BOXCAR SOUND MODULE.... success!

I've been working on this one for a while.  It started out as a plan to add the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song to a Thomas train.  Thought I'd share my finished design with the forum.

I decided to build a small module  that can be added to almost any O gauge rolling stock.  It has a couple of small circuit boards, a speaker, on/off switch, and rechargeable battery, all mounted on a small board that can be stuck to the floor of most cars.

Here's a sample of the sound track I made for typical use. It has has continuous clickety-clack, brake squeals, and boxcar clanging and banging.  I ran it with a Beep so there is no sound from anything on the video except my sound module!

(apologies for the lousy sound... in reality they are 3 watts, great sounding cars, with a good quality speaker)

I'm hoping fellow forum members will provide some feedback to my plan to make them available for O gaugers who want to add customizable sound to their trains.

How it works:
- turning on the switch connects the Li-Ion battery to the sound board.  The battery is recharged via a micro-USB connector, with any cell phone charger.  Battery runs sounds for about 4 hours, and is included.
-  sounds are customizable! They are stored as mp3 files on a provided microSD card.
-  multiple sound loops may be stored on a card...railroad tunes, holiday songs, or boxcar sounds.  I created a "Boxcar Sounds Loop" that has continuous clickety-clack, brake squeals, and boxcar clanging and banging.  It will be included with module
- sounds loops can be sequential or single-repeat, so if you set it to repeat, boxcar sounds run continuously.
- module controls include volume up/down, repeat one loop/play all loops.
-all controls, charging port, and on/off are accessible from the sliding doors on a typical boxcar.
- complete system is 1.5" x 5" x 1.75" high, plus speaker.  The parts are mounted on a piece of plywood that can be attached to the boxcar floor... speaker placed as needed.

module

Looking in the door of the boxcar, you can access the on/off switch and charging port.  The other door provides access to volume and repeat buttons.  You do need to remove shell to change or add sounds to the microSD card.

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I have put these systems into a few of boxcars and they have been quite a hit at local train shows!  Sold a few units to local show attendees!

My plan is to offer the system to fellow hobbyists.  I figure it will be about half the price of commercially available units, and....

--- It can go in any of your boxcars, so you can add sound to whatever railroad line you run on your layout.

---It has customizable sounds... use it for holidays, birthdays, or any special events.. no one gets stuck with sounds that someone else decided on (except for my loop, which is deletable or replaceable)

I'll be at York if anyone want to see a preview!  Drop me an email for more info.. details in my profile!

Your thoughts welcomed and appreciated!

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

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Original Post

I would also likely purchase some depending on what is the the max allowable size of the micro sd card?

Another concern would be is the length a sound clip limited only by the size of the micro sd card used?

And is their a limit to the number of sound clips that can be used on one micro sd card other than limit determined by the total length of all sound files and the size of the micro sd card used?

If multiple sound clips are stored on a single micro sd card, when played, can they be accessed in any order and how is that done?

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




Russ,

Living in CT, I'm not sure what a "cow and/or sheep car" sounds like.  I would imagine that it would sound like the basic freight car minus some of the clanks and bangs, plus some Mooo's and Baaaa's.

I can certainly try to put a sound track together to try it.  I created the Boxcar Loop using public domain sounds and built the loop by putting each type of sound on a different track, like a recording of a band's music. That allows me to adjust the clickety clack, brake squeal and clangs & bangs volumes separately on the final "mix".  I notice the brake squeal sounded the same over and over so I changed the frequency so that each squeak is higher or lower pitched... more random and realistic.

I'm guessing that a bunch of cows (are they called a herd if they are in a cattle car?) would have a variety of "voices" so it doesn't sound like the same cow moo-ing over and over!

You have me thinking about it now....

Trying to pin down a price for the "ed-assembled" unit (but no car)... probably between $60 and $75.

If anyone sends me an email indicating an interest, I will send details right after York week!

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

ogaugeguy posted:

Another concern would be is the length a sound clip limited only by the size of the micro sd card used?

Yes, I have put a number of loops onto a single microSD card.  I plan on including a 640M (meg, not gig) card with the Boxcar Loop on it.  That loop is a little over 3 minutes, sounds clean and clear, and  uses about 3M on the card.

I recorded the "Thomas Loop" them song from a DVD i purchased and looped it to make a 30 minut track which uses about 30M.

So, I guess that on a 640M card you could fit about 600 minutes of whatever

And is their a limit to the number of sound clips that can be used on one micro sd card other than limit determined by the total length of all sound files and the size of the micro sd card used?

I haven't tried, but have not hit a limit. I know the sound board works with microSD cards up to 16G (gig, not meg)

If multiple sound clips are stored on a single micro sd card, when played, can they be accessed in any order and how is that done?

Because there is no display, you can't jump from Loop 1 to Loop 7.  You can hit the NEXT button to move to the next loop and press REPEAT to keep playing just that loop even though there are multiple loops on the card.

Thanks for your interest... I have used it with a number of loops on one card, and skip through to thew one I want and then repeat it.

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

prrhorseshoecurve posted:

Sounds GREAT! Instead of a battery would Gunrunner John's" your last battery " work?

prr,

I really like the way the sound track came out.  Just an FYI, there is only ONE sound car in the NYC Pacemaker video... guess which car it is?

I decided to use an on-board LI battery to make the car more versatile.  It can run on both conventional and DCS/TMCC/Legacy layouts because the performance is unrelated to the track voltage.

Note: the sound is not related to train motion. It is on when switched on, and off when switched off, regardless of whether the train is moving or not! 

Battery life has been between 4 and 7 hours in my experiments.

One guy at a train show suggested that he would put a sound car on his desk at work and listen every now and then! 

I'll do some homework on GRJ's "last battery" setup.

 

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

eddiem posted:
ogaugeguy posted:

Another concern would be is the length a sound clip limited only by the size of the micro sd card used?

Yes, I have put a number of loops onto a single microSD card.  I plan on including a 640M (meg, not gig) card with the Boxcar Loop on it.  That loop is a little over 3 minutes, sounds clean and clear, and  uses about 3M on the card.

I recorded the "Thomas Loop" them song from a DVD i purchased and looped it to make a 30 minut track which uses about 30M.

So, I guess that on a 640M card you could fit about 600 minutes of whatever

And is their a limit to the number of sound clips that can be used on one micro sd card other than limit determined by the total length of all sound files and the size of the micro sd card used?

I haven't tried, but have not hit a limit. I know the sound board works with microSD cards up to 16G (gig, not meg)

If multiple sound clips are stored on a single micro sd card, when played, can they be accessed in any order and how is that done?

Because there is no display, you can't jump from Loop 1 to Loop 7.  You can hit the NEXT button to move to the next loop and press REPEAT to keep playing just that loop even though there are multiple loops on the card.

Thanks for your interest... I have used it with a number of loops on one card, and skip through to thew one I want and then repeat it.

Fabulous item you've created, Eddie, and the quick reply is definitely appreciated. Btw, when using a card containing multiple tracks am I correct to assume the play sequence of tracks always resets to track one when the power is turned off or the battery runs "dead"?

Considering the information you've given, I would like to purchase one of the units?

(Incidentally, for those people who run passenger cars, is there the possibility of a unit having the usb port and a sliding on/off switch located on the bottom of the board so it would be readily accessible from the bottom of a passenger car?)

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




I don't see my battery as being useful power for this unit.  YLB - RailSounds Battery Replacement was specifically designed to replace the RailSounds battery in conventional, TMCC, and Legacy locomotives.  It's operating profile is customized to those uses.  It charges whenever power is applied and is ready to deliver up to 200ma of power for 12-15 seconds for the RailSounds board.

What you're looking for here would seem to be a simple track powered power supply, one could just press one of the fairly common AC-DC power modules available on eBay for this use, these are typically in the $5 range, and accept track AC and output your choice of DC voltage.

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ogg,

I have noticed that the track you shut it off on is the track it turns back on with.  The sound module appears to have a memory for where it was prior to shutdown.

I appreciate your interest! I was not sure about when to post this. I wanted to post it before York so if someone is interested, I can show 'em at York.  But, I won't be ready to provide these units to others until after York week, because I'll be there not here!  If you're contact info in your profile is accurate, I'll email you with info shortly after York... ditto for others who may be interested.

I thought about passenger cars and wasn't sure what the sounds would be... probably no banging and clanging, and less brake squeal (although there's lots of both on Metro North here!) Suggestions on sounds to include would be appreciated.

For passenger cars, I'll think about a way to access the needed controls from underneath - something to think about while waiting for York to open on Thursday morning before noon!   A car with see-in windows and visible seats would be tricky!

ed

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

It would be nice to have a cheap, easy to integrate way to fire the sounds at certain areas for certain times on the track... that doesn't involve me pushing a button. I thought a little about RFID technology but maybe there are some other ideas...

eddiem posted:

ogg,


"... I thought about passenger cars and wasn't sure what the sounds would be... probably no banging and clanging, and less brake squeal (although there's lots of both on Metro North here!) Suggestions on sounds to include would be appreciated.

For passenger cars, I'll think about a way to access the needed controls from underneath - something to think about while waiting for York to open on Thursday morning before noon!   A car with see-in windows and visible seats would be tricky!"

ed

Ed, for passenger car sounds I was thinking about conductor upcoming passenger stop announcements which I could blend in with your general car sounds. Also was thinking it used in passenger cars with frosted passenger silhouette windows, not clear windows.

 

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




It would work in a silhouette window car, or I was thinking, in the baggage car.

The sound loop I have can easily be modified to add a layer of announcements every once in a while. I could do it with a script for specific stops.  Or using Audacity (free) and my existing loop, the voice could be added by anyone.

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

GRJ,

I actually tried one of those units with mixed success.  On a fixed voltage track, the voltage for the sound unit could be dialed in nicely, but for those using conventional, it might get a little stutter-y at times.  Dirty track might cause issues at low voltages. 

Thanks for the info.  For now, I'm going with the KISS plan and the battery is reliable.  We've used it on our modular club layout at train shows for 5 hour stretches.

See you at York, perhaps?

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

Severn posted:

It would be nice to have a cheap, easy to integrate way to fire the sounds at certain areas for certain times on the track... that doesn't involve me pushing a button. I thought a little about RFID technology but maybe there are some other ideas...

I like the idea, but I think a sound board triggered by ______ (something) with addressable loops would be the best approach!  Not too hard for a single sound loop located on the side of the track, and triggered by isolated rail.

Anything more than that, and it's probably "Arduino time"!  One of these days, I would love to try something like that...I've done a lot of programming in my days, but haven't got the nuances of the Arduino down yet! (But I keep playing with 'em)

ed

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

eddiem posted:
See you at York, perhaps?

You bet, I'll be there Thursday through Saturday.

Mr. Vic posted:

Ed, nice work! Can you tell us your location at York? Thanks.

  Victor

Victor,

I plan on getting to York on Wednesday.  I'm hoping that Dave Goodhart (RV Chairman) let me stay in the spot that I've been in for the past 6 Yorks!  We've taken to camping onsite now that I've (almost) finished my RV, built from a Ram Promaster Van.

If that works out, I'll be right about here:        (see big blue dot below...no my van is not blue... dark gray metallic.... lotsa windows!)

york

I haven't ever sold at York and don't plan on it this time, so I don't have a table in one of the buildings.  My plan for the sound modules is to build and sell them to my O gauge train friends. It's not a business plan, just one model railroad guy making a neat item for another model railroad guy...

I'll leave a phone number on the van if I'm not there and someone visits!

I will also add a post to this thread if I end up somewhere else, or plans change... but, I'm hoping to continue staying in our usual spot!

Thanks,
ed

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

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Maybe you can get Henning's to rent you some space on one of their tables.

OK Don.  I actually have a completed New Haven Boxcar that I installed the system in.... brand new in the Lionel box, with sound added.  Might be of interest to a NH fan like you.  I'll show it to you before York!  If not, I'll set you up with a module and bring the NH car to York, in case someone is interested.

Thanks,
ed

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

Ed, check out the Nakamichi MI01 mini plus speaker sold on Amazon and Ebay. I use these in my box cars for recorded cattle sounds and other train sounds. Their not Bluetooth and won't play for 4 hours, but do have a mini SD card slot. I will bring one along to York and if I can find you I'll play it for you to get your input on it's sound quality.

 

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Dave

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Ed ... I am also working on a similar project ..  I am using a Grove Cube from Amazon .. $15 ~ It is Bluetooth.. Range 32ft. about 1 1/8 " x 1" x1". Will need help from my high tech Son ... he says I can send it sound files from my PC or Phone. Sound is pretty good for a small speaker. You may want to check it out.

Rick

 

Rick Buchman

Dave Z,

I tried a few versions of those when I was in the development stage.  They are nice, but they didn't meet my "design specs"..... why?, you ask...

...the battery life. The battery I decided on is about 10 times bigger for lots more time.

...controls.  I could not figure out a way to access the controls and charging port and on/off through the boxcar doors.  Wanted easy access for these items. On my final design, the shell comes off only if you need to access microsd card.

...size. I have lots of traditional size (O27) boxcars.  None of the units I tried would fit inside of the O27 cars and some scale boxcars. I'm working on a module that will fit in an S gauge boxcar, and I think it's gonna work!

That being said, those cubes are not a bad way to go...I just wanted a more specific set of criteria, that would be ready to install in a couple of minutes, so I could offer my units to fellow hobbyists.

When I know where I am at York, I'll post here.

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

RickB,

I thought about a Bluetooth speaker and did a mock up on a flat car that I tried at our club layout.  It worked, but it seemed to get a little interference as static at some points on the layout.  On our 24' x 24' L shaped layout, there were only a few places where the BT effectively covered the layout.

I can see some application for a BT speaker in a static spot on the layout, but didn't want to chance it for rolling stock to work reliably.  Plus, I'd rather use my phone or tablet for train control.

Sounds like your son will be able to get your sound up and running! 

Good info...thanks!

 

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

I tinkered with a few models of BT speakers and had the same results.  Too many dropouts, especially on a larger layout.  IMO, that's not a viable solution.

ChooChoo1972 posted:

Having one of these sound modules with the provision for a remote play button would be great. Maybe just a jack that we could plug a 1/8 plug into which would be connected to a momentary switch.

That is on  my to-do-next list.  I assume you are talking about a static location, not rolling around the layout?

Once I get the Sound Boxcar project available to others, I plan "project 2"

Home of the Union Eastern, Thomaston & Williamstown Railroad

eddiem posted:

I've always been more of a "wire it" guy than a "wireless" guy!

The wires really get in the way as the boxcar rolls down the track.  Also for big layouts, you need some really long wires!

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