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.