Long-time readers will know that I highly recommend using a scanner when railfanning. In many cases it gives you a "heads up" that a train is coming, and in a few cases I have found a train that I would have otherwise missed.
What's a scanner? It is a radio receiver that you can program to scan certain frequencies. In my case I have it programmed to monitor railway frequencies that are used by CN and CP. The scanner rapidly loops through the channels (frequencies) you have programmed, looking for any kind of broadcast. If it finds one, it pauses there until the broadcast is complete, then it resumes scanning. You can also have it sit on one channel if there is a conversation there you want to monitor.
I use a Uniden BC72XLT scanner. It is a good basic hand-held scanner and it serves my purposes very well. The range is pretty good and it is easy to program and operate. You can't go too far wrong with Uniden.
I bought mine from Durham Radio in Ontario. You can also buy it on Amazon, or on eBay. Durham Radio is listing it for $129.95, Amazon says $77.76 with free shipping, and eBay averages around $80.
The only feature I wish it had was labels, so I could look at the scanner and have a description of the channel. It just shows the channel number. I printed out a little list of what the channels are, and taped it to the scanner so I can refer to it.
In my next post about scanners, I will talk about how to set up your scanner.