Layout Progress #12

This one might take some time, not because I have done much, but as my wife says I can ‘talk a lot of bollocks’.

I have had a busy time since the last update, the summer has sapped the modelling mojo like it always does but model trains have been on the agenda whether I like it or not.

I am sworn to secrecy but I may or may not be off to Scotland in the next couple of weeks to ‘film’ a TV programme about model trains. Now readers this sounds the height of glamour I know. Has OTCM hit the big time? Errr probably not so unfortunately  you cannot go around saying ‘Oh I read that blog before it was famous’. In fact I am sworn to such secrecy on the whole thing you actually never ever have actually read this, okay? (but I promise when I am allowed to talk you will hear all about it.) But its such a secret here is some information about it in the paper:

Daily Mail – Model Trains

Following on from the shit time the UK has been going through/is going through at the minute something that eccentric and ridiculous is hopefully needed (that sentence is the closet OTCM will ever come to current affairs/politics)

So in the last few weeks that has been quite a large thing kicking around, but it did mean some jobs needed escalating such as my Mum’s curtains (Ed – I really do not need that mental image)


Sown and pleated – Note to Mark Tatlow, no drawing pins

The curtains have got me thinking on presentation, the ‘should I maybe’ drop the letterbox height is probably now more ‘I am going too’. Some experimenting has been taking place and dropped a few centimetres does make a big difference. So its either a completely new front piece (really do not want too) or a sign made at a signmakers that doesn’t look like I just stuck it on (which it will). Also that picture is by no means at all the finished job, much more to come including how to hide that fiddle yard.

The pit checks point pulls are going to be attached as soon as I can work out a way of doing it where they actually stay attached

Also it looks like we have its first confirmed exhibition, Uckfield 2017. No big deal, its just Andy Jones and the Gravetts will be debuting as well. Which has epically put the fear of God up me to raise my game on my tiny first ever solo layout. Also as the Gravetts are such personal modelling heroes if they so much as say hello to me I may wet myself and have to hide for the whole weekend.

Uckfield 2017


Also the DJM Austerity nears completion, note to self never ever buy a loco where everything is painted red as repainting it is a grade A nightmare. The red flashes on the wheels you can see will hopefully be blackening soon.

The bits that look good are from RT Models, the paint is a Halfords Rover Group colour (always has to be a crap British car colour). I got round the badly fitting Smokebox with a lot of filler and swearing.34836323060_eecfdefb72_b35183111586_a1eb00f777_b35093101061_0bc29ff216_b

Also I have been having these brain waves of late about sound. Chris and I always have a thing about whether sound is good and actually worth the cost. I think it is good but it is not worth the money. So I wondered if I could somehow do it better but do it for less (the dream right?)

So I have a plan, I take a lot of cheap items and I try and make it sound a million dollars.

Here is the logic and its based on ideas from the Americans mainly. Looking at Broadway imports ‘Rolling Thunder’ (got to love a Yank name) and an article in Model Railroader’s 1000th edition along with an N gauge layout that escapes the mind from here in Blighty I reckons externally mounted sound is the way to go.

So how am I going to do it? I want to mix ambient sound and DCC loco sound to create ‘atmosphere’. My guidelines are:

  • atmosphere when no locos are present (ambient noise)
  • bass for loco sounds
  • sound that has a quality and richness but if you do not want to hear it you can easily channel it out
  • as above – it never imposes
  • System can be updated and added too (no big money spending)

In other words the sounds fit the layout, they do not overpower or annoy the exhibitor next to you either.

DCC sound chips, especially for steam locos can be shrill and tin like.

I am lucky that I have a small layout, so external sound has no need to ‘travel’.

So I went to my local Maplins to find some portable speakers to set as my bench mark for performance, after all I was going to rely on eBay Chinese peanut price products to get this done. Through some form of miracle however a shop on eBay started selling the benchmark speakers, in hot pink, at £4.99 inc P&P which is a huge decrease in the Maplins RRP.

The Kitsound speaker at £4.99 is always going to sound better than anything in a loco…

The brilliant thing about the kitsound cube is they can be lashed together with audio jacks to work together, and charged by a mini USB.

So the plan is in a nutshell is too:

  • hidden mounted cube speakers x 2
  • Cheap Chinese sound mixer with minimum two input
  • Cheap MP3 player with ambient sound
  • multi mini USB charger
  • Baseboard hardwired DCC sound chip (one for each class of loco rather than one in each)

In terms of costing without the DCC sound chips is under £35 quid.

The plan is to have this operational (ambient only) for Uckfield. DCC sound chips are expensive, but as I mentioned with a sound chip hard wired and a one loco layout you can have one chip per class of loco rather than a chip in each.

So stage 1 is complete with the speakers mounted, they are brilliant at 50x50mm and only 105g.



That is all folks, more soon when either I do it, or am allowed to talk about it,

Thanks for the continued readership,



5 thoughts on “Layout Progress #12

  1. It was good to talk at Railex and these speakers look interesting. I have ambient colliery noise on Kirkmellington (when the MP3 player isn’t in melt down mode). Never had any feedback on it but I was aiming to fill the noise gap around the locos and help recreate the scene in people’s minds like you are.

    Good luck at Uckfield, your layout looks great and if it works well at home then it will work at the show, just make sure everything is clean – wheels, rails etc

    1. The plan is to copy the CV settings between chips, so it should in effect match. I have assumed this rather than looked at it in anyway shape or form!! As long as the chip in the loco matches the CV settings to the board mounted sound chip I think it should be okay??

      The cheap Chinese sound mixer is the key for the second bit, they have these volume controls, so the FY operator can set the DCC sound to ‘low’ so its barely audible and then give the impression of it chuffing up to the yard by pushing the volume ‘up’. In effect instead of the loco just being ‘on’ or ‘off’ in terms of sound the dimming/raising of the volume should actually audibly create space on the layout, Hopefully.

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