Overnight Road Trip Radio Report: Columbia, SC, the Riverbanks Zoo, and the Gifford Rosenwald School – 16/17 April 2023

On Sunday afternoon, I drove up to Columbia, SC and stayed overnight to visit the Riverbanks Zoo the next morning before returning to Savannah. I thought I was going to have to cancel it after fighting with a kidney stone from Thursday morning through Saturday morning, but thankfully I didn’t have to. Monday turned out to be a perfect spring day for visiting the Zoo (and this time, I was able to borrow a DSLR so I could take better photos). I was impressed with the Zoo’s new aquarium complex; it opened last month after an extended period of construction. The Gorilla exhibit has a new climbing structure, and it was fun to watch the Gorillas put it to use. Radio-wise, it was also a nice trip; 2 Meter and 70 cm amateur radio repeaters were active, AirBand frequencies were active, and the Columbia area Fire Departments and EMS units were busy as always. On Sunday night, I was even surprised by some UH-60s from Fort Campbell passing through the area. This trip also gave me the opportunity to use my new Uniden SDS100 scanner outside of Savannah and Brunswick (and I continue to be very impressed with it).

Set up for Amateur Radio and Scanning in the hotel room in Columbia; the radios (from left to right) are an Anytone 878 for 2M/70cm Amateur Radio and GMRS, a Uniden SDS100, a Uniden BCD436HP, and a Whistler TRX-2.

Riverbanks Zoo

On my last visit to the Riverbanks Zoo, my DLSR decided to die on me, so all I had on that trip were some cell phone photos. This time, I was able to borrow a DSLR that would work with my big zoom lens, so I was able to take some better photos. I was particularly pleased to get some good photos of one of the Zoo’s Koalas, Charlotte, and her joey Kirra. I’ve been waiting for the new Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center to open, and I wasn’t disappointed; the exhibits are terrific (I’ve only included a couple of aquarium photos so as not to spoil the experience for those who haven’t visited yet).

Amateur Radio

The last few times I’ve been in or through Columbia, the 2 Meter and 70 cm repeaters weren’t active, but on Sunday and Monday, there was good activity, even on the PRN DMR system (which usually seems to be unused).

146.6250- (DCS 315) - Little Mountain
146.8350- (PL 179.9) - Bowman
146.8800- (PL 123.0) - Orangeburg
147.2100+ (PL 156.7) - Little Mountain 
147.3300+ (PL 156.7) - Columbia
440.5875+ (DMR CC1) - Orangeburg
441.7250+ (PL 91.5) - Columbia
442.3875+ (DMR CC1) - Charleston South
442.5125+ (DMR CC1) - Columbia East
442.8750+ (DCS 315) - Columbia


On Sunday, most of what I heard on Aviation and MilCom frequencies was civil aviation, but I did get a surprise late Sunday night when I caught some UH-60s from 5-101 AVN at Fort Campbell fly past Columbia and land at nearby McEntire JNGB: ARMY 20029 (UH-60M, 07-20029, 5-101 AVN), ARMY 20806 (UH-60M, 15-20806, 5-101 AVN), ARMY 20591 (UH-60M, 13-20591, 5-101 AVN). On Monday’s return trip to Savannah, I heard some activity from the 55th FS at Shaw AFB and some from VMFA(AW)-533 at MCAS Beaufort as well as aircraft calling the Seymour Johnson AFB and Joint Base Charleston Command Posts.

119.500/257.800 - Columbia Metropolitan Tower
132.400/253.500 - McEntire JNGB Tower
124.150/133.400/285.600/338.200 - Columbia TRACON
311.200 - 20th FW/55th FS Ops "SHOOTER OPS"
141.675 - 20th FW/55th FS Air-to-Air
259.850 - 20th FW/55th FS Air-to-Air
276.150 - 20th FW/79th FS Air-to-Air

360.525 - VMFA(AW)-533 Tac 1
269.700 - VMFA(AW)-533 Tac 2

349.400 - Joint Base Charleston CP
311.000 - Seymour Johnson AFB CP

284.500 - SEALORD North Primary
376.900 - W-137 Discrete

281.550/124.075 - Jax Center Summerville High
285.650/126.125 - Jax Center Statesboro High
290.350/132.425 - Jax Center Hunter Ultra High
306.300/133.450 - Jax Center Florence Low
317.550/134.375 - Jax Center Charleston Low
319.200/127.875 - Jax Center Aiken High
363.200/132.925 - Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low
370.950/133.625 - Jax Center Georgetown High
307.050/126.425 - Atlanta Center Dublin High
322.325/128.100 - Atlanta Center Augusta Low

Public Safety

Most of the public safety communications between Savannah and Columbia along the route I take, US-321, are on the Palmetto 800 P25 TRS, although some of the more rural counties still utilize VHF conventional radio systems. Others use commercial systems such as the FleetTalk Carolinas NXDN TRS. South Carolina Forestry also still uses a VHF Conventional radio system.

159.2625 (DCS 125) - SC Forestry Barnwell
159.3300 (DCS 271) - SC Forestry Lake Murray

155.9400 (PL 85.4) - Allendale County EMS Dispatch
151.0250 (PL 118.8) - Calhoun County FD Dispatch

Palmetto 800
 TG 23541 - Kershaw County FD Dispatch
 TG 23545 - Kershaw County FD Ops 1
 TG 24542 - Lexington County FS Dispatch (Automated Dispatch)
 TG 24531 - Lexington County FS Ops 1
 TG 24532 - Lexington County FS Ops 2
 TG 24543 - Lexington County FS Admin
 TG 24871 - Cayce FD Dispatch (Lexington Co)
 TG 25053 - Orangeburg County FD Dispatch
 TG 25552 - Columbia FD Dispatch (Richland Co)
 TG 25553 - Columbia FD Ops 1 (Richland Co)
 TG 25554 - Columbia FD Ops 2 (Richland Co)
 TG 25556 - Columbia FD Ops 4 (Richland Co)
 TG 25557 - Columbia FD Ops 5 (Richland Co)
 TG 26101 - Sumter County FD Dispatch
 TG 28609 - SC LifeNet (Air Methods Medevac Helicopters)
 TG 32065 - Hampton County FD

FleetTalk Carolinas NXDN TRS
 TG 453 - Fairfield County EMS


Since Sundays and Monday mornings usually aren’t busy parts of the week for MilCom, I decided to do some railroad monitoring on this trip to Columbia. Most of the activity I heard was from CSX, but there was also some Norfolk Southern radio traffic to hear.

160.4100 - AAR 20, CSX BC Dispatch (some stations with PL 250.3)
161.3700 - AAR 84, CSX AD Dispatch (some stations with PL 250.3)
161.1000 - AAR 66, CSX Road (some stations with PL 250.3)

161.4600 - AAR 90, Norfolk Southern Dispatch
160.6050 - AAR 33, Norfolk Southern Road

The Gifford, SC Rosenwald School

I can’t stand driving I-95 in South Carolina because it’s only two lanes and is easily backed up by vehicles broken down in the emergency lane or even minor crashes, so I usually take US-321 from Hardeeville up through the middle of South Carolina to Columbia. I’ve driven past the Gifford, SC Rosenwald School in Hampton County numerous times, but never stopped to get some photos until Monday. Rosenwald Schools were funded by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and built in partnership with Booker T. Washington for black students in rural communities between 1917-1932. They were often the first schools built in black communities. The one in Gifford was built in 1920/1921 and operated as a school until 1958, after which it was replaced by a newer school and used for Sunday school and church services. The signs out front advertise a restoration effort, but I haven’t been able to find much more information on it.

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