listed as a choice in this box.  The "Sampling Rate" box shows 44100 automatically and I left that alone.  The "COM Port" box is grayed out.  I unchecked the box marked "No Routers" and this allows people with aggregate ATCS Monitor servers to feed off my ATCS Monitor server.   
    In the big "Network Settings" box, I put a check next to "Server Mode Listener" and used the Edit button to give "Server Mode Listener" a TCP port a value of 4802 (I have seen other ATCS servers with TCP port values ranging from 4799 to 4900 and many values between.  I would recommend picking a TCP port number between 4799 and 4900 but would perhaps avoid TCP ports 4840, 4843, 4847, 4894, 4899 as these may be reserved for specific purposes.).  And I also entered a "Base" of  30000,60 which sets up my UDP ports.  By specifying 30000,60  I am basically specifying sixty UDP ports will be available, from 30000 to 30059.
    Then check the "Actions" button and then "Monitor MCP's" begin monitoring the MCP's.  To see if your radio scanner is indeed transmitting anything at all to your sound card, check the "Signal Analysis" by clicking "View" and then click on "Signal Analysis".   With  "Signal Analysis", you should see something like this.  If the box has only a flat line, then the scanner and the sound card are not communicating.  If you see a wavy line like in this "Signal Analysis" example, that is good.  That is the background radio static that we see between the occasional bursts of ATCS transmissions.  Note the little slider bar on the bottom.  Move it back and forth till the wavy line is almost touching the top and bottom of the "Signal Analysis" box.  The wavy line should not be hitting the top or bottom of the box, that will clip the signal, and the wavy line should not be to small in relation to the "Signal Analysis" box.  In this case, the slider is almost all the way to the left.  On other computers, or if I use a Griffin I-Mic, I find the slider is usually sort of in the middle of its left-right range.

    Here is what the ATCS Monitor shows when feeding only from  the radio scanner.  Note that the data is flowing mostly from the only MCP that is close enough to me to reliably receive, "Elmwood", thus only Elmwood is displayed in red letters.  After five days of data collection a few other Control Points such as "RAM" and "RU drawbridge" and an unknown MCP have contributed a few (17) blips of data compared to the 7276 blips of data from the nearby "Elmwood" Control Point.   
    Here are more screen shots of the ATCS Monitor settings, since they work for me, they may be of help to readers of this page:
Configure Options General  Note that I put a check in the "Ignore Decoding Errors" box.
Configure Options Windows (ATCS)
Configure Options Data Source
Configure Options Display
Configure Options Protocol
Configure Options DSP/GPS
Configure Railroad Information
Configure Rules
    Save these settings with a unique file name, something like "my atcs map scanner.ini"
Ports, TCP and UDP

    What are TCP and UDP ports anyway?  A home computer connected to the internet needs TCP ports so that certain computer programs can communicate to and fro with the internet.  Port 25 is reserved for SMTP E-mail protocols.  Port 80 is reserved for an internet web server, port  110 is reserved for POP3 Post Office Protocols for E-mail.  For ATCS Monti tor, I see that the TCP ports between 4799 and 4900 (avoiding TCP ports 4840, 4843, 4847, 4894, 4899) are often used for allowing ATCS Monti tor to communicate with the outside world. 
    If you pick a TCP port, (I used 4802) that specific port must be opened in your network (DSL or Cable) router-switch configuration, (more on that later).  ATCS Monitor data coming to and from the internet get funneled to the particular computer on a home network that has the TCP port specified (4802 in my case) and the ATCS Monitor program is instructed by the Configuration to use that port.  Basically, the TCP port is making a doorway or a data pathway that links ATCS Monitor program on you computer with the internet world.
    The UDP ports are chosen as multiple slots in your hosting computer that can be filled by visitors from the outside world, sort of like seats in a theater.  If you set up an ATCS Monitor server and collect local information from your radio scanner, other people running ATCS Monitor would most likely want to partake of this data and thus fill in voids in their ATCS Monitor maps.  By setting up UDP ports, you can specify how many visitors or seats in you theater you will permit.  And by setting this up, the seats can be defined in a small area (a limited number of UDP ports) instead of spread out all over the UDP port world on your computer. 
    I figured sixty ATCS Monitor visitors or seats would be a good start, perhaps I'll need more UDP ports at a later date.  So, I set up the UDP ports for sixty ATCS Monitor visitors (Base=30000,60) which means I have made UDP ports 30000 through 30059 available for ATCS Monitor visitors.  Till now, the most visitors I have ever seen is about 16.  The visitors can be seen on the Clients  Connected window of ATCS Monitor, some are duplicates, indicating that they are perhaps unwittingly running more than one instance of ATCS Monitor.
    Just like the TCP ports, the UDP ports must be enabled in your network (DSL or Cable) router-switch configuration, (more on that later).  And when doing that, the router-switch will need to be told which particular computer is running ATCS Monitor on your home network.  And that router-switch will need to make the TCP and UDP ports enabled for ATCS Monitor directed towards that particular computer. 

(DSL or Cable) Router-Switch Configuration

    If you are using more than one computer on a home network, then you likely are using a network (DSL or Cable) router-switch.  In my case, I have an old computer with only one mission, to run as an ATCS Monitor server.  This computer is on my home network where several other computers are used for day to day things like e-mail, Internet surfing, business stuff, gaming, banking, etc. 
    Do your self a favor, assign STATIC Local Area Network (LAN) addresses for your computers on your network, or at least for the computer that is the ATCS Monitor server .  Why?  If you do not, then your (DSL or Cable) router-switch will use its built in Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and give the computers their own (LAN) addresses, and these can change depending upon the sequence of which computers are turned on when.  For example, the (DSL or Cable) router-switch on my network is a Linksys E 1200, and by design, this (DSL or Cable) router-switch itself  will always be at LAN address     But, the computers on the LAN can have LAN addresses from through  
    So, if I turn on computer A, then computer B, and then computer C,  and the (DSL or Cable) router-switch's DHCP is at its "enabled" setting, the computer LAN addresses will likely be:
computer A=
computer B=
computer C=

But if I turn the computers on in a different sequence, say computer C, then computer B, and then computer A, and the (DSL or Cable) router-switch's DHCP is at its "enabled" setting, the computers LAN addresses will likely be different, such as:
computer A=
computer B=
computer C=

    For our computer that is acting as an ACTS Monitor server, we want a LAN address that does not change over time, otherwise it will be harder to configure (DSL or Cable) router-switch ports that refer to a specific computer at a specific LAN address.
    What to do?  Either fully disable the DHCP feature on your (DSL or Cable) router-switch or set aside a range of LAN address's on your (DSL or Cable) router-switch that are not subject to change.  Here are some web pages that discuss this:
Static IP address setup Converting  from a DHCP based LAN configurationStatic and dhcp at the same time, D-link.
    On my system, I have set my LAN address for my ATCS computer to be and on my Linksys (DSL or Cable) router-switch, I have these settings for the DHCP topic.  Notice that I have restricted my LAN automatic enabled DHCP address range from through    Since my ATCS Monitor computer is at, the ATCS computer will fall outside the range of the above, my ATCS computer will be in the area that static LAN addresses can be used, i.e, though
    I left the "Subnet Mask" settings at the default  and set my "Keep Alive Period" to 180 seconds.

    While we are setting up the (DSL or Cable) router-switch settings, we might as well open up TCP and UDP ports that will be needed for the ATCS Monitor server to communicate through your LAN to the outside world's Internet. I set up TCP and UDP ports here, where the red arrow row shows the TCP ports being set up 4800 though 4802 (I only am using 4802 now) and the blue arrow shows the sixty UDP ports being set up, 30000 through 30059. Now, look at what was circled in green.  Enter your LAN address of the computer running ATCS Monitor (mine is ).  Be sure to put a check mark in the boxes on the right side of the column, or your settings will not take place. 
    Another DSL or Cable) router-switch setting that is optional, but I changed allows certain ports and applications to have high or low priority. 
    Surprisingly, on another part and another part of the (DSL or Cable) router-switch settings area, I did not have to make any changes nor entries for my ATCS Monitor server.  This page can be left at the default values.  Note that another computer at is an "HTTP" server for a music web page, and has a port setting of 80.  That computer, is completely unrelated to ATCS Monitor.

    Since my DSL or Cable router-switch settings seem to work, I'll share them here for what it is worth.  Here is a complete series of snapshots of my Linksys E 1200 DSL or Cable router-switch settings, remember my computer that is running the ATCS Monitor is at LAN address    :

Linksys_Setup-Basic_Setup We made changes here.
Linksys  Setup-IP V6 Setup
Linksys_Setup-MAC Address Clone

Linksys_Wireless-Basic Wireless Settings
Linksys_Wireless-Guest Access
Linksys  Wireless-MAC Filter

Linksys_Security-Firewall  I made changes here, but these changes don't really pertain to ATCS Monitor.
Linksys_Security-VPN Passthrough

Linksys_Access Policy

Linksys_Applications Gaming-Single Port Forwarding
Linksys_Applications Gaming-Port Range Forwarding We made necessary changes here.
Linksys_Applications Gaming-Port Range Triggering
Linksys_Applications Gaming-DMZ
Linksys_Applications Gaming-IPv6 Firewall
Linksys_Applications Gaming-QoS

Linksys_Administration-Factory Defaults
Linksys_Administration-Firmware Uprgrade

Linksys_Status-Local Network
Linksys_Status-Wireless Network

How to set the Local Area Network (LAN) address on your ATCS Monitor computer

    In the above setion, we set aside Static LAN addresses, though that could be used for an ATCS computer.  My ATCS computer was set at by using Network Settings in the WinXP Control Panel.  This was done on this menu, where the green arrows point to the changes I made and the red arrow points to what was de-selected.  Note, my Linksys (DSL or Cable) router-switch is
    Here is a complete series of snapshots of my WinXP network settings on my computer the is running the ATCS Monitor server:
lan_1properties_b TCP/IP settings    We made changes here.
lan_1properties_b1 IP settings and Gateway
lan_1properties_b2 DNS settings
lan_1properties_b3 WINS
lan_1properties_b4 Options
lan_1properties_b4a TCP/IP filtering   These default settings worked for my TCP and UDP ports.
lan_2 Support
lan_2 Network Connection Details

Give Your Server an Internet Name so it can Serve the World
    By making it to this point, you may be at stage where you can run ATCS Monitor on a home computer and you may want to share your local ATCS Monitor with railfans from the rest of you home town or the whole world. 
    If your ATCS Monitor is picking up valid signals from a radio scanner and you have a connecton to the internet, you can set up an
ATCS Monitor server.  The type of internet connection does not seem to really matter, it could be via a T1 line, DSL (which I have), cable modem, or even a telephone dial-up modem.  Most of us who use the internet at home have one of the latter three choices. 
    An interesting thing about home internet connections is that the internet provider (be it
DSL, cable modem, or telephone dial-up modem) provides you with your very own dynamic numerical IP address when you are connected to the internet.  You can check this with many web sites that can report to you  your IP address.  What is my IP,  or IP Location, or many others.  At the moment, my numerical IP address assigned by my DSL provider is but this is not permanent.  Everytime you make or re-establish a connection to the internet, your internet provider will likely give you a different  IP address.  Sometimes, if you have a steady DSL or Cable modem connection, you IP address may not change for days or weeks, but sometimes it changes without you realizing it changed.
    Why am I mentioning these changing IP address that home internet users deal with?  If you want people from the outside world to make contact with your ATCS Monitor server, they must be provided with an internet address to your computer running the
ATCS Monitor server.  I could look up my IP address like in the above paragraph and tell people to enter that into their ATCS Monitor program.  Since my ATCS Monitor server is on port 4802, the IP address that I would give to the outside world would be and port 4802.
    That is fine and dandy, but what happens when I get an different IP address from my internet service provider?  People from the outside who try to use the same IP address as before and port 4802 will not get to my ATCS Monitor server as my IP address will be changed (the port number stays the same).  What is needed is a way for my very own compter, that has the ATCS Monitor server running on it, to broadcast an unchanging alias of its IP address. 
    Many services provide a method just such a tool.  These services are called Dynamic Domain Name Servers (DDNS) providers and many are free.  After simple registration, they work by installing a small application that runs on your
ATCS Monitor server computer and every few minutes this little application checks your IP address with the DDNS server and matches that with an unchanging alias that you picked when you first registered with the DDNS service.  My alias for my ATCS Monitor server is ""  with a port 4802 entered separately.  When visting people try to access my ATCS monitor they type the alias address which is "".  The DDNS server, wherever that is, keeps track of my most recent IP address and forwards the visitor's request to that numerical IP address.  So, when someone is looking for "", the DDNS will forward that request to my real (but never permanent) IP address that is currently   . 
    Every so often, my numerical IP address changes, and a few minutes later, the DDNS application will pass that information to the DDNS server, and thus visitors who are use my unchangine alias address will be automatically guided to my newly changed numerical IP address.  In essence, the DDNS lets you assign a permanent web address to your ATCS Monitor sever, even if that compter has a non permanent IP address.
    I have used both and, with good result.  With, you can get up to 5 free alias addresses, and with, you can get one free address. 

Let's watch the trains on the map via the Internet and with our own scanner's input
    In earlier sections of this document,
we figured out how to watch the trains on the ATCS Monitor map via radio scanner input without an internet feed.  And we also figured out how to watch the trains on the ATCS Monitor map at this time via the Internet but without radio scanner input.  Now we shall combine the two techniques and run an instance of ATCS Monitor that has data input from the internet and radio scanner at the same time.
    To do this, first get the computer and file with ATCS Monitor map via radio scanner input without an internet feed running  by launching the file that we set up earlier ("my atcs map scanner.ini") .  Leave that running.

    Then open another instance of ATCS Monitor (this can be on the same physical computer as int he last paragraph or another computer on your LAN).  Launch the file ("my atcs map internet.ini") that we created in the section titled ATCS Monitor map at this time via the Internet but without radio scanner input .  This second ATCS Monitor instance should be now saved with a different .ini file name so as to be distinct from the earlier files.  We shall call it "my atcs map scanner internet.ini"  .  
    In this freshly renamed file; "my atcs map scanner internet.ini" file, data will be collected from the internet using the setting that we estblished earlier in the ATCS Monitor map at this time via the Internet but without radio scanner input section.  But, we shall also tell the program to feed from the data that "my atcs map scanner.ini" generates. 

    So, go to ATCS Monitor's "Options" tab again, click it, and then click the "Data Source" tab.  Here I figured we need to enter the Web address one's own ATCS Monitor's server, in my case:
""  with a port 4802.
   to the list of other Web servers (not mine) that already were listed in the
"Data Source" section of the "my atcs map scanner internet.ini" file.
    But this did not work for me.  It seems that my network (DSL or Cable) router-switch would not let me look out to the internet and and then back into my my own LAN.  So instead of using ""  with a port 4802, I found out that I could use my LAN address of the computer running this combined internet plus scanner instance of ATCS Monitor:
with a port 4802.

Here are the screen shots of the important changes made in "my atcs map internet.ini" file that became "my atcs map scanner internet.ini" file.

Screen shot 1 of Data Source   nothing new here
Screen shot 2 of Data Source   nothing new here
Screen shot 3 of Data Source   a new link back to my own computer on my own LAN: ( "" with a port 4802.)

    So, when running the
"my atcs map scanner internet.ini" file (while keeping the "my atcs map scanner.ini" file running), I was finally able to have the data feed from my own radio scanner merge with the data from the Internet.

    After saving and re-launching
the "my atcs map scanner internet.ini" file, and also having the "my atcs map scanner.ini" file running simultaneously we are in business.    Here is a screen shot of the Cleveland area with combined data from my radio scanner and from the Internet.  My radio scanner provides data to only the Elmwood control point part of the map.  The other control points that are in red font are provided with data from the internet.  Here is a sceen shot of the data that generates the above map.
    And finally, here is a screen shot of the "Servers Connected" window.  Note there are three servers listed, the first and third are feeding my data from the internet, and the middle server is my very own radio scanner server that is running.

New, July 2015:
How to set up ATCS Monitor server in a box (less likely to be stolen from a semi-public location).

New, February 2016:
Using FreedomPop Mobile Hotspot USB devices to run ATCS Monitor on the road. AKA "Automobile ATCS".  FreedomPop sells a variety of plug in USB WiFi devices that can provide an internet connection to a Windows computer that is on the go.  The connections are 3G and/or 4g, and are plenty fast for running the
ATCS Monitor.  If you are careful, you can wade through the The FreedomPop web page and pick up a device that has adata plan that basically is almost free for usage under 500MBb/month.  Here is my "Automobile ATCS" part 1, and  "Automobile ATCS" part 2.

New, February 2016:
Tips on
using FreedomPop Mobile Hotspot USB devices to run ATCS Monitor remote servers.