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One of the greatest joys we get to experience here at TCS is heading out on recording trips. Many of us are avid steam enthusiasts, and if we're being honest - we all just really like trains. In order to get all those "WOWSounds" onto our decoders, we've got to track their respective locomotives down first and carefully record every sound they make. There are A TON of different locomotives out there in the world, so this adventure never really stops. We're always on the hunt!
One great example of a highly successful trip was our western expedition to California back in late 2014. Originally, we were working together with Korea Brass to develop a sound profile for the GE U25B locomotive. We learned that the Orange Empire RR Museum in California possessed the only operable U25 anywhere in the country. Naturally, we didn’t waste any time and scheduled a trip out west.
We started this trip at Orange Empire and recorded four diesel locomotives there, including the U25B. It was a bit toasty that day...
"I will never forget recording at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. It was 105 degrees in the shade that day! Naturally, we headed out to the rail yard area anyway. There was no shade in sight. I have never ever sweated so much in all my life - no exaggeration! Two of us drank through an entire case of water bottles in less than five hours." - John Forsythe, TCS Owner
We figured it would be economical to get as many recordings as we could when we headed out to the other side of the country, so we contacted many additional railroads including Knotts Berry Farm, Niles Canyon Railroad, Railtown 1897, and the Western Pacific RR Museum in Portola, CA.
As the trip around California progressed, we obtained other recordings from each of the other railroads. We discovered a ton of rare and interesting motive power and worked with some great folks to get them mic’d up and operating. We even got to ride around on/in these locomotives as we recorded them.
John Forsythe specifically recounts his experience at the Western Pacific RR Museum:
“The museum was quite impressive in its own right. The amount of equipment they have on display there rivals any top-quality museum. Their shop facility is equally impressive. We saw that work on a steam engine restoration that might even be finished by now. At this museum, they offer a diesel operation experience that’s open to anyone. You can actually drive a diesel locomotive around the yard under your own control. You can’t do that anywhere else that I know of - that’s very cool! The volunteers there are as good as they come and are very dedicated to the success of the museum.
We didn’t limit our trip to railroads though. TCS friend Tim Dickinson invited us out to the middle of his residential development. He grabbed a Nathan P3 air horn from his garage, tied into a compressor, set up in the middle of the street and shook the entire neighborhood out of their daily routine. Seriously, this was as wild of an experience as you could imagine. After calming down the alarmed neighbors and explaining to them what we were up to, we got some great air horn recordings!
All in all, we captured a total of 15 locomotives during this trip (12 diesel, 3 steam) and recorded many additional bells and horns along the way. Some of these sounds have made it onto our currently released sound sets, and more will be included on future releases.
The folks at TCS are always busy tracking down new opportunities for recording so that we can deliver 16-bit CD-quality sound for your models - no matter what you’re running. We’re always open to suggestions and we want to hear from you.
How can you help TCS get our next locomotive recorded?
See more pictures from this adventure below:
Many thanks again to our friends at these excellent railways and attractions that volunteered their time and allowed us to record locomotives.
Jack from Bachmann Trains stopped by a few weeks ago to talk about the ACS-64. We discuss a lot of cool features included in the model, like the specific lighting and sound features. This video also features a demonstration of our powerful Keep-Alive® technology and Audio Assist® programming for adjustments on the fly.
There's even a special preview of an upcoming Bachmann model! (*cough* STREAMLINED K4 *cough*)
Click the "Learn" tab on our website header for more information on WOWSound, Keep-Alive®, and Audio Assist®. Click here to find behind-the-scenes information on the ACS-64 project.
You can also visit Bachmann Trains at www.bachmanntrains.com for more information on current and upcoming models.
Nothing beats standing trackside while a train is flying past. There's the gust of wind, the sight of cars flying by that your eyes can barely keep up with, and the SOUND. The unmistakable sound of wheels on rails, couplers groaning, engines roaring, and the wind whipping by.
Replicating that feeling is difficult in model railroading, but TCS is proud to introduce our best attempt: the all-new Whoosh feature. We spent hours recording these glorious run-bys, and are now including them on our WOWSound decoders in 16-bit CD quality.
TCS is leading the pack with this addition to the sound decoder landscape, first to engineer and debut this functionality on our WOWSound decoder. The first decoder to hit the market with Whoosh was the Bachmann ACS-64. On this model, a press of button 4 produces one of several Whoosh sounds that emulate the passing of a speeding passenger train from a trackside vantage point. Be it level crossings, mountain passes, or wherever else your trains sound their loudest, you can Whoosh right on through.
There are several ways to enjoy Whoosh depending on your running preferences.
Manual. Use Button 4 to operate one randomly-timed Whoosh sequence at any time.
Random. Map Whoosh into a "random sound" slot (R1-R4) with Audio Assist® to hear your model whooshing through different parts of your layout, all without any additional effort from the user.
Tip: Reducing the volume of the traction motor can make the Whoosh sound more prevalent when it's activated. Some users have found this to be useful.
Watch the video below to see Whoosh in action:
If you feel like spreading the word and making your own video demonstrating the TCS WHOOSH, you might just get a message from TCS with a fun prize or discount code.
A quick note on semantics: It turns out that there's not only one way to spell "Whoosh." In product literature, we spell it "whoosh" with two "o"s. In the graphic on this page, it has three! We don't let rules and semantics get in the way when we're spelling sounds. Here are some other common spellings of "whoosh" along with some alternative definitions:
In order to accommodate the vast array of lighting and sound options available with DCC, WOWSound decoders come with two distinct operational modes. These two modes are Sound mode and Light mode. DCC allows for the use of 28 buttons on a throttle. Other decoder manufacturers make use of these buttons for both sound and light functions. On a WOWSound decoder, TCS gives you access to all 28 buttons exclusively for sound functions in “sound mode.” In order to control your lights, WOWSound decoders also have a “Light mode,” allowing for up to 12 additional programmable light functions.
When first powering up a WOWSound decoder, it will default to Sound Mode. In sound mode, you can use buttons 0-27 to control sound functions. In Light Mode, buttons 0-12 control additional lighting functions such as ditch lights, beacons, firebox flickers, cab lights, and more. You should refer to your decoder literature for the number of available light functions on your decoder.
To toggle between Sound mode and Light mode, all you have to do is press button 8 twice in a row. Audio Assist will announce the active mode. In order to change back, just press button 8 twice again. Be careful not to press too fast, or the decoder may register 4 presses and enter the Audio Assist program.
By default, the only light function available in sound mode is F0 for headlight control. In order to access light functions beyond F0, you must enter Light Mode. Light mode buttons will correspond directly to their numbered function output unless otherwise programmed. For example, button 1 in light mode controls lighting function 1. Buttons 0-12 may be dual-enabled on a WOWSound decoder, allowing you to activate both a sound and a light function at the same time. For example, you could tie your shoveling sounds and firebox flicker to the same button. This would simulate the opening of the firebox.
The functions in both modes can be changed or remapped. The easiest way to do this is by using Audio Assist. However, you can also remap functions with CV programming. You should refer to your decoder literature for the default mappings.
We've got some exciting news rolling down the line: TCS is once again pairing up with Bachmann to produce a Pennsylvania RR class K4 steam locomotive with TCS WOWSound built right in!
A beauty to behold, this streamlined 4-6-2 Pacific features all-metal chassis, blackened metal wheels and side rods, die-cast metal trailing truck, separately applied detail parts, and Bachmann E-Z Mate mark II couplers. There are even painted engineer and fireman figures in the cab along for the ride. The locomotive will be available in four different road numbers.
You may have heard "It's what's on the inside that counts" and that's where we come in! Inside this iconic steamer, you'll find a WOWSound DCC sound decoder with Audio Assist® and a Keep-Alive® capacitor built right in. This gives you industry-leading sound right out of the box, no separate installation needed. This model comes packed with our entire library of authentic steam sounds including the whistles and bells from real K4 steam locomotives.
The included Keep-Alive® technology gives the locomotive the ability to run flawlessly over dirty and difficult track. Again, there is no need to fuss with a separate installation. Everything you need to be up and running your railroad in prototypical fashion is included in this model.
The PRR Streamlined K4 from Bachmann will be available November 2018. Check with your local hobby shop for preorder information!