Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

SoundBytes XV

Winter is here! We have gotten a large snowfall over the last week here. We also are getting close to wrapping up another year here before the Christmas break. Due to the upcoming Christmas holiday, this will be the last post until after the 1st of the year. In this edition, we will take a look at the Oklahoma City Train Show Jarrette and George attended as well as exciting news from Blackstone Models! And finally for our Tech Tip, lets take a close look at setting up CV112 for a steam loco.

Snow Down
Winter hit here last week. Until then, we had just cold temperatures and a light dusting of snow, but the snow fell heavy this week. In town we have accumulated over 2’, but up near the Purgatory ski area (Durango Mountain Resort) received about 6’. Needless to say, there is lots of snow around. It’s going to be a white Christmas here! The office dogs are having a great time playing in it!
On a side note, we will be closed Dec 24th through January 3rd for Christmas and the New Year holidays and will re-open January 4th. We apologize for any inconvenience. We also want to wish everyone and their families Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

OKC Show Wrap-Up
George and Jarrette traveled to Oklahoma City for the 33rd Annual Oklahoma City train Show Dec 5th and 6th. We were able to talk with many modelers and see some great layouts as well. This show is especially fun for George. Having grown up in Arlington TX, near Dallas, he always traveled up to this show as an attendee. As a result, he got to see many friends and familiar faces. We also were in attendance for the Southern Plains N-scale convention banquet held there every year. As a manufacturer that has products for N-scale, we get to meet with many of the members and speak a bit about our products. During this banquet, we were privileged to see a presentation documenting the photographic history of the Rock Island in Chickasha, Oklahoma courtesy of their keynote speaker. We appreciate their hospitality.
As always, we appreciate the opportunity to speak with everyone who came out this year. The show had set a new attendance record this year of over 19,000 attendees! On the drive both directions, we got slowed down in snowstorms. Travel was tricky, but in the end, we made it to our destinations safely in both directions.

Blackstone News Flash!
We are pleased to announce a small limited second run of Blackstone’s popular HOn3 K-27s! We have been getting many requests for a 2nd run of these models because they sold out quickly. Due to unscheduled extra assembly capacity at our factory, we were able to slip this project in. This production run will be for 6 road numbers in various heralds, including 3 new road numbers. All of these K-27s will be available with Tsunami DCC and sound. The available road numbers and their respective part numbers are as follows:
B310101-S #452 Flying Grande; B310102-S #453 Flying Grande; B310105-S #462 Royal Gorge with Green Boiler; B310106-S #463 Flying Grande; B310107-S #464 Flying Grande with snowplow; B310123-S #458 Moffat Tunnel.
This run is very limited, so be sure to get your reservations in to your dealers before Feb 1st, 2010. The K-27s are expected to be released mid summer, 2010.

Tech Tip: CV112 Steam Sound Configuration
When setting up the Steam Tsunami for a particular locomotive, there are a few things to consider. CV112 addresses many operating characteristics of a steam locomotive. First, does this model have multiple air pumps? Many of the larger steam locomotives had 2 air pumps to keep up with the demands of the longer trains they were pulling. Next, is this a conventional rod locomotive, a simple articulated, or a compound articulated? A conventional rod locomotive is one with a single set of drivers using only 2 cylinders, creating 4 chuffs per revolution. A simple articulated locomotive has 2 sets of drivers and uses the steam only once in each cylinder producing 8 chuffs per revolution, 4 per set of drivers and can be identified by having all the cylinders at the same size. A compound articulated recycles the steam from the high pressure rear cylinders for use in the low pressure front cylinders producing only 4 chuffs per revolution like a more common 2-cylinder locomotive, and is identified by front cylinders being much larger than the rear set of cylinders. Last, consider whether auto chuff rate or a chuff cam will be used. A cam uses the tan wire, located between the 2 purple speaker wires, to synchronize the chuffs to the revolution of the wheel. The SoundTraxx cam kit comes with cams designed for conventional rod locomotives, geared locomotives, and articulated locomotives in various sizes to fit your model.
When using the auto chuff rate for a simple articulated locomotive, we also have incorporated a slip rate that will allow the 2 sets of drivers to go in and out of sync, creating an interesting and realistic sound. We have built in 4 slip rates; none, slow, medium and fast. This will also allow a double-header steam train with only one sound decoder to simulate 2 locomotives working together and going in and out of sync as well.
Following the chart taken from the Steam User’s Guide re-used here, we can answer the questions asked and determine a value for CV112.
This will help your locomotive sound just like the prototype you are trying to model.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SoundBytes XIV

We hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving this year. George stayed here in Durango, while Jarrette went to Denver to be with his wife’s family. We were out of the office for a few days and now we are ready to get back to work.
In this edition of SoundBytes, we look forward to OKC. We will also learn how to get accurate sound for those E-units.
On the Road Again!
Next up is Oklahoma City Train show slated for December 5th and 6th. Jarrette and George will be driving to set up for this one. We always look forward to meeting with the modelers. If you are in the area and able to attend, be sure to come by and say Hi!

Blackstone Models:
We have been getting many great comments on our D&RGW Long Caboose that has been shipping to the hobby shops. In case you missed it, we also lettered a caboose for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This caboose is currently only available through the D&S gift shop. For more information or to order, contact the D&S at 970.385.8873 or go to their website, Next up for Blackstone is the economy-door boxcar. Production should start soon, so be sure you have these on order. We will be doing another Grande Gold boxcar and Supply car in this run with the appropriate car numbers on them. These sold out quickly when we did these paint schemes before. We are hoping to see these cars in February.

Tech Tip:
What do EMD E-units, Alco's DL series, and EMD's DDA40X all have in common? These locos were equipped with 2 prime movers. The purpose behind this was to get more horsepower out of one locomotive. What happens though is that the normal sound decoder is not able the replicate this well. Tsunami is no ordinary sound decoder. Built-in to every Tsunami is the ability to add reverb to the sound. Using this tool, we can simulate 2 prime movers without needing 2 decoders.
First, we need to look at the CVs associated with reverb to understand how these work. Many of these are explained in the user’s guide available free from our website. CV 161 is the control. This will allow some pre-selects to be used, but these don’t faithfully replicate 2 prime movers. Since none of these are set for 2 prime movers, set this to 7, for user adjustable. CV 162 is the output level, or how much of the original sound is ‘reflected’. In this case we want 100%, or a value of 255 for a full replication of the prime mover sound. Next CV 163 is the delay time in milliseconds. To get a good delay and distinction between our prime movers, put the maximum value of 255 in for 64 milliseconds, but this value is not critical. CV164 controls the feedback mix. This is the percentage of the original sound that is mixed in to the reverb, creating multiple sound reflections. Since we are trying to recreate one sound, set this to 0 for no additional feedback. Last is the reverb mixer. CVs 169 through 172 will add the reverb at different levels for different sound effects. Since we are working on the prime mover only at this time, set CV 171 to 255, or full mix. Now the locomotive is sounding as though there are 2 prime movers in the model. If you wanted to play with it a bit, set the output level to a different value (220) to get a more distinct sound for the 2nd prime mover.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SoundBytes XIII

We have been busy here the last few weeks. We received the Blackstone cabooses here this past week and have been trying to get these out to the dealers quickly. Also, we were in Milwaukee this past weekend for Trainfest 2009.
Blackstone cabooses.
For those Blackstone modelers, we have received the cabooses Friday, Nov 6th and have been shipping them since to the hobby shops.
These should arrive soon at your favorite dealer soon. The delivery truck showed up and we all went out and organized the boxes by part number. We then open and inspect each box to ensure that the cars that we received and ship are in excellent condition. We also inspect the cars for accuracy during assembly. Then we put them in the warehouse and begin shipping to the dealers. This process usually takes half a day. As you can see, we get quite a few cabooses to ship all around the world.
Trainfest 2009
We were in Milwaukee this past weekend for Trainfest 2009. This show is one of the largest shows in the USA. Many manufacturers and vendors attend this show annually.
The show started Friday night with a manufacturer meet and greet. This portion of the show layout is open to modelers who have purchased tickets for this special event. The rest of the show opened Saturday morning and ran through Sunday evening. We were able to meet with many of our customers, which we enjoy.

We also got to visit the North American Prototype Modelers Club layout located in Milwaukee. This layout is impressive, and there is much to still get finished. Thank you to the NAPM members for their hospitality. You can see some of their work on the website,
Next up is the Oklahoma City Show, December 5th and 6th. Details can be found at Be sure to come by and see us.

Tech Tip:
Operating a diesel Locomotive.
Last time we discussed in depth about operating a steam locomotive in a realistic way. This time, we will demonstrate how to operate a diesel locomotive in a similar fashion.

Operating a Diesel Locomotive

•Turn on the prime mover (F9)
This will start your operating session. Allow the air brake lines to pump up and idle for a few moments to get the loco to operating temp.
•Turn on lights (F0, F5, F6)

These allow you to see, but more importantly, allow others to see your train coming.
•Whistle (horn) signals (F2&3)
Following whistle signals will alert crew on train and ground as to your train’s movements. See chart at the end.
•Turn on the bell (F1)
The bell helps alert anyone within the area to hear and look for moving trains.
•Release the engine brakes (F11)
Setting the brakes holds the train still while crew are working. Releasing them in a separate step will sound the “hiss” of released air from the brakes.
•Ramp engine to notch 2 (F9)
Increasing the throttle will allow just a bit more power to the traction motors on the trucks than when in idle.
•Gently increase throttle to pullout the slack (Speed Knob)
Start off slow to pull the slack out from the couplers. If you just crank up the throttle, the tons of weight behind the locomotive will break the couplers and cause the train to go into emergency. •Ramp prime mover to run 3 (F9)
•Increase throttle (Speed Knob)
After the slack is pulled out from the couplers and all cars are moving, now you can gently accelerate as the trackage dictates. If in a yard, proceed at yard speed limits, however if out on the main; accelerate slowly until reaching maximum allowable track speeds.
•Increase to run 4 (F9)
Once clear of the yard limits, you can then begin to get the train up to speed.
•Blow a grade crossing
Following FRA rules, every public road crossing needs a whistle signal blown. 2 long blasts, 1 short blast then 1 more long blast. For other non-public crossings one long blast and one short would be appropriate. See chart at end.

To simulate heavy train, pulling up a grade:

•Continue running engine to run 8
The train will need all available horsepower to pull the train up the hill.
•Keep the train at a steady pace (Speed Knob)
Using the speed knob, keep the train at a slow, steady pace to get it up the hill in tact. Too much force could break a knuckle. The locomotives screaming at run 8 are putting the full horsepower available on the train to get it up the hill.

Once the grade is crested, you will need to use the brakes to get it down the hill.

•Keep train at steady pace (Speed Knob)
The train as it crests the hill, will begin to bunch up on the locomotive(s). Balancing the train over the crest can be a tricky endeavor while half needs to be pulled up; the other half is trying to roll down the hill.
•Turn on dynamic brake (F4) Dynamic brakes use the traction motors as generators, and as a result of the magnetic field, cause resistance on the axles. This helps the locomotive keep control of the train in conjunction with the train brakes and locomotive brakes. When dynamic brakes are used, each locomotive manufacturer addresses the cooling in different ways. EMD, for example, runs the diesel prime mover to idle before the dynamic braking effects and cooling fans activate.
•Turn on brake squeal (F11)
When the train goes down the grade, try to apply the brakes sparingly to keep them from overheating. This will also help keep the train under control while running downhill.
•Turn off dynamic brake (F4)
When level ground is reached again, turn off the dynamic brakes. When the dynamic brakes are turned off, the prime mover on an EMD loco will return to the last notch setting that was applied before. Now you may need throttle again to pull the train along the level ground.

Arriving at next station or siding for meet and shutdown sequence:
•Gently reduce throttle (Speed Knob)
•Ramp down prime mover (F10)
When approaching the next stop, you will want to slow the train down to control the cars if you should need to traverse any turnouts in the arriving yard or take a siding. You can keep the prime mover up if you desire to have additional power available if needed to follow the path set by the yardmaster.
•Ring the bell (F1)
When in a yard, around public or railroad personnel, the bell warns those on the ground to look for a moving train.
•Apply the train brakes (F11)
By applying the brakes, you can control the location for the train to stop without touching the throttle. This will allow you to pinpoint a stop without needing to ‘kick’ the throttle then overshoot your spot. Once the train is stopped at the proper location, turn down the throttle to stop.
•Whistle signal for brake/stop (F3)
A short blast allows those on the ground to know that the locomotive/train is stopped. See the chart below.
•Once stopped, reduce throttle and diesel RPMs to idle. (F10 + Speed Knob)
This will allow the locomotive to be stopped fully. The locomotive drops to idle.
•Turn off diesel Prime mover (F10)
When ready to de-bark the locomotive, we can shut down the locomotive’s prime mover. This will stop the locomotive for the next crew.

Common Whistle Signals

- is designated as long whistle blast
o is designated as short whistle blast

Approaching a public road - - o -
Warning for areas where view is obstructed - o
Approaching a station or flag stop -
Release brakes - -
Set brakes o
Flagman protect the rear of a train - ooo
Stopping (When in motion) ooo
Going in reverse (When initially moving) ooo
Going forward (when initially moving) - -
Recall Flagman from West (North) - - - -
Recall Flagman from East (South) - - - - -
Approach/Meet with another train - - o
Acknowledgement of signal not otherwise specified oo

Friday, October 30, 2009

SoundBytes XII

It has been a busy month here for us. We were set up at the International Hobby Expo in Chicago and we will be setting up at Trainfest in Milwaukee November 13-15th. In this edition, we will talk a bit about the iHobby show. Then we will introduce you to one of the newest members of SoundTraxx and her first snow. Last for our Tech tip, we will show you how to operate our Tsunami prototypically and help slow down our operation sessions and add virtual length to our always too short model railroads.

The iHobby show in Chicago is different from the shows we usually attend. At this convention, there are manufacturers from many different hobbies,
such as Radio Controlled cars, planes, boats and helicopters, slot cars, plastic model kits like cars and jets, collectible cars and a few tool manufacturers as well. The show is open only to store owners and their employees the first couple of days, and then is open to the public Saturday and Sunday. We were able to visit with many dealers over the weekend, as well as many of our customers. We demonstrated our new TSU-KT1000 installed into a Kato F40PH set up for HEP. (Head End Power) This decoder is the easiest yet since it has the LEDs built on the board in the correct places for the ‘light pipes’ that Kato uses for illumination, and Kato has provided a speaker mount for the 1” round speaker we offer as well. These should be shipping shortly.
We are also getting ready for Trainfest in Milwaukee, WI. This show will be held November 14-15, 2009. If you are able to attend, come by and see us. We will be showing any new products we may have up our sleeves!
On another note, the Cabooses are in the USA on a truck headed to our facility. These are scheduled to arrive by the end of next week. Once we have completed incoming inspection, we will get these out to our dealer network as quickly as possible.

The new SoundTraxx CEO(??)
Our newest member of the team has been getting a lot of attention. Nancy’s 8 month-old Golden Retriever, Sadie experienced her first snow this week in Durango. We all couldn’t help ourselves from laughing as she would bury her face into the snow and roll around. Sadie probably would be content to spend all day outside if she could! She spends each day ‘helping out’ in the office, greeting visitors and always wants to be a part of every meeting. She has become a staple of our office environment.

Tech Tip:
One of the aspects of operation we promote is realistic operation using sound. Following FRA rules and ‘Whistle Signals’ will help add that missing dimension to create a realistic simulation of the prototype. Add in handling of a train correctly, this helps involve us more than simply turning a knob to run a train, now we are operating a railroad. All of this adds to the fun, as well as adding to the always too short mainline runs, and switching jobs that we love to have during any model railroad ops sessions.
We have outlined a typical use of running a steam Tsunami equipped locomotive in pulling out of the yard and stopping to take on water. These methods can be used for a multitude of situations that may come up in an operating session. Running a Steam Tsunami

•Turn on the dynamo (F0)
This will turn on the electric power to the locomotive for lights.
•Whistle signals (F2&3)
Following whistle signals will alert crew on train and ground as to your train’s movements. See chart at the end.
•Turn on the bell (F1)
The bell helps alert anyone within the area to hear and look for moving trains.
•Throw Johnson bar (Direction Key)
This will set the locomotive into a forward direction.
•Release the brake (F11)
Setting the brakes holds the train still while crew are working. Releasing them in a separate step will sound the hiss of released air from the brakes.
•Crack the throttle (Speed Knob)
Start off slow to pull the slack out from the couplers. If you just crank up the throttle, the tons of weight behind the locomotive will break the couplers and cause the train to go into emergency.
•Hear the snifter lift (Automatic)
This is a valve on top of the cylinders that keeps water from condensing into the piston cylinders.
•Open the cylinder cocks (F4)
By opening the cylinder cocks, any sediment that could compromise the steam entering the cylinders is blown out.
•Increase throttle (Speed Knob)
After the slack is pulled out from the couplers and all cars are moving, now you can gently accelerate as the trackage dictates. If in a yard, proceed at yard speed limits, however if out on the main; accelerate slowly until reaching maximum allowable track speeds.
•Close cylinder cocks (F4)
Open cylinder cocks do cost pressure in the cylinders and therefore decrease the power the locomotive has available to move the train.
•Blow a grade crossing (when necessary)
Following FRA rules, every road crossing needs a whistle signal blown. 2 long blasts, 1 short blast then 1 more long blast. See chart at end.

Stop for water.
•Call For Flagman (F2 & F3)
Following the whistle signals will tell your train crew to protect the rear of the train from following trains during a stop. This signal is one long blast followed by 3 short blasts of the whistle. See chart at end.
•Drag brakes to slow train (F11)
Applying the brakes will gently slow the train to a stop. For the train, a gentle application of the brakes will keep the train from bunching up on the locomotive and keep it stretched out to protect against derailments.
•Come to stop/blow signal (F3)
Once the train is completely stopped under the water tower, blow one short blast of the whistle to tell everyone that you are stopped completely.
•Fill tender with water
Using F9 will give the sounds of the water hatch opening, water filling up the tender and when done, sound of the tender hatch closing. Doing this for a predetermined time per loco will ensure a full tank.
•Recall flagman (F3)
The flagman is protecting the rear of the train during the stop. We need to notify him of out impending departure. Blowing the appropriate signal from the whistle tells the flagman to return to the train. This signal will depend on direction of travel of the train. See chart at end.
•Begin departure
Start up the departure sequence again, whistle signals, bell, release brakes, crack throttle, accelerate.

Common Whistle Signals

- is designated as long whistle blast
o is designated as short whistle blast

Approaching a public road - - o -
Warning for areas where view is obstructed - o
Approaching a station or flag stop -
Release brakes - -
Set brakes o
Flagman protect the rear of a train - ooo
Stopping (When in motion) ooo
Going in reverse (When initially moving) ooo
Going forward (when initially moving) - -
Recall Flagman from West (North) - - - -
Recall Flagman from East (South) - - - - -
Approach/Meet with another train - - o
Acknowledgement of signal not otherwise specified oo

As you can see that there are many things to attend to when actually operating a steam locomotive with a train. Just turning a knob does not fully get you involved like sound can. This sequence was developed by following the actual operation techniques used by our employees Jarrette (Fireman) and Jeff (Engineer) on the Durango and Silverton Railroad. Following this sequence will bring the railroad to life, and help make it more fun!

Monday, October 12, 2009

California Visit Recap and Changing the Address on the Mainline

Trade show season is looming upon us. We get to pack up and travel to many cities to meet and greet modelers. As much fun as it is to talk with our customers and hearing about their layouts and experiences, it is also hard work. Packing up everything we need, including our booth displays, can be exhausting. As tiring as it can be, it is all worth it in the end. Our upcoming train show schedule includes iHobby (International Hobby Exposition) in Chicago, Trainfest in Milwaukee,, the Oklahoma City Train Show, and The Big Railroad Show in West Springfield, MA. The dates and locations of each of these shows are available from our website. We invite anyone in attendance of these shows to come by the SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models booth to say "hi," see what's new, and ask questions.

SoundTraxx’ Great California Extravaganza!
This past week, George and Nancy took a trip to Southern California to visit some of our dealers. We were able to visit many fine hobby shops in Southern and Central California. 

The week started in the Los Angeles area. On Thursday, we held two clinics at Milepost 38. Attendance was great and everyone walked away learning something.

Friday we were at it again. We were able to visit a few more of our dealers and we held a clinic for Allied Model Trains and The Original Whistlestop at the Radisson in Culver City. Thank you to all of those that were able to attend. We hope that you enjoyed our presentation.

On the road again Saturday morning, we drove from the LA area to San Francisco area for the Open House at Just Trains in Concord (pictured). Along the way, we were able to stop in to a couple more hobby shops.

Sunday saw a large turnout for the Open House and we were able to speak with many model railroaders in the area.

Afterward, we were invited by a member of the Carquinez Model Railroad Society to view their layout in progress. The sheer size was amazing, but the fact that it will only get better was astounding! This is a mushroom-style layout in a 36' x 60' space. Pete was a great host and tour guide. You can find out more about the club at

On Monday, we were able to stop by two more hobby shops before flying back home. Overall it was a good trip, meeting many of our customers. We stopped at 12 hobby shops, presented three clinics, and attended an all-day open house in 4 ½ days.

We want to say a special "Thank You" to Allied Model Trains, The Original Whistlestop, Just Trains, and Milepost 38 trains for their hospitality.

Tech Tip: Changing the Address on the Mainline
Since we have been building the Tsunami for the Genesis models, more and more modelers have been introduced to DCC and sound. The biggest question we get is a simple one: How do I change the address?

First, let's talk about addresses. Most modern decoders support both a long and short address, but what does all that mean? CV 1 stores the primary, or "short" address. The short address can be any number from 1-127. For example, locomotive road number 91 is considered a short address.

CVs 17 and 18 store the extended, or "long" address. These CVs use a mathematical algorithm to calculate the individual CV values. Most of today's command stations do this calculation for you. The long address is usually 128-9999, but can include 0001-0127, depending on the command station’s capabilities. This allows you to use the locomotive road number as the decoder address. Following this example, a road number of 5675 is considered a long address.

In a prior post, we discussed the PTB-100 and why it is recommended. This product allows easy programming of the address for the Tsunami decoder, long or short, at any time. However, with Operations Mode programming (aka, "Ops Mode" or "programming on the main"), it is possible to make necessary changes to the decoder, including the address. It just involves a couple more steps in the process. Let me explain:

The Tsunami decoder is programmed to ignore changes to the address it is using on the mainline to ensure you do not lose control of the locomotive. Therefore, if we want to change the address to 20 from the default value of 3, it will ignore the command. The reason for this is if we are programming CV 41 in a hurry and accidentally do not fully press the 4, we would be programming CV 1, short address, and would instantly lose control of the locomotive. There are many ways this could happen. I have done it myself and I'm grateful for this safe-guard!

Thus, changing address 3 to 20 on the mainline involves an additional step. To start, select Ops Mode programming. Be sure to follow your DCC manufacturer’s instructions on how to do this because all systems are different and some systems do not allow it. Because the decoder will not change the address it is using, you must first change the long address. Choose a number for the long address that is easy to remember, such as 1000. Following your DCC system’s instructions, change the long address to 1000. Then program CV 29 to look for and use the long address. Since CV 29 controls several settings, refer to the chart in the User’s Guide to enable the preferred settings for your locomotive (for this example, I will use a value of of 34 for CV 29). Be sure to check the documentation for your system since some systems make this change for you and activate the address you just entered, long or short. 

Next, dial up address 1000 on the cab and get control of your locomotive. Once you have control of the locomotive, use Ops Mode programming to change the short address to 20. Using a similar procedure used to change the long address, now select short address, or CV 1, and program this to a value of 20. Then referring to the CV 29 chart in the Users’ Guide again, change CV 29 to 2 or 6 (6 allows use on DC, whereas 2 does not). Then gain control of the locomotive under address 20. Now your locomotive is running under address 20. 

Using this method will allow you to change the address any time you need. When programming in this method, be sure the locomotive accepts the program by watching for it to lurch forward. This is the visual acknowledgement from the decoder that it has accepted the change that you have made.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

National Narrow Gauge Convention, Blackstone Models Announcements, and Consisting

It’s time for another installment of SoundBytes. This time we will visit the SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models booth at the 29th National Narrow Gauge Convention. We will also share with you the most recent Blackstone Models product announcements. Finally, our Tech Tip this time will focus on consisting locomotives with sound.

As previously mentioned, we will be visiting several hobby shops in the Los Angeles/Southern California area and in the San Francisco Bay area. On Thursday night, Oct 1, we will be giving a SoundTraxx Tsunami clinic at Milepost 38 in Anaheim, CA.

On Friday, Oct 2, we will be giving a clinic in conjunction with Allied Model Trains in Culver City and The Original Whistlestop in Pasadena at the Radisson in Culver City, CA. On Sunday, Oct 4th, we will be setting up at Just Trains in Concord for their annual Open House. Come by and see us. For more details, please contact these hobby shops for times and to sign-up, space may be limited.

The 29th National Narrow Gauge Convention

The end of summer also brings about an exciting time for the model train community, Train Show season. This year, we begin the season with a trip to the 29th National Narrow Gauge convention in Colorado Springs. This year, the convention ran from Wednesday, September 16th through Saturday, September 19th. This convention is a big one for us, especially with our Blackstone Models in Hon3. Being just a few hours away, driving gave us the ability to bring
more things to show.

The HOn3 layout constructed by Allison was on display and running trains in the booth. A display computer showed the various CAD drawings of the C-19 locomotive and other upcoming Blackstone projects as well. On display were pre-production samples of our caboose, economy door boxcar and the first sample of the drop bottom gondola, along with our other currently available rolling stock. This sample was custom painted for display purposes only and may vary from actual production models. We also brought along a section of the large SoundTraxx booth for displaying Tsunami sound decoders as well.

We had the opportunity to talk with many of our customers who had many good things to say, as well as many suggestions for the future products we should consider offering. Spending time with the customers is always one of the more enjoyable aspects of being in this business.

Blackstone Models Announcements: Narrow Frame and Frameless Tank Cars, and Open Platform Passenger Coaches

At this convention, many manufacturers of narrow gauge equipment take this time to announce new products and we were no exception. A while back, we had announced our intention to produce tank cars. These will be done in the narrow frame and frameless versions. A matrix for road name and numbers was finalized in time for the show. Hobby shops are taking pre-orders now. Along with the sample of the drop bottom gondola, we also had displayed the first sample of a new rolling stock announcement, a double-deck stock car. This car was designed with a middle deck to load sheep with 2x the capacity as a normal stock car. Road numbers and paint versions have not been finalized yet.

Our final announcement we had was to let everyone know that we are in fact currently researching and designing the Jackson and Sharp open platform passenger cars. These are still under development, so many details are yet to be determined, including paint schemes and road numbers. As you can see it will be a busy and exciting year for Blackstone Models. Many thanks to you who have helped support this growing product line!

Tech Tip: Consisting Locomotives

Diesel locomotives were designed to connect multiple locomotives and operate as though they are one unit. Steam locomotives too were consisted, but required 2 full crews to double head a train. Consisting multiple Tsunami-equipped locomotives appears to be complicated to some, but really it is not difficult. Following these techniques, you should be able to consist any number of locomotives with ease.

Consisting a set of locomotives can be done in a few different ways, basic, standard and advanced. The recommended method to use is the advanced consist. The consist address is stored in the decoder and responds to the functions you designate for each loco. The DCC system sends out only one command and any loco programmed with the advanced consist address will respond accordingly. Lets look closer at the advanced consist.

Advanced consist addresses range from 1-127. This value is stored into CV 19. For example, let’s use consist number 45. Any locomotive facing forward would have CV 19=45. If the locomotive will be traveling backward in the consist, add 128 to the value. In our example, any unit facing backwards, CV 19 should be programmed to 173. (45+128=173) This can be set for any number of locomotives within the limits of a DCC power booster. Many command stations can set up advanced consists as well, be sure to check the DCC system’s documentation. Now the locomotives will all respond to motor commands as one unit, but there are no functions working yet.

Each unit based on its position in the consist will be set up to respond differently to the function commands. For example, the trailing unit would not blow its horn when the lead unit does, and the middle unit(s) will not have the headlamps on. So CV 21 and CV 22 will set up each locomotive to respond to the function commands that pertain to each unit.
Following this chart, you will ‘turn on’ any function for any unit as desired. Simply determine which functions will be active and add up the associated values to calculate the final value of each CV. F2 (horn) has a value of 2 and F3 (short horn) has a value of 4. If the lead unit will use the horn, add 6 (2+4) to the value in CV21. Add any values associated with the functions you want active. As an example, we will set up an A-B-A set of Tsunami-equipped F-units using a consist address of 45. The lead unit and B-unit (facing forward) will have CV 19 set to 45. The trailing A-unit will have CV 19 programmed to 173. (Remember, 45+128=173)

Now concentrate on the functions. The lead unit will have the headlamp, horn, bell, dynamic brakes, FX5 (mars light), F7 (dim) Mute, RPM+, RPM- (we will use manual notching for this example) Brake and Coupler active. To determine these values, refer to the chart. CV 21 for the lead A-unit, we want F1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. Total these values and you will get 223. CV22 for the lead A-unit we want F0f, F9, 10, 11, and 12. Total these and you will get 61.

Following this example let’s look to the B-unit. The B-unit will not use the lights, bell, horn, FX5 or FX6, F7 (dim) or coupler, however we will have dynamic brakes, mute, RPM+, RPM- and F11 Brakes. CV 21 will be set to 136. CV 22 will be set to 28.

Last, we look to the trailing A-unit. For this unit, we will have the F0f (which works based on the direction of travel for the locomotive, not the consist) dynamic brakes, mute, RPM+, RPM- and F11 brake active while all else is not applicable. In this case CV 21 will be set to 28. CV22 will be set to 137. This should set up your consist to operate as though it is one unit. Each time a consist is broken up and re-assigned, the function CVs may need to be changed. Following this method, setting up all of your consists should be trouble-free.

We want to issue a special “Thank You” to Dave Houston of Daylight Sales, a SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models dealer in the Sacremento, CA area, for sending us the photo of his F-units on his home layout.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Upcoming California Visit, October 1-5

Attention modelers in the southern California area! SoundTraxx personnel will be in your area October 1-5.

Everyone is invited to attend a SoundTraxx clinic and meet with SoundTraxx personnel. SoundTraxx Tsunami clinics will be held Thursday evening, October 1 at Milepost 38 Trains in Anaheim and Friday evening, October 2 in conjunction with Allied Model Trains and The Original Whistlestop at a central, convenient meeting site in the Los Angeles area for either store. Please contact any of these fine shops for more details and a sign-up sheet. 

On October 4, we will be participating in the Open House for Just Trains in Concord, located in the San Francisco area. 

Come by and see what's new!

Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 Railfest, New Decoder Selector, and Using Tsunami Motor Control Features

With dealer training behind us, we have been back to business as usual around here in Durango. We have started preparing for the 29th National Narrow Gauge Convention, which will be held in three weeks, and are soaking in the last of summer up here in the beautiful mountains of Southwest Colorado. In this latest installment of SoundBytes, we’ll talk a little bit about a fun week in town at Railfest on the D&SNGRR, and take a look at our new Decoder Selector on our website. For this week's Tech Tip, we will take a look at setting up advanced motor controls on the Tsunami.

Railfest and the Trains of August…

Every year in August, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad hosts a celebration of narrow gauge railroading known as True West Railfest. This year allowed some famous pieces of visiting equipment the opportunity to strut their stuff on railfan excursions up the Animas Canyon.

Visitors included the Eureka and Palisades No. 4, a Baldwin wood-burning 4-4-0 American that has the distinction of being the oldest operating narrow gauge locomotive in the country, the NARCOA club’s line up of historic speeder pop cars, and the RGS historical society's Galloping Goose #5.

With all of the fun and excitement just a few blocks away George ran down to the depot to make sure he got a chance to see the E&P No. 4 depart. This engine was especially exciting for him to see, as he personally loves locomotives in this wheel arrangement. It's weeks like this when we realize how lucky we are to work only a few blocks from all the action. This makes morning train-chasing trips easy to take in.

Another tradition at Railfest is the Presidential Special. This train consists of some of the red first-class cars on the D&S, as well as the General Palmer (the private car of Al Harper, D&S owner). This year's consist was the No. 473 painted with a green boiler (the same green found on our Blackstone Models K-27 No. 455), the newest first-class car called “The Prospector,”“The San Juan,”“The Cinco,” and of course “The Palmer." Two employees here at SoundTraxx were on board the train this year. Jeff played guitar (one many instruments he is skilled at playing) as the onboard entertainment while Jarrette was up in the engine as the fireman.

New SoundTraxx Decoder Selector!

As some of you may have noticed, we have launched our new Decoder Selector on the SoundTraxx website. It includes information for the correct prime mover sound, as well as the Tsunami decoder we recommend for a given model.

We have made it easy to use. First, simply select your scale. It will then pull up a list of popular manufacturers in your scale. After selecting the brand, it will pull up a list of their models that we have sounds available for. The locomotive model will have our suggested decoder and speaker, along with a speaker baffle if available.

Sometimes, there may be more than one option to fit into a model, so we selected one that may require the least amount of work involved. For example, for an HO Athearn Ready To Roll SD40-2, we recommend replacing their ‘DCC quick-plug’ board with our TSU-AT1000 for EMD 645 Turbo (2nd Generation). This board already has the circuitry to regulate the outputs for use with the 1.5V bulbs, which allows more room for the speaker and any wires needed to fit with ease. You could also install a TSU-1000, but we believe the TSU-AT1000 is a better option.

This is only Phase 1 of our Decoder Selector. For Phase 2, we plan on having additional information available in a step-by-step "application note" (as a PDF document) to help you install the decoders into your model. This may take more time to get done. This is where you may be able to help. If you have installed a Tsunami decoder and speaker in a model listed in our Decoder Selector, you can submit your photos along with a brief description of the installation. If you feel that you have an installation that would be beneficial to other SoundTraxx users, please send an e-mail to and give a brief description of any methods that you employed to make the installation. Don’t forget to attach the photos to the e-mail. Not all submissions will make it to the final application notes for the website. We would prefer an easy install, but we also want it to be well-planned with proven and reliable techniques that any modeler may be able to accomplish with common tools available to most modelers. For example, be sure the installation can be accomplished using normal hand tools in addition to those with access to a milling machine. We are looking forward to receiving your submissions.

Tech Tip: Getting the Most Out of Tsunami Motor Control Features

In many cases, so many people focus on the great 16-bit digital sound found in the different Tsunami decoders we currently offer that they may not pay as close attention to some of its other great features. On top of being a great-sounding decoder, Tsunami also has some of the best motor control currently found on the market to date.

While many decoders offer 14, 28, and 128 speed step modes (Tsunami being no exception), the Tsunami has 2048 speed steps internally that gives ultra fine speed control. Tsunami is also equipped with back-EMF, which measures the efficiency of the motor and compensates for efficiency losses that happen when under greater loads. This allows your locomotive to have its own "cruise control," meaning that as it starts up a hill or crests down a grade, the train’s speed will stay unchanged as the back-EMF corrects for any changes in the load on the motor. Although this feature is becoming more common in DCC decoders, the great thing about it in Tsunami is that it is completely adjustable.

When adjusting the motor control and back-EMF, there are several different CVs to adjust, however, the first thing to take into account is what type of locomotive you have. Steam engines by nature are a lot less free-rolling than diesel locomotives currently offered. This is due to the fact that diesel models have large flywheels that spin freely. In this example, let's set up an Athearn Genesis SD60M equipped with a TSU-GN1000 to ideal motor control settings. We personally like to slow the locomotive down out of the box, but not to the point that it isn’t realistic. In this example: set CV 209 to a value of 29, CV 210 to a value of 18, and CV 212 to a value of 80 (although the lower you go in this CV, the slower the locomotive will run). CV 209 is known as the Kp Coefficient and is used for adjusting the gain factor for the PID motor control equation. CV 210 adjusts the gain factor of the Ki coefficient for the PID motor control equation. CV 212 adjusts the motor intensity. If you set these values too high, the motor will run very rough. Also, if you set the values to 0, then the motor will stop. When adjusting these CVs, start with 209 and 210 at very low values and increase them each by 1-2 until the model runs smoother. If it begins to run rough, lower the value back down. Once you find the motor running smooth, decrease the value in CV 212 by 10s until it gets you to the slow speed you desire in speed step 1. Also, when using a back-EMF decoder with advanced motor control, make sure to leave CV 2 at a value of 0. Add in a bit of momentum, and your train will start up smooth as silk.

Taking time to adjust the speed control CVs of the Tsunami decoder will produce an excellent running model. Following this procedure, you can have an entire fleet of great-running locomotives and be the envy of all your modeling friends!