We are a long established Model Railway Shop in Halesowen, West Midlands.
All the above would not be possible without the enormous support of the volunteers who help to keep the shop running! We thank them very much.
Laying down the track and running a train around and around is only part of the fun that can be gained from owning a train set. Turning it into a permanent layout is the next logical step and this can take a lifetime to achieve! Many people think that they simply need to add a few buildings and lay a bit of grass or ballast and they are finished, only to find that their imagination starts to kick in on their next visit to their local model railway shop, when they see something else and know just the little corner that it would perfectly fit into! And so begins a lifetime of model railway layout building.
In recent years, a new dimension has been added to the world of building a model railway layout; DCC sound. Sound, itself, is not actually new to model railways as Hornby Triang fitted some of their tender locomotives with a sandpaper strip and metal clip on the axle of the tender to give a very passable impression of the chuff-chuff sound of the locomotive as it sped along. Very basic technology and not matched to the locomotive's real sound it may have been, but in the mind of the observer, did it really matter? The locomotive was making a chuff-chuff sound as it went along making the experience feel that much better. Today, of course, sound is all digital and far more accurate and realistic with most of the sounds now being digitally recorded from the actual locomotive, wherever possible, whilst Hornby have introduced a very successful range of TTS Decoders which do a very good job and at a very reasonable cost too!
So why add sound? For many enthusiasts sound is an unnecessary expense to add to their layout but to many others it is a growing necessity in order to create their complete world in miniature and the very reason they are getting involved in this wonderful hobby. Sound allows your mind be completely taken in by the vision you have created and adds that final touch of realism to the layout. After all, you have spent so much time and money trying to make your layout look like the real thing, why not to make it sound like it too?
It doesn't matter if you don't know when to make the locomotive play the individual sounds or even know how the real locomotive sounds, with the modern day sound decoders it really is quite easy to get started. Much of the rest comes with experience of playing! Some sounds are produced by the decoder automatically depending upon your control of the locomotive whilst others operate at random to enhance the sound already being produced, making it very easy for the operator to get their train to sound just right. All additional sound functions can be triggered independently by using the function keys on your DCC controller, such as the Bachmann Dynamis Ultima® DCC System, Hornby Elite or the Gaugemaster Prodigy Express Starter Package.
Dynamis Ultima® DCC System
Prodigy Express Starter Package
To further enhance the realism, sound fitted locomotives can also be made to operationally behave differently when running light engine or under a heavy load. Changes are made to the braking and acceleration of the locomotive under DCC control meaning that the movement of the train is more in keeping with what you would expect to see a real train perform like.
Whilst it is true to say, to get the most out of sound locomotives you need to convert your layout to DCC control, it is not strictly necessary. Bachmann, through their Branchline and Graham Farish brands, have introduced their version of sound chips which allow the analogue user to enjoy the thrill of sound on their layouts too. Whilst not being able to experience the full repertoire of sound effects available to the DCC user, the sounds produced under analogue control are automatic when the train is running and a few random functional sounds, for example brakes, coal shovelling and fans, are mixed in for good measure. This gives everyone the opportunity to add that extra piece of enjoyment to their layout if they so choose to. Of course, DCC users do get to choose from the full range of sounds available, all recorded specifically for the locomotive the decoder is fitted to, so that you know every sound, every whistle, every door slam will be as accurate as possible for your model.
To those modellers who already have an extensive collection, the question of adding sound may appear to be out of the question. The age of the locomotive may be such that adding sound is not possible because there is no space available in the locomotive, and, of course, there is also the question of the cost of retro-fitting the sound chips. The technical difficulties involved in retro-fitting can often be overcome with a little ingenuity and, perhaps, the use of the locomotive tender or a permanently coupled goods or guards van to allow for the speaker fitting. But today, with the mobile phone technology producing smaller and smaller speakers, it is becoming increasingly possible to find a little corner on the locomotive itself into which you can fit a speaker. To make things even easier now, Bachmann, in particular, have started to think about sound right at the beginning of the design process by either factory fitting a speaker ready for later use or fitting a speaker housing ready to take a speaker, if one is ever required, making later conversion so much easier.
With sound chips not being exactly cheap, another pointer to consider is the fact that not every locomotive in your collection needs to be sound fitted for the layout to come to life. Just a few sound fitted locomotives on the layout will more than achieve the realism sought by adding sound and giving equal satisfaction to the layout's casual observer.
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