Thursday, November 20, 2014

Installing a Micro-Tsunami TSU-750 Digital Sound Decoder in a Kato N-Scale FEF-3

December 23, 2014 Update: A complete Application Note detailing this installation is now available. Please note that we are planning to add new photos to the document for clarity. However, if you want to tackle the installation now, all of the essential information is available in the Application Note.

Original Post:
Within the next few weeks, Kato will ship its new N-scale Union Pacific FEF-3 and passenger train. It's easy to add great sound to this model with our Micro-Tsunami TSU-750 for Heavy Steam, our small 25mm x 14mm oval speaker and gasket.

We have mocked up the installation process using a pre-production sample of the model. When we receive the final version, we'll create an Application Note detailing the installation. 
Kato N-scale FEF-3 locomotive, SoundTraxx Micro-Tsunami TSU-750 for Heavy Steam,
25mm x 14mm speaker and gasket.
First, remove the tender shell and note the location of the weight. 

Remove the weight and adhere the speaker gasket in its place.
At this point, drill holes in the floor to allow the sound to escape. 

Mount the speaker to the gasket. The shell will complete the speaker baffle. Shorten the two round pillars in the tender shell if needed to accommodate the speaker. Split the weight in half and reinstall it on either side of the speaker.

Using double-sided foam tape, mount the decoder to the underside of the tender shell. 

Wire up the speaker leads and the track pickups to the decoder. A backup light can be installed now if desired. There should only be four wires left for the headlight and the motor. Leave these wires outside of the front of the tender and reinstall the shell. 

Remove the locomotive shell and wire the leads accordingly. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Marketing Survey

Help us help you. Please take a few minutes to complete our marketing survey, which will help us find the best ways to keep you informed of new products. Thank you!

Friday, October 31, 2014

George's Visit to the Lehigh and Keystone Valley Model Railroad Club

During my trip to the Northeast earlier this month, I visited with Chris of RLS Trains, which is housed in the Lehigh and Keystone Valley (L&KV) Model Railroad Museum in Bethlehem, PA. The museum features a 5,000 sq. foot double-decked layout that duplicates the paths of the Lehigh Valley and Reading Railroads from West Portal, NJ, through the Lehigh Valley to Reading, PA.

One of the members, Lou, was kind enough to spend a few moments to show me around this amazing layout, which has over 7,000 feet of track. The scenery on the layout is about 80% complete with many scratchbuilt bridges and well-detailed buildings modeled from photos of actual structures around the Lehigh Valley area. The Allentown Yard alone is a sight to see with two fully operational hump yards!

The railroad club was formed in 1994 and started this layout in 1996. They converted it to DCC in 2005. The railroad was also featured in the September 2013 issue of Model Railroader Magazine.

If you are in the Bethlehem or Allentown, PA area, or looking for a layout to visit a short drive from Philadelphia, be sure to see the L&KV. You will not be disappointed!

For more information, visit or call (610) 868-7101. Also be sure to check out the L&KV YouTube channel to see the railroads in action. For even more photos of their amazing work and updates, go to the L&KV Model Railroad Museum's Facebook page.

They are open to the public on the third Sunday of every month from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.

Lehighton engine servicing area
Bethlehem Steel Coke Works at Saucon Yard
Downtown Quakertown along the Reading Bethlehem Branch
Ludlowville Power Plant
Reading Line in Harrisburg, PA

West Lehighton

Friday, October 17, 2014

Upcoming SoundTraxx Clinics in Wisconsin

Fall is in the air, which means Trainfest is just around the corner!

While they're in Wisconsin, George and Jarrette will present several free in-store clinics, as well as a clinics at Trainfest. If you're in the area, we hope you can attend and learn how Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders can change the way you run your railroad.

Free In-Store Clinics:
Braking, Switching and Running -- Railroading With Tsunami Decoders

EngineHouse Services 
Green Bay, WI
6:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 4, 2014

South Side Trains
Milwaukee, WI
3 p.m., Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Greenfield News & Hobby
Greenfield, WI
6 p.m., Thursday, November 6, 2014

Clinic Description
From auto-synchronizing exhaust to full train line braking, learn how SoundTraxx Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders can enhance how you run your railroad. At our free in-store clinics, SoundTraxx rep George Bogatiuk will use prototypical scenarios to demonstrate the many features built into Tsunami decoders for locomotives and rolling stock. He will also showcase the new Tsunami SoundCar and its new Intelligent Consisting feature, which makes consisting a breeze with the wave of a magnet. Be sure to bring your DCC questions!

Trainfest Clinic:
Realistic Train Operation with SoundTraxx Tsunami Decoders

Expo Center Upstairs Classroom 3
1 p.m., Saturday, November 8, 2014

Expo Center Upstairs Classroom 3
10 a.m., Sunday, November 9, 2014

Clinic Description
From auto-synchronizing exhaust to full train line braking, learn how SoundTraxx Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders can enhance the prototypical operation of your railroad. SoundTraxx rep Jarrette Ireland will demonstrate the many features built into Tsunami decoders for locomotives and rolling stock, and explain how to implement them for more realism when running your trains. He will also discuss Intelligent Consisting, a new feature available in the Tsunami SoundCar decoder that makes it easy to add and remove cars in consists without CV programming.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SoundCar Intelligent Consisting With Real-World Examples

Intelligent Consisting…What exactly is it?
In a nutshell, Intelligent Consisting is a method for quickly adding SoundCar-equipped models to a train without CV programming. It's DCC consisting "with the wave of a wand." Before I explain it in greater detail, here’s a quick background story:

It was one of those great “aha!” moments that we had while testing the Tsunami SoundCar prototype decoders. While operating several SoundCar-equipped models on my layout, Jarrette and I realized that it was a time-consuming (and not-so-fun) task to independently program each SoundCar decoder into a consist. We needed to find a better, easier way to consist decoder-equipped locomotives and rolling stock. We brainstormed several ideas with our engineering team and came up with a clever solution – a magnetic sensor on the decoder to activate a consisting mode. All it takes is the wave of a magnet over the decoder in the model and four presses of the F8 key to add it to a consist. So, rather than setting CV 19 (Consist Address) in each SoundCar decoder, you can do one sequence (wave a magnet over all cars and then press F8 four times) to add multiple SoundCar-equipped models to a consist.

Real-World and SoundCar Examples
With Intelligent Consisting, you are also playing the role of the brakeman. The SoundCar will play prototypical sound effects to acknowledge the completion of the brakeman tasks. 

When you first wave the magnet (i.e., brake club) over the decoder, you will hear the hand brake being untied, just like in the following video clips:

Prototype Hand Brake Untie

SoundCar Hand Brake Untie

After you press F8 on your cab four times, you will hear a light hiss of the retainer bleeding off to indicate that the car is hooked into the train line. It sounds like this:

SoundCar Retainer Bleed-off
Note: At the end of this video, you can also hear the sound of the cylinder setting since the brakes are set in the locomotive. When it joins a consist, the SoundCar decoder recognizes which functions are enabled in the locomotive's decoder, and responds accordingly. 

When you remove a car from the consist, simply wave the magnet over the decoder again and listen for the sounds of the hand brake being tied down and set, as demonstrated in the video clips:

Prototype Hand Brake Tie Down and Set

SoundCar Hand Brake Tie Down and Set

Putting It All Together: Intelligent Consisting Steps
In summary, here’s how Intelligent Consisting works with Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoders:
  1. Wave a magnet over the decoder in the models (Note: We recommend installing the decoder to the inside of the model’s roof with the magnetic sensor facing outward). 
  2. Listen for the sounds of the hand brakes being untied to confirm that the decoders are waiting for a signal from the command station.
  3. From your cab controlling the locomotive or consist, press F8 four times (Note: This function sequence can be remapped to any function key, 1-12). 
  4. Listen for a light hiss of the air retainer bleed-off to confirm that the cars are now part of train. When your train pulls away, the sounds of the SoundCar-equipped models will be in sync with the locomotive. 
SoundCar Intelligent Consisting
Note: The other sounds that are activated in the SoundCar decoders in this video are flat spots, generator, and the clickety-clack. Listen to our online SoundCar audio clip to hear more of the 20-plus sound effects available in the decoder.

Cutting a car from the consist is even easier! Just wave the magnet over the model again and listen for the sound of the hand brake being tied and set.

Visit the SoundCar Web page for additional information.

At SoundTraxx, our goal is to make your model railroading experience as fun and realistic as possible. We’re excited to introduce yet another innovative product that will change the way you run your layout. If you have an opportunity to try out Intelligent Consisting, please do so and let us know what you think! You can email your feedback to

We’d like to thank the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for allowing us to use their equipment and helping us film these examples. 

Post by George Bogatiuk, SoundTraxx Sales Rep

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Upcoming SoundTraxx Clinics in the Northeast

Learn about full train operations during the free clinic, “Braking, Switching & Running: Railroading With Tsunami Decoders,” presented by SoundTraxx sales rep George Bogatiuk at stores in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.

Using prototypical scenarios, George will demonstrate all of the sound effects and features in Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders for locomotives and rolling stock that will enhance how you run your railroad. He’ll also showcase the new Tsunami SoundCar and its new Intelligent Consisting feature, which makes consisting a breeze with the wave of a magnet. In addition, George will be on-hand to answer any of your DCC questions.

  • Yankee Dabbler
    Bellmawr, NJ
    Saturday, October 4, 2014
    10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer Rewind: New Products, NNGC Layout Tour, Groundbreaking and More!

It’s time to get back on track! The cooler September weather serves as a reminder to get rolling again on model railroad projects, and we have new products that you need to try out! It’s been an incredibly busy year for all of us and we have a lot to catch up on. And just a reminder, for monthly updates delivered right to your in-box, sign up for our free customer e-newsletter, “SoundBits.” Send an email request to to be added to the list.

First, we have a couple new SoundTraxx products to introduce -- the Tsunami SoundCar™ Digital Sound Decoder for rolling stock and the CurrentKeeper™ power accessory. In this post, we'll discuss the features of the SoundCar and introduce its Intelligent Consisting feature. We've also included instructions for DIY electrical pickups.

We also have a few Blackstone Models announcements to share, along with a photo recap of the layouts we visited during the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City.

Finally, we have details on our upcoming in-store clinics in the northeast and some "groundbreaking" news.

New SoundTraxx Products

Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoder for Rolling Stock
Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoder
For the first half of the year, we were busy putting the final touches on the latest addition to our line of Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders – the SoundCar, which we released in June. The SoundCar is the only 16-bit DCC decoder that provides sound and lighting effects for all types of rolling stock in all scales. The SoundCar includes a variety of railcar-specific recordings, such as wheel noises (including clickety-clack, flange squeal, and flat spots), generator, brake cylinders, emergency brake valve (“big hole”), and glad hand release. It also includes a selection of user-adjustable horns, bells and whistles for cab cars and cabooses. The sounds are adjustable for various types of cars, from bobber cabooses to 6-axle observation cars, and the decoder includes automated sound sequences, such as complete train line braking. Now you can stop missing out on half the fun!

Watch the video!
These 47mm x 14mm x 8.5mm universal-style decoders are easy to install in virtually any scale and work with 8-ohm speakers. The SoundCar also includes a 2-pin plug for optionally using our CurrentKeeper (another new product we released this year) to maintain sounds and lights during momentary power losses due to finicky wheel pickups and not-so-perfect track.

Individual SoundCar decoders retail for $42.50 MSRP (P.N. 829100) and a 3-pack is available for $112.95 MSRP (P.N. 829110). For the best experience, we recommend installing a SoundCar in every third or fourth car in your train.

For even more information about the SoundCar, check out Bruce "Mr. DCC" Petrarca's review in "Model Railroad Hobbyist."

Intelligent Consisting
In addition to being the first DCC decoder of its kind, the Tsunami SoundCar introduces a new method for creating consists called Intelligent Consisting. This innovative feature came about during the testing phase where our sales team, Jarrette and George, discovered that programming all of the SoundCar-equipped models into a consist was cumbersome and time-consuming. Our design engineers came up with an clever method that uses a magnetic sensor to initiate consisting rather than having to individually program each unit’s CVs. We coined this method “Intelligent Consisting,” since the decoder “knows” when it’s supposed to be synchronized with a consist with the wave of a magnet.  By reducing the number of steps required to set up consists, Intelligent Consisting represents a 90% time-savings over the traditional method!

Here’s how it works (follow along if you have SoundCar decoders):
For this example, set your SoundCar decoders and locomotive decoder to have CV 3 = 25, CV 4 = 75 and CV 61 = 178.

Any magnet will work to activate
Intelligent Consisting. 
Couple the SoundCar-equipped units with your locomotive. Wave any magnet over each unit with a SoundCar (Note: If possible, install the SoundCar to the underside of the model’s roof for easy access to the decoder’s magnetic sensor) and hear the hand brake being released, just like the railroads have to do. Now, from your cab controlling the locomotive, simply press F8 four times in a row. The SoundCar sees this action and then knows it is to join that address/consist. To indicate your car has joined the train, the air retainer will bleed off with a light hiss. Now simply pull away and the cars that have joined the train will start reproducing sound effects. After running, press F11. The sounds of the brakes applying throughout the train will play, but you will also notice the train slowing to a stop, as do the sounds from SoundCar! Applying the full train line brakes makes for a more fun and interesting operation session.

To release the car from the consist, simply wave the magnet over the decoder again. The sound of the brakeman tying down the hand brake will play to indicate that the car is no longer part of the train.

The best part of this method is that any number of cars can be added at one time. The F8 sequence only needs to be done once. This allows for all switching to be done, then at one time, the whole train can be synchronized with Intelligent Consisting and sent on its way. Adding and subtracting cars on the road is easy as well. Only the cars in consist search mode (activated by the magnet) are added/subtracted from the train.

DIY Electrical Pickups
Since the SoundCar requires models to have electrical pickups, we’ve found a relatively easy way to use Kadee® No. 5 Centering Springs (Item #634) as wipers. At less than $3 for a dozen, these parts are also an inexpensive option for creating your own pickups.

The centering spring is comprised of a bronze plate with two spring “arms” that are each attached to opposite sides. You can modify the springs so that they rub along the backside of the wheels with the plate mounted to an insulated section of the bolster (you can use a small piece of insulated PCB or styrene) or directly to a plastic bolster.

We recommend first removing the wheelsets from the trucks for easier access to the bolsters. Next, modify the centering springs by using tweezers to pull the springs out and away from the plate. Then cut the plate so that it will neatly fit onto the bolster and does not cover the screw hole for mounting the trucks.

To create an electrical circuit, you may either solder a piece of 30- to 32-gauge wire to the center of the plate glued to the PCB or styrene or use a plastic screw drilled and tapped through the bolster to hold the wire in place. If you solder the wire (to provide a more reliable connection), use glue to mount the insulator and plate (if necessary) to the bolster. To determine where to mount the plate, use an assembled truck as a reference to gauge placement so that the springs are brushing up against the backside of the wheels.

In order to get a complete circuit, you will need to add a pickup for the right rail wire and one for the left rail wire. For optimal performance, add pickups to all of the wheels. If you can only equip one truck with pickups to each rail, install a CurrentKeeper to maintain power to the decoder.

Blackstone Models Announcements
The Blackstone Models product development team has been busy as well working on the K-28 and K-36 Mikado releases, ProTraxx turnouts, and our first run of  D&RGW 30’ Refrigerator Cars, which will all be available late 2015. We understand that the announcement of these products has generated much excitement and anticipation. We appreciate your patience during the engineering and production processes as numerous factors come into play. However, please know that we are working hard to get these models into stores and onto your layout.

The 2014 releases of D&RGW 800 Series Drop Bottom Gondolas and 6000 Series Flatcars are now available from authorized retailers.

And finally, our D&RG C-19 No. 345 model in her “movie scheme” decoration made an encore appearance at this year’s National Narrow Gauge Convention. We are pleased to offer a limited
re-release of this unique “stunt engine” in her bumblebee-style paint scheme as she appeared in the 1950s Western movie, “Denver & Rio Grande.” These show-stopping models are now available from authorized retailers.
Blackstone Models HOn3 D&RG C-19 No. 345, "Movie Scheme"
34th National Narrow Gauge Convention
One of our favorite activities at train shows is visiting the layouts at the venue and in the area. George and Jarrette toured some amazing layouts during the 34th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City. They especially enjoyed seeing how the layouts use SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models products. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the world-class layouts and modules we saw in the Kansas City area. We wish we had more time to visit all of them! To see more photos, check out our Facebook album.

Chuck Hitchcock, MMR, Argentine Industrial District Railway
Don Ball, MMR, Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad
Mike Borkon, Union Pacific’s Wyoming Third Subdivision
John Vandenburg, D&RGW Durango Division
Upcoming Clinics
The SoundTraxx "Road Show" is headed to the northeast, where George will  present in-store clinics on realistic railroad operations using Tsunami decoders. He also will demonstrate the new SoundCar decoder for rolling stock.
Upcoming Shows
Hear the SoundCar in action and try Intelligent Consisting at the following shows:
New Building Coming in 2015
Architect rendering of the new
 SoundTraxx building coming in 2015
To round out our year, we broke ground on our new 20,000 sq. ft. facility on September 10. Our new location is near our current facility in Durango, Colorado. We think it’s a fitting milestone as we celebrate our 25th year anniversary next year. Having out-grown our current facility, it will be great to have everyone back under one roof!  Stay tuned for updates and photos during the process!

SoundTraxx owners Nancy Workman and Steve Dominguez
break ground for the new building.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Trainfest and OKC Show Recap, Future Appearances, Factory Tour, and Using LEDs with Tsunami

Happy New Year to all! We hope everyone had a safe and a happy holiday season. We would also like to thank all of our loyal customers for helping make 2013 a successful year!

As we ring in the New Year, we have a few projects we are working on to help make 2014 an even better year.

In this post, we will recap a few trips that were taken toward the end of the year. We’ll also talk about upcoming appearances where you can see our staff. Ever wanted to tour our facility? Now you can take a quick peek behind the scenes! Last for our Tech Tip: Some quick tips on using LEDs with our decoders.

Milwaukee Trainfest
We were again on display at the annual Trainfest held in Milwaukee. As usual, this was a busy show with lots to see! Trainfest is always one of our favorite shows to go to. For information on this annual spectacle of trains, visit

While there, we were able to visit the North American Prototype Modelers (NAPM) at their 5,000 sq. ft. home and see their impressive HO layout. The Union Station scene is nothing less than impressive. One could spend 30 minutes on just this scene and still not see every detail they have put into it! This is a great place to visit because they are always working on improving and finishing the layout, so scenes change each time we get to visit. While there, we saw many SoundTraxx Tsunami-equipped locos running around the layout. If you are in the area, or for more info about this great club, please visit

Later, we were also able to make it up to Green Bay to visit our friends at EngineHouse Services and the National Railroad Museum.

This was a good stop as it checked another Big Boy (No. 4017) off the "to see" list for George and Jarrette (and it was the first for marketing coordinator Tracey). This museum had quite a few locos, including some that allowed visitors to explore the cabs. It was quite cold and time was short, but we got to see most of the museum’s collection. For information on this museum, visit
Oklahoma City Train Show
Photo from website
Unfortunately, there was heavy snow and ice throughout the area, making travel to this show difficult for many, especially in the North Texas region. We did have a great time meeting with the modelers who were able to make it out. 

While there, Jarrette and George visited the Oklahoma City Railroad Museum and saw some of their equipment, which is in great shape thanks to the dedicated volunteers! They are currently in the process of restoring a CF-7 to full operating condition with new paint. 

Future Appearances
In 2014, George will be at TrainLand  in Lynbrook, NY on January 18 from 10am to 6pm for product demonstrations and to answer your questions.

Next, he will be at DCB Hobbies in East Setauket on Sunday, January 19 from 3pm to 5pm for a Tsunami clinic. Space is limited, so please call ahead and reserve a spot.

We will be attending the Amherst Railway Society’s Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, MA held on January 25 and 26 at the Big E. George and Jarrette will be giving clinics on using the Tsunami for steam and diesel locomotives on Friday evening at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Hotel starting at 4:30 pm. For more information about this show, visit

Next will be the Rocky Mountain Toy Train Show in Denver, CO on March 1 and 2. We are working on offering some clinics in the area as well. Visit their website at

To view our 2014 show schedule, go to

Factory Tour
If you are ever in the Durango, CO area, you are welcome to come by and have a tour of our facility. Just be sure to call ahead to schedule your visit.

However, if you are unable to visit, you can now get a glimpse of our facility in our factory tour video. This shows the process it takes to manufacture and test our decoders here in Durango and an opportunity to meet most of our great staff!

Watch the video tour!

Be sure to visit our YouTube channel for more great videos!

Tech Tip: Using LEDs with Tsunami
LEDs are a great tool for lighting up locomotives and cars. While delivering a brilliant light source, they do not get hot and therefore do not threaten to damage the model. Also, the usage life of an LED is significantly longer, so it will almost never need to be replaced. To take advantage of what LEDs offer, here are a few things that should be kept in mind:

1) LEDs are polarity sensitive. This means that the positive (+) lead needs to be connected to the positive power supply and the negative (-) lead to the negative power supply. If the LED is connected in reverse, it will not illuminate, but no damage is done to the component. If a LED does not operate properly, be sure to double-check the wiring and switch leads if necessary. It is important to know that when using NMRA DCC, the blue common wire or tab is the positive (+) lead and the function output wires (white, yellow, brown, and green) are the negative (-) leads.

2) LEDs need around 3.3V to illuminate properly. In many cases, this means that a current-limiting resistor is necessary to put in-line with one of the leads to the LED. Be sure to know the output power on the decoder of choice. SoundTraxx offers many different board formats, with a few of them pre-regulated for use with LEDs, thus there is no need for the resistor. These are the TSU-BW1000 (designed for Bowser/Stewart models) and the TSU-KT1000 (designed for Kato models). The TSU-GN1000 (designed for Athearn Genesis models) is regulated for 1.5V output, which is not enough for the LEDs. Please contact us for assistance with this decoder.

3) When using LEDs, it is best for each LED to have its own current-limiting resistor in the circuit with it. So if it is determined that there should be two LEDs for a headlight, it would be best to use two resistors as well (one for each LED). Usually a 1k (1,000) ohm resistor is sufficient for one LED. Changing the value of the resistor will alter the brilliance of the LED. For example, if using LEDs for class lights, which are significantly dimmer than the headlight, a 3.3k resistor can easily be used to tone these LEDs down so that they do not appear as another headlight.

4) In the SoundTraxx line of decoders, we have built in an LED Compensation Mode that uses CVs 49-52. Incandescent bulbs are voltage sensitive, which means that as the voltage changes, the brilliance does as well. LEDs are electronic devices and these variances in the voltage do little to change the effect because the LED is more current sensitive. By adding 128 to the value in these CVs, the decoder alters the signal that is sent to the LED, helping the LED behave (and appear) more like an incandescent bulb and deliver a more brilliant and realistic lighting effect.

There are many uses for LEDs in model railroading. With the LEDs that are available now from SoundTraxx, a more realistic appearance and effect can be achieved in your models as well!