Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Trainfest and OKC Show Recap, Future Appearances, Factory Tour, and Using LEDs with Tsunami

Happy New Year to all! We hope everyone had a safe and a happy holiday season. We would also like to thank all of our loyal customers for helping make 2013 a successful year!

As we ring in the New Year, we have a few projects we are working on to help make 2014 an even better year.

In this post, we will recap a few trips that were taken toward the end of the year. We’ll also talk about upcoming appearances where you can see our staff. Ever wanted to tour our facility? Now you can take a quick peek behind the scenes! Last for our Tech Tip: Some quick tips on using LEDs with our decoders.

Milwaukee Trainfest
We were again on display at the annual Trainfest held in Milwaukee. As usual, this was a busy show with lots to see! Trainfest is always one of our favorite shows to go to. For information on this annual spectacle of trains, visit

While there, we were able to visit the North American Prototype Modelers (NAPM) at their 5,000 sq. ft. home and see their impressive HO layout. The Union Station scene is nothing less than impressive. One could spend 30 minutes on just this scene and still not see every detail they have put into it! This is a great place to visit because they are always working on improving and finishing the layout, so scenes change each time we get to visit. While there, we saw many SoundTraxx Tsunami-equipped locos running around the layout. If you are in the area, or for more info about this great club, please visit

Later, we were also able to make it up to Green Bay to visit our friends at EngineHouse Services and the National Railroad Museum.

This was a good stop as it checked another Big Boy (No. 4017) off the "to see" list for George and Jarrette (and it was the first for marketing coordinator Tracey). This museum had quite a few locos, including some that allowed visitors to explore the cabs. It was quite cold and time was short, but we got to see most of the museum’s collection. For information on this museum, visit
Oklahoma City Train Show
Photo from website
Unfortunately, there was heavy snow and ice throughout the area, making travel to this show difficult for many, especially in the North Texas region. We did have a great time meeting with the modelers who were able to make it out. 

While there, Jarrette and George visited the Oklahoma City Railroad Museum and saw some of their equipment, which is in great shape thanks to the dedicated volunteers! They are currently in the process of restoring a CF-7 to full operating condition with new paint. 

Future Appearances
In 2014, George will be at TrainLand  in Lynbrook, NY on January 18 from 10am to 6pm for product demonstrations and to answer your questions.

Next, he will be at DCB Hobbies in East Setauket on Sunday, January 19 from 3pm to 5pm for a Tsunami clinic. Space is limited, so please call ahead and reserve a spot.

We will be attending the Amherst Railway Society’s Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, MA held on January 25 and 26 at the Big E. George and Jarrette will be giving clinics on using the Tsunami for steam and diesel locomotives on Friday evening at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Hotel starting at 4:30 pm. For more information about this show, visit

Next will be the Rocky Mountain Toy Train Show in Denver, CO on March 1 and 2. We are working on offering some clinics in the area as well. Visit their website at

To view our 2014 show schedule, go to

Factory Tour
If you are ever in the Durango, CO area, you are welcome to come by and have a tour of our facility. Just be sure to call ahead to schedule your visit.

However, if you are unable to visit, you can now get a glimpse of our facility in our factory tour video. This shows the process it takes to manufacture and test our decoders here in Durango and an opportunity to meet most of our great staff!

Watch the video tour!

Be sure to visit our YouTube channel for more great videos!

Tech Tip: Using LEDs with Tsunami
LEDs are a great tool for lighting up locomotives and cars. While delivering a brilliant light source, they do not get hot and therefore do not threaten to damage the model. Also, the usage life of an LED is significantly longer, so it will almost never need to be replaced. To take advantage of what LEDs offer, here are a few things that should be kept in mind:

1) LEDs are polarity sensitive. This means that the positive (+) lead needs to be connected to the positive power supply and the negative (-) lead to the negative power supply. If the LED is connected in reverse, it will not illuminate, but no damage is done to the component. If a LED does not operate properly, be sure to double-check the wiring and switch leads if necessary. It is important to know that when using NMRA DCC, the blue common wire or tab is the positive (+) lead and the function output wires (white, yellow, brown, and green) are the negative (-) leads.

2) LEDs need around 3.3V to illuminate properly. In many cases, this means that a current-limiting resistor is necessary to put in-line with one of the leads to the LED. Be sure to know the output power on the decoder of choice. SoundTraxx offers many different board formats, with a few of them pre-regulated for use with LEDs, thus there is no need for the resistor. These are the TSU-BW1000 (designed for Bowser/Stewart models) and the TSU-KT1000 (designed for Kato models). The TSU-GN1000 (designed for Athearn Genesis models) is regulated for 1.5V output, which is not enough for the LEDs. Please contact us for assistance with this decoder.

3) When using LEDs, it is best for each LED to have its own current-limiting resistor in the circuit with it. So if it is determined that there should be two LEDs for a headlight, it would be best to use two resistors as well (one for each LED). Usually a 1k (1,000) ohm resistor is sufficient for one LED. Changing the value of the resistor will alter the brilliance of the LED. For example, if using LEDs for class lights, which are significantly dimmer than the headlight, a 3.3k resistor can easily be used to tone these LEDs down so that they do not appear as another headlight.

4) In the SoundTraxx line of decoders, we have built in an LED Compensation Mode that uses CVs 49-52. Incandescent bulbs are voltage sensitive, which means that as the voltage changes, the brilliance does as well. LEDs are electronic devices and these variances in the voltage do little to change the effect because the LED is more current sensitive. By adding 128 to the value in these CVs, the decoder alters the signal that is sent to the LED, helping the LED behave (and appear) more like an incandescent bulb and deliver a more brilliant and realistic lighting effect.

There are many uses for LEDs in model railroading. With the LEDs that are available now from SoundTraxx, a more realistic appearance and effect can be achieved in your models as well!