Bowser & Custom Traxx visit Soundtraxx!
After extensive testing of the Bowser PCC car with Soundtraxx-Tsunami sound and operating the Pacific Electric Baldwin VO-1000 equipped also with Soundtraxx Tsunami sound, it was decided that Bowser and Custom Traxx get more familiar with the operation of the Soundtraxx Company. Soundtraxx will soon be a major player in the traction sound field so traction modelers should become aware of them, their products and their business practices. Soundtraxx, located in Durango, Colorado, in a very handsome business complex scheduled their annual dealer training seminar for August 3-6, 2011. Unfortunately, this conflicted with a long scheduled vacation for Lee English, CEO of Bowser Manufacturing, so he arranged with George Huckaby of Custom Traxx to represent Bowser at this seminar and provided Custom Traxx with all pertinent data and queries.
Traveling to Durango, CO is not like going to Philadelphia, Chicago or New York City. Options fro flying into La Plata County Airport are limited. Four airlines fly there, American Eagle, Frontier, United Express and US Air Express. From LAX, on August 2nd we boarded a 6:30 AM US Air flight to Phoenix where we were supposed to get an U.S. Air Express flight to Durango at 8:56 AM. Arriving at Gate B15 at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, we were told that the flight had a thirty-minute maintenance delay. About 9:45 AM, we were allowed to board the flight so we walked to the tarmac and boarded the small 37 seat turboprop aircraft that was to take us to Durango. Just as they started to close the cabin door, we were told that one of the tires looked suspicious and the pilot wanted them checked. The tires had to be changed so we had to deplane and return to the terminal. What surprised us was the lone mechanic that had to change both tires on the left landing gear in plus 90 degree heat. Naturally, this took more than the 40 minutes briefed to us. Since this activity was in plain view of the passengers waiting in the terminal, many felt apprehension about getting on this plane after watching this.
Finally in the air at about noon, we arrived in Durango at 1:30 PM almost three hours behind schedule. While some opted to stay in the dorms at Fort Lewis College, many of the 60 dealer attendees were housed in the Strater Hotel, originally built in 1887, and continuously in operation ever since. The Strater Hotel is a prominent landmark in Durango, located just two blocks from the historic Durango & Silverton Railroad Depot. The exterior of the hotel and one of the rooms are shown in the next two photos:
Soundtraxx, legally known as Throttle Up! Corporation is currently located about one-half mile from the Durango & Silverton Railway Station. Throttle Up! Corporation was founded in 1989 in Pocasset, Massachusetts by Steven Dominguez and Nancy Workman, both of which continue to run the company. It all grew from a dream of Steve's combined with the marketing abilities of Nancy. Their first product was the Hyperlite, lighting technology that is still used in their decoders. Their first sound decoder for diesel locomotives, the D220-IR, was introduced in 1991 followed by a steam sound decoder, the S220-IR, in 1992. They moved to Broomfield, Colorado in 1994 and operated there until 1998, when they finally located to Durango in the Four Corners area. In 2001, they moved into their current 6000 square foot facility in the Durango Technical Center.
They began marketing sound decoders in 1991. Their current line of Tsunami sound decoders (steam only) was introduced in 2004 and have been market leaders ever since. The diesel Tsunami decoders were marketed beginning in 2008. In a few years, you may see both a Tsunami PCC and Conventional Trolley sound decoder available.
They are now best known for their line of Tsunami sound decoders, considered to be the best in the business. Because they were the first to develop a true high quality sound trolley decoder, we needed to become more familiar with their operation. Soundtraxx has a firm policy of actively supporting their dealer network. One of the ways that this support is demonstrated is the conduct of this annual training seminar. Their 2011 Dealer Training Program proved to be the correct venue for us. The four-day program consisted of :
Day One - Factory Tour and Classes at Fort Lewis College, subjects included Company History, General DCC Theory, Understanding DCC Issues, Big Sound from Little Trains, Blackstone Models Overview and the Business of Selling Sound, presented by Nancy Workman, George Bogatiuk, Jarrette Ireland and Jeff Johnson. In the first photo, sound engineer Dan Szabo is demonstrating the equipment and procedures used in preparing recorded sound for inserting in the Tsunami decoders:
Incidentally, Dan is the engineer who coordinated with Custom Traxx to produce the Tsunami PCC decoder for the Bowser PCC. In the next photo, Jarrette is shown explaining the benefits of DCC to the group:
As you will find out during this article, Jarrette is a man of many talents and skills.
Lunch provided at Fort Lewis College and Dinner was at the Bar D Chuckwagon.
Note: The Bar D Chuckwagon was a great barbecue dinner combined with a fabulous outdoor show:
Day Two - Hands-on Tsunami Installations by George Bogatiuk and Jarrette Ireland; Lunch provided at Fort Lewis College. Each participant got to install a Tsunami decoder and speaker into a Walthers E-8 and a Bachmann 2-10-2. Both companies are commended for providing the locomotives for these sessions. The sessions were held in the excellent facilities of Fort Lewis College as shown in the next photo. In the same photo, George Bogatiuk is guiding the class in the installation of a Tsunami decoder into a Walthers E7A diesel locomotive:
With Jarrette Ireland instructing (standing), George Huckaby (in the red shirt) was captured installing a Tsunami decoder into a Bachmann 2-10-2 steam loco in the next photo.
It must be pointed out that each and every one of these presentations were of the highest quality. Each station was provided a Macintosh computer that had the same information as being presented to ease the process of simultaneously following the presentation and completing your installation. These presentations rivaled the level of professionalism remembered in aerospace company training classes.
Note: A tour of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge (D&SNG) yard and museum, originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon was postponed until Thursday afternoon after the train ride.
Day Three - Ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge from Durango to Silverton. Shown below is the 8:30 AM train departing on Thursday morning, August 4th. This same locomotive would be pulling our train later in the week.
Note: Due to a large rockslide, plus a locomotive breakdown, Our train ride was postponed to Saturday and the ride would go only as far as Cascade Canyon, basically their winter schedule followed from November to May.
The first bonus on our excursion trip was the incredibly great sunny and warm weather. The second bonus was the privilege of meeting the owner of the D&SNG and two other heritage railways. Making his way through the Soundtraxx two gondolas was Allen C. Harper, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Heritage Railways, who owns the D&SNG. Allen is shown with Nancy Workman on Gondola 403. He spent the majority of the trip on the two Soundtraxx Gondolas.
When talking to Allen, you see that he really likes his job and is known and respected by all he employees of the D&SNG. This warm and gracious man is shown on the rear platform of his private car, the General Palmer.
Allen stated to us that despite appearances to the contrary, he should not be thought of as a man with a lot of money. He prefers to think of himself as a person in whom a lot of people believe in and are willing to invest. It is obvious that this is true after a few minutes with Allen and a view of the interior of his private car.
A few added comments about the D&SNG. True to their word, they began running to Silverton early August 7th with the 8:30 train. We watched that train depart with 486 on the point as it passed behind the Strater Hotel.
The 9:15 train departed with 482 on the point and contained an unusual car in the consist, the Sierra Vista, shown in the second photo below:
We had seen a very detailed model of this car in the Museum but not the actual car until Sunday morning just before we left Durango.
First Day of Service for the San Diego Silver Line!
by Peter Erlich
August 27 was the first day of service for San Diego Vintage Trolley PCC 529, running on a clockwise loop in the downtown area. The car used was the former Muni PCC 1122, which last ran on September 19, 1982. San Diego has at least four other PCC cars from both San Francisco and Philadelphia that could eventually augment this sevice.
The operator was no slouch, and ran the ex-St. Louis PCC like it should. I felt as if I was on Market Street again. The familar "clunk" of the final stop, the release of the brakes--all was there as it should be.
The first pic was on its very first trip, approaching America Plaza. I had just stepped off an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from L.A., and I heard the crossing gates go down, and there she comes!
The trips the first week boarded only at 12th and Imperial. Starting Labor Day Weekend, PCC 529 will be making all regular San Diego Trolley stops throughout the downtown area. the next two photographs shw car 529 on C Street.
[See San Diego, Column 2]
Observations of Soundtraxx, Products and Service!
by George L. Huckaby, Jr.
The principal story in this issue is a visit to the Soundtraxx facilities in Durango, Colorado for the 2011 Dealer Training session and some of the related activities while there, including the opportunity to install Tsunami decoders in model railway equipment under professional supervision.
Day One of the Dealer Training Session began with a group photo of the 40 participants with the gorgeous Durango skies as a background.
But we left there on Saturday evening with an appreciation of the incredibly high level of technical expertise of the entire staff and the dedication to provide the highest possible customer service. All employees encountered seemed to totally embrace this idea and they seemed to enjoy their work. This is mainly due to an excellent partnership formed by Steven Dominguez and Nancy Workman. Steven started this company with an idea and a dream but knew that he needed to get the product marketed and marketed correctly. Nancy turned out to be the ideal person. Steve functions as President and Chief Engineer, while Nancy serves as Vice President Sales and Marketing. Steve makes a personal imprint on the engineering on each and every product. Nancy, for the most part, runs most of everything else. Nancy is a dynamic individual with lots of personality and it shows in the personnel hired since the company was founded and the way these professionals are managed.
Day One continued with informative briefings on DCC, Soundtraxx and Blackstone. Day Two of the Dealer Training Session was extremely well organized, informative and educational. By insisting that each trainee program and test Tsunami decoders after installing both the decoder and speakers with baffles, much information was conveyed. In the next photo, George Huckaby is discussing with Cole Peterson some of the techniques for creating baffles for installing speakers in steam engine tenders.
Initially, George had little interest in steam engine installations, being primarily a traction modeler but Soundtraxx proved that the speaker installation methods demontrated at this training session will become extremely valuable later. one of the valuable things learned was to use the correct flux when soldering to the circuit Board. One of the fluxes not to be used is Tix Flux due to the fact that it has a strong acid content. Only use fluxes designed for PCB and electrical work only.
In addition, they prepared a three-inch binder for all attendees with all the presentations given during the entire session. These binders permitted great note taking. So much information was given during these sessions so the ability to take copious notes was needed and appreciated.
The training sessions were so well presented by Jeff Johnson, George Bogatiuk and Jarrette Ireland that both novices and experts in DCC could participate, enjoy and learn.
Their use of the NCE PowerCab for both installations was also interesting, demonstrating some of the previously unknown advantages of that system, especially in the programming of Soundtraxx Tsunami decoders. The PowerCab allows programming in both the Ops mode and the Programming Mode without the use of a power booster. Participants were able to purchase the system at drastically reduced rates at the conclusion of the session. Custom Traxx purchased the system that they used. The ability to program in the Ops mode allows the user to make lighting and sound changes and see and/or hear them right way. This clearly demonstrates the versatility of the Tsunami decoders.
It was obvious to all that there was intense cooperation between Bachmann, NCE, Walthers and other manufacturers during the session. There is a sense of mutual respect for this company, which was comforting to most of the dealers present.
When we learned all the features of the Tsunami decoders and how to fully extract these features via CV changes, it was obvious that the staff of this company not only knows the decoders but the engines which they represent. These decoders require that the user know something about the prototype. It does not hurt that Jarette Ireland works on the Durango & Silverton as a fireman. His knowledge of steam engines is extensive.
When the PCC trolley decoder finally is released for sale later this year in the Bowser PCC trolleys, look for articles in this publication about all the features and how to access those.
When we received the first test Tsunamis PCC cars earlier this year, we were impressed, but we were more impressed with both the employees and the operation of Soundtraxx.
On Day Three, Soundtraxx demonstrated their new product, SurroundTraxx. Using current technology, this is a way to bring realistic sound to N and Z scale layouts. This product should really add realism to N scale train layouts. Because of the size of locomotives in these smaller scales, quality sound is just not possible in today's technology. This system marries an onboard sound decoder with speakers mounted strategically around or under the layout. The sound then moves from speaker to speaker as the engine moves. We feel that this will be great for N scale traction layouts now that a Tsunami PCC Sound Decoder will be available in the Bowser PCC car later this year.
To tell the complete story, we must state that Durango is not an inexpensive place to visit during the summer months. Rooms can not be found easily for less than $150.00 per night. But it is a place to remember.
Overall, we walked away from Soundtraxx convinced that this is an exceptionally well run, efficient company in a growth mode, with management totally committed to produce the best product in the business and seems very capable to continuing to do this for years to come. This just be the best run company that we have encountered in a very long time.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad,
As you read in column one, on August 6th, The Soundtraxx Dealer Training Group finally got to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge (D&SNG) as far as Cascade Canyon (about 66% of the ride) due to the rock slide that should be cleaned up by Sunday, August 7th (Wouldn't you know it?). Our 11-car consist was:
K-36 2-8-2 482 and tender;
See Figures 1 and 2 below for photos of the train:
Our train left Durango at 8:30 AM sharp and returned by 1:45 PM.
We were out of town very quickly and soon were encountering scenes like that shown in Figure 4:
Essentially because of the rock slide, the D&SNG reverted to its winter schedule. Of course, the classic views were observed personally by all of us. Soundtraxx had reserved two gondolas, 403 and 409, for the group. It was a perfect day, not too hot and no sudden showers.
In printing this story, we are well aware that there is little connection with electric railways. However, this is such spectacular railroading that we felt that it must be shared with our readers. As this story was being written in the Strater Hotel in Durango, the two trains that were trapped in Silverton by the rock slide just returned to Durango. We could hear the whistles as the engines returned behind the hotel, so full summer operation to Silverton resumed on Sunday, August 7th.
We discovered that one of the Soundtraxx instructors, Jarrette Ireland was the fireman on locomotive 482 for our trip. We caught up with him at Cascade Canyon. Although the photo does not show this, running a coal fired steam engine is a very dirty job.
For your information, there are four fare levels currently possible on this train. The Standard round trip fare is $83.00 and you ride in the 400 series open gondolas. The Deluxe fare, $129.00 gets you a closed yellow coach with padded seats. the First Class fare, $169.00, gets you a ride in a wine red coach with extremely comfortable reclining seats. When available, the Presidential fare, $179.00, gets you a ride in one of the parlor /Business cars, such as the B-2 Cinco Animas, usually at the end of the train. Shown in the next photo is another one of the business cars, the B-3 Nomad. There are also combination bus and train fares.
Here are more spectacular scenes from the train ride. There is a reason why they emphasize keeping heads and arms inside the car. The Gondolas are even wider than the narrow gauge coaches so this is an incredibly applicable warning as seen in the next photo.
Much more information can be found about the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge at their web site at www.durangotrain.com.
At the conclusion of this tour, Allen C. Harper, Chairman and CEO of American Heritage Railways, who owns the D&SNG, opened up this private car, B-7 General Palmer and allowed George Huckaby (Custom Traxx/Bowser) to examine the car interior. Allen is a great fan of John Wayne and has many artifacts, hand guns and rifles from the former screen star in the car. the car is self-sufficient with its own supply of electricity.
The interior of the car is comfortable, warm and fitting to both the era and Allen's personality. Shown in the next three photos are the main stateroom, the kitchen area and one of John Wayne's pistols.
Kudos to Dave Slater and the entire SDVT restoration crew, and to the San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System for its ongoing, energetic support. Thousands of manhours and $850,000 got the old ex-1122 running.
This article concludes with some others views of SDVT 529 on the first run.
Milepost 38 Model Train Shop Moves To New Location!
As if the old store in Anaheim Hills, California was not great as it was, on Saturday August 13th, they closed at 3:00 PM and opened at their new location on Wednesday August 17th. The old store was only closed Sunday through Tuesday to enable this move to be made successfully.
By making use of most of the shelving, assembled displays and counters from the old store, Milepost 38 was able to move and get re-opened quickly with a minimum of disruption but they have a long way to go. The new store is a little larger than the old one and they have expaneded their business area in the rear which will be advantageous to their customer base in the future.
The Trolleyville times reviewed this great store in our April 2009 issue and liked we they saw. We visited the new store on August 20th and found the same great atmosphere that existed in the former location.
The new location is just on the other side of the California 91 freeway from the current location at Imperial Highway and Santa Ana Canyon Road. For those people arriving from the CA 91 freeway, it is a little closer and easier to reach. The address is 5620 East Santa Ana Canyon Road, in the Crossroads Shopping Center, between Taco Bell and Radio Shack, near Von’s and the Bank of America. Sharp-eyed readers will note the Taco Bell just to the left in the photo of the exterior shown below:
We recommend that all Southern California resident and visitor train lovers drop into this store real soon. They always have some specials advertised so there are always benefits to shopping there.