Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer Rewind: New Products, NNGC Layout Tour, Groundbreaking and More!

It’s time to get back on track! The cooler September weather serves as a reminder to get rolling again on model railroad projects, and we have new products that you need to try out! It’s been an incredibly busy year for all of us and we have a lot to catch up on. And just a reminder, for monthly updates delivered right to your in-box, sign up for our free customer e-newsletter, “SoundBits.” Send an email request to to be added to the list.

First, we have a couple new SoundTraxx products to introduce -- the Tsunami SoundCar™ Digital Sound Decoder for rolling stock and the CurrentKeeper™ power accessory. In this post, we'll discuss the features of the SoundCar and introduce its Intelligent Consisting feature. We've also included instructions for DIY electrical pickups.

We also have a few Blackstone Models announcements to share, along with a photo recap of the layouts we visited during the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City.

Finally, we have details on our upcoming in-store clinics in the northeast and some "groundbreaking" news.

New SoundTraxx Products

Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoder for Rolling Stock
Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoder
For the first half of the year, we were busy putting the final touches on the latest addition to our line of Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders – the SoundCar, which we released in June. The SoundCar is the only 16-bit DCC decoder that provides sound and lighting effects for all types of rolling stock in all scales. The SoundCar includes a variety of railcar-specific recordings, such as wheel noises (including clickety-clack, flange squeal, and flat spots), generator, brake cylinders, emergency brake valve (“big hole”), and glad hand release. It also includes a selection of user-adjustable horns, bells and whistles for cab cars and cabooses. The sounds are adjustable for various types of cars, from bobber cabooses to 6-axle observation cars, and the decoder includes automated sound sequences, such as complete train line braking. Now you can stop missing out on half the fun!

Watch the video!
These 47mm x 14mm x 8.5mm universal-style decoders are easy to install in virtually any scale and work with 8-ohm speakers. The SoundCar also includes a 2-pin plug for optionally using our CurrentKeeper (another new product we released this year) to maintain sounds and lights during momentary power losses due to finicky wheel pickups and not-so-perfect track.

Individual SoundCar decoders retail for $42.50 MSRP (P.N. 829100) and a 3-pack is available for $112.95 MSRP (P.N. 829110). For the best experience, we recommend installing a SoundCar in every third or fourth car in your train.

For even more information about the SoundCar, check out Bruce "Mr. DCC" Petrarca's review in "Model Railroad Hobbyist."

Intelligent Consisting
In addition to being the first DCC decoder of its kind, the Tsunami SoundCar introduces a new method for creating consists called Intelligent Consisting. This innovative feature came about during the testing phase where our sales team, Jarrette and George, discovered that programming all of the SoundCar-equipped models into a consist was cumbersome and time-consuming. Our design engineers came up with an clever method that uses a magnetic sensor to initiate consisting rather than having to individually program each unit’s CVs. We coined this method “Intelligent Consisting,” since the decoder “knows” when it’s supposed to be synchronized with a consist with the wave of a magnet.  By reducing the number of steps required to set up consists, Intelligent Consisting represents a 90% time-savings over the traditional method!

Here’s how it works (follow along if you have SoundCar decoders):
For this example, set your SoundCar decoders and locomotive decoder to have CV 3 = 25, CV 4 = 75 and CV 61 = 178.

Any magnet will work to activate
Intelligent Consisting. 
Couple the SoundCar-equipped units with your locomotive. Wave any magnet over each unit with a SoundCar (Note: If possible, install the SoundCar to the underside of the model’s roof for easy access to the decoder’s magnetic sensor) and hear the hand brake being released, just like the railroads have to do. Now, from your cab controlling the locomotive, simply press F8 four times in a row. The SoundCar sees this action and then knows it is to join that address/consist. To indicate your car has joined the train, the air retainer will bleed off with a light hiss. Now simply pull away and the cars that have joined the train will start reproducing sound effects. After running, press F11. The sounds of the brakes applying throughout the train will play, but you will also notice the train slowing to a stop, as do the sounds from SoundCar! Applying the full train line brakes makes for a more fun and interesting operation session.

To release the car from the consist, simply wave the magnet over the decoder again. The sound of the brakeman tying down the hand brake will play to indicate that the car is no longer part of the train.

The best part of this method is that any number of cars can be added at one time. The F8 sequence only needs to be done once. This allows for all switching to be done, then at one time, the whole train can be synchronized with Intelligent Consisting and sent on its way. Adding and subtracting cars on the road is easy as well. Only the cars in consist search mode (activated by the magnet) are added/subtracted from the train.

DIY Electrical Pickups
Since the SoundCar requires models to have electrical pickups, we’ve found a relatively easy way to use Kadee® No. 5 Centering Springs (Item #634) as wipers. At less than $3 for a dozen, these parts are also an inexpensive option for creating your own pickups.

The centering spring is comprised of a bronze plate with two spring “arms” that are each attached to opposite sides. You can modify the springs so that they rub along the backside of the wheels with the plate mounted to an insulated section of the bolster (you can use a small piece of insulated PCB or styrene) or directly to a plastic bolster.

We recommend first removing the wheelsets from the trucks for easier access to the bolsters. Next, modify the centering springs by using tweezers to pull the springs out and away from the plate. Then cut the plate so that it will neatly fit onto the bolster and does not cover the screw hole for mounting the trucks.

To create an electrical circuit, you may either solder a piece of 30- to 32-gauge wire to the center of the plate glued to the PCB or styrene or use a plastic screw drilled and tapped through the bolster to hold the wire in place. If you solder the wire (to provide a more reliable connection), use glue to mount the insulator and plate (if necessary) to the bolster. To determine where to mount the plate, use an assembled truck as a reference to gauge placement so that the springs are brushing up against the backside of the wheels.

In order to get a complete circuit, you will need to add a pickup for the right rail wire and one for the left rail wire. For optimal performance, add pickups to all of the wheels. If you can only equip one truck with pickups to each rail, install a CurrentKeeper to maintain power to the decoder.

Blackstone Models Announcements
The Blackstone Models product development team has been busy as well working on the K-28 and K-36 Mikado releases, ProTraxx turnouts, and our first run of  D&RGW 30’ Refrigerator Cars, which will all be available late 2015. We understand that the announcement of these products has generated much excitement and anticipation. We appreciate your patience during the engineering and production processes as numerous factors come into play. However, please know that we are working hard to get these models into stores and onto your layout.

The 2014 releases of D&RGW 800 Series Drop Bottom Gondolas and 6000 Series Flatcars are now available from authorized retailers.

And finally, our D&RG C-19 No. 345 model in her “movie scheme” decoration made an encore appearance at this year’s National Narrow Gauge Convention. We are pleased to offer a limited
re-release of this unique “stunt engine” in her bumblebee-style paint scheme as she appeared in the 1950s Western movie, “Denver & Rio Grande.” These show-stopping models are now available from authorized retailers.
Blackstone Models HOn3 D&RG C-19 No. 345, "Movie Scheme"
34th National Narrow Gauge Convention
One of our favorite activities at train shows is visiting the layouts at the venue and in the area. George and Jarrette toured some amazing layouts during the 34th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City. They especially enjoyed seeing how the layouts use SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models products. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the world-class layouts and modules we saw in the Kansas City area. We wish we had more time to visit all of them! To see more photos, check out our Facebook album.

Chuck Hitchcock, MMR, Argentine Industrial District Railway
Don Ball, MMR, Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad
Mike Borkon, Union Pacific’s Wyoming Third Subdivision
John Vandenburg, D&RGW Durango Division
Upcoming Clinics
The SoundTraxx "Road Show" is headed to the northeast, where George will  present in-store clinics on realistic railroad operations using Tsunami decoders. He also will demonstrate the new SoundCar decoder for rolling stock.
Upcoming Shows
Hear the SoundCar in action and try Intelligent Consisting at the following shows:
New Building Coming in 2015
Architect rendering of the new
 SoundTraxx building coming in 2015
To round out our year, we broke ground on our new 20,000 sq. ft. facility on September 10. Our new location is near our current facility in Durango, Colorado. We think it’s a fitting milestone as we celebrate our 25th year anniversary next year. Having out-grown our current facility, it will be great to have everyone back under one roof!  Stay tuned for updates and photos during the process!

SoundTraxx owners Nancy Workman and Steve Dominguez
break ground for the new building.