Selecting the Right Sound for Your Steam Locomotive

If you aren’t sure which sounds are appropriate for a given steam locomotive, choosing the correct decoder can seem confusing. Ultimately you should pick a decoder that appeals to your own sound tastes and preferences. This page will help you understand the various sound effects that are unique to each steam Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoder.

Understanding the Whistle

Undoubtedly the most loved and most beautiful sound feature of any steam locomotive is the whistle. Railroads sometimes chose to use just one whistle type for all the engines on their railroad, while others just used whatever whistle was on the locomotive when it was delivered from the factory. The purpose of the whistle was to warn people and to communicate to the trainmen. Below are a few examples of common whistle signals.

- is designated as along whistle blast

o is designated as a short whistle blast

- - o - Approaching public grade-crossing (hold final blast until crossing is occupied)
- o Warning for areas where view is obstructed
- - Release brakes. Proceed forward.
o Brakes applied
- ooo Flagman protect the rear of a train
ooo When stopped, back up. When moving, stop.
oo Acknowledgement of signal not otherwise specified

One of the great features of SoundTraxx sound decoders and DCC is the ability to use prototypical whistle signals just like the real thing. Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoders have functions for both a long whistle and a short whistle, making crisp and accurate whistle signals possible. Tsunami2 decoders also come with the ability to set up automatic whistle signals such as: forward (- -), reverse (ooo), a public grade-crossing (- - o -), and brakes applied (o).

Tsunami2 steam decoders come with over 60 different whistles! This gives you the opportunity to pick the correct whistle for a specific railroad or to pick one that you think sound the best. Remember, many whistles were used on multiple roads, or were extremely similar, so don’t get too caught up in the listed prototype.


Let your ears be your guide and select the one that you feel captures your model the best. This is your model and your layout after all, so ultimately you should pick the sounds that are most pleasing to your ear.