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 http://warthers.com/

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 (http://therailroadpark.com/) in Scottsdale, Arizona. This park houses a 10,000 sq. ft. model railroad exhibit hall housing three model railroad clubs in O, HO (http://scottsdalemrhs.org/) and N scale (http://www.sun-n-sand.org/Pages/default.aspx). 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 (http://www.scottsdalelivesteamers.com/) 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 Jobing.com 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 www.northidahomodeltrains.com, 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 http://www.soundtraxx.com/manuals/soldering%20guide.pdf

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: http://www.soundtraxx.com/manuals/genset_userguide_addendum.pdf

GenSet Sound Sample: http://www.soundtraxx.com/dsd/tsunami/showwistle.php?s=qsk19cx3 

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 customernews@soundtraxx.com

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!