Have you ever wondered where those odd stations found at the ends of the AM broadcast band might be located and what they're all about? These are 'Traveller Information Stations' or 'TIS's and, 'Highway Advisory Radio' (HAR) stations. Because of their low power (100mw - 10W), they make challenging DX targets if you can catch the ID on their continually- repeated audio loop.

These stations are located throughout Canada and the USA at places such as highway intersections, border crossings, ferry terminals, airports and parks ... just about any place that needs to advise travellers (vehicles) with up-to-date directions or information. From here on Mayne Island, the farthest TIS I have been able to identify was WPTC509, located in Carbon County, Wyoming.

courtesy: https://www.google.ca/maps
Thanks to the International Radio Club of America's (IRCA) Phil Bytheway, an up-to-date list (58 pages) of all known stations is available for download or, if you choose, as a purchased hard copy.

 IRCA TIS/HAR LIST (Winter 2016)

The IRCA TIS/HAR LIST lists all US and Canadian TIS/HAR stations, by frequency, including call letters, state (province,) city, county, licensee, address, coordinates, expiration date and dates of DXM/DXN reports/sources. It has been updated with FCC data, DXM, DXN and DXer reports, and on-line listings through March 1 2016.
The 2016 IRCA TIS/HAR LIST is posted on the IRCA website for all to download. The link is: http://www.ircaonline.org/TIS_2016.pdf.
For those preferring a hard copy, one can be ordered from the IRCA.

As well, this page on regulations, permitted content and TIS history has some interesting info.

IRCA is one of the oldest clubs dedicated to DXing the broadcast bands and members receive a monthly journal of members loggings as well as other relevant articles. A trip to the IRCA website might get you hooked on this part of the radio hobby as it's probably the way that most amateurs discovered the 'magic of radio', on late winter nights! Just in case you need it,  the mwlist will help you identify any stations heard in the AM broadcast band, worldwide.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “TIS DX”

  • Dave WD8CIV:

    That’s impressive, making Wyoming from your location.

    Ten or so years ago I noticed a small pole and vertical antenna that went up at an interchange I pass through each day on the way to work. I assumed it was some sort of traffic or weather monitoring installation. But a year or two later some of the programmable highway signs along my route advised drivers to tune to 1610 kHz. It was that transmitter, WPWC517. According to the list there’s another site with the same frequency and callsign about seven miles to the east, but I’ve only ever heard the western site.

  • Steve VE7SL:

    Interesting Dave. Perhaps all of the ones on the list are not necessarily always on the air but might pop-up from time to time when needed? I find the hardest part is trying to get the ID / call as these signal are usually pretty fady. Best times seem to be pre-dawn hours or dawn at the tx site.

  • Dave WD8CIV:

    The highway department only activates this transmitter if there are unusual traffic conditions – construction, weather, or a significant traffic incident. Also, the antenna is tiny for the frequency. It’s a short vertical, 8 or 10 feet long, mounted on a wooden pole maybe 25 feet up. DXing this is going to be like trying to catch a spy behind enemy lines. I can only hear it when I’m within a mile or two of it in my car. (Although admittedly my car radio has terrible sensitivity.) It doesn’t help that the signal is seriously undermodulated too. It sounds like they record it by telephone.

  • Steve VE7SL:

    >It sounds like they record it by telephone.

    That would make sense as it would allow on-the-fly updates to be easily made.

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