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. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SoundBytes Premier Post

Welcome to SoundBytes! This is our new bi-monthly blog and will be your opportunity to take a look at what’s going on here in Durango, Colorado, in the world of SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models direct from the main offices and production floor!

George Bogatiuk and Jarrette Ireland will be giving you periodic updates on things happening here at the factory, as well as when we go on the road to different trade shows around the country.

George A. Bogatiuk III and Jarrette Ireland

An introduction to George A. Bogatiuk III: I was born and grew up in Arlington, Texas, in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. After graduating High School, and while attending UT Arlington, I went to work in the auto parts industry. After 17 years in the auto industry, I decided to follow a different career path. I moved to Durango, CO and started work here as a salesman in November 08, and I enjoy the work and my co-workers, and I love the area.

I have been into model railroading since I was 13. I model the Missouri Pacific circa 1978, in HO scale. I always enjoyed seeing the blue Screaming Eagles running through town when I was growing up. As a result, I am the lone diesel modeler amongst a sea of steam enthusiasts here at SoundTraxx. I strive to achieve a high level of detail on all of my models, including locomotives and rolling stock, as well as create a finely detailed scene for them to run through. I currently operate a 12’x 8’ L-shaped switching layout that I salvaged from my 2-car garage-sized layout in Texas. I had been an avid proponent of DCC and SoundTraxx® products before coming here to work. I read and studied DCC to ensure a fun and enjoyable operating environment for my fellow modelers and myself, and to be able to resolve technical issues when they came up. I have been in a few model railroad clubs, most recently, Spring Creek Model Railroad Club, an HO and HOn3 modular club based in Dallas, Texas.

I am also an avid sports fan; I have played some form of sport all my life, including baseball and soccer. I currently play goalie in ice hockey and follow Dallas Stars Hockey as well as other Dallas area professional sports teams… (Hard to believe, right?) I am also a passionate NASCAR fan! GO Harvick #29!

An introduction to Jarrette Ireland: I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and grew up around the greater valley area. I graduated from Arizona State University where I majored in Political Science and Public Relations. Once I graduated I took off for Durango, CO in an escape from the heat and traffic!

I have always loved the Durango area and narrow gauge steam railroading. I first rode the D&SNGRR when I was 9 months old. The railroad bug caught me at a young age and I was hooked. My dad was a collector of LGB trains, which got me into model railroading. I got my first real train set at age 10, (An LGB Christmas train set, which I still have around my Christmas tree to this day!) but was never satisfied till I had models that actually were of a K-28 and Jackson Sharp coaches. My favorite model I own to this day is my Accucraft K-28 473 in the bumblebee paint scheme. This locomotive is also what introduced me to SoundTraxx as I put a Sierra Sound board into it right after I bought it. Currently I am beginning to model in HOn3 with of course Blackstone Models.

The railroad bug doesn’t just end however with models. While growing up in Phoenix I ran several locomotives at the McCormick Railroad Park. This a is a really neat park that houses a 15” gauge railroad that is based on Colorado narrow gauge equipment and a 7.5” gauge railroad. When I first moved to Durango I hired out with the D&SNGRR in the operating department. One of the greatest thrills for me was getting to operate the 473 when it was painted in the bumblebee paint scheme (Not often someone gets to run the prototype of their favorite model!). At this time I also started working for SoundTraxx 1 day a week in production. After 4 and half years of working for the railroad I reversed things and took a full-time job with SoundTraxx and now work weekends in the summer for the railroad.

Like George, I too am an avid sports fan; I played and coached hockey, and played basketball growing up. I worked as a media relation assistant for 5 years during college for the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL (Yes the Dallas Stars are our rival!). I am a die-hard fan of all of Phoenix sports teams. This makes for some fun around the office between my love of Phoenix teams, George’s love of Dallas teams, and Nancy’s love of Boston teams. My other interests are anything mechanical, hiking around the San Juans, and traveling to anywhere I haven’t been before. (Which is great during trade show season!) Anytime you see us at a trade show don’t hesitate to stop by and say “Hi”.

SoundTraxx News

Recently, we announced the release of many new products. Headlining our Tsunami® releases is our TSU-GN1000, a drop-in decoder designed for Athearn Genesis diesel locomotives that requires no additional hardware! To demonstrate just how new this product is, here is Cole pulling the first ones out of the “pizza oven.” They are complete and ready to be tested.

After the components are soldered to the board by baking them in the oven, individual decoders are separated from the boards. Dan then performs the tedious/fun job of hand testing and listening to each one to ensure they work correctly. Here he has the first tray of the TSU-GN1000s to test.

Our sound library also continues to grow with additions to our steam and diesel Tsunami line. Newest in the lineup is an EMD 645 non-turbocharged diesel prime mover sound for MP15s, SW1500s and GP38s, one in which George had a personal interest in. For steam enthusiasts, we added a Southern-style decoder with whistles native to the southeast United States. You spoke and we listened!

Tech Tip: Calculating CV Values

Configuration Variables (CV) allow modelers to customize decoder properties such as the address, volume settings, momentum, throttle response, and lighting effects. Each CV is comprised of eight bits, which are added together to create a CV value that can range from 0 to 255 (255 is the total of all eight bits turned on).

When a bit is turned “off,” or not selected, its setting is 0. When a bit is turned “on,” or selected, its setting is 1. Bits that are set to 1 are assigned a value in the CV. As shown in the CV register (below), each bit's value increases exponentially. This means that as you read from right to left, the value of each bit doubles (i.e., bit 0 = 1; bit 1 = 2; bit 2 = 4 . . . bit 7 = 128). To calculate the CV's total value, add up the individual values of the bits that are set to 1.

For example, let's determine the value for CV 29 (Configuration Register) using the CV register below. Again, think of each bit as an on/off switch, where a setting of 0 = off and a setting of 1 = on. Bits 0, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 are turned "off" as indicated by the 0; bits 1 and 4 are turned "on" as indicated by the 1. Turning on bit 1 enables 128 speed-step mode and bit 4 enables customizable speed curves. Therefore, we need to set CV 29 to a value of 18 (bit 1 = 2 + bit 4 = 16) to enable 128 speed-step mode and customizable speed curves. 

For more information on adjusting CVs, check out our online manuals and technical references.