Thursday, April 30, 2009

Visiting George's MOPAC Layout, Product Updates, and CV 29

Well it’s time for another edition of SoundBytes. This week we’ll take a look at George’s personal Missouri Pacific layout at his house, talk a little bit about the big news from SoundTraxx and exciting new releases from Blackstone Models. For our tech tip this week, we’ll take a closer look at one of the most important CVs on a decoder, CV 29. So enjoy this week's edition and if there is anything you would like to see here on SoundBytes, don’t hesitate to email us at

A Look at George’s Missouri Pacific Layout

For those interested, I currently have a 12’x8’ L-shaped layout. It is my lone remnant of the 22’x16’ 2-car garage layout that I had in Texas before moving up here to Durango. The layout is loosely set in East Texas around Jacksonville and focuses on the Missouri Pacific in 1978.

The mainline runs the entire length, terminates at each end and runs behind the industrial switching area.

Off the junction with another subdivision,

there is a Coca-Cola Bottling plant and then it leads to a small staging track for interchange traffic.

In the industrial switching area, I have a 2-track holding/fiddle yard and 4 industries to serve. Usually there is only one switcher stationed here, an MP-15, SW-1500 or a GP-15-1.

Among the “named” industries, I have Edmonton Oil Company,

Stars Shipping,

and Belfour Plastics. (Can you see any hockey influence?)

I have yet to name the feed mill. With car cards and waybills I am working on, I can have about a 2-hour operation session by myself. On the L-leg, I have the “scenic” portion

allowing a switching lead and the mainline to cross the river.

The river makes for some good fishing, just beware of the bull shark!

*Now for some details, I use Micro Engineering track, under-table Blue Point manual switch machines from New Rail Models, and EasyDCC from CVP products, as well as SoundTraxx sound decoders for the locomotives. Scenery is mostly done, with trees needing to be added (when does it ever stop??) and some extensive “static grass” ground cover in some areas. Once I finish the buildings and weather them, then I get to add the fun details!

SoundTraxx Updates

In case you haven’t heard, we are excited to partner up with Athearn to produce Tsunami sound decoders for their Genesis line and other select products. For a list of the models equipped with Tsunami sound decoders, visit their website and search for SoundTraxx. Following this announcement, we have received some calls from loyal customers concerned that we may not be able to keep stock levels up of our after-market production Tsunami decoders. We can assure you that this is not the case. We have a great production staff and plenty of production capacity to ensure the Tsunamis will continue to be supplied to the hobby shops. This will ensure your ability to get your older Athearn locomotives to sound as good as the new Tsunami-equipped models!

Blackstone Models Updates

Recently, we have been seeing the results of the hard work put in by Jeff and Jessica in our Blackstone Models Division. We have posted photos on the Blackstone Models website of the “final” samples of the high-side gondolas. These should be wrapping up production any day now and we hope to have them here to ship sometime in June!

The first pre-production test samples of the cabooses have arrived. Final comments and approval are all that is left before they start building these cabbages. The anticipation is as high as the demand for these extraordinary models. The pre-order deadline to guarantee the road numbers you desire is May 15!

Also recently added to the 2009 new release lineup is the “economy” door boxcar. These are versions of the D&RGW 3000 Series Boxcar with a sparse door hardware design. These cars will be shipping early winter. Included paint schemes in this release in addition to the six road numbers are a painted and unlettered version, the popular “supply car,” and “Grande Gold” to match the respective “economy” prototypes. Get your orders in before June 15.

Tech Tip: CV 29 (Configuration Register)

CV 29 is probably the most important CV (Configuration Variable) to address. This CV determines how the decoder operates and reacts to the DCC commands sent from the command station. Using the programming techniques described in the previous SoundBytes post, we have to answer five questions to determine CV 29’s value.

The first question is in regards to direction, which is set by bit 0. This bit allows you to easily flip the motor direction on the decoder. For example, did the railroad run long hood forward? If so, we would add 1 to the CV value instead of rewiring the decoder.

Next we have to look at the speed steps as determined by bit 1. Is the command station set up for 14 or 28/128 speed-step mode? For the more advanced speed steps (28/128), add 2 (note: all SoundTraxx decoders are defaulted to 28/128 speed-step mode). The command station must match the speed-step mode or the headlamps may not function properly.

We now look at bit 2, which determines DCC/analog modes. Are you planning on running your locomotive using traditional DC voltage, also known as analog control? If so, add 4 to the total values accumulated so far.

Next up are speed tables as set in bit 4. Most modelers use a linear, standard table, meaning the throttle response and speed steps have a direct linear correlation. If you want to use an alternate speed table like the ones on page 18 of the Tsunami Diesel’s User’s Guide, then add 16 and adjust CV 25 to select a new speed table.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is whether you want to use a short or long address for the locomotive, which is controlled by bit 5. Numbers 1-127 are a short or primary address, which is set by CV 1. CVs 17 and 18 consider 0001-9999 a long or extended address, which is accessed by enabling bit 5. Bit 5 simply tells the decoder which type of address to respond to. When a 4-digit address is enabled, it adds 32 to the total value for CV 29.

So summarizing, when using forward direction, 128 speed steps, DCC only, standard speed tables and 4-digit addressing, the value for CV 29 is 34.