Gear / Technical Help => Ask The Tapers => Topic started by: Life In Rewind on November 17, 2016, 08:34:47 AM

Title: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: Life In Rewind on November 17, 2016, 08:34:47 AM
I've become a bit of an O gauge head lately - build a collection of mostly postwar LIONEL stuff - but have a few more modern pieces with "RailSounds" built in.

I live in train country (south central PA)...and have plenty of chances to make "Railfan" recordings...

Anyone else give this a try?

I assume most of the gear we use would work fine for this task...?
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: ilduclo on November 17, 2016, 09:55:35 AM
They get awfully loud, but most gear that will handle metal will handle steel rail.
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: ScoobieKW on November 17, 2016, 01:53:47 PM
The RailSounds recordings were made by Neil Young. When he bought Lionel and saved it from bankruptcy he decided that he didn't like the quality of the samples being used. So he took gear and did it right.

Our gear is more than adequate, have fun.
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: flipp on November 17, 2016, 02:53:50 PM
Since I live about a block from some BNSF tracks I record the trains occasionally, usually from the front porch but every once in a while I'll take the equipment over by the tracks and record from the right-of-way. If you have the capability try MS recording; also vary the height of your mics - from track level to headlight (or horn if your stand will go that high) height. While I haven't recorded trains in over a year, the one sound I would really like to capture is a train whistle blowing simultaneously with a thunder clap.

As others have stated, what you already have is adequate but if you record close to the tracks (on the right of way) start by setting your levels very conservatively.
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: kleiner Rainer on November 17, 2016, 03:10:21 PM
yes, me. I have been recording them for the last 35 years or so, starting with a mono tape deck. At the moment, I use a Tascam DR-44WL. The internal mics are fine, they can withstand extremely high sound levels (132 dB SPL) and the limiter works also very well - steam whistles are extremely loud when operating just a few yards away...

Using a fur windscreen is mandatory, a Rycote Mini Windjammer for the H4N (fits like a glove on the DR-44WL)serves me well. Setting up the recorder on a camera tripod, I carry foam rubber discs to cushion the tripod against conducted vibrations and noise. All other methods used for recording at outdoor festivals (except stealthing, trains dont mind being recorded  ;D ) are applicable.
And now something important: location, location, location! I prefer grades in forests, far away from roads (if possible). An elevated position above the tracks is recommended.
A place like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJjJPEGV22c is where I can be found recording (on this side of the pond of course...).

And this is my favourite hunting ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EituhEXI1jo
Daily Steam trains, all year round. Fichtelbergbahn. Not a museum, it serves the highest german city and famous winter holiday resort, Oberwiesenthal.

If you want to get a feeling how it can sound, visit this:


Joerg has been recording steam trains for decades, and we made some recordings together - this one for example: http://www.dampfsound.de/sounds/m01_10/cd239s09.mp3
My Mics were placed about 5 feet to the right.




Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: Eldo Rado on January 08, 2017, 09:17:24 PM
There are so many frequent trains here where I live on the southeast shore of Puget Sound near Tacoma, WA.  Quick and fast Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight to the 140+ car triple diesel BNSF monsters.  I set up right at the grade with a Rode NT4 and cable away down to my PCM M10.  Most interesting ones are when the freight trains and moving veeeery slowly right before or after a complete stop.  The metal squeals are amazing.  Yeah, they're nice to record, but I still hate the freight trains.
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: morst on January 12, 2017, 03:32:05 PM
No, but I like to record the tuesday 12:00 noon siren and test-announcement here in SF!

"[SIREN] This is a test. This is a test of the emergency outdoor warning system. This is only a test" ... ("only a test, only a test, only a test..." go the echoes, if it's a still day with no traffic going by...)
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: Moke on January 12, 2017, 07:25:41 PM
Incidental to recording live music, yes.
The train station was right next to the San Juan Capistrano Mission Courtyard (across the road), where a series of summer concerts was held.
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: georgeh on January 25, 2017, 05:14:15 PM
those are great, thanks for links
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: Gutbucket on January 26, 2017, 12:41:05 PM
Cool. I've got an old one that's pretty interesting I'll dig out.

Rainer, what a beautiful location. I love the reverb the forest imparts on the train horn.  Cool to see and hear some larger steam locomotives in action, and not just small scale (toy) tourist and mountain trains.  When I spent some time in India in the late 90's they still had a few lines running big steam engines and it was a visual and audio spectacle when they'd pull into a station.  I really wish I had a recording rig with me to capture those sounds.  The big steam engines in India are now all out of service, but there are still a few very small steam powered toy trains providing passenger service up into the mountains. Those routes require small "toy trains" to accommodate the very tight turns and high grade climbs of the mountainous terrain. Some have clogged third rails to handle really steep sections.  The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darjeeling_Himalayan_Railway) is one of the most interesting, and has been designated a World Heritage Site.  It runs diesel engines for regular service, but still runs regular passenger service with the old steam engines too.  The route is so tight, it was designed with tight loop switchbacks and zig-zags (train chugs up into a blind ended ravine, stops, reverses direction and on the way back out of the ravine switches to the section of track which heads up hill rather than down.  The train proceeds backwards until next zig-zag switch back, where it changes direction and goes forward again.  It's a really fun ride, but very slow. The somewhat less quaint, larger but still small gauge Kalka–Shimla "toy train" railway in Himachal Pradesh doesn't do that kind of crazy switch back stuff provides some spectacular views.  I believe that one switched to diesel engines entirely back in the 70's.  It feels more like a regular Indian train line, just downsized and with great views.

Morst, I remember well that SF siren and announcement form when I was living there 25 years ago.  Good to know some things haven't changed much.

Moke, there used to be a live music venue in a town near here with both inside and outside performance areas.  The inside stage was the smaller of the two, the large main performance stage was out back at a large patio.  The back wall of that stage was a tall wooden fence which ran to buildings on either side, and immediately behind the wall were RR tracks.  Most bands and many patrons wouldn't realize the tracks were there until a freight passed by mid-set, and it was always interesting to watch how people reacted.   Most bands couldn't figure out what was going on at first, then as it grew louder and they realized a train was screaming past only a few yards behind them, they'd either stop playing and wait for it to pass, play louder, or on occasion would segue into an improvisational jam blending with the rhythm and intensity of the train-pass-by.  The same tracks run through this town, and when I was regularly recording a monthly jazz trio gig for a few years in a venue directly across a street from the tracks they'd often leave the side door open, and a train can be heard at some point on almost every recording.  Often it was just prior to start, or just as they finished playing.  It wasn't nearly as startling or impactful as the surprise passings at the other place, and always made everyone in the room smile.

[edited to add wikipedia link to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway entry]
Title: Re: Anybody do any train recordings?
Post by: Gutbucket on January 26, 2017, 01:06:41 PM
Okay found it.  Below is a link to a recording I made back in 2007 of a train on that same line, made on a whim on my way home late one night after a show.  I still had mics setup on me and simply stopped at a crossing, got out and stood next to the tracks waiting for a train to pass.  It was around 1 or 2 in the morning and I knew the general schedule so it didn't take long at all for a late night freight to pass by. 

The recording starts with about 60 seconds of ambient night sound (some birds, bugs, distant traffic) and around the 1 minute mark a train can be heard approaching from a distance.  First more distant crossing warnings can be heard closing, then the one I was standing at, until the train arrives and passes with horn blowing and all kinds of crazy noises.  The passing takes about 4 min, and around the 5 minute mark a great sound occurs- a charismatic wheezing air line on the back end of the train.  As soon as it passed I was surprised to find a big souped up Corvette waiting alone on the opposite side of the crossing, and as the gates go back up it roars off past me and down the street with a deep throaty rumble, the icing on the cake.  It's very dynamic and the omnis really capture the deep subsonic rumble.  Crank this one up with a good stereo and the room will shake. Its fun to figure the loudest safe playback level then start the recording from the beginning to get the full build up from quiet night ambiance to ferocious passing and back again.

DPA 4060 > CA-UGLY > R-09

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By8lWuT2B5ZHeHJpZnA3XzZVeDA/view?usp=sharing (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By8lWuT2B5ZHeHJpZnA3XzZVeDA/view?usp=sharing)