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 customernews@soundtraxx.com.

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 customernews@soundtraxx.com 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.