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Model Railway Sound Systems


Sound Systems have long been part of Model Railways, with systems dating back to the 70’s.

Today we are spoilt with advanced DCC Sound decoders as well as trackside Sound systems..

Lambert Associates

Imported by Lambert Associates. Provided chuffing sound, easily fitted to an HO scale steam locomotive. Device measured 0.47 high 0.55 wide and 0.25” long. A small (quarter inch) capacitor was also part of the package. It was mounted using included tape, and small speaker completed the package. Also needed was a chuff cam, but alternate methods were possible to activate the chuff sound.

The entire package would be installed in the tender. The booster unit provided more volume and a deeper bass.

Ready to install steam unit: $32.95, booster: $12.99

Pacific Fast Mail

PFM was an importer of brass locomotives. In the 1970s they began selling a sound system that transmitted signals through the rails to a module located in the tender of a steam locomotive.

PFM Sound System

The Pacific Fast Mail Sound System included a sensitive transistorized power pack, with the electronics needed to generate steam locomotive chuffing, steam pumps, hiss, bell and whistle sounds. The Power pack, including an LTM module for a locomotive was $350. Additional LTM units: $15. The sound came from a module and speakers installed in a tender.

PFM System Sound System II

Appeared in 1980

The PFM Sound System was a hybrid system consisting of a throttle and a sound system using electronically generated and recorded sounds. The sound console and tape player were ready to use, modules/speaker required installation in the locomotive. It was compatible with the original PFM Sound System. Only one locomotive would have sound and power provided by the system.

The system used a 9V 300kHz RF signal to transmit sounds generated in the console. These signals travel on the rails to the locomotive under control. This signal could also be used for constant lighting.


The locomotive is equipped with a DC Blocking Capacitor to allow the RF signal to travel to LTM (‘’Locomotive Tender Module’’). The chuff was generated by a cam, which connected a 0.047mF capacitor across the rails which loaded an oscillator circuit that created the sound of the chuff.

The Sound System II also allowed the transmission of sounds from the tape players to the locomotive on the 300kHz carrier.












PFM offered three tape decks, two single tape players, and a triple cassette. The cassette decks were four channel (Quadraphonic), the Quadratape 1 included the ability to add echo to the whistle using a separate record/play head for the delay. Tapes could be played simultaneously. With a total of three decks, all twelve volume controls on the console were available. A lamp was lit to indicate which decks were in operation. All three cassettes offered a variety of sounds controlled from the console, which were installed in a specific sequence.

Whistle sounds were generated electronically, with five selector switches and a tone control. By following the settings in the manual, a number of whistles could be created. Or you could make your own whistle. The two heads on deck one could be used to provide reverb, or an additional electronic reverb unit ($43.50) was also available.

Another group of knobs controlled the electronically generated chuff, with the master volume control above these controls. The system also offered a Doppler effect, a cutoff control, with the ability to simulate any steam locomotive.

PFM offered a number of accessories, including a $16.95 filter set for a larger stationary speaker. This allowed the user to select which speaker was used: All sounds come from the speaker in the tender, high frequency from the tender and bass from the stationary loudspeaker. Or, all the sound from the stationary speaker.

Prices were $549.50 for the Sound System II, the Quadratape 3, $275. Prerecorded tapes were available for $9 – $10. (The tapes were endless loop Compact Cassettes). The Quadratape 1 was $99.50, the Quadratape 2, $92.50. A combination of two Quadratape 2 decks and a Quadratape 1 was also possible (for a total cost of $284.50) which offered all the ‘’bells and whistles’’











The module installed in the locomotive, LTM Standard kit, was $8.95, a 1.5” speaker $5.95.

A complete system could cost $914.83 at retail, plus $13.95 to $23.45 for the LTM modules.

PFM Minisound I

A simpler version of the SS II. It was designed to work with your existing throttle.

Multisound I

This was an electronic sound system that could generate sounds like water flowing, factory operations, dog barking and traffic sounds to create background ambiance on your layout.


Modeltronics offered a self contained battery operated sound generation system. It also used track power, to maximize battery life.

The steam unit used a chuff cam to synchronize the sound, as well as form of Back EMF to modulate the sound under no-load and load conditions.

Diesel and Turbine modules were also available. The diesel version emulated the sound of various diesel prime movers, with or without a turbo charger. Much like current DCC sound decoders you could make adjustment to the module to get the effect you wanted. The Turbine module was similar, except it generated the sound of the hot gases being exhausted by the turbine. Both modules were responsive to track voltage changes.


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