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I am excited to have installed sound decoders in my locomotives, but I am confused about when to use some of the sounds. Can someone direct me to a reference or help me out?


1 = Bell
2 = Horn
3 = Coupler
4 = Blower hiss/cooling fans
5 = Dynamic brakes
6 = Doppler effect (need to be over 40 MPH before it works)
7 = Flange squeal/Air brakes
8 = Mute
9= Shut down
0 = Headlight
 

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See Train horn - Wikipedia for commonly used horn signals. I only use the signals for releasing the air brakes before proceeding, setting the air brakes at a prolonged stop, and for road crossings.

I turn on the bell before starting to move the locomotive and leave it on until I clear the yard or start gaining speed moving away from a station stop.

Coupler sound is pretty self explanatory. Hit it once when coupling cars together when the couplers meet up.

My locomotives do a few sounds automatically, such as hiss, blowdown, etc.

Dynamic brake sound would occur when slowing a train down or going down a grade.
 

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I am excited to have installed sound decoders in my locomotives, but I am confused about when to use some of the sounds. Can someone direct me to a reference or help me out?


1 = Bell
2 = Horn
3 = Coupler
4 = Blower hiss/cooling fans
5 = Dynamic brakes
6 = Doppler effect (need to be over 40 MPH before it works)
7 = Flange squeal/Air brakes
8 = Mute
9= Shut down
0 = Headlight
Bell...whenever the train moves in a yard or when approaching a grade crossing.

Horn, sounded twice immediately prior to moving the engine, three times if backing. When the locomotive is brought to a stop, and it will not move until given the order/signal to move, the engineer sounds the horn once. When the train approaches a grade crossing, regardless of whether or not the crossing is controlled by wig-wag or flashing lights, the horn is sounded beginning about three hundred meters out, usually marked by a small sign. The blow sequence is two long blasts followed by one short blast, and then one long blast to last until the locomotive commands the crossing. The horn is also blown approaching bridges and tunnels, at least in olden times it was...not sure about today and if it applies almost universally.

Coupler crash can be done when the locomotive couples to another item of rolling stock, and when the locomotive begins to pull the train and the slack action runs out of all the couplers in succession.

Blower hiss signifies that the blower in the smoke box of a steamer is actively evacuating the smoke box. When a locomotive is still and not getting the exhaust pulses from the blast pipe, the smoke box does not draw like a chimney. The fire in the firebox may blow back and fill the cab with smoke and lethal heat, or it may simply go out. So, the blower, a perforated ring near the top of the petitcoat pipe, blows steam up the stack to cause a vacuum behind it. This vacuum draws hot gases down the flues and allows fresh air to rise through the grates into the firebox and continue combustion.

Cooling fans are just that...they cool radiators to dissipate heat during times when the locomotive is struggling to move the trailing tonnage, but they also run to cool heat produced by the resistance grids during dynamic braking. They are different fans, as far as I know (I'm a steam guy), so the dynamic braking sounds from the decoder should differ from prime mover cooling sounds.

Doppler effect is intended to mimic the sound of a passing train, first rising in pitch and then falling in pitch. This would presumably be someone standing beside the right of way, or listening from inside a car as the train approaches, blowing all the while, and then passes.

Flange squeal and brake squeal are meant for when rolling stock rounds curves that are sharp enough to force the outside rail's wheels to run their flanges up against dry (non-lubricated) rail, or when braking.

Mute is meant to silence engines whose noises have begun to cause annoyance or fatigue, or because they compete too much with other locomotives. The QSI decoders of old allowed partial mute so that you could hear them if you were closer to them, but otherwise they did not compete for attention with the decoder sounds of working engines. I sometimes mute engines inside of tunnels.

Shut down, at least with the QSI variety, required successive double-presses of F9 to force the decoder into successive stages of quiet and inaction. Three double-presses meant the decoder was put into a coma and would only awaken when two double presses of F6 were effected...if I recall correctly.

Headlights all through the 20th century and up to the present are required whenever the locomotive is in motion, but it is usually dimmed when the locomotive is parked, such as on a siding awaiting a meet. When backing, the rear lamp should be lit on locomotives or tenders so equipped. There are also marker lights that should be lit for identification at night or in poor visibility. On steamer models, turning on the turbo-generator is a 'thing', and that is done via presses of F0. You can hear the turbo spool up and begin to make its 'noisy bearing' sound and hiss, and then the headlamp will come on. When parking the locomotive, you can turn it off and hear the turbo whine diminish.

Note that lights have to be configured befitting the road's conventions, policies, and legal obligations. Once you know what lighting to have programmed, go online and google 'CV29 calculator', and fill in the numbers to suit what you need your lights to do. CV29 also programs your decoder for long/short hood forward on diesels, and it sets long, or 'extended', addresses for decoders that need that setting, often for road numbers higher than 127.
 

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Depending on your decoder, you may be able to enable a lot of automatic sounds. I have a Tsunami 2 installed in my locos and they will sound the bells if I set a speed greater than a set value, have a lot of random sounds like shoveling coal and the crew chatting. Check through the CV codes you have available, you might find a lot of interesting gems for the sounds.
 

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Many of the sounds will be self-explanatory if you understand how a locomotive or train runs. Mesenteria gave a pretty good run down. He also gave you a good generic description of horn and bell use. If you want to get it exact, you would need to get your hands on the operating rules governing your particular railroad.
 

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I have to confess I'm a sucker for automated sound sequences. Having said that my favorite diesel sounds are start up, low speed engine noises, horn blasts and brake squeal. The sd90mac Athearn I just bought appears to add a slight engine under load sound to it when going say up an incline. Or it's my imagination. The brake squeal kicks in if I get going above X also. Honestly I've not studied it. There must be 15 pages of CV values.. I mean I just don't really want to know... Or maybe I do one day.
 

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The only thing I don't like about curve squeal is you have to keep turning it on and off as the curves dictate.

If you (or the manufacture) could add an accelerometer or a mercury switch to activate the curve squeal it would simplify and make operation more realistic.
 

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I mean my phone claims to know when I walk. So surely there's a sensor for that at the chip level of a sound decoder that could guess mostly right about curves. Also inclination. (As I get it now they look at voltage load of the motor to make possible sound change. Little different, Lionel included a strain gauge on a tender for one high end model also)
 
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