Category: Planning

Improving layout sound

I’m getting close to having all layout sound installed. Working with sounds for my random flange squeal on each of the layout’s three curves had me thinking about a simpler audio app that I could run on my Mac. I had been using Adobe Audition, but the program is more for serious audio designers who need robust programming. I simply needed a basic program to adjust EQ and cut and splice with minimal effects.

Enter Ocenaudio. A donation-based app that fit my needs perfectly. The app has a simple interface with intuitive controls which had me editing quickly. Below are a couple of screen shots from the program…

Simple interface with intuitive controls = perfect!
Here’s the pop-up EQ control.

I’m taking a design liberty with my Rock River scene in that the Milan branch crosses the river twice. The south crossing (below) has a neat little island that I wanted to model…

…while the north crossing has an interesting spillway just below the parallel road where I could include ambient sound.

I wasn’t happy with the original Freesound recording of “rushing water with birds” because the gain was low and the water sounded muffled. So I pulled the MicroSD card out of my ISE Squealer module (below) and modified the sound in Ocenaudio to increase the gain and brighten the sound. You can hear the difference in the two samples below the photo.

The MicroSD card inserts into my ISE Squealer sound module to loop the ambient rushing river and chirping birds sounds.
Original Freesound of rushing water with chirping birds (20 secs.)
Modified sound using Ocenaudio (23 secs.)

And here is where the river sounds will reside on the island. As you can see, the modeled portion of the island will be very small, and the speaker will be camouflaged by trees and ground cover. The small rocker switch on the fascia allows me to turn the sound on or off.

ISE Reverser installed

After sitting on a storage shelf for several years, I was finally able to install my Iowa Scaled Engineering reversing module. The module was custom built for me so that I could have a train running on the point-to-point branch without having to control it. The system consists of an Arduino and keypad that ties in with two ISE infrared sensors on each end of the layout. It works separately from my ESU CabControl, so I have the system isolated from the regular DCC when in use.

It works great. The train moves across the layout at a speed I designate, then after tripping one of the sensors it slowly decelerates and changes direction. It’s enjoyable to work on the layout with a train moving.

The reversing module is set into the fascia with a 3D printed faceplate. The two toggle switches on the right control power to the unit and to the track.
The IR sensors were easy to install and wire. This one is on the Andalusia Sub. side. You can see I wedged part of a wood tie to the left of the sensor to snug it in the hole. I will eventually hide the sensors with some added ballast (see below) and perhaps some grimy PanPastels to camouflage even further.

Staging extensions

I had a burst of motivation late summer to complete ALL my trackwork which includes the three staging extensions. One extension is located on the Rock Island end of the layout. This staging will be where a train is made up at the beginning of an operating session, and obviously where it will terminate as it leaves the branch. The other two extensions include one at the start of the Eagle Sub. just past the Milan depot. This staging will accept cars for the lumber dealer and food distributor. Finally, on the Andalusia Sub. the third extension will take cars bound for a chemical dealer, landscaping company, box factory, and major steel manufacturer. The steel company has a runaround, so I needed to incorporate a runaround on that extension for the engine to face forward for the return trip. Below are some photos…

Two of the staging extensions are stored at the entrance to the layout room on the Rock Island side. The extension on the left is the Andalusia Sub. staging, while the right one is the Rock Island extension.
This is the Eagle Sub. staging which is permanently affixed to the layout fascia.
I used three retractable brackets for each extension. This one is for the Eagle Sub. There’s a release on the end of the bracket, so it’s easy to fold back with the spring-loaded feature.
I decided to use Atlas code 100 flex track and turnouts because of its bullet-proof reputation. Because I use Micro Engineering code 70 on the layout, I fabricated the set up you see here to align the rails for a smooth transition between the sections. The Eagle Sub. extension is hardwired to the layout, while the other two extensions use audio plugs to power the rails.
Finally, I found a neat 2-piece picture hanger connector at my local Menards that works great to friction fit the two separate extensions when in use. I simply drop the staging into place, press down slightly and align the track, and plug in the audio jack for power. Done!

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