Sound and fury

A tight fit. Chris' railcar with the round speaker mount and his oblong speakers... CHRIS LEIGH

A tight fit. Chris' railcar with the round speaker mount and his oblong speakers... CHRIS LEIGH

Sometimes, in this hobby, we do ourselves no favours. We simply don’t make things simple.

It’s true, that occasionally an aspect of the hobby is complicated, at least for a novice. Scales and gauges, for instance, are quite a difficult concept for someone new to the model railway hobby, especially when you get into the abbreviations we use. What, for instance, is ‘HOm’? I know. You probably know. The novice is almost certainly going to require an explanation.

One of the aspects of the hobby that is undoubtedly complex is DCC (Digital Command Control). True, it’s as complex as you choose to make it, and if you want to keep it simple, well, running your trains is no more difficult than using the TV remote. It’s way simpler than using one of those all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone gadgets that’s also a camera and a computer and which I’ll never get my head around!

I’ve been using DCC for long enough that I’m confident enough to push my boundaries a little. In fact, I started pushing them at least five years ago, having bought a Canadian locomotive with DCC sound. Before that I’d heard a sound-equipped locomotive and it was just horrible ‘white noise’. This was different. Suddenly, all my silent locomotives were a bit ‘tame’. I bought a couple more sound-fitted models and then decided to try fitting sound to one of my existing models, an Athearn MP-42. A quick scroll around the Internet revealed that there was actually an appropriate decoder with the right sounds for that type of locomotive.

It was a relatively straightforward installation, despite the fact that the locomotive had no provision for sound other than a 21-pin decoder socket. The sound decoder was quite large and protruded into the locomotive cab, so fitting any interior detail was impossible. Since then, I’ve tended to choose the DCC sound-fitted versions of any new Canadian models that I buy. 'Polwyddelan', my Cornish harbour layout, is DCC-controlled and I’ve a Bachmann Class 25 and a Kernow ‘Thumper’ DEMU, both with on-board sound. I’ve got two Dapol Class 122 railcars and I would like to put sound in both of them. Unfortunately, DCC Supplies’ bespoke sound installation for this model is still in development, and I’m impatient, so I went looking elsewhere.

No names, no pack drill, but I found a DCC sound supplier with a top-notch reputation and looked for a DMU sound system. Yes, they had one listed and I splashed out a not inconsiderable sum. It actually had the word Dapol in the description so it must be right. The Dapol model has a well-designed chassis with the decoder socket right alongside the circular speaker bracket. Get the right speaker and it actually seals into the mounting so you get the best possible volume. Perfect!

It looked like a simple installation that I could easily do in an hour. I took the railcar apart as instructed, to reveal the round speaker mounting bracket. I opened the box containing the sound decoder. It generously comes with a choice of two speakers, one oblong and the other square! Like I say, sometimes the hobby does itself no favours! (CJL)