Monday, September 16, 2013

Blackstone Models New Mikados and Isolating the Motor

With the summer over, cooler temperatures, and the kids back in school, it’s time for model railroading.

We have some exciting news on the Blackstone Models front that we announced at the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Pasadena, CA. While there, Jarrette and George got to see quite a few steam locos and visit a couple of model railroads on the road trip.

Last, our Tech Tip will involve installing decoders and what it means to isolate the motor.

Blackstone Models News

We are proud to announce the road numbers and part numbers for the upcoming K-28 and K-36 projects. These are currently on schedule for a late 2015 release. Visit our website for more information:
These are now available for advance reservation through your favorite hobby shops.

ProTraxx, our new HOn3 track system with integrated roadbed, has been very popular with modelers. We also are working on a turnout design. When we are further along with this part of the ProTraxx product line, we will make the official announcements with the details.

National Narrow Gauge Road Trip

This year we were on display again at the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Pasadena, CA. This trip was a little different as George drove down early to present a few clinics in the area.

Special thanks goes to Milepost 38 Model Trains in Anaheim Hills and Arnie’s Trains in Westminster for hosting free Tsunami demonstration clinics in their stores. While he was there, George also visited Reed’s Hobby shop in La Mesa (San Diego area), Railmaster Hobbies in Bellflower, and Train Shack in Burbank.

After Jarrette arrived on Wednesday morning, they drove up to Pasadena, passing Pomona on the way. With the recent announcement that the Union Pacific has started the restoration of the Big Boy #4014 at the fairgrounds, they decided to stop and see it before it moves to Cheyenne for the complete overhaul.

They have quite a few locos at the fairgrounds, all of which are in good shape. Besides the Big Boy, they had UP 4-12-2 #9000, Santa Fe 4-6-4 #3450, and a UP Centennial Diesel #6913 and more. One of the volunteers even let them up in the cab of the #4104 to sit in the engineer’s seat. For more information about this loco collection, or to make a donation to the museum, please visit

During one of the convention breaks, they came across Travel Town at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, so they figured they’d stop in. There were numerous steam locos on display, including small 4-4-0, a Heisler, a Shay, and even a diesel from the California and Western “Skunk” Train that Jarrette had ridden behind in his youth.
For more information or to donate, visit

While at the convention, the Slim Gauge Guild was open for a layout tour in Pasadena. There is a HOn3 layout and a Sn3 layout on display, with many examples of fine modeling and scenery. Included on the HOn3 layout are Durango, Salida, the famous Black Canyon Bridge outside Gunnison, Ophir Loop, and Lizard Head Pass.

The HO standard gauge layout even features the suspended bridge on the Royal Gorge Route. For more information, including the open house schedule, please visit

George and Jarrette also had fun at the convention. They especially enjoyed seeing the modeling talent on display with the HOn3 North Coast Narrow Gaugers modular layout and the On30 collection of five clubs. As always, it was fun for them to see many fellow modelers and friends enjoying the show, including TV star and model railroader Michael Gross. If an opportunity arises to attend this show, be sure to go. It is fun and inspiring.

The drive home would take them to Kingman, AZ, home of the Santa Fe #3759, sister locomotive to the #3751.

Our travelers also stopped at the Grand Canyon Railroad in Williams, AZ to see retired 2-8-0 Consolidation #29 on display at the depot, looking like she could be fired up at any time.

Unfortunately, time was a factor, so they did not have time for a ride. For more information on this scenic trip, please visit

After lunch in Flagstaff, George and Jarrette watched a few modern BNSF trains run through the mainline for about 20 minutes and saw five trains pass. This is part of the LA to Chicago mainline, so it was definitely busy.

It was a seemingly long road trip, but they were able to see many remnants of steam railroading, as well as examples of modern-day railroading along the way.

Tech Tip: Isolating the Motor

When installing a decoder into an analog (DC or direct current) locomotive model, it is important to determine the flow of electricity through the model, from the right rail to the motor and lights, and then to the left rail.

Most modern releases have electricity flowing through a small circuit board that has a plug that the decoder can easily fit into. Isolating the motor is as simple as unplugging the "dummy" board. This board internally connects the track power to the motor and light circuits.

On older models and brass, isolating the motor is not as simple. In many cases, the track power is picked up through the wheels and transferred to the frame, making it "hot." The loco is hot to one rail (let’s say positive lead or +), while the tender traditionally picks up power from the other rail (negative or -).

The motor in the loco has one terminal grounded to the frame to pick up the positive rail power. A single wire is then connected to the other terminal of the motor and connected to the insulated drawbar, from which the negative power from the tender frame is transferred.

To isolate the motor, it is imperative to identify these conductive paths to separate the motor terminals to accept power only from the dedicated wires from the decoder and not from the frame (which is carrying track power). In many cases, there is a small brass tab soldered to the motor terminal and then to the motor casing as a quick, simple way to transfer the power to the motor from the frame, as shown here in this old AHM GG1.

Unsolder or cut this tab. Test that the motor is isolated by using a multi-meter set to continuity tester, and touch the terminal with one lead, then touch the other lead to the frame. There should be no conductivity now. Attach a wire to the motor terminal that now can simply be routed to the orange wire from the decoder. (Or optionally through our DBX-9000 loco-to-tender wiring harness, P.N. 810132). Since the other motor terminal already has a wire on it to the drawbar, disconnect from the drawbar and this can be rerouted (through the DBX-9000) to the gray motor lead from the decoder.
On some of the older Athearn "Blue Box" Diesels, this connection to the frame was two cut out tabs from the clip on the bottom of the motor. 
To isolate the motor in this case, the tabs would need to be removed, and a small layer of electric insulating tape can be laid down under the motor as insurance. Then, simply solder a gray motor lead to the clip and run this to the decoder.
As an insurance policy, run some insulative tape under the motor before reinstalling to prevent any accidental contact.

Now the motor is isolated from the track power-carrying frame of the loco and will only run based on the power sent to it directly from the decoder through the wires.

This is just a couple of examples, but applying these techniques to the next install will help make installation much easier, and prevent a Trouble Code 11 (motor connection fault) from flashing the headlight.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Recap and Upcoming Appearances

With summer almost over and kids headed back to school, it’s time to refocus on your model train hobby. So with that in mind, we’ll get this post going with a recap of SoundTraxx’ summer activities, including our annual Dealer Training Seminar. We’ll also briefly touch on Blackstone Models news. And we’ll finish with a preview of upcoming clinics and show appearances.

True West Railfest 2013

Last weekend, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad held its annual True West Railfest. We saw the Rio Grande Southern Galloping Goose No. 5, as well as the restored C-18 Consolidation No. 315, running excursions up and down the line this weekend. Railfest has many photo specials, extra trains, and fun for all the family.

SoundTraxx News

Summer has been busy here as we again displayed at the National Train Show held in Atlanta. There, we announced two new speakers to the lineup that we are really excited about. The 30mm round speaker (P.N. 818114) is ideal for installation in Atlas and other models already equipped with the speaker housing. We also added a 35mm x 20mm oval speaker (P.N. 810115). With a slight addition to the width, this speaker really packs a wide frequency range and great volume. These will be shipping soon.

Next was our Annual Dealer Training Seminar. Every year, we invite our dealers to come participate in classes we have structured to help the retailers become more familiar with our products and services. This year, we had a great group from all across the United States. Be sure to check your favorite hobby shop for the Dealer Training Star by their name on our dealer list. Also check out our 2013 Dealer Training Seminar Facebook album.

Blackstone Models Announcement: K-28 and K-36 Mikados!

We are happy to announce that our next all-new locomotives to be produced by Blackstone Models will be the K-28 and K-36. We have not yet announced the fine details, such as road numbers, part numbers, and price. We are hoping to get these nailed down soon. Keep checking back with us for updates.

Upcoming Appearances

We will be in the L.A. area for the National Narrow Gauge Convention being held August 28-31 this year in Pasadena, CA. We will be in the area giving clinics at Milepost 38 Trains in Anaheim and Arnie’s Trains on August 24, 25 and 26. We are also giving clinics at the convention, as well as displaying our products and showing off our newest announcements. If you are in the area, be sure to contact the stores for availability of room at their clinics, or come by and register for the NNGC and see us. There is always a fun time to be had.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Application Notes, Blackstone Models Announcements, and Setting the Chuff in Tsunami Steam Decoders

May brings nicer temperatures and great weather, but that’s no reason to slow or stop modeling for the summer. With children and grandchildren visiting, families taking time from work to go on vacation, why not stay home and work on model trains together, build a kit, finish that scenery in the corner or install a decoder into that great locomotive model that’s been put off? Besides being a great learning experience for young modelers, it’s an opportunity to spend time with the hobby as a family! With that in mind, we have lots of good stuff to discuss here this month. First, we’ll share some new Application Notes (installation documents). Next we have some special announcements from Blackstone Models. Finally, we’ll share our new SoundTraxx YouTube channel and this month’s Tech Tip, Setting Up an Articulated Chuff.

First Train to Silverton

With the beginning of May comes Opening Day for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) resuming service to Silverton.

For the ‘kick off’ of the summer season, they annually hold a big party at the depot with free hot dogs, live music from the Bar D Wranglers, and access to a few of the first-class cars for scouting out the best seats. We always try to go down to the depot for a fun lunchtime activity.

This year, Narrow Gauge Day was held on May 3 to kick off the summer season of the D&SNGRR. For train tickets and information, visit

New Application Notes

We have been working hard on our Application Notes to help you with decoder installations. These are designed to help give confidence to all modelers that they can install sound in models that are not offered with factory-installed sound.

Bachmann “Standard Line” HO GP7 and GP9
These models use the TSU-AT1000 for EMD 567 (P.N. 828040) and our 28mm (1″) round speaker (P.N. 810054).

Athearn Ready-to-Roll (RTR) HO EMD SD40 and SD40-T
These models use the TSU-AT1000 for EMD 645 Turbo (P.N. 828041) and our 16mm x 35mm small oval speaker (P.N. 810113).

Athearn RTR HO AC4400CW
The new “NS Heritage” models are now arriving in stores, so we thought we’d share this link again for your convenience. These models use the TSU-AT1000 for GE FDL-16 Modern (P.N. 828038) and our 23mm small Mega Bass speaker (P.N. 810129).

Athearn RTR HO AC4400CW Application Note 

Blackstone Models Announces New Frameless Tank Cars!

We are excited to announce a new run of Frameless Tank Cars in the UTLX ‘GRAMPS’ paint scheme. We are offering three new road numbers, available either factory weathered or non-weathered. These are not expected to last long, so be sure to contact your favorite hobby shop quickly for these popular HOn3 cars. These cars are going to be shipping out to our dealers in mid-July.

B340656 UTLX #55339 ‘GRAMPS’ MSRP 67.95
B340657 UTLX #55297 ‘GRAMPS’ MSRP 67.95
B340658 UTLX #55341 ‘GRAMPS’ MSRP 67.95

B340656W UTLX #55339 ‘GRAMPS’ Weathered MSRP 75.95
B340657W UTLX #55297 ‘GRAMPS’ Weathered MSRP 75.95
B340658W UTLX #55341 ‘GRAMPS’ Weathered MSRP 75.95

Blackstone Models C-19 Shipment Update

We have received word that the non-weathered versions of our C-19s have left the factory overseas and are expected to arrive in Durango in early June. Due to a manufacturing flaw in the paint for the weathering, they did not pass our inspections, and therefore have to be completely rebuilt. These are expected to arrive 60-90 days after the arrival of the non-weathered versions. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Now is the time to be sure your favorite hobby shop has your order for these popular locos. The weathered versions of these locomotives are sold out, but we do currently have a limited supply of non-weathered versions available. If you’d like more information on these locomotives, please visit

New YouTube Channel

In an effort to help showcase the features of our Tsunami products, we have started a new YouTube channel. Our first video stars our newest sound file, the NRE GenSet. Be sure to subscribe to our channel as we are working on new videos to add.

Tech Tip: Chuff Type, Conventional Rod vs. Simple Articulated

“More power!” is what Tim Taylor famously said on the TV show “Home Improvement.” With that in mind, it inevitably translates into our modeling – we all love big steam. Whether a 4-8-4 or a 4-8-8-4 Big Boy, the Tsunami has the chuff pattern to match your favorite model! All of our Tsunami steam decoders have the ability to simulate the articulated 8-chuff per revolution of a simple articulated locomotive. This is controlled in CV 112.
CV 112 controls the quantity of airpumps sounded (one or two) to match the prototype. It also allows you to select a simple articulated steam loco, which has an 8-chuff per revolution cadence as it runs down the track. These chuffs from the two sets of drivers on the steam loco can go in and out of sync, so the Tsunami steam decoders allow you to select from four speeds of wheel slip: none, slow, medium, and fast to reproduce the unique shifting cadence as the loco runs down the track.
Using CV 112 also allows you to simulate a double-headed train using a Tsunami-equipped steam loco with a non-sound equipped steam loco and still give the irregular, shifting cadence that is prevalent on most double-head steam consists!

For more information about this feature, see the Steam User’s Guide and refer to page 44.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SoundBytes March 26, 2013

On a more personal, lighter side of SoundTraxx, we wanted to share a couple of trips that George and Jarrette went on that we think would be fun and interest people in the model railroad community. First was George’s trip to Ohio where he visited the Warther Museum. Next was a quick, one-day visit in Phoenix where both George and Jarrette toured Jarrette’s old stomping grounds in the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, and then took in a good NHL head-to-head meeting between Jarrette’s Phoenix Coyotes and George’s Dallas Stars.

George’s Vacation Trip to The Warther Museum, Dover, Ohio
George was out visiting the in-laws in Ohio a month ago. While there, they took him to a really cool museum in Dover, Ohio. The Warther Museum is a testament to the wood carving talents of Ernest “Mooney” Warther, and his love for trains.
While not a traditional train museum, this was one of the more interesting museums George has been to. These wood and ivory carvings done by hand were every bit as detailed as any models available today. These models were designed to move, showing the intricate workings of the steam locomotives’ side rods and valve gearing. Even the valve handle on the trainline air hose moved, and was hand carved! All of the text written about each loco, as well as the roadname, was carved out of ivory, and then an equivalent recession was carved into the side of the tender and wood base. The text was then inserted inside, with almost no visible imperfections.
The workmanship and attention to detail that was put into these models is nothing short of astounding. Mr. Warther had carved the Lincoln Funeral Train with the interior fully detailed, including a carved side door key hanging on a hook over the sink!
If you are in the Columbus area, this is a trip well worth the time. You can find out more about the museum, and the cutlery business Mr. Warthers started, at

A Visit to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale, Arizona
On Friday, March 8, George and Jarrette headed to Phoenix, Arizona. They arrived late Friday night, just in time to get some dinner and rest for the full day planned on Saturday.
Saturday morning came quickly and they headed off to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park ( in Scottsdale, Arizona. This park houses a 10,000 sq. ft. model railroad exhibit hall housing three model railroad clubs in O, HO ( and N scale ( There is also live steam in 7 ½” gauge and 15” available for rides around the park grounds.
After a lap or two around the 15” gauge train, George and Jarrette settled in for the afternoon at the Scottsdale Live Steam Club’s 7 ½” gauge tracks ( where they rode and ran trains and caught up with some friends.
This was George’s first time actually running a live steam loco, and he was really proud in that he kept the loco working at an even speed and did not build up too much steam and allow the safety pop-off valve spew steam in the air!
Next they were off to watch some National Hockey League hockey action at Arena in Glendale. They had great seats behind the visiting Dallas Stars’ goal.
After a great game, the Phoenix Coyotes pulled off a 2-1 win in a fun-filled evening.
After a great day in Phoenix, it was back home to Durango, Colorado, on Sunday.

Dealer Spotlight: North Idaho Model Trains, Sandpoint, Idaho
North Idaho Model Trains is located in Sandpoint, Idaho, and is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Sean and Wendy. North Idaho Model Trains is an Internet and word-of-mouth success story!
What began as a hobby (many, many years ago) for Sean turned into a business as he realized that there are many fellow model railroaders in need of technical assistance when it came to DCC, sound, and lights.
In this digital age, their business serves everywhere and anywhere. As a full-service dealer, they offer almost everything needed to complete your trains and layouts, including SoundTraxx decoders and Blackstone Models locomotives and rolling stock, as well as accessories and landscape material. Their specialty is installing SoundTraxx decoders using LEDs to help their clients achieve the most realistic looking and sounding model trains available. Many modelers send them their favorite model trains from all over the USA, Canada, and as far away as Australia, to have upgrades completed. When they had an opportunity to expand the business to Australia, Sean and Wendy jumped at the chance. A family friend, Pat, approached Sean about the need for model trains supplies at reasonable prices in the “Land of Oz,” and so they partnered up with Pat to expand North Idaho Model Trains’ services across the globe.
As a modeler and railfan, Sean enjoys their home in the woods, which shares a border with the UP Railroad, and is within viewing distance of the BNSF ‘High Line’ mainline. It’s a train fan’s paradise!
You can call them in the States at (208) 360-7990 or check in at their website at, as well as on Facebook. In Australia, contact Pat at 0432524783. They will be happy to help you with your next install.

Tech Tip: Soldering
One of the key skills used in decoder installation is soldering. It is a seemingly simple task, but yet there are many aspects to this fine art that will help ease the installation.
The first step is having the proper tools for soldering. Many modelers may have solder guns for plumbing work, or a resistance soldering station for use with brass model work. While these may be effective tools for the given tasks, they do not work well with fine electronics. There are many different soldering irons available out there, but it’s best to have one for electronics with variable temperature control and a fine tip for precise work.
Next are the key ingredients, such as solder and flux. Again, as with soldering irons, there are many different types of solder and flux. The best solder to get is a fine (.032”) rosin core solder to give more control over the amount of solder in the joints. Smaller diameter solder means less solder on your joint and a more professional appearance. Flux is not a necessary thing to use (with rosin-core solder), but it is highly recommended to help make a better joint. It is very important to use the correct flux for electronic work. Flux designed for plumbing and brass model building (such as Tix, a popular brand) have high acidic composition and can attack components on the decoder circuit board, ultimately causing random component failures. We cannot stress enough the importance of using solder and flux that is designed specifically for electronics.
The process for a good, reliable solder joint is simple. First is to tin any stranded wires involved. To tin the end of a wire, twist the wire strands until they are tight with no stray strands. Add a little bit of flux to the wire with the end of a small screwdriver, a toothpick if using paste flux or a small brush or needle if using liquid flux. Then with a hot iron (Around 700 degrees Fahrenheit), take the solder and just touch a bit to the tip of the iron to form a small liquid ball of solder. (This is not a case of “if a little is good, a lot is better!”)
Simply touch the wire end to the tip of the iron and the flux will draw the hot solder into the joint, securing the end for joining to the PC board or other wire. You do not need to hold the iron there for more than a second or two, or you will begin to melt the plastic wire insulation, exposing more of the bare wire. Excessive exposed wire can be accidentally touched in places inside the model that could cause shorts or eventual decoder failure.
To make the joint to the PC board, take the wire into the hole on the PC board tab and bend to help hold it in place. Again, apply a bit of flux to the joint. Then place a small bit of solder to the tip of the iron and touch to the joint.
Just hold the iron to the joint for a second or two; the flux helps makes quick work of the job. You can trim any excess wire protruding from the joint if desired.
One good thing to have handy when soldering is a wet sponge. This is used to help keep the tip of the iron clean and free of excess solder. After soldering your connection, brush the tip of the iron along the wet sponge and it will cool the solder and draw it off the tip, leaving you a clean tip for the next joint. Excessive solder not only can make the joints look bad, but it can also cause premature wear of the soldering tip. When done soldering after your install, it is best to put a bit of solder on the end of the iron to help preserve the life of the tip.
For more details on soldering, check out our document “SoundTraxx’ Guide to Successful Soldering” at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SoundBytes March 7th, 2013

Spring is around the corner here at SoundTraxx and we continue to have lots of exciting things going on. In the beginning of 2013, we announced the new GenSet decoders and we are pleased to inform you that they are now shipping. We also have officially launched our first customer e-newsletter, SoundBits. Combining this with our blog, Facebook and Twitter, it is our hope to help give you, our customer, as many opportunities to connect with SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models on a more personal level and help you be informed specifically what we have going on here in Durango. Our dealer spotlight will focus on TrainWorld / TrainLand in New York and our Tech Tip will dive deeper into the details of programming decoders by taking a closer look at Programming on the Main.

GenSet Decoders are Now Shipping
After much work, the new TSU-AT1000 for the Atlas HO GenSet is now shipping. These properly reproduce the prototypical operation of the complex units. If you are looking for the best sound option for your HO models, be sure to get one on order and/or installed by your local hobby shop.

P.N. 828036 TSU-AT1000 for Cummins QSK10C x3 (Genset) MSRP $99.95

GenSet Addendum:

GenSet Sound Sample: 

Customer e-Newsletter, SoundBits
The first customer e-newsletter, SoundBits, went out March 1, 2013. This e-newsletter will help keep you informed about new products, announcements, catalog releases, new application notes (installation documents) and other general SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models news. You can subscribe to this newsletter by sending an email to

Dealer Spotlight: TrainWorld/TrainLand in NY
Fans of the hit HBO series “The Soprano’s” may recognize this month's featured retailer, TrainLand, one of the hobby stores started by the late Peter Bianco. The Lynbrook, New York, location set the scene where character Bobby Baccala, a model train aficionado, was “whacked” in the show’s 85th episode, “The Blue Comet.”
TrainLand is Peter’s second store, which he opened with his wife, Aileen, in 1976. They purchased the building for their first store, TrainWorld, in 1973 on M Avenue in Brooklyn. As the company grew and a prosperous mail order business propelled them to the next level, Peter and Aileen purchased a bigger piece of property and relocated to 751 McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn. The attainment of TrainLand helped build their retail division and increased their presence as a major hobby shop in New York. With the properties in place, TrainWorld/TrainLand has over 50,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Prior to establishing his hobby businesses, Peter cut hair as a well-known beautician in Brooklyn. However, Peter had another love -- collecting trains. The thrill of the hunt was an exuberating adventure for Peter, who realized that he could profit from the collectible Lionel trains he found at garage sales, train shows, and newspaper ads. Making great profits through the sales he made and money he saved up through the beauty salon, Peter envisioned creating a magical toy train hobby shop, and with determination, he and Aileen took a chance and opened TrainWorld.
Inevitably, Peter’s children went into the train business -- Anthony Bianco (shipping); Ken Bianco Sr. (manager); and Diane Napilatano (sales). Recently some of the third-generation kids have entered into the business too, including Ken Bianco Jr., Paul Bianco Jr., Nicky Napolitano and Vinny Napolitano. Ken Jr. expanded their DCC products and brought in the SoundTraxx line, which he says are “some of the best sound decoders on the market.”
“We have noticed a flight to quality in the train industry,” continues Ken Jr. “Our customers want the best for their layout and SoundTraxx is well-known by all. Our sales in SoundTraxx has increased by tenfold and our customers are glad we are carrying their decoders.”
TrainWorld                                                  Trainland
751 McDonald Ave.                                    293 Sunrise Hwy.
Brooklyn, NY 11218                                   Lynbrook, NY 11563
(800) 541-7010                                          (516) 599-7080

Tech Tip: Programming on Main
Last time we discussed in detail programming CVs using the programming track. This time, we’ll get into the details on using the Programming on the Main (Operations Mode, Ops Mode) option.
There are many conflicting ideas about the realities and myths of using the mainline to program decoders. Some individuals and clubs forbid this practice, while others embrace the technology. To help, let’s clarify what it means to program on the mainline and how it can work for you, as well as dispel some of the misconceptions about it.
The biggest misunderstanding is that programming on the mainline will reprogram all locos on the layout with the new changes, therefore cause undesired or disastrous results. This is simply not true. When sending out a programming command on the mainline, the command station (CS) first sends out an address command, indicating which loco(s) will listen to the programming command. In this light, it is no different than sending out a function command, like blowing the whistle. Only the loco with the designated address selected in the programming process on your throttle or CS will respond and accept any programming changes that come next in the DCC packet. For example, when using the NCE throttle to program, the second step (after selecting “Programming on the Main”) is to select the loco address to which the commands will be sent.
This eliminates the possibility that all locos will be changed forever. Be sure to reference your DCC system’s instructions, as there is the possibility on some systems to turn the entire mainline into a programming track, which will then behave as we discussed last post.
One of the biggest advantages of Ops Mode Programming, especially with the sound decoders, is you can instantly hear or see the changes you made in the decoder’s behavior. When using the programming track, especially for volume controls, you’d have to remember how it sounded as you switch from programming track to mainline, which may not be located near each other.
It is also possible to program the address using Mainline Programming. Many systems allow you to do this by simply selecting “Address” after selecting “Programming on Main” and the loco number. Be careful with this option when using a Tsunami decoder, as it will not allow you to make changes to the address type that is active. What this means is that you can change the default short (2-digit, primary, 1-127) address to a long (4-digit, extended 0001-9999) address on the mainline, but you cannot change a short address to another short address. For example if you wanted to set the address from the default address of 3 to another short address of 20, the decoder will reject it. But if you wanted to change the default address of 3 to a long address of 1896, the decoder will accept it. With over 200 CVs, this helps prevent you from possibly losing command of your loco if you incorrectly input a number into the throttle or CS. You also can change a long address to a short address on the mainline. This allows you to ‘work around’ the short address to another short address on the mainline by first programming in an arbitrary long address (e.g. loco 1000) gain control of your loco, and then change the address again to the new desired short address. If something does not take, or you do lose control of the loco, a programming track with a PTB-100 booster will allow you to regain control of the loco because the programming track commands are not address-specific. It also makes constructing loco consists on the fly much easier by simply changing a few CVs during the simulated time it would take for the railroad crew to connect any MU hoses and cables on the real locomotives!
Programming on the Mainline is available in most DCC systems. Some are on the throttles while others are only on the base station or the CS. Once you become more familiar with using this option, it will not only become easier, but also make running your railroad more fun!

Monday, February 18, 2013

SoundBytes February 15, 2013

Hard to believe we are already halfway through February and we have lots to talk about this post. Here at SoundTraxx we have a much-anticipated announcement for a new sound file and we have been working on a few new install documents for the decoder selector. Last for our Tech Tip, we’ll discuss the different modes of programming, starting with Service Mode or programming on the programming track.

New Decoder Announcement: TSU-AT1000 for NRE GenSet Locomotives

There have been many requests for a proper sound decoder for the NRE GenSet 3GS21-B Switchers, recently released by Atlas Models. We are pleased to say that we have been working hard on this project to faithfully mimic the operation of the prototype GenSet Switchers. This new decoder will be available in the TSU-AT1000 format, perfect as a drop-in decoder for the Atlas model. The Atlas model comes with prototypical front and rear non-flashing ditch lights that will easily utilize the decoder’s four lighting functions.
Each GenSet prime mover will have its own sound channel that will startup at the proper throttle notch, completely independently of the others, and will rev up and down based on the throttle use and remain on as the loco is used. After use at idle, a timer starts to count and shuts down the second and third GenSet engines as they “cool down.” This independent control of each GenSet engine is what makes this loco unique. You can pre-order yours from your favorite hobby shop now.
The sound sample can be found here:

Application Notes for Athearn Models
We have been working hard to get more installation documents up and listed on our website. These can be found in the Decoder Selector section. This month, we have posted the Athearn Genesis HO SD70MAC. This model uses the TSU-GN1000 for EMD 710 (P.N. 828052) and our small oval (16mm x 35mm) speaker (P.N. 810113).
Athearn Genesis HO SD70MAC Application Note:

Also, we have added one for the Athearn Ready-To-Roll HO GP35. This model uses the TSU-AT1000 for EMD 567D Turbo (P.N. 828039) and our small oval (16mm x 35mm) speaker (P.N. 810113).
Athearn Ready-To-Roll HO GP35 Application Note:

Last, we added the Athearn Ready-To-Roll HO CF-7. This model uses the TSU-AT1000 for EMD 567 (P.N. 828040) and our small oval (16mm x 35mm) speaker (P.N. 810113).
Athearn Ready-To-Roll HO CF-7 Application Note:
All of these decoders and speakers are available to ship now.

Tech Tip: Service Mode Programming
With all the discussion on programming tutorials, it seems that the methods can sometimes be overlooked in the process. In the next couple of posts, we’ll share a bit about service mode programming and operations mode programming to set the CVs and the advantages of each method. Starting this time, we’ll look closely at service mode programming using the programming track.
The programming track is an isolated section of track that is designed to communicate programming commands to a decoder. Any loco/decoder on this section of track will accept any programming changes sent from the DCC system. The command station (CS) sends a programming command and the decoder listens and makes the CV changes accordingly. When the decoder acknowledges that is has accepted the change, it then sends a pulse of power to the motor. The CS then detects this small surge of current on the track and relays that it has been programmed okay. If there is not a motor hooked up to the decoder, the command is still obeyed, but the CS will not get the acknowledgement pulse due to the open circuit. This is why many modelers will opt to use a small resistor across the motor leads to simulate the motor load, and consequently the decoder’s acknowledgement pulse.
Programming on the programming track is helpful because you do not need to know the decoder’s address, you can easily make changes, or you can easily regain control of a decoder whose address is not known.
The programming track also allows you to read a CV value, but this is not accomplished as one would expect. To read a CV value, the CS and the decoder play a game of “256 Questions.” The game goes like this: “Is the value of CV# 0?… Is the value of CV# 255?… Is the value of CV# 1?…2?….3?….…254? When the decoder wants to answer “Yes,” the decoder then sends a pulse of power to the motor circuit for the CS to detect a small surge in current. The surge of current is read as a positive answer to the value in question, and the answer is displayed in the CS screen. If there is no motor, or load across the motor leads, the decoder can never be read.
Service mode programming also was designed to be used as a test-bed for decoder installations before going to the mainline. The power on the programming track was set to about ½ power to help protect any faulty wiring from causing permanent damage to the decoder. At the time, non-sound mobile decoders were all that was available, so this worked well. Simply send a programming command and if the decoder accepted the programming, it was ready for the mainline! Now with sound--using the SoundTraxx Tsunami--becoming more dominant in the industry, the lower power available on the programming track is not quite sufficient to “wake up” the higher-powered processors on the sound decoder for programming. This warrants the need of a PTB-100 or Programming Track Booster. Our PTB-100 will amplify the signal on the programming track to allow sound decoders to now reliably read and write CVs on the programming track. It also offers short-circuit protection against faulty wiring to protect the delicate electronics involved, so it does not need to be removed when programming non-sound decoders.
 The PTB-100 also will indicate the stages of the programming process, so you can easily see that the decoder is acknowledging the programming and reading commands. It easily hooks up between the CS and the programming track, so you can set it up once and be done. More information on the PTB-100 can be found here:   
Next time, we’ll look at programming on the mainline, also known as operation mode, and its advantages.