Yesterday morning, I met Terry, the owner of Ohkwari Sales, an E-Bay store. He is also here in Central AZ, and close enough to the UP main that we watched a pair of GP40’s (including a HLGX Rent-A-Wreck) switching from his yard. Terry is modeling the now underwater Rio Grande Black Canyon Route in On30. I have ALWAYS loved narrow gauge steam, and as a kid, I had to ride the Calico and Ghost Town Railroad. Little did I know then, but those gaudy steamers were really Rio Grande Southern #41 and Denver and Rio Grande #340. Hell, I STILL drag the wife and kids on that train whenever we go to Knott’s Berry Farm!
Anyways, back to the subject, Terry’s layout is running a NCE DCC system with sound, and soon I found myself with a throttle in my hand pulling D&RGW C-16 #271 out of Cimarron, CO. Even without scenery and a VERY short mainline, I saw the benefits of DCC, and more importantly, the incredible sound of the steam escaping the cylinders, brakes squealing when slowing down, and a steam blow-off when sitting still….with a little coaxing, I am sure that I could have figured out flange squeals! The only thing that was missing was the bass of the sound, and with a small speaker in the tender, it’s not hard to see why.
In 2011 and 2012, Lance Mindheim wrote in his blogs about this very issue, and he discovered that computer desktop speakers helped it out, to an extent. He eventually wound up using a Tsunami decoder and wireless headphones to get the desired effect. Just his sound system is worth more than what I have in my layout!
Being the cheap bastard that I am, I figure that I could switch to a Bachmann Dynamics DCC for $87.50 shipped, or a NCE Power Cab in the $150 range…the Power Cab offers walk around capability. A decoder for my GP35R would be in the $30 range, and with a possible 6 locos to convert, that can easily get up there quickly. A Soundtrax Tsunami is in the $115 range, while a MRC decoder is in the $65 range….a simple pair of computer speakers are around $10….