Model train sound generator – Arnie’s

Well, perhaps like me, you were utterly amazed at Arnie’s layout video – he used a model train sound generator for the video.

If you missed it, it’s here.

Model train sound generator

Arnie has been kind enough to answer your questions too:

“Al, thank you for posting the viewer responses to my new video.

I want to thank all the respondents for their enthusiastic support and for stroking my ego.

The responses that were most moving for me were those that spoke of memories of their personal past; recollections of good memories of places and people that the sites and sounds in the video seemed to have sparked for them. I never thought that this video would have that effect.

But on a more concrete level, if I may, I’d like to address some of the many questions that were raised about the layout.

I don’t want to completely de-mystify the impact of the video, but I’ll give you some facts about the layout, and my style of scene creation and things I used to accomplish the end result.

Let me start by saying the layout took about 2 years to build and is an analog, DC powered layout.

While I run locos with dual mode (DC/DCC) decoders and some with sound, including some steam locos, 98% of my locos are only DC equipped.

The 4-6-0 ten wheeler in the video is DCC equipped but does not have sound on the decoder.

The use of sound in a video can magnify the video’s impact 10 fold. To give the closest sense of realistic sound I used real sound clip recordings of steam locos of the era and general configuration of the 4-6-0/ten wheeler.

I therefore used sounds of chuffing at different speeds that might also include bell and whistle, and approaching and passing of the 4-4-0 American and the 2-6-0 steam locos.

You can’t get more realism than using the actual sounds of the prototypes themselves. I always add environmental sounds. I use birds chirping and the sound of running water. Even if only subtly applied, it often reaches the viewer subconsciously.

And the power of music cannot be denied. The ten wheeler would have had far less glamour and impact without a musical background.

I think the question asked most often was about the size of the layout since viewers were impressed with the scenic detail.

Despite the effect of greater depth and perspective, the layout is relatively small. It is a simple, totally open rectangle/island design and measures only 8ft. by 5ft.

To accomplish the greater perspective of larger vistas, I incorporated several elements:

1. The main thing is the use of portable, not fixed, backdrops that blend well with the fixed scenic elements on the layout. Moving the backdrops around the open perimeter of a small layout can make a world of visual difference in a video. It’s sort of a touch of Hollywood movie making. Hide the edge of the layout and create the illusion of continuous depth.

2. I shoot the same scene from various angles and vantage points and present them sequentially to keep the eye fascinated with the content (as in the sequence of the 4-6-0 going up the steel bridge). Also, the layout is very confined. So I am bound to return to the same location as I go around the layout. But I try to keep the interest and illusion of newness and expanse by videoing from another vantage point (as in the differing views of the river — overhead, one side of the river then the other bank).

3. I used changing elevations of terrain in building the actual layout (e.g., like my tracks that change elevation; the valley vs. the gulf summit) in the same view. This provides the impression of more real estate despite the small space and limited view of the scene.

Attention to detail is another thing most cited by the viewers; in particular the natural scenic detail.

For example, I made extensive use of detailed cliff and rock faces. These were made using finely detailed rubber molds (by Woodland Scenics) and hydrocal (an extremely fine powder plaster that picks up minute details in the molds) and then “painting’ the rock castings with various shades of diluted dyes.

Then add various colors, shades, sizes and textures of ground cover to simulate soil and foliage; you’ve captured the look of nature and terrain.

And wherever possible I try to incorporate a sense of life and movement (e.g., people and animals and water (e.g., the waterfalls, bears and deer roaming about, people captured in the act of doing something).

Many people asked to see the track plan. So I have attached an illustration of the track plan of my free-lanced SV&GS Railway.

arnie track plan

Model train sound generator:

Lastly, there was a major element that was out of place on the train. One viewer noticed it. I apologize.

The error is the box car. It’s a box car type that didn’t come out till the late 1960s.

But I liked the car and I chose to leave it in the video footage and try to account for it by expanding my ten wheeler’s operations into the 1960s story line. After all, it is a fictional account.

Again, thanks to you Al and all of the viewers for their heartfelt, supportive and lofty praises.


It should be me thanking you, Arnie. Thanks a mill for sharing your model train sound generator vid and all your input in to the Beginners Guide.

And if there are any more questions for Arnie, please do post them – that way we can all learn something!

Latest ebay cheat sheet is here. It’s really starting to pick up now. Have a look.

Until next time. Please do keep ’em coming.



18 Responses to Model train sound generator – Arnie’s

  1. John Moffat says:

    The content of the video and the tenor of the responses speak volumes on the “quality” of the man behind them…. Outstanding and incentivizing……. I need to retire and get my track built for my grand-son!!

  2. Peter Morrish says:

    Arnie thanks for sharing your great video , I never took any notice of the box car , you could have said it was an experimental new type on test , anyway its your layout and you run what you like , I run British trains but think nothing of running an American GP9 or similar that I have with a caboose. Thankyou

  3. Ron Schultz says:

    reading this just brought back the memory of my great “caboose” ride around the “railroad” . While every one else was riding the cab I and the crew had the caboose to our selves . Thanks again for the ride ..

  4. Larry Nystrom says:

    Is this a 4′ by 8′ layout? An awesome setup. Is there any timeline for a
    grand finish or is this a project without any completion date? Larry

  5. ian impett says:

    well done this was a good idea !

  6. Joe says:

    Love the Vid was thinking how hard would it be to do it in an HO scale I have a small room that this would fit in and how about your wiring being you have both DC/DCC was it hard to set up ? If I do this one would like to do it in HO if not then N scale and I would go DCC all the way will there be adding another section ?

  7. Ross Johnston says:

    Arnie!!! thankyou so much for your comments and layout plan. You are a true sharer of ideas and i am greatful for that. Cheers Rossco Adelaide, South Australia

  8. Charles J.Ingraham says:

    Hi Arnie,

    Have unusual request; do you stock small compression springs? Am looking for a spring approx 0.3″ long , 5 coils and .175″ diameter. Gauge of spring wire would be 0.006′.

    Know its an unusual request but my other hobby, besides my 70 year old model trains, is working on my grandfather clock. The spring is for the chime governor.

    Thanks for your attention


  9. Arnie Steiner says:

    Hi Chuck. Your request is an unusual one. I’m sorry, but a 0.3″ length spring is not typical for common/ universal usage in N scale. The most common usage for small springs in N scale would be those used in Rapido style couplers with long shanks. But even those would be a bit short and probably not offer enough compression force. There may be something available in HO scale modeling.

  10. Arnie Steiner says:

    Hi to all the readers of my reply to their inquiries and feedback on my recent posting of the “Ten Wheeler” video. I thank you all for your further interest and supportive comments. I look forward to submitting other videos that might be of interest and enjoyment. Arnie Steiner

  11. Lee says:

    Great job Arnie, you’re an inspiration to all of us N gaugers dreaming about building their layout. With your permission I’m going to incorporate your layout as a center module with left and right side modules measuring 3 ‘x 8’ thanks for all you and Al do!

  12. Read Ferguson says:

    Hi Arnie- Great tips for making a video.
    I am more interested at the moment however in how to send a video to Al. Did you have to do any sort of compression? Seemingly, a video would be too large to attach to an email. Did you use something like Dropbox to send larger files that a video naturally would be?

  13. Mike Balog says:

    Brilliant Job doing the Video Presentation.. AND Exceptional details and workmanship of your N Scale Layout… If you didn’t mention it was N Scale, I would have thought it was H.O. Scale! Would like to know, Where did you obtain those background photos,, the background sections in general? Who made the Photo Murals? Commercially Available? Regarding that Plug Door Boxcar… I caught that the first time. But didn’t say anything ~ if you had to do it over, could have added a few more standard 40 0r 50 ft boxcars to make the Peddler Freight a tad longer? The Caboose, think it had a New York Central Logo on the sides, is that correct? Did you have scale plans for the Viaduct Bridge? All in All, Exceptionally Well Done.. *S*A*L*U*T*E* ~ Mike in N.H. U.S.A.

  14. Erick says:

    I want to see more.

  15. I live not far from the area modeled and must say it was captured very well overall.
    Wonderful work.

  16. Brian Olson says:

    Excellent examples of what we all can do with video showcasing our layouts. My career was spent in broadcast journalism and later corporate communications with a major program provider. I worked and learned from some very talented videographers.

    The evolution of video from the big bulky gear back in the day to literally the television studios we have in our pockets, aka smart phones empowers us share our layout stories in a most impactful way.

    I often use real sounds dubbed into layouts, one example being a video I did with my N Scale UP 844 Excursion Train, using sound from a video I did with the real train.

    I highly recommend the iMovie software that comes with today’s iPads and iPhones. Very intuitive and easy to use.

    Ultimately my cardinal rule is when using your smartphone as a camera, always hold it horizontally and not vertically!

  17. Arnie Steiner says:

    Hi Al,
    I meant to reply sooner, but things just stole my time away. Nonetheless, I want to thank you for reposting my 4-6-0 “Ten Wheeler” video and my responses to questions posed by the readers/viewers of the blog/website. And thanks again to all who partake of your wonderful website for their praises of my layout and video. Arnie – Staten Island, New York.

  18. Ray Martin says:

    Arnie, consider Age of Steam Roundhouse in Ohio. They have several smaller locomotives, including a ten-wheeler, that were used on the Ohio Central on occasion. It’s the perfect prototype for a layout using modern cars and smaller steam locomotives. And if you happen to have an NS Heritage diesel unit or similar it should fit right in. Their collection ranges from an 0-4-0 to a 4-8-4 with many of them operational or being restored to operational. Automobiles and dress may still be a problem. Ray

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