Recording Recollections

Orange U25B TCS

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:


Niles Canyon TCS


Knotts Berry TCS


Air horn recording TCS


Many thanks again to our friends at these excellent railways and attractions that volunteered their time and allowed us to record locomotives. 

Read next: Learn about TCS' recent trip to Amtrak's Ivy City Yard to record ACS-64 sounds for the Bachmann release.