Zimo Sound Decoder

One of my goals for this hobby and my layout in my back yard was to keep my grandchildren involved and excited about the different aspects of model railroading.  One of the ways to do this is to keep it very personal and have them involved.  

On their 8th birthday, I let them pick out their own locomotive to buy if I don’t have it or I give it to them if I have it.  This is their locomotive to run and use on my layout whenever they want.  I also wanted to make the locomotive even more for them so I wanted to load in their voices and select songs or other sounds that their locomotive will play back for them.  

I recorded each grandchild with some of the following sayings (and others):

I love being an Engineer, Let’s Take a train Ride

Don’t Leave Nana Behind, Keep up Papa, the Train is leaving

Time for the Grandchildren to work on the Railroad {Finish}

Hopefully over time they will pick their own sayings and be creative.

I searched for a decoder that would allow me to download these sounds and songs. I found that Zimo did an excellent job for that. Especially their series of MS deciders that have a lot of memory for storage of sounds 

I had been using the Digitrax Decoders with the Phoenix Sound card and found Zimo to be a lot more functional, many programming options, and sound integrated into all parts of the programming. 

I use the Zimo ZSP program to create a locomotive sound template for all of my locomotives including the grandchildren locomotives.  

This requires me to take apart each locomotive, wire up a Zimo Sound Decoder into the locomotive.  While I have it apart, I add many LED options and a smoke unit in addition to the speaker.  Some of my favorite LED options is to create ditch lights (lights that flash alternately) in the front of the train.   Depending on the locomotive I create truck lights (point down on the tracks) that are colored and flash, a rear light, cab light, and stair lights.  I wire up each LED light with a current limiter and connect them to one of the function outputs from the Zimo Sound Decoder.  I also add a special connector under the locomotive to connect  track voltage for use on the test work bench.

My favorite Zimo sound decoders are the MS450 for small single motor engines and the MS950 for larger locomotives.  See pictures below of the installation for the Galloping Goose engine, Thomas Engine, and Switcher.

Here is a configuration for the Percy (Thomas Train) Engine:

Percy Steam Engine

**** Completed Loaded ****

Version w/ smoke

Bachman Thomas Train Series

ID #6


File – Thomas MS 7-4 v1.1

CV#105 [Sound File Type] – 7

CV#106 [Sound File Subtype] – 4

CV#260 [version primary] – 1

CV#261 [version secondary] – 1

Base Version – Thomas Custom

F0 – Lights Latch {Front/Rear Lights}

F1 – Bell Latch No Loop, short, sound Bell {Ditch Light}

F2 – Short Momentary No Loop, short, sound Short Horn {Ditch Light}

F3 – Long Momentary No Loop, short, sound Long Horn

F4 – Edi All Aboard Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking

F5 – Simon Train Leaving Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking

F6 – Nathanial Love Engineer Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking {Cab Light}

F7 – Betty Time for Grchildren Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking {Cab Light}

F8 – Mikey Dont Leave N&P Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking {Truck}

F9 – Joana Welcome Momentary No Loop, short, sound Talking {Cab Light}

F10 – Percy Mail Song Script OnOff No Loop, short, sound Wqve Song {Truck}

F11 – Percy Train Song Script OnOff No Loop, short, sound Wave Song {Truck}

F12 – Smoke Latch No Loop, short, sound {Smoke}          

F16- +Vol (CV#397=16) Momentary Louder

F17 – -Vol (CV#396=17) Momentary Softer

F18 – Change Truck Script OnOff Set Truck Light to No Flash, Off Flash

Sound – Only plays when F15 (Drive Sounds) On

Loop – Plays continually

Short – Plays between sound markers

Decoder Control

Idle Sound – 

Brakes Squeal – brake squeal

Water Outlet – 

Start Whistle – Short Whistle

Change Direction – Long Whistle

Thyrister Sound

E-Motor Sound


HS – switchgear

Thyrister 2


Electric Brake

Cornering Squeal – brake squeal

Random Min Max Length Idle Run

1 – Short Whistle 30 40 5 x x

2 – Bell 80 100 10 x x 

Min-Max – Sounds plays in this range after sound ends

Length – Length of sound

Idle – Sound plays when engine stopped

Run – Sound plays when engine running

Sound Key Control – Set for sounds to be on whenever power turned o

Drive Sounds and Random Sounds On/Off – always on [function key, always on}

User Sounds (Function Sound) On/Off  – always on [function key, always on}

Cylinder Valves (Blow Off) On/Off – no key assigned {function key, no key assigned}

Mute On/Off – [not inverted] – not assigned {function key, not assigned}

[either function key, always on, or no key assigned]

Special Wiring Instructions

Make sure forward and reverse motor wires are correct and wired for normal

Type 1 ditch lights are constantly on when the headlight is on, and alternately flash when the horn is blown. 

Type 2 ditch lights are normally off unless the horn is blown

Smoke Relay

Connect FO7 to relay driver

Connect relay contact to smoke unit through a rectifier attached to track power

Front (white) left front (5mm Bright)

type 1 ditch light, forward only

#125 – 33

Rear (yellow) right front (5mm Bright)

type 1 ditch light, forward only

#126 – 37

#393 – 3 (Ditch Light on for Bell and Horn)

#64 – 15 (Ditch Light Time Off)

FO1 (green) right front truck, left rear truck (5mm Green)

set for F8, F10, F11 flashing mask, normal, both directions 

#127 – 12

#117 – 55

FO2 ( brown) right rear truck, left front truck (5mm Yellow)

set for F8, F10, F11, flashing mask, inverted, both directions

#128 – 12

#118 – 76

FO3 (orange) rear (5mm Bright)

reverse only

#129 – 2

FO4 (grey) cabin (5mm Warm)

warm white led light glued to front of console in cab

(set for F6, F7. F9)

#130 – 0

FO5 (purple) smoke 5v unit …… not connected

#131 – 72

#137 – 128

#138 – 194

#139 – 255

#353 – 12 ( 5 min shutoff)

set for F12

FO6 (brown) ……. not connected

CV Changes

266 – 64 Total  Volume (Max)

376 – 128 Running Engine Volume at 50%

395 – 64 Max Volume Button Sound Level

Function Keys

#33 – 3, #34 – 16, #35 – 0, #36 – 0, #37 – 0, #38 – 0, #39 – 0, #40 – 32, #41 – 32, #42 – 12, #43 -32, #44 – 12, #45 – 12, #46 – 64, #61 – 0

Thomas Train Zimo Sound Decoder Installation

Galloping Goose Zimo Sound Decoder Installation

Switcher Zimo Sound Decoder Installation

Zimo Sound Decoder Software Update Boards (MXTAP) (MXULFA)

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