My friend Stephen Gardiner asked if I could install a LokSound decoder into one of his locomotives while he took notes. I was happy to oblige, so he came over yesterday and following a quick brunch at Harbord House, we got down to it.
The locomotive in question is an Atlas HO scale ALCo S2 – one of the newer series that’s set up for DCC and sound, but was wired for straight DC operation (no decoder). I’m glad that I’d recently finished doing such an installation into an HO scale Walthers EMD SW-1 model (which I have posted about previously on this website), because that experience gave me the foundation I needed to tackle this project. Over three or four hours, I shoehorned a LokSound Select Micro, a PowerPack electronic flywheel, and two sugar cube speakers into Stephen’s model.
Stephen has written more about the day, on his website. You can visit his site and read his report by clicking on this photo of me at work…
Overall, the project went really smoothly – there was plenty of room under the hood and in the cab for everything. With the wiring done, we downloaded the appropriate file from ESU and discussed other things for the 20 minutes or so it took to write into the locomotive. I then did loaded CVs from the decoder I used in the SW1 and adjusted some values for the S2. The finished locomotive runs very smoothly and sounds great. It’s now up to Stephen to paint it.
It’s the first time I’ve had two people working together in my workshop, and I’m really pleased with how that worked out. A most enjoyable afternoon!
(UPDATE: ESU has now released the first Full Throttle Steam file – based on SOO Line #1003, a 2-8-2. It’s at the top of the on ESU’s steam download page. For future reference, note that Full Throttle steam – and diesel – sound files are noted by the “(FT)” at the end of the name. Thanks to Matt Forsyth for alerting me that the first file is now publicly available.)
(Replacing the decoder in the 10-wheelers looks challenging, but it’s really just a case of mapping the wires and doing things one wire at a time)
Over the past week, I’ve done a fair bit to advance my hobby goals.
I’ve resumed working on trees for Port Rowan, and I’m pleased with the progress: I applied my bark mixture to nine more armatures this morning.
I had another work session at Andy Malette‘s place, as he and I convert USRA Light Mikados into CNR S-3-a 2-8-2s. (More on that in this post.)
And I finished converting the core fleet of steam locomotives to LokSound Full Throttle Steam, with the installation of a LokSound Select into the boiler of CNR 1532 this morning. With that, I’ve finished the two moguls and two 10-wheelers that I use in regular operating sessions. I’m loving the new sounds and the motor control. This is what I was looking for.
I have a couple other steam locomotives to convert, but I can do them as time allows.
I’ve made some more adjustments to the Loksound decoder in CNR mogul 86 and CNR 10-wheeler 1560, which are loaded with Full Throttle Steam packages from ESU. And therefore, I’ve made a follow-up to yesterday’s video… this time focussing on 86 in action on my layout…
In this video, I’ve highlighted a number of sounds generated by the decoder. Some are automatic, some are user-controlled, some are both. The video features braking noises, the air compressor, bell, whistle, injectors and dynamo.
In the first scene, the locomotive drifts into St. Williams. In the next, it works hard to start the train out of St. Williams (with Full Throttle’s “Heavy Load” function engaged). Finally, the engineer drifts over a bridge in the Lynn Valley (with Full Throttle’s “Coast” function engaged), before opening the throttle to build speed for the run into Port Rowan.
(You may also watch this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)
I still have some minor tweaking to do – notably, to adjust volume levels – but I’d say I’m 98% of the way there. Colour me impressed!
I now have LokSound decoders installed in two of my steam locomotives – CNR mogul 86 and 10-wheeler 1560 – and I’ve loaded them with pre-release versions of the soon to be released Full Throttle Steam sounds and features, thanks to Matt Herman at ESU North America.
I’m still tweaking the sound and motor controls, but I’m 90% of the way there and wanted to share a quick video to illustrate one of the features I really like about this new line.
The Full Throttle Steam series will include a function similar to “Drive Hold”, which is a key feature in ESU’s Full Throttle Diesel sounds. Drive Hold is mapped to a function button and is turned on and off just like activating a bell sound. When it’s engaged, the feature locks the locomotive’s motor at its current speed. Turning the throttle knob will not adjust the speed of the train. But it still adjusts the sound of the locomotive.
Here are two ways it can be used:
If one is pulling away from a station, one can open the throttle to start the locomotive, then lock the motor once a desired (still slow) speed is reached… then continue to increase the throttle to make the locomotive sound as if it’s working harder to get the train underway. The exhaust will be sharp and strong, as if the hogger has put the Johnson Bar right into the corner.
Once one is at track speed, the motor can be locked and then the throttle can be turned down to represent pulling the Johnson Bar back closer to neutral. The exhaust note will be softer and quieter. At its extreme – turning the throttle knob all the way to speed step zero – the exhaust sound will disappear entirely, as if the hogger had shut the throttle. The locomotive will now drift indefinitely, simulating a prototype that’s being carried along by the train’s mass and momentum.
I’ve shot a very brief video that illustrates both of these features. First, I show CNR 86 starting from a station stop. At St. Williams. Next, I show CNR 1560 switching from throttle to drift as it passes the station.
(You may also watch this video directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)
It does take a little bit of practice to do this smoothly – but 20 minutes of playing with this feature should fix that. It should be noted that one does not have to use this feature: One can control the locomotive in the conventional way and still get a sense of working hard and drifting by writing high momentum values into CV3 and CV4. But using the motor speed-lock feature is a much more powerful way to accurately replicate the sound of steam.
In fact, the best solution is a combination of these two approaches. I notice the first locomotive (CNR 86) speeds up abruptly as it’s leaving the scene. Increasing the value in CV3 (acceleration momentum) should take care of that, because it will smooth the transition between the locked motor speed and the throttle setting once I release the motor. I may also increase the value in CV4 (deceleration) to help smooth the transition when slowing down. For me, that’s part of the fun of experimenting with DCC.
A special thank-you to Matt at ESU, who prepared these pre-release files for me as part of our Full Throttle Steam recording session at TrainMasters TV last Friday. Matt tells me he will release of the first Full Throttle Steam decoder files very soon, and I’ll be sure to update the blog when he does.
On Friday, I hosted ESU North America’s Matt Herman at the TrainMasters TV studios. TMTV brass hat Barry Silverthorn and second camera operator Christian Cantarutti shot a series of segments for DCC Decoded during which Matt and I explored the soon-to-be-released “Full Throttle Steam” sound and motor control files for LokSound decoders. Noted CP Rail modeller Bob Fallowfield – a fan of ESU’s “Full Throttle Diesel” line and a familiar face behind the ESU booth at train shows across southern Ontario – joined us for the day, and a grand time was had by all.
(Matt – standing – demonstrates the “Full Throttle Steam”-equipped decoder in CNR 1532 as Bob either shoots video on his phone, or genuflects to the awesomeness of Canadian National. Or, perhaps, both…)
As part of this shoot, we equipped one of my CNR 10-Wheelers with a LokSound decoder loaded with “Full Throttle Steam”, including an air-powered bell ringer and CNR-style Nathan five-chime whistle. This is a beta-build of the sound file and there are still a few lines of code to tweak, but Matt is going to send me the updated files once he’s finished working on them.
Once I have those (and have had a chance to customize the various CVs to, for example, synchronize the chuff rate to the driver revolutions), I will shoot video of CNR 1532 on the layout and share it here. But for now, I can say that the early results are certainly impressive. I’m looking forward to converting the rest of the fleet.
(In fact, in preparation for this, yesterday I picked up a refurbished Lenovo laptop loaded with Windows 10 at one of my local computer stores. I use Macintosh computers for everything in real life, but ESU’s LokProgrammer programming and sound-loading tool only works with Windows. Since I wanted a dedicated computer for the workshop, it made sense to find something inexpensive rather than add a PC emulator to a Mac laptop. But I digress…)
(I’m with Matt and Bob as we prepare to shoot a non-steam, HO scale segment at TrainMasters TV. It’s pretty obvious that we’re having a great time…)
I won’t have to wait long for the finished files- and neither will you: Matt anticipates releasing the first series of “Full Throttle Steam” sound files by the end of the month. It’s a great time to be modelling steam.