Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to operate on a couple of terrific layouts whose owners have installed Soundtraxx SoundCar decoders to enhance the experience.
Bob Fallowfield uses them on his CP Rail layout and Ryan Mendell has installed them on his Algonquin Railway. While the SoundCar is intended to be installed in rolling stock, Bob and Ryan have both opted to install them under the layout, where they feed speakers mounted near specific scenes.
Both are using the SoundCar decoders to enhance operating sessions by contributing flange squeal and the distinctive “clickety-clack” of jointed rail. Bob has three SoundCar decoders on his layout – one in each work zone – while Ryan’s smaller layout requires only one, feeding two speakers.
While one might assume that with fixed speakers, the sound would not follow the train as it would if the SoundCar was mounted in a piece of rolling stock, in both cases the layout-mounted speakers were surprisingly effective. It’s also worth noting that if one were switching, any SoundCar equipped rolling stock not actually in the consist being worked would be, in effect, a stationary speaker. At least with layout-mounted speakers, one has some control over the sound source.
Bob and Ryan both work in HO. Since S scale is larger, I pondered whether I could fit a SoundCar decoder plus speaker into the tenders of my 10-wheelers and moguls. This would be the ideal solution, since the SoundCar decoders are consisted to a locomotive in normal operation anyway. With a speaker in the tender, the flange squeal and rail joint sounds would follow the locomotive – with or without a train.
I took the body off the tender of CNR 10-wheeler 1532 today to investigate. The answer is “yes” – there’s plenty of room. But I would have to do some surgery.
The tenders are modelled with the bunker for the coal portion – and the bunker is in the way of installing a decent-sized speaker in the tender. The good news is, if one were to cut away the bunker, there’s plenty of room – and the bunker is not visible under a load of coal.
Now, I have to decide if I want to take a cut-off disc to these exquisite models. The prospect scares the willies out of me…
Another option would be to install the decoders and speakers in key spots around the layout – but I would have to re-consist the decoders every time I changed locomotives, or as locomotives moved from scene to scene.
Still another option would be to install the SoundCars into cabooses and other equipment that brings up the markers. I can test this with my combines – which already have spare Tsunami decoders in them to provide a back-up whistle. If it works, I can modify my next set of cabooses to contain decoders and speakers (something I planned to do even before the SoundCar came to market).
Yet still another option is to install the SoundCars in the tenders, but with much smaller speakers. Related to this: I believe the existing speakers in the tenders, while large, are not “high-bass” designs. Perhaps I can swap in a high-bass speaker for the main sounds, and free up some room in the tenders for a larger speaker for the SoundCar decoder.
Obviously, I have more research to do. I’ll start by hooking up a SoundCar to a smaller speaker to test the quality of the rail joint and flange squeal sounds. Since they’re mostly high notes anyway, they shouldn’t suffer too much from being forced through a tiny speaker. We’ll see…