Several weeks ago in July I shared with you my install of ESU Loksound sound decoders into a set of my Alco C-855 locomotives, you can find the post here. Then in August, I showed you how I improved the running of the locomotives by adding some stay alive capacitors, you can find that post here. In this week’s post, I’m going to share with you the final step which is setting up the sounds for multiple engines.
Most suppliers of ESU sound decoders give you a choice of sounds when you purchase the chip and they will load the sounds on for you. But to add your own sounds or load on a downloaded sound scheme you need an ESU Lokprogramer and the accompanying software. These, along with a computer, will allow you to change all of the settings of the decoder.
However, they can be fairly expensive so if you have your decoders with pre-loaded sound schemes you can use other devices to adjust the settings. For example, although I use a LokProgrammer I also use a Sprog II from sprog-dcc and the DecoderPro software from JMRI. The Sprog II is relatively cheap and the DecoderPro software is free to download. Together they will allow you to edit the setting of just about any DCC decoder but please note it will not allow the upload of sound files.
The sound file for the C-855 was downloaded from the ESU website and comes with all the normal functions such as horn, bell, coupling, etc. The new versions also come with ESU’s Full Throttle settings. These include features such as Drive Hold, Independent Brake, Run 8 and Coast.
These functions can be fairly complex but in short, they work like this:
Drive Hold when pressed keep the model motor running at the same speed and as the throttle is increased or decreased the revs of the engine changes. Ideal if you are pulling a slow heavy train uphill and you want it to sound like it’s working hard.
Independent Brake when activated slows the train to a stop without adjusting the setting on the throttle, when released it speeds up again to the throttle setting.
Run 8 when activated increases the sounds of the engines to maximum revs irrelevant to the speed of the train. This is great when simulating a heavy train about to start moving and is my favorite Full Throttle function.
Coast reduces the revs of the engines to tick over irrelevant to the speed of the train. This is great when running downhill or for light loco movements.
Out of the box, only the Drive Hold & Independent Brake are set up as you can see from the function list below:
F0 Directional Headlights
F2 Playable Airhorn
F4 Dynamic Brake
F5 AUX3 (Rotary Beacon)
F6 AUX1 + AUX2 (Front Ditchlights)
F7 Switching Mode
F8 Sound (On/Off)
F9 Drive Hold
F10 Independent Brake
F11 Radiator (Fan) Sound
F12 Dimmer (Headlights)
F13 AUX4 (Rear Ditchlights)
F15 Fast Spitter Valve
F16 Spitters on Shutdown
F17 Brake Set / Brake Release
F18 Sanding Valve
F19 Short Air Let-Off
F21 Slow Spitter Valve
As standard one of the first things I like to do for my trains is set the Run 8 function to the F5 key, as I don’t put rotary beacons on my models this key is free. I will show how to do this first using the LokProgrammer and then with JMRI through the Sprog II. One thing to note, it’s a good idea to save the setup before you alter it, that way if everything goes wrong you have a backup of the original settings.
In the LokProgrammer software, you can see what each function is assigned to in the function mapping tab. As standard F5 is set to AUX3.
I change this as shown below. I have also set F6 up as the coast function.
Sometimes, if you’re reading the settings form the locomotive rather than a downloaded file, the name of the sound does not appear, just the slot number. By default Run 8 is normally sound slot 20 and Coast is sound slot 21. The changes can then be written to the decoder.
With DecoderPro the process is similar but it takes a little longer as you need to read all the settings from the decoder before you adjust any, otherwise you could overwrite something you didn’t want to. (Please note the Decoder Pro Screenshots are from a different loco).
With the F5 & F6 corrections made the screen looks like this.
Normally that is enough setting up and here is a short video of a single C-855 staring up, then having the engines run with Drive Hold on and lastly the Run 8 function. Because the C-855 had two diesel engines you here the first fire up then the second. Also both engines run at slightly different speeds so they are not simply copies of each other, I will explain more about that later.
As the same sound file has been installed in all three locomotives, the two C-855s and the C-855B, all three locomotives are running on the same DCC address so they all respond at the same time, as you can hear below.
The volume is much louder as we now have three speakers pumping out the sound but the problem is although the two engines in each locomotive are running a different speeds, each locomotive sounds exactly the same. And I don’t think Alco managed to achieve that! So in order to improve the realism, I will set each of the six engine sounds so they all run at there own speeds. The change doesn’t want to be much, but a little adjustment can make all the difference. The great thing about the ESU decoders is you can make adjustments to individual sound files without affecting the overall sound. After all, we want the bells and horns to be the same across all three locos.
With the LokProgrammer on the function mapping page F8, which turns the sound on and off, controls two sound slots called ‘Dual-ALCO-16cyl-251C-FT-PM#1’ and ‘Dual-ALCO-16cyl-251C-FT-PM#2’.
Clicking on the drop-down menu these are sound slot 1 and sound slot 23.
Switching to the ‘Sound Slot Settings’ tab the setting for all the sound slots can be adjusted.
As you can see below sound slot 1 has a maximum and minimum value of 126, which is 98.44% of the original speed.
But sound slot 23 is set to 130 which is 101.56% of the original speed. And that’s how the two engines run at slightly different speeds.
So for the three locomotives, I will set the sound slots up as follows.
C-855 60 – Sound slot 1 = 126 (98.44%)
C-855 60 – Sound slot 23 = 130 (101.56%)
C-855B 60B – Sound slot 1 = 124 (96.88%)
C-855B 60B – Sound slot 23 = 128 (100.0%)
C-855 61 – Sound slot 1 = 132 (103.13%)
C-855 61 – Sound slot 23 = 136 (106.25%)
And they sound like this.
Of course, the difference between the locomotives could be increased to give an even more noticeable difference, the difference is a personal preference.
With Decoder Pro these settings are in the ‘Sound Levels’ tab. Again you will need to read all the settings from the decoder first but you can save them so you don’t have to read all three locomotives. As with the LokPrograammer software the ‘Function Map’ tab will tell you which sound slots are operated by function F8.
Sound files for the Mallet and articulated steam locomotives, such as the Big Boy, use the same system to archive slightly different chuff sounds for each set of cylinders.
There are lots of settings available with these decoders which allows you to customize your locomotive, or as in this case a set of three.
These C-855s are now finished and ready to rumble their way up the track.
Next week I’ll be looking at the next step in my OO NEM dummy knuckle couplers.