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Old 02-28-2012, 03:12 PM   #1
ChopperCharles
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Adding sound to S-scale

Okay, so I've been on a quest to add realistic sounds to my American Flyer trains... CHEAPLY. I've found trainz.com (and Amazon) both carry TrueBlast II steam and diesel sound boards, which include a sound board and a speaker with baffle, for under $34. These work with a Lionel Whistle Control button or Sound Activation button. (or a homebrew button)

The sounds are realistic enough, although I don't like two things: 1. The diesel horn and steam whistle play for 6 seconds after you press the button. That's 3 seconds too long in my opinion. 2. The bell sounds like a sound file looping. The cut at the end of the bell sound isn't silent, so you hear DING cha-DING cha-DING where the "cha" sound is a digital artifact of cutting the bell off in mid ring.

I'm installing both versions into a 629 open slat boxcar, and will use a center-off DPDT switch mounted to the floor and selectable by opening the boxcar door to choose between the boards.

First off, the 629 has a cast chassis. This won't work with the tender repair kit I bought, so I swapped the chassis with a cheap later-model boxcar. The tender repair kit requires a sheet metal chassis.

I drilled out the holes in the sheet metal chassis to fit the fiber standoff and installed the tender repair kit using the original trucks. I yanked one plastic wheel off of each wheelset, and installed a brass wheel from portlines.

Then I removed the speaker from the baffle, as it is too big to fit in a boxcar with the baffle on. It fits fine at an angle though, and is still PLENTY loud.

I unsoldered the speaker from the steam board and soldered wires from the steam board to the speaker connected to the diesel board. (So two boards attached to one speaker).

Then I cut off the power connectors for both boards, and soldered the leads to the 2P2T switch. The switch was then soldered to the truck rivets.

I used the double-sided tape that came with the boards to mount them solidly to the chassis of the boxcar. I used spare electrical tape to insulate the speaker's magnet, because it's going to sit on top of one of the trucks.

In the middle of the chassis I epoxied down the 2P2T switch, so that it is easily selectable when I open the boxcar door.

Parts list:
Diesel sound board: $34
Steam sound board: $34
Brass wheels: $1.50ea X 4
Tender repair kit: $11 (includes rivet pickup arms and fiber washers)
Switch from Radio Shack: $2.49
5-minute epoxy $1.99
Used 629 boxcar: $10 + $5 shipping

So for around $100 I have a boxcar with BOTH diesel horn and steam whistle. Seeing as AF or Lionel railsounds boxcars go for $150 on eBay used (and with only one sound set - diesel or steam) ... I think that's a steal. If you just want to add sounds to your steamer, $34 and some solder is all you need. i didn't want to modify my father's old locomotives, and I have a couple steamers anyhow, so a boxcar was my solution.

If you have a GP7, you must make a boxcar sound kit. There's not enough room inside for the circuit board, much less the speaker. If you have a dummy unit, you could fit the board in there, but you'll have to buy a smaller speaker.
Not sure about Alcos or any other diesel, but they appear to have much more room inside. GP7 (and GP9) have really narrow bodies.

Charles.

Last edited by ChopperCharles; 02-28-2012 at 03:46 PM..
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Old 03-01-2012, 06:01 PM   #2
ChopperCharles
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Actually, I modified my original plan and attached the boards to the roof of the boxcar, and attached the speaker to the inside of the boxcar so that it does not rest on the chassis at all. I also decided not to epoxy the switch this time - instead I used a scrap piece of metal, bent it into an L shape, and riveted it to the chassis. I drilled a hole and attached the switch to that. Otherwise, things went together as above. Check the photos!

629 boxcar:


Here you see the tender repair kit and brass wheels on a sheet metal chassis. Note that I used solder instead of using a rivet tool to keep the trucks on. This works very well, and doesn't require any special tools.


Here's the top:


Here's the selector switch, allowing me to choose between diesel or steam sounds:


Here's the inside:


These are the clips I used to keep the speaker in place. I trimmed one of the arms off with wire cutters, and used two clips to keep the speaker attached to the walls of the boxcar.


Here's a closeup of the speaker attachment:


Another shot of the inside:


One of the TrueBlast II's is wrapped in foam, the other is not. I should have removed the foam from both of them, as the one without the foam is more solidly attached. I was experimenting and tried it both ways, and without the foam is definitely better.


Charles.
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Old 03-01-2012, 06:25 PM   #3
ChopperCharles
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Here's a video of what it all sounds like!


Charles.
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Old 03-01-2012, 06:54 PM   #4
gunrunnerjohn
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Looks like you're all set!
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:39 PM   #5
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Charles,
Nicely done, I agree that the six seconds might be too long, I wonder if that is adjustable in anyway? There must be some electronics Guru on this site that could tell us the answer to that question.

Thanks for sharing,
George
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:56 PM   #6
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Sad to say, the TrueBlast whistles are not adjustable, they're a fixed time duration.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:57 PM   #7
ChopperCharles
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Well, if you press the horn/whistle button again while it's playing, it will stop immediately. just not nicely so - it just cuts off like you pressed stop in the middle of an mp3

The steam whistle does sound really good, in fact everything sounds tinny through the mic on this camera, but the sound is actually quite full bodied - but not too loud on the layout. It's distinctly muffled when going through my tunnel, you can just barely make out that it's whistling, and then as it comes through the other side you're greeted with a nice sound. I'm happy overall. I would have preferred to get the lionel whistle tender to work, but it won't fit in a boxcar or AF tender shell, so I'm going to have to mount it to a flatcar and disguise it somehow.

Charles.
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:41 PM   #8
Aflyer
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Well sad to hear that the timing isn't adjustable, but seems you have a solution using the switch, it is all very cool.
I was able to snag my railsounds B unit from eBay for like $70.00 bucks, so I did ok, just don't really know what to expect from it with the conventional AF transformer and a Lionel 5906 switch.
I am traveling a little and haven't been able to try it out yet. I have another post out there hoping someone can share their experience, but 32 views and no responses yet so I may have to wait a bit longer to try it out.
I may also order the True Blast Steam whistle and modify a box car like you have for the steam sounds. That is a sweet setup.
Thanks again for sharing,
George
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Old 03-01-2012, 09:27 PM   #9
ChopperCharles
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$34 for sound isn't bad at all. In fact, it's rather excellent. If you're not building a boxcar, and just adding it to a tender, it's cheap and easy. The expense and difficulty comes in adding power wheels and pickups. If you've got a dummy diesel with a crappy AF horn (or no horn at all) then this is a quick and easy retrofit there as well.

Note that AF whistle and diesel generators do not activate railsounds or trueblast sounds, nor do lionel buttons activate AF sounds, so you can leave your locos unmodified and pick and choose which button to press, if you want to run everything.

Charles.
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Old 03-01-2012, 10:22 PM   #10
tjcruiser
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Charles,

All that brilliant handiwork hidden and tucked away inside the boxcar for no one to see ...

Good thing they can hear it all!

Excellent custom work! Thanks for sharing,

TJ
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