May I suggest that instead of trying to buy a 40 yr old system, that can be hard to find parts for or even get repaired, that you buy instead a DCC system. There are some good sound systems on the market that will make the switch easier. QSI, Soundtraxx, Locsound, even Digitrax has sound decoders. Plus for the locos you have that you can't or won't put sounds in, regular decoders for these can be had in bulk for under $12 each. The sound decoders can cost on average $100 per loco, but as it has been noted, these units are sounding better and better each year. You can even buy the locos with DCC and/or the sound systems already installed. I went to DCC in 1998, and I haven't looked back.
Originally Posted by WadleySouthern
The ease of wiring a layout for DCC was also a huge factor in sending me into the DCC camp. I wanted a large layout with the ability to support at least 5 operators, and as of now, I haven't spent a third on DCC, even with the decoders and extra short circuit protection, that it would have cost me to wire it for DC. Plus without any extra wiring at all, I can currently support 10 operators, although that would make my layout somewhat crowded.
Good that you bought the Ps-4. Its one of my favorite engines. So much so I own 2
Just waxing nostalgic more than realistic,
though I've bought a fair share of new stuff that has made me wonder why I got rid of my old stuff. Got a couple of books on DCC right now that I've been perusing. I have a couple of locomotives with the old Modeltronics sound systems in them; the steam sounds are great but no bell or, especially, no whistle. The whistle on the PFM was great!
Under the influence of the woman who was back then my wife, I sold that Ps4 that I bought at Lenox Toys and Hobbies for $149. Forty years later I bought another one from some guy in Australia for a whole lot more, bad paint job and all. I sure wish I knew what happened to my old set of Crescent Limited locomotive decals because those things seem to pretty much unobtainable anymore. On my winter "to do" list is to strip and repaint the Ps4 and letter and stripe it as one of the non-crescent but green and gold locos. Part of that job will be a re-gear and repower, so that will be a good time for a DCC install with sound.
I have an around the room track plan that I've been eying that is based on one of the late 19th, early 20th Century South Georgia timber and general merchandise hauling railroads like the Georgia and Florida, Bruton and Pineola, Wrightsville and Tennile, or even my namesake Wadley Southern that connects with a mainline railroad like the Southern or Central of Georgia. That would enable operation with the standard Ten-Wheelers and Consolidations with visits from some big power and fancy passenger trains. Realistic passenger trains are so big that unless you're better off than I am or a member of a big club, you can't run them but having a connection with a few feet of "high iron" and some hidden track can let you have one pass through from time to time.
I helped a buddy build his Alaska-themed railroad in its own 20 x 36 room. Even a room that big was too small for realistic depiction of Alaska features. I have a lot of rolling stock based on Copper River and North Western prototypes but it can stay in the box or display case or get re-lettered; I want to do the "Rails Through Dixie" thing with the Southern Piney Woods railroads.
I ran the PFM sound for years and just recently stopped using it as it was hard to find te sound units. I have a Northern Pacific Z-5 Yellowstone that I had it in for years. There was a cam on one of the axles on this locomotive that worked very well. On other locomotices the contact was a wiper that would contact the inside of one of the drive wheels that would be painted with an insulating paint and hace small sections cut out of it to sync the sound. I just love the whistle. It could be set to different settings from a low to a high pitch, and your control of it was great, actually superior the anything that I have heard on modern sound systems.
Even though I do not run my layout with DCC (Still DC only) I have now equipped the yellowstone to DCC with onboard sound. When traveling and visiting other layouts is about the only time I use it as it would never have appeared on my present layout.
Anyone interested in a PFM controller ????
This illustrates perfectly what I was referring to. While I thought the PFM system was a very good system, due to its increasing age, I knew this was going to happen. It did last longer than I thought it would.
Originally Posted by montanan
I have had four different PFM systems, Mark 2, Mini Sound, and 2 Sound System 2s. I did not like the bell in the Mark 2, but other than that I love them greatly. I personally think that the DCC sound units have with this latest round of products finally gotten to produce as good a sound as the PFMs do.
Originally Posted by WadleySouthern
I do not think I would recommend one unless one really wants to "play" with the sound. The whistle is playable. The exhaust chuff is adjustable for both tone and cut-off. All the steam pumps and generators can be turned on and off. I used to spend a great deal of time working up a routine to bring a locomotive to a station stop and departure that sounded 100% prototypical. It was a lot of "work" but really fun. Most people don't care about that much detail and just want to hear the sound. In that case, the new DCC decoders have much of the stop and start sequences automated based on back-emf and throttle settings.
As for the scarcity of sound modules for locomotives, I discovered way back in 1983 that they are trival electronically. Most of my locomotives are outfitted with "modules" I built from scratch (a few capacitors, and choke coils from the local electronics store). It was also much cheaper than buying the PFM modules.
Another problem with the PFM units will be the tapes used for many of the sounds. Magnetic tape degrades with time, so the quality will be going down and down. I am just now developing a digital electronic loop play back system to replace my tapes.
The Mini-sound is in some ways better than the bigger units because you can provide your own DC throttle. Coupled with a Hogger throttle it is hard to beat for DC control.
But bottom line is while they are very good units, because they are 30 years old unless you are a tinkerer they might be more trouble than they are worth. The new 16 bit DCC sound units will probably be a better investment of your time, money, and energies.
P.S. Yes, I will take any old PFM, PBL, or Grissely Mountain units, working or not, that people want to get rid of. If nothing else they will make great exhibit in my planned model railroad museum.