Adding sound to your layout

“Dear Al,

A small tip to add to the list.

When I was younger I longed for the day when my computer would be as easy to use as my phone. Well I am happy to say that day has finally arrived…. I no longer know how to use my phone.

Sound for a Layout
They might be hard to use but one thing these new smart phones and iPads are really good for is bringing sound to your layout. You can connect them to a cheap pair of computer speakers and run sound from any one of the free/cheap sound effects programs (apps) available for your device.

I am using a program called DJ Soundbox that works on both iPhones and iPads. After trying a few I found it had a few advantages.

– it will run multiple sounds at once,
– it will loop some sounds over and over, like background sounds
– you can download your own sounds onto it.

I have included a photo of the screen to help.


Now on to Alan.

I get a lot of stuff from Alan – and it’s always welcome. He’s been busy syncing sound effects with his iphone. Have a look!

“Hi Al, I have a couple of old ARGO LP’s of steam trains in the 1950’s. I have fun matching the sound of different locos with the same models. Here is an ex GWR 2-8-0T on a long climb up Abergavenny bank in South Wales, perfect for my layout.

I have transferred all the tracks on to my Iphone and play it through some decent speakers.

Sounds much better than DCC in my opinion. Getting the speed to match the exhaust beats is tricky, but it’s fun.



Do you remember me? I finally started building my own Model Railroad. It will be 2 levels with a double helix at each end. I started construction 2 weeks ago and attached are some WIP pictures. If you wish I will keep you informed. I’m expecting to be operational in 2 months and then the detailing will obviously follow. Note the curved masonite backdrops, I’m trying to procure high resolution actual photographs for the backdrops, rural country for the top , and industrial setting for the bottom. Please let me know what you thing so far and if you want see more.



Barry! How could we forget you? You sent in one of my favourite posts (it’s here).

Can’t wait to see how you get on – please do send pics and video!

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here folks.



PS If you’ve not taken the plunge yet…

38 Responses to Adding sound to your layout

  1. DAVID R says:

    Very interesting and looks a mammoth venture, good luck and keep us in the loop. I would like more details about how you have integrated the tablet please, do you use it to control the track and locos?

  2. Jan Boen says:

    Looks like Barry has time and material to spend on his large track.
    I look forward to the first pictures with tracks or already a track plan.

    Good going!

  3. Roy F says:

    It must be fantastic to have all that space to ‘play’with.

  4. jim says:

    I DON’T THINK A DOUBLE LAYER WILL LOOK RIGHT. SORRY!! Just think the bottem will always be shadowed. The double helix looks cool but, looks like you need to bend over to fully appreciate it, just is a reminder, bigger is not always better! Sorry again.

  5. paul starr says:

    How I envy you with all that space to work with,It would be a dream for me.

  6. Stuart says:

    That’s a massive job on your hands, good luck with it, look forward to seeing future pics

  7. Sheila says:

    Barry, looks like you have spent a good deal of time planning before you started building. I will be most appreciative of seeing photos of your progress. As to the top overshadowing the lower level, I have read several articles about using lighting to eliminate those shadows. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which RR mag, but very possibly Model Railroader. All the best in your new rwy adventure.
    Cameron, great idea. Now if I just had one of gizmos it would be wonderful.

  8. tom keller says:

    Is that a fuse panel i see in the corner? If it is, i think you are in trouble down the road. Looks great, i too am envious.

  9. 'nother grandpa says:

    Certainly an impressive amount of time and energy and planning going into this. Good Luck!

  10. Chris says:

    I’d love to have all that space to play with, good luck and looking foreward to more updates

  11. Tom says:

    Cannot wait to see what is coming next?
    Pictures: we need lots and lots of pictures.
    A Great start!

    Barry and Al thanks for sharing.

    Keep on Training!

    Tom N

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Truly a thing to be admired. I hope you keep us up to date on the progress.
    A note of caution; my last layout was a two level shelf layout and I failed to provide the correct lighting for the lower shelf while building the upper shelf.
    I tried many fixes but none really worked after the fact. Be sure and provide for lower level illumination during the construction phase, it will save you a lot of time and trouble later.

  13. paul Otway says:

    going up is the best way to add to a layout.

    Use the air space.

  14. Ralph says:

    What a lovely space to work in. I need something like that for my collection of O Gauge stuff. I have to be content with 1800 X 1800 for my HO layout and the rest have to live in boxes and venture out for brief visits from grandchildren.

  15. John Tipper says:

    I feel tired just looking at all that work ahead, but good luck!

  16. I look forward to your progress photos, as the final picture is going tobe something tobe in awh of, I wish you all the best for a speedy success and completion!!!

  17. Kenn says:

    Wow, looks like a pretty detailed undertaking. Good luck and looking forward to some pictures and ideas. Just wondering how does one post pictures for others to see. I have made some progress on my project and would love to share with others hoping to motivate others as I have been motivated.

  18. Gene Turner says:

    Cameron, thanks for the info on the Iphone. Interesting.

    Barry, What a mammoth task you have undertaken. I am very interested in seeing how it comes along. What is the planned layout height for the upper level and planned layout height for the lower level? The lower level could be operated from roll-around desk chairs if it is at standard desk or table height, leaving the upper level to operated at standing/walking position. No bending over to view would be necessary. The lower level will not be in shadow if you follow some of the suggestions for layout lighting that have appeared in the model press over the past ten years or so. LED lighting is beginning to be popular as it doesn’t generate any amount of heat.

    I am really looking forward to seeing your progress. What scale are you working with? N? HO?

    Please keep us updated as often as you can and try to document it with photos and videos (as you are doing, I’m sure) so that when it turns out to be a great layout, we can all see how it was done (maybe in the model Press).

  19. jim says:

    I cant wait to see it when you are up ad running please keep us up to date. looks good so far. Cheers

  20. jim says:

    I have two spare bedrooms back to back one is 10×12 and the other is14x13. I have hust been looking ,reading and buy. but now you give me the incentive to start so i will start on the small room first here in the hopefully nrat future.

  21. Ray Appenzeller says:

    I am concerned and confused of the layout and the fuse box? What is your plan about gaining access to the fuse box? What scale trains are you planning to run?

  22. THOMAS says:


  23. Alan Meyer says:

    I’m also concerned about those circuit breakers and access to them. Where I live (Ontario Canada) the Ontario Building Code states that they HAVE TO BE freely accessible NOT hidden, the same with ALL junction boxes. Here it can invalidate your fire insurance, so I would be very careful. I do love the layout you’ve proposed. Please keep us updated often with photos.

  24. M1 Fred Q says:

    Very impressive. I always admire folks with good carpentry skills!!!!!!!!

    Please keep us informed about the layout as it progresses

  25. Ian says:

    cant wait to more progress did it really start off to be that intense to me it looks mind blowing i do not have the patience keep going.

  26. This is for Ken, says:

    To those concerned about the breaker panel,

    Code requires an area 30″ wide by 36″ deep to allow access to the breaker panel. Both the upper and lower decks and the background panel will be removable and only in place when the train is being operated. I hope this answers your concerns. When I get to that stage which is about (3) weeks away you will see what I’m doing. I was a Robotics Engineer for (30) years and a Licensed Building Contractor for (11) years so I’m quite well versed in all areas of the construction but I appreciate your concerns.



  27. Duane Hampton says:

    You must be a professional “CABINET BUILDER” you have your layout planned to the inth detail. Nice work, can’t wait to see it up and running. Love the helix, nice work….


  28. Dennis says:

    Jeez, that is one heck of a layout. Keep us posted as it progresses

  29. Michael says:

    Woot Woot!!!

    Great layout…

  30. Ron Schultz says:

    Looks like you have putin a lot of work . Have been there done that .2 levels the lower was a dark place that really need lights installed . and it was “bend ” over all the time for the lower level and bump my head also. the top was Stand on a stool to see and watch as it was 60 inches from the floor- move the stool ect. After a year I ripped it all out and rebuit a 1 level and now enjoy Real rail roading again . Bigger is not always better only if you enjoy what you ended up with. I built it from a plan in Model Railroader or Model Craftsman . but it wasnt functional to operate .


    Interesting stuff you have going on there
    (more money than sense) my good lady would say
    but im of a totally different opinion
    looking foreword to the progress
    keep up the good work

  32. loren says:

    wish i had the room and money to do something like this. good luck.
    I hope he makes a video when it’s finished and posts it on the internet
    so we can enjoy it with him

  33. R&R says:

    I don’t know where you live but you might want to check code on that backer box. I think you will find it needs to be clear in front of it. No obstruction’s.

  34. George Ross says:

    A Lot of Effort that will pay off in the end. Looking Forward to Final Layout.

  35. Lionel Boutin says:

    Barry,my suggestion on the Fuse panel is to make a hinged door to gain access to it when need be. Happy modeling don’t rush.

  36. fat old hogger says:

    how about some info on the helix construction and some close ups?

  37. Keith Willoughby says:

    Hi…. fantastic!
    Its gonna be great when finished.
    I am just about to embark on a Z gauge layout in a 3.5 X 2.5 metre room, can anyone suggest a video or book on layouts and where I should start please?

  38. john andrew says:

    helix is a greatly skilled piece of construction two is amazing I have seen them at shows they are a terrific ,but I too wonder about sighting trains in the lower levels ,I have a mountain one end of my layout with a half tunnel and I have three lines going around the mountain twice the out side line will be on timber trestles there are many to copy in Australia and I can watch my trains all the way a most important aspect of modelling Al could you send or post a bit of help with sending photos being new to computer and internet my photos don’t seem to want to leave my computer and as I have bought some of your houses I would like to show the ?best regards John A

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