Being part of Geekdome, in a addition to trains, i’m also a big fan of Sci-Fi, especially the Star Wars movies. But if you ask me who my favorite character from those movies would be, you would get an odd answer: Ben Burtt. Though he never appears on the screen in the movies, Burtt is just as important as any of the visible actors. He’s the sound design guy, the one who makes all of those odd and unusual noises that populate the Star Wars universe. For example, Burtt came up with Darth Vader’s labored breathing (a microphone inside of a scuba regulator), R2D2’s beeps and whistles (baby gurgling and Ben’s own voice played at super speed), and the engine noise of the hero’s spaceship, the Millenium Falcon (a soon-to-be broken down air-conditioning unit).
I’ve always been more enthralled with the sound fx in the movies and the behind-the-scenes work of the music industry than I have been with the finished products. So for me, trying to come up with the various sounds that a locomotive makes is just as much fun – and just as much work – as the other aspects of putting a locomotive into a simulator or game. For the GP40, there are still enough of them and their six axle brothers around to be able to get most of the sounds we need. However, just like I found with the locomotive shape, there is no such thing as “generic” GP40 sound. A rebuilt CSX 645 prime mover doesn’t sound the same as an NS 645. The NS unit actually idles lower and Notch 1 sounds like Idle on the CSX unit. Another thing that is quite noticeable is the difference in sound between coupling to a loaded car and coupling to an empty car.
So, after many hours of pointing an HD video camera at various GP and SD40-2’s, and more hours spent behind a computer desk cutting, pasting, and mixing sounds, we’ve come up with a few that may be acceptable for our locomotive. Here is the first test after a recent complete sound file replacement.