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Meeting 2nd May 2018.

Posted 11/5/2018

First Experiences of Fitting DCC Sound to Diesel and Steam Locomotives – Gordon Woods

First Experiences of Fitting DCC Sound to Diesel and Steam Locomotives – Gordon Woods


Gordon Woods gave an in-depth review and analysis of fitting DCC sound to Diesel and Steam Locomotives. He is currently producing a fine scale 00 gauge layout based on the north east of England with a small element of East Coast main line added to the mix. For this layout the motive power is mainly being handled by Q6 ex-LNER Steam Locomotives and Class 26 and 37 Green Diesels. Obtaining realistic sounds of the highest quality for these locomotives was Gordon’s ambition and his talk and demonstration showed how this can be achieved.

The chips with sound on board (known as decoders) are the heart of this aspect of railway modeling. Good quality decoders range in price from £85 to £120 and a good quality decoder should offer the following benefits:

-          Sound level capable of being influenced by the locomotive motor and control settings

-          Have a range of volumes

-          Decent documentation

-          Ideally sound based on the particular locomotive you were adapting

Gordon went into the details of the various decoders by different manufacturers and their suppliers, making the point that for the better product with a greater range of sound options you had to spend a little more. Before buying a decoder it was essential to know how many pins there were on your locomotive’s DCC socket.

The other main element of sound installation was the speakers. Examples he showed ranged from ‘sugar cube’ size to somewhat larger with the main criteria being the space available in the locomotive for their fitting. In some instances boxes needed to be made to enclose the speakers and he showed examples of how this could be done.

Of much added interest to members was his demonstration of how to go about installing the decoders and speaker in a locomotive and the way to fine tune the sound for the particular locomotive. The sounds available from the better decoders in addition to the chuff for a steam engine and the growl for a diesel were extensive and growing covering such elements as flange squeal, coal shoveling, horns and whistles, water injection etc. Insofar as installation of the bits and pieces in the locomotive was concerned Gordon emphasised that it was essential to insulate decoder and speaker wiring from the locomotive mechanism. An example of a computer program called Decoder Pro showed a quite bewildering array of fine tuning tweaks in sound available to modelers who wished to go into more detail and refinement.

Helpfully, Gordon produced a not too extensive range of tools necessary to complete an installation. He recommended the use of a higher wattage soldering iron using resin core solder when soldering wires to the decoder.

He outlined that there were still a number of issues with the manufacturers of decoders over their range of sound and volume levels and in particular their lack of standardisation on wire connections to the decoders. Things were improving and in the future one could look forward to decoders with a greater range of sounds, improvement in speaker design and generally sound equipped locomotives becoming more affordable. He added that further information on sound was available on the internet, in the railway modeling press and on decoder manufacturer websites.

The examples of the sound levels which could be achieved were amply demonstrated by Gordon by operating his locomotives where the volume of sound developed easily filled the room. Adding sound is a developing aspect of the railway modeling hobby and Gordon’s talk and demonstration expertly showed what could be achieved in this regard for which members were very grateful.


David Evans

May 2018