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SoundTraxx Operations

Tsunami Loco Drift


Using Drift Mode in Econami for Steam Locomotives


One of the cool prototypical features in the new Econami decoder is the ability to accurately simulate downhill operations with a steam locomotive, which is known as “drifting.” 

In real life, when a steam locomotive is moving downhill, its operation is similar to that of a car being in neutral and free-rolling down the road.


When a locomotive is drifting, steam is not being used in the cylinders; instead, the speed is regulated with the train brakes. So an engineer will apply brakes more or less as needed to maintain the speed of the train. 

The locomotive’s weight and momentum pull the train down by free-wheeling against the resistance of the train. 

This allows the slack on the train (space between the couplers) to stay stretched and provide a smoother ride. 

When a train crests a grade, the engineer will back off the throttle, then make an initial set with the train brakes. 

After the train has crested the grade, the throttle will be completely shut off and the Johnson bar will be thrown all of the way forward to reduce resistance. 

From this point until the train has descended the grade, the engineer will control speed with the train brakes as it “drifts” downhill.


To simulate drifting with your Econami, crest the grade and back off the throttle to your desired downhill speed (you will hear the chuff quiet down from the Dynamic Digital Exhaust). 

Then turn on Function 5 (F5) to activate Drift Mode. 

You’ll hear the Johnson bar being thrown all the way forward and the chuff fade off, as well as the remaining sounds of the engine such as the blower, rod clank, and air compressor. 

Finally, set some brakes by turning on Function 11 (F11). 

You will hear the brakes set up on the train and squeal (this is especially effective when used with Tsunami SoundCar decoders for rolling stock). 

Once you have descended the grade, simply release the brakes by turning off F11. 

Then resume steam operations by pressing Function 6 (F6) to disable Drift Mode (you’ll hear the Johnson bar adjust back towards center and begin to work steam again).


Now you’re railroading with SoundTraxx!

Originally published September 30, 2015 in Issue 28 of the SoundBits Customer Newsletter for SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models.
Issue 31 | April 13, 2016


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