Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

We would like to wish each and every one of you out there a safe and Happy Holidays from the crew at SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models! We will close for the Holidays on Dec 23rd and re-open Jan 3rd, 2010. Thank you for a successful 20th year in business!

Monday, December 13, 2010

SoundBytes XXXII

The Holiday season is upon us! This year has gone by so fast; it seems like yesterday we were enjoying the summer outdoor activities! The good part is we are now sequestered to our layouts and back to model building. This edition, we will meet Jeff Johnson, our Project Manager for Blackstone Models. Discuss the final trade show of the 2010 season. Finally, for our Tech Tip, we will discuss the Bachmann factory-installed decoders and how to find information for CV settings.
OKC Train Show
Last weekend, Jarrette and George were in attendance at the Oklahoma City Train Show. This event is not far from the Dallas Area, where George grew up. He enjoyed seeing old friends as well as many modelers in the area.
There were many great layouts on display, including the New Mexico Narrow Gauge Module Club set up across the aisle from us, running HOn3! Thank you to all who have made this year of trade shows enjoyable and we are looking forward to visiting new areas next year to have the opportunity to meet many more modelers! For a list of upcoming shows for 2011, please visit our website at

Introduction to Jeff Johnson:
He was born and spent most of his younger days in Oklahoma City. Later, while living in Southern California, during High School, he worked at Knotts Berry Farm working on their railroad. In April of 1981, Jeff moved to Durango to work on the then-new Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Jeff hired out as an engine watchman and ultimately ended up as a locomotive engineer.
In an effort to build on his career, he moved to Grand Junction, CO and went to work for the Southern Pacific in 1995 as a conductor and locomotive engineer. Working his way up the corporate ladder, he improved his Class 1 railroad career to a Manager of Operating Practices for the Union Pacific. In 2005, he returned to the town that he loved, Durango, accepting a job at SoundTraxx to help Steve and Nancy start up a division to manufacture finely detailed ready to run HOn3 equipment, Blackstone Models. It is his efforts and attention to detail that has helped make Blackstone Models what it is today. As his professional career brought him back to Durango, he now works part-time for the Durango and Silverton railroad. In the small amount of free time this would give most people, he somehow still finds time to play in his country-rock band, the High Rollers (, as an accomplished fiddle and banjo player.

Tech Tip:
This time we will briefly discuss the Bachmann Spectrum locomotives.

Bachmann locomotives use only 8 functions and therefore are re-mapped accordingly. The purpose of this was to allow Bachmann E-Z Command users to have access to the sound functions since the E-Z Command has only 8 functions. As a result, some of the functions may not be set to the same as the decoder that you have installed yourself. Most of the features are present in the decoder, just not mapped to a function.
We have a page on our website that discusses Bachmann Tsunami-equipped locomotives and what changes need to be made to operate these the same way as the ones you have installed. We have also included a factory CV setting page for many of these locomotives at the bottom of the page. This will allow you to see what these default settings are for these models without having to read each CV. This will also let you know where each volume CV is set to know where to start when making adjustments.
This page can be found here: For function mapping information, see the “Operating in DCC” document in the upper left hand of the page.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SoundBytes XXXI

Welcome to the 31st edition of SoundBytes. We will also talk a bit about Trainfest 2010, the recent announcement by Blackstone Models regarding the EBT hoppers. For our Tech Tip, discuss differences between the Tsunami and an Athearn factory-installed Tsunami.
Also we want to wish each of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Blackstone Models East Broad Top Hoppers
That is right, you read correctly! Blackstone is potentially venturing outside the comfy Colorado Narrow Gauge circle and wants to satisfy the eastern narrow gaugers by producing a finely detailed HOn3 replica of the famous East Broad Top coal hoppers.

The information about this project can be found here: Be sure to get your advance reservations in by January 31st, 2011!

Trainfest 2010.
This year’s Trainfest did not disappoint! An attendance record was set at 23,500 attendees! We were busy all weekend. We had many of our customers come by to talk with us and see our newest products. We had many good suggestions and comments from you. It is always enjoyable talking with you at the shows.
The show was a great one with many model railroads on display. We are already looking forward to next year!
Next up, the last show for 2010 is in Oklahoma City on December 4th and 5th. Be sure to come by and see George and Jarrette see what specials we may have to offer!

Tech Tip:
When you use an aftermarket Tsunami decoder, you have the function mapping set up one way, while some of the Athearn models are set up a different way. When Athearn orders their decoders, they have selected different default settings from the Aftermarket Tsunami decoder to more closely match their model.

One way this has come up is when the modeler wants to use manual notching. Be setting CV 116 to allow manual notching, Athearn has chosen to re-map the functions to not have that as an option as a default setting. This can be easily accessed by changing a few CVs to activate the F9 for RPM+ and F10 for RPM-. There have not been many changes, but a few that you may need to know. We have written a short document highlighting the changes and what CVs need to be changed to have the Athearn Factory-Installed decoders match those of the Aftermarket Tsunami. You can access it here:

We have also published a list of CV defaults for many of the models we have supplied them with Tsunamis. This can be found here:

Friday, November 5, 2010

SoundBytes XXX

Its time for another edition of SoundBytes. In this edition, we will look at our Trade Shows, both past and future. The bug has bitten George in that he needed more real estate on his home layout, so we will look at the construction of the new section of his layout. For the tech tip, we will briefly touch on some programming fun for modern modelers.
On a side note, Congratulations to George’s hometown Texas Rangers for making it to the World Series this year, bad news is they did not win it. We’ll see how they do next year. On to Hockey season..!

iHobby Roundup
We spent last week away at the 26th International Hobby Exposition in Chicago, IL.

This show allows all hobbies to come together to display their wares to potential dealers on Thursday and Friday and to the public on Saturday and Sunday. Hobbies included were RC cars, RC trucks, RC airplanes and helicopters, Plastic models, and many other hobbies, including rubber band guns! On hand was one of the original General Lee cars from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show.
We met many of our current dealers and were able to find a few new dealers here at the show. On Public days, we were able to meet with many of our customers in the area, and introduce our products to many hobby newcomers too! Overall, it was a good show and thanks to those who came out to see us.
Next up this year is TrainFest in Milwaukee November 12 thru the 15th. George, Jarrette, Allison and Steve, our company co-founder and president will be there too. Come by say hi and see what we have new to show. We attend this show every year and we always have a great time. There is a lot to see and do, so if you are near the area, be sure to come by and see us!

Expansion time!
Well, those who know George know he could not have only a small switching layout for too long. He has started an extension to his layout in his garage to complete a round trip for constant running. Check out this photo of the completed bench work.

This portion of the layout will represent a few vignettes of the White River Run for the Mopac. (On the Carthage and Cotter Subdivisions) Included will be Pyatt Tunnel and the Calico Bluffs near Buffalo, AK. He is looking forward to getting this part up and built. We will keep you posted on the progress here.

Programming Note:
There is a programming issue that has been brought to our attention. Users of the Digitrax Zephyr may have trouble programming CV 128, overall volume control, when using the Zephyr to program. This issue is not present when using a DT300 or 400 series throttle, only when programming using the Zephyr. We have also found that despite documentation to the contrary, it will not program a long address on the mainline. We have contacted Digitrax regarding this issue and they have in fact confirmed that there is a glitch. They have advised anyone experiencing this problem to contact them about getting this issue resolved.

Tech Tip:
Our Tech Tip this time is a programming trick that was inquired about by one of our dealers. In modern diesel locomotives like the SD70 series
or the GE Dash 9, the bell is activated when the horn is sounded. This can be done using Tsunami. First, set CV36 to a value of 12. (4 for the horn, +8 for the bell.) This will have the momentary F2 sound the horn and activate the bell sound. To control this, Press F2 and the bell will start to sound at the same time as the horn. Then when releasing F2, quickly press F1 to sustain the bell ringing during the time between horn blasts (Since F2 is a momentary function, the horn and bell will stop playing as soon as the F2 button is released). Pressing F2 again will not turn off the bell, since at that time it is already on, it will continue ringing, just like the prototypes until you turn the bell (F1) off.

Friday, October 15, 2010

SoundBytes XXIIX

SoundBytes XXIIX

Its time for another edition of SoundBytes. This time we will review George’s trip to Oregon and California. We will also fill you in on our upcoming schedule for shows. Finally, for our tech tip, we will discuss the capacitor found on Tsunami decoders and their purpose.

Oregon and Northern California Trip
George would like to issue a thank you to those he was able to visit on his recent trip. He was able to give clinics for many of the clubs in the area that he was traveling and saw lots of great layouts. George visited the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club (,

the Mount Hood Model Engineers, both in the Portland, Oregon area. In the Northern California area, He was able to visit the Carquinez Model Railroad Club in Crockett (,

the Alameda County Central Railroad Society in Pleasanton (

and the East Bay Model Engineer Society at the Golden State Model Railroad Museum in Richmond (
He was happy to be able to spend some time with these club members showing the capabilities and features of the Tsunami decoders.
During this trip, he also visited several SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models authorized dealers in the area. He was able to visit Whistlestop Trains (
and The Hobbysmith (,
both in Portland, OR, Mainline Trains in Forest Grove, OR,

Tammie’s Hobbies ( in Beaverton, OR

and Eugene Toy and Hobby in Eugene OR.
Stops in California included The Train Shop in Santa Clara, CA,
Tom’s Trackside Trains ( in Menlo Park, CA,
Railroad Hobbies ( in Roseville, CA,
Bruce’s Train Shop (, in Sacramento, CA,
Roger’s Railroad Junction ( in Lodi, CA,
Franciscan Hobbies ( in San Francisco, CA and Just Trains ( in Concord, CA. Just Trains was holding their annual Open House Sunday, October 3rd.
This year had a good crowd that lasted all day. There were lots of great layouts on display, including an HOn3 Blackstone Models inspired layout by Bill Iwan,
a member of the Northern California Narrow Gaugers,
a great On30 modular layout club.
This was a busy trip, but he had a good time, despite the traffic! If you live in these areas, or are just visiting, be sure to visit these fine dealers.

Upcoming Shows
This week, Nancy, Jarrette and George will be in Chicago for the International Hobby Expo ( This will be held at the Rosemont Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, near the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. If you are in the area, come by and see what we have to show.
November 12, 13, and 14th, we will be at Trainfest in Milwaukee ( Following that, we will be at the Oklahoma City Train Show, ( December 4th and 5th. Be sure to come by if you are in the area to see what’s new and to see some of the upcoming releases from Blackstone Models!

Tech Tip:
ch There seems to be confusion as to the purpose of the Capacitor included in the Tsunami decoders. This is a 220uf capacitor that is designed as a stay-alive capacitor for the processor. Older SoundTraxx decoders had a 33uf bi-directional capacitor included to hook up in line with the speakers. This was a noise filter and is no longer necessary with the Tsunami line of decoders. Lets look at how it works.
At any point in time, the locomotive is picking up power from one wheel on each rail, no matter how many wheels it has.

Electricity follows the shortest path of least resistance, which will be one wheel on each rail. As the locomotive is moving, this point of contact with the rail is broken and needs to be re-established quickly, which it does, but for that moment, the decoder is without power. The capacitor supplies the processor with power until another reliable path of electricity is found. This window is only milliseconds long, but with a sound decoder, even this is enough to result in a constantly re-setting sound decoder, similar to plugging in and unplugging a computer. With a non-sound decoder, this takes place so fast that we never see any interruption of power, but with sound, we would hear the loss of power.
We have selected a 220uf capacitor because on a well-wired layout, these interruptions of power will only last ¼ second to ½ second. This capacitor is more than enough to handle this amount of time. If you are still experiencing losses of power causing interruption of operation, you can increase the capacitance to help lengthen the amount of time that the processor will be powered over dead track. Remember, as capacitance increases, so to does the physical size of the capacitor, which may be a tight fit into small locomotives. You can use as large a capacitor as you can fit, but we do recommend keeping it less than 1000uf. If the capacitance of multiple locomotives gets too high, this could cause the DCC system to detect a short circuit upon startup due to the inrush current caused by multiple capacitors charging at the same time. Most installations will not need this, however, if the locomotive’s track power pickups are insuffecient (not enough wheels are picking up power), this could help overcome these issues.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SoundBytes XXVIII

In this edition, we will re-cap the 30th National Narrow Gauge Convention. We will also shed light onto a couple of our SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models dealers, discuss future trips.

Narrow Gauge Convention Wrap-Up
We had a great time visiting with our customers and dealers who were in attendance. We were proud to show the newest pre-production samples of the C-19s, and decorated samples of the passenger coach and the tank cars. These were well received and whet the appetites of many HOn3 modelers! You can view these samples on our website, and
A great Honor was bestowed to our company’s founders, Steve Dominguez and Nancy Workman. These extraordinary individuals were honored at the convention by being inducted into the Narrow Gauge Hall of Fame! It is truly great to have them recognized for contributions in both the category of sound and revitalizing HOn3 with the introduction of the Blackstone Models division.
We also would like to thank those who opened their layouts to conventioneers. The layout hosts were very hospitable and we saw some fabulous layouts. In particular, we’d like to thank Jeff Boock, Eric Brooman, Chuck Graham, John Kalin, Herb Koening, Randy Meyers and Ron Schlueter- Your layouts were truly inspirational! Nearly all featured our Tsunami sound decoders and we even found one using our SoundTraxx S220-IR Steam layout sound system! We will post some photos at in a future post.
During our time there, we took the opportunity to visit Mark Twain Hobbies in St. Charles, MO ( If you are in the area, please stop by- this is an awesome store with a wonderful selection of items for all hobbies. It truly brought back childhood memories for all of us!

Look for us in your area!
George will be spending a week on the west coast in the coming weeks! Starting in Portland, he will visit with our dealers in the area with clinics at The Hobbysmith ( at 4:00pm and at the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad club ( at 6:00pm, on Tuesday, September 28th. Traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday, he will be doing public clinics at Bruce’s Train Shop along with the 26th Street Model Engineers ( in Sacramento, CA at Noon on Friday, October 1st and at Roger’s Railroad Junction in Lodi on Saturday, Oct 2nd at 10:30am. If you are in the area and can attend, we would love to have you! We are planning on visiting our dealers in the area as well, along with several clubs including the Carquinez Model Railroad Society ( Thursday evening at 7:00pm and the Alameda County Central Railroad Society ( on Friday evening at 6:00pm. On Sunday, Oct 3rd, we will be displaying at the Open House for Just Trains ( in Concord, CA. Please come by and say hello and see what’s new!

Dealer News:
From time to time, we like to give some special ‘kudos’ to dealers who are doing what they can to help serve the model railroad community. At this time, we would like to congratulate Johns and Nancy Thut of DCC Hobby Supply ( for expanding their services to their customers. In addition to almost always having the items asked for in stock, they now offer installation services for both brass and mass-produced plastic models. Give them a call and support them in their efforts to better support you!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SoundBytes XXVII

It seems as though summer has just started, and here we are going into September and sending the kids off to school! Of course, that means time for railroading! In this edition, we will look at an annual occurrence here in Durango, Railfest at the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We will also see our newest announcement from SoundTraxx. For our Tech Tip, we will look at an easy change to make to your Tsunami decoder, the Whistle or air horn!

This year’s Railfest at the D&SNG was bigger than ever. This is an annual celebration of railroading in the Colorado Rockies and visiting equipment stole the show. Railfest this year ran from August 19th through August 24th. Events included freight photo specials, special passenger photo specials, special excursions with the visiting equipment and more! This year, the D&RGW 315, a C18 consolidation, the Eureka and Palisades #4, a 4-4-0 and the RGS Galloping Goose #5 all were here running special trips throughout the Animas Canyon. One of the highlights of this year’s festivities was the Parade of Trains through Durango, featuring a train arriving at the depot about every 10 minutes, finally posing for a special photo shoot with some of the everyday D&S equipment! This kicked off the Railfest Banquet held in the Railroad Museum. This annual event seems to get better every year. If you are looking for a great railroad vacation, Railfest is hard to beat!

Upcoming Shows
If you are able to attend the 30th National Narrow Gauge Convention held this year in St. Louis, MO, be sure to come by the booth to see what’s new. We will have plenty of samples of our upcoming projects to show, including a few versions of the C-19 to look at as well as decorated samples of the passenger cars with the full detailed and painted interior and decorated samples of our frameless and narrow-frame tank cars.
George would also like to thank all who attended the clinic in Colorado Springs at Custom Railway Supply. Your questions and participation is appreciated. For those who were not able to attend, watch here for more clinic schedules and locations. We are looking to plan a few more around the country!

Mobile Decoders
We have been asked many times about speed matching Tsunami sound-equipped locomotives with non-sound-equipped locos. In response to this, we have introduced a non-sound decoder that features the same fine motor control and features found in the Tsunami decoders, just without the sound! This way, you can have a multi-unit consist that has each decoder is using the same set of CVs for controlling the lights and motor, including the popular F11 braking! No more will you have to look through many manuals to figure out how to get different decoder-equipped locos to run together smoothly.
The Mobile decoders will be available in many formats to facilitate an easy installation. The lineup can be found here:
These will be available soon from your favorite dealers.

Tech Tip:
One of the easiest and most distinct changes that can be made to a decoder is to change the whistle or horn. Each steam decoder is pre-loaded with a selection of up to 8 whistles and diesel decoders are preloaded with 16 air horns to choose from. Prototype locomotives carried many different whistles based on the railroad or region of the country, or even different class of locomotives! Diesels became more “standardized” with the railroad selecting the air horn of choice for all locomotive models. Each Tsunami decoder has a card enclosed in the packaging that denotes which whistles and air horns are selectable on the decoder. By reading the chart, you can determine the values to program into CV115 to select each air horn and whistle type. For example, on the EMD 567 diesel decoder, CV 115 should be set to a value of 3 of you want to hear a Leslie A200. On the Southern Steam decoder, set CV 115 to 2 if you want to hear the Norfolk & Western #1218 whistle.Using CV115, you can select a whistle or air horn that you like the sound of. After all, this is your railroad. By using the many choices available, doing a small bit of research on your prototypes can make for a more prototypically accurate running experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SoundBytes XXVI

It is time for another installment of SoundBytes. We have some trips planned in the near future including a trip to Colorado Springs to give a Tsunami clinic. Also, we will be displaying at the 30th National Narrow Gauge convention in St. Louis, MO. We will discuss a bit about the latest from Blackstone Models. For out Tech Tip, we will look more in depth into Dynamic Brakes and how they work for diesels.

Show Season
Show season is upon us. George will be traveling this weekend to Colorado Springs to give a Tsunami sound presentation at Custom Railway Supply in Colorado Springs Saturday Morning, August 21st at 9:30am. If you are able to attend, please do so as it will be fun and informative.
After a busy NMRA National show, we now get to go to St. Louis, MO and set up at the 30th National Narrow Gauge Convention. This is usually a great show to display Blackstone Models equipment and to talk with many of our “Narrow-Minded” friends about current and upcoming projects. As always, we enjoy speaking with our friends in the modeling community. If you are able to attend this show, or are in the near vicinity, come by and visit. Also, Jarrette will be giving clinics on using Tsunami sound and Jeff will be giving a peek into the world of Blackstone Models. Check the clinic schedule to find out times and locations of these informative and fun clinics! Models
We have been shipping out our K-27 locomotives and our double-deck stockcars as fast as we can. We have a large demand for these items and quantities are limited. Be sure to check with your dealers to ensure you get your models before they are sold out!We also have passed the deadline for guaranteed reservations on the narrow frame and frameless tank cars. We have very limited quantities available, so be sure you have ordered yours to guarantee you receive these quality models.
Our second set of sample C-19s have arrived and we are extensively testing these models to ensure that the quality we expect is present and that these models run as good as our K-27s. These models have been great so far, we want to push these to the limits to be sure you can enjoy running these locomotives!

Tech Tip:
For this Tech Tip, we will discuss dynamic brakes and how they work on your Tsunami decoder. For those who may not know what Dynamic Braking is, let us explain.
Locomotives are not direct drive like our cars and trucks. Since they need much more horsepower to pull that much tonnage, they rely on electric motors (Traction motors) on the axles to turn the wheels. An electric generator (Main Generator) attached to the diesel engine (Prime mover) supplies the electrical power to these motors. The engineer regulates how much power is applied to the traction motors from the cab for pulling trains. Dynamic braking was developed to help reduce the wear on the train’s brake shoes while helping to maintain better control of the train when drifting downhill or negotiating territory with significant undulating grades. This method of braking turns the traction motors into generators, using electro-mechanical force to slow the rotation of the locomotive’s wheels and causing resistance to the momentum of the train downhill. The extra electric energy generated by these traction motors is dissipated in a resistor grid located in the locomotive. The dynamic brake fan sound on the Tsunami is representing the dedicated fan (or set of fans) that cools these resistor grids to prevent thermal damage to them.
Each locomotive manufacturer had a different way of addressing the locomotive’s needs for the dynamic brake application. Tsunami allows you to replicate any of these options to create a more realistic sound decoder. Since the prime mover would not be generating power to pull the train anymore, most EMD locomotives would drop the diesel engine RPMs to idle to save fuel. As an exception to that rule, Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific would have the prime mover on their locomotives drop to Run 4 so there was enough power generated by the main generator to keep the traction motor blowers running to help prevent the traction motors from overheating. ALCO and GE had these fans directly driven from the crankshaft of the prime mover and would then have to crank the prime mover up to Run 8 or full throttle to keep the fan turning as fast as it can and cool the resistors.
Following the Tsunami Diesel User’s Guide, available here:, these options can be set up in your diesel Tsunami decoder to follow prototype practices and therefore result in more realistic operation. F4 by default controls the dynamic brake sound. CV116 sets up a few things, including auto-notching or manual notching, auto start, and interlock as well as the dynamic brake feature. Start by determining the value for CV116 that controls the other features first. Next, determine how your prototype’s dynamic brakes behaved. Default settings for Tsunami simply have the fan sound play. If you want the prime mover to drop to idle, add in 64 to the pre-determined value for CV116. If you want the dynamic brakes to go to Run 4, add 128 to the value for CV116. If the prime mover’s RPMs need to go to Run 8, add in 192 to the value in CV 116.
With many railroads using locomotives from different manufacturers, following this procedure creates realistic operation options allowing the unique locomotives to behave differently when in a prototypical consist. A neat addendum to this is in a case where a locomotive (Or locomotives) in the consist does not have dynamic brakes. The locomotive in question, when coupled to a few locomotives that did have dynamic brakes, would drop to idle to save fuel, but there were no fans, so set CV116 accordingly and set CV 133, Dynamic Brake fan volume, to 0. This way, when in a consist, this locomotive will behave properly in accordance with the prototype, and there will be no Dynamic Brake fan sound! This feature found only in Tsunami helps create the realism we are all striving to achieve on our layouts!