For the last ten years, I've been the sound designer for Lionel model trains. Working under the direction of Neil Young, our team has produced a tiny sample playback system and speaker that fits into "O-guage" model locomotives, with realtime software that reacts to the user's commands and a authentic sound ROMs matched to each model.
My job, as you might well guess, centers around the sounds. We have traveled to Denver, Ohio, Vancouver, Chattanooga and elsewhere to record the locomotives. We edit and loop the sounds and create the sound ROMs.
The team includes Bruce Koball, Will Mitchell, Autumn Antal, Drew Webster and Bryan Higgins. To date, we've done more than three hundred different train ROMs, for both steam and diesel models. The first "RailSounds II-equiped locomotives" shipped in time for Christmas 1994. After writing dozens of product reviews myself, I was delighted to be on the receiving end of one from the magazine Classic Toy Trains, excerpted with permission below:
"The O Gauge J is back, looking (and sounding) better than ever"
For my money, there's only one "big steam" excursion locomotive: Norfolk and Western J-Class 4-8-4 no. 611. I encountered the 611 when I was living in the Washington D.C. area...Her cone shaped- boiled front and elegant colors made quite an impression as she sat simmering that pleasant summer morning...
How does [Lionel model's] Railsounds II sound? I placed the "J" on the track and turned up the power. Instead of the whistle chuff-chuff of a typical toy train, every sound I heard that summer morning in Virginia was in the room. To use a tech-speak buzzword, this was "virtual reality steam."
Hopefully, the no. 612 J is the start of a new era in Lionel steamers. Top-notch performance and dynamite sound make this a sure fire winner...Experience this model at your local Lionel dealer.