When it comes to simulating the multitude of tasks an actual switch crew performs, each modeler has to decide for themselves which methods add to the experience, which are simply mind numbingly boring, and which just feel moronic.  These tasks, which include things like setting brake wheels, throwing out fusee’s, three step procedures, opening industry gates, brake tests, or simply walking are why it takes a real crew twenty or thirty minutes to do a set-out and pick-up and twenty seconds for your average modeler.  If you can find the right balance for your temperament, such props can greatly add to the operating experience and effectively “stretch” a small switching layout.

Many years ago Jim Lincoln suggested I consider finding a way to use audio props for some of these activities and even sent me a clip of a brake wheel being set, a clip I can no longer find 🙁 .   Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the whole audio prop idea.  By audio prop I mean using a sound clip instead of a mechanical device to simulate at least some of the crew’s activities.  I always became hung up when it came to finding the sound clips and capturing them.

I did a little digging and have come across some programs which would make finding and editing the clips relatively seamless.  A lot of the sounds we need exist on rail fan videos posted on YouTube.  Great, but how do you get them onto your computer?  How do you edit them?

First, you CAN in fact capture audio from YouTube and save it on your computer as an MP3 file. It’s a simple process using the free “YouTube MP3” program .  Once you have the file on your machine, you can edit or crop it using another free program called Audacity.   Other sounds, such as the crunch,crunch, crunch of a conductor walking on gravel can be purchased cheaply from Sounddogs.  You can get a sense for the “walking sound” on my YouTube video HERE if you scroll to the 43 second mark.

Once you have the sounds, they can be stored, triggered, and played via the players and triggers on a Pricom DreamPlayer.   I’d envision keeping it simple and limiting things to the most common and significant activities.  For example:

  • Sound of conductor walking short distance  10 second clip
  • Sound of conductor walking longer distance – 20 second clip
  • Three step audio
  • Brake wheel set audio

I’ll keep you posted.