In August 2013 I had the opportunity to record a rare diesel powered train from the 1950’s. This was a long time coming but it finally happened thanks to a few friends and the really cool guys who were tasked with making the machine operational. Here is the back story. In 2011 during the recording of North Country Trains sound effects library I stumbled upon the old locomotive parked along the switching tracks in Ponderay Idaho. It look as though it was being refurbished but I was not sure. A few days later I asked around town and a friend of mine actually knew about the train and who was working on it. He told me he would look into it. A few weeks later he called and told me it was going to start up very soon and would I be available to record on short notice. Of course I said “Oh yeah, I can be ready at a moments notice!”
While recording the floodwaters here today I happened to see a train heading for town so I stopped at the Sandpoint train station and waited. A minute later the train pulls up and stops right in front of me! I did not expect this to happen as they usually just pass through town slowly on their journey. I had the microphone on a boom pole and was barely hanging on to it as it was very windy. I did not have a chance to take any photos or video as I was caught by surprise at the train actually stopping and I did not want to let go of the boom pole. Here is the 24-Bit 96k sound recorded with a Sennheiser MKH-8040ST set to XY/120 Degrees (wider is good!)
This track has some nice air brake releases and electrical generator power-ups along with a few BIG rail car slack action metal impacts. This is free to download for a limited time only at 24-Bit 96K. Enjoy! No April fools around here! -Frank
Please Note: The Recordist standard End User License applies to these free sound effects.
This train pulled up from the south and stopped in right front of me (talk about luck!) while I was sitting on a bench at the train station all alone. The train was waiting for the track switch to engage. After the switch was ready he pulled forward a few hundred feet then stopped again. That’s when the rail cars slammed and banged against each other.
This train was heading South and as I waved to the engineer he gave me two quick horn blasts as he was passing. I noticed the rails looked like they were replaced and the wheels sounded smoother than the last time was at the station recording. Fresh rails make for less squeaks and tension. Smooth rail sailing!
For the last 3 weeks I have never left the ranch without my MKH-8040ST recording rig and today I was thankful that I brought them on a simple errand run into town. Just my luck that there was a tain traffic jam in the City of Sandpoint Idaho. Three trains were attempting to pass through on the same set of tracks at the same time and there was some maintenance going on as well. I heard the train horn as I was at the bank this morning and it was the long set of honks i’ve learned over time that they do when on this rail line that runs East to West.
I was only a mile away from my favorite spot to record them stopping and departing and I beat the train and had just a minute to set up before the first train passed and stopped. Soon after this train stopped another train pulled in on the far side and stopped. Train Jam! The first train pulls forward and leaves without much noise. I waited around for ten minutes and decided it would be better to go around to the other side of the tracks and get close up. I had to get back on the road and drive a half mile around to the other side. All the time I’m hoping the train does not leave and it did not. I set up the microphones about a meter away from the rusty old coal cars on the other side of a tall weed patch and waited… again.
After 20 minutes or so another train passed by the far side and when it had completely traveled onto the dual lane tracks the close train started to leave. Ka-bang! Those rusty old cars make some noise! Screeches, squeaks, metal straining, it’s all in there… and good for you too!
Here is a clip of the 3rd train departing played back at 35% of normal speed. Please note there is no processing except some L2 limiting. This is the slowed down sound.
Here are some select portions of the raw normal playback speed recording:
Here is a sound from December 12, 2011. Late in the day I drove out to one of my favorite locations to record trains (and to enjoy the West view). I had attempted to record 2 stopped trains earlier in the day and was only seconds late after chasing them around town for a while. I did not want the day to be a complete waste so I took a chance that a few more trains would rumble in and stop. Well, they did not stop but a few trains were hauling their heavy cargo to the South so I sat and waited… in the freezing cold… then I saw the lights.
I was not expecting this sound from a train pass by along the lake in a very secluded area. The MKH-8040ST rig was set close to the tracks and captured this strange sound. As the train was approaching from around the corner of a cliff, the tracks started to sound electric!
Train Rail Cars Slack Action 2012
On the morning of January 4th, 2012 as I was driving into town across the Long Bridge into Sandpoint I noticed a stopped train on the other side of the lake. The best part was that I also saw a railroad maintenance truck on the tracks headed toward the parked freight train from the opposite direction. I knew what this meant… no other train would be passing the parked train as it departed. Golden!I turned my car around and headed for the nice quiet area to the south that I have recorded before. This time would be much different, I could finally cleanly record the massive metal impact that I always wanted to get. If only I had my MKH-8040ST microphone and gear with me to get it in all its clanky glory. I had to use my Sony PCM D-50 which I keep in the car at all times. No worries, it came out great!
North Country Trains Video Part-1
Sights and sounds from the recording of North Country Trains HD Professional Sound Effects Library from The Recordist. Part 1: Week 6 of recording freight trains all over the panhandle of Idaho. A Sennheiser MKH-8040ST was used for most of the trains with the occasional spontaneous recording with a Sony PCM D-50 recorder. Sometimes you never know when you will come across a train waiting to continue it’s journey after passing through the beautiful countryside of Sandpoint Idaho.
North Country Trains Video Part-2
Sights and sounds from the recording of North Country Trains HD Professional Sound Effects Library from The Recordist. Part 2: Week 1 through 5 and week 7 of recording freight trains all over the panhandle of Idaho. A Sennheiser MKH-8040ST was used for all of the trains in this video. I went to various locations in and around Sandpoint Idaho and traveled South to isolated crossings to record horn blasts and high speed pass bys. I also was able to get railcars pulling in, stopping and departing with the big metal “boom” the cars make when the get yanked by a mile long train.
I’ve been after this sound for weeks and finally got one! It’s a mile long train departing and when the railcars are empty they make a great slack take up impact when the train starts to pull away. This one was almost perfect, I was on the wrong side of the tracks. The train passing by in front was not quite past since I was at the last 100 yards of the train. Well, anyway it’s one hell of a sound and I hope to get a few clean ones this weekend now that I found the perfect location. Recorded with a MKH-8040ST at 24/96 on December 16, 2011 in Sagle, Idaho USA
North Country Trains Video Part-3
Sights and sounds from the recording of North Country Trains HD Professional Sound Effects Library from The Recordist. Part 3: Weeks 8 and 9 of recording freight trains in and around the panhandle of Idaho. A Sennheiser MKH-8040ST was used for all of the trains in this video. I recorded high speed pass bys in the fog, captured some awesome slack take up coupler impacts and witnessed some cool track vibrations from approaching trains on a curved set of railroad tracks. Some very close up rail car movements with their slow metal stress actions were also recorded. I was able to get the MKH-8040ST within a few feet of the slow moving rail cars and locomotive engines.
Warp Speed Trains Video
Warp speed sights and (tiny toy) sounds from the recording of North Country Trains HD Professional Sound Effects Library played back at 800% warp speed. A mile long train passes by in less then 20 seconds and they can sound like race cars.
November 29, 2011
During a simple grocery run into town I noticed a train stopped on a bridge over the highway. I guessed it might be leaving soon and I knew where to go to get close to it and changed my route. Once I got there I noticed another train was also waiting next to the one I saw on the bridge. I knew I did not have a lot of time before they started moving so I quickly grabbed my Sony D-50 out of the center console of my SUV and ran towards an area near the railcars. I was in postion no longer that 10 seconds and the far train on the other side of the train closest to me started to move. I then heard a huge metal shuttering sound as the cars started moving. The shockwave traveled in each direction down the line of railcars, very cool!
As this first train pulled away I pulled out my iPhone and began recording video while keeping the handheld held D-50 in place. Soon the railcars one meter away in front of me started moving. Now there were trains pulling away in each direction. I wish I had my MKH-8040ST setup with me but since I was only planning to go shopping I left it at the ranch. I am glad the D-50 was charged and ready to go.
Below is the sound of the two trains departing at the approximately at the same time in Ponderay, Idaho. Recorded with a Sony PCM-D50 and pitched down 1 octave. The demo contains selected sounds from the original three and a half minute recording and the download is over 7 minutes of heavy metal grinding and movement. Enjoy! -Frank
Here are some very close train passes recorded with a matched stereo pair of MKH-8040 microphones set in XY at 110 degrees. The microphones were placed less than 2 meters from the fast moving freight train. Five 24-Bit 96K train takes were shortened and edited together… each train takes 3 minutes to completely pass by. The location was in front of the Sandpoint Idaho train station. There is a new freeway opening soon right behind the station and this will most likely be the last time some clean recordings can be obtained there. Listening with headphones is a mind bending experience.
It’s been about 12 years since I recorded a train. When I lived in Seattle I was able to get some great recordings of all kinds of trains in many environments. When I moved to Idaho in 1997 I soon realized that trains were everywhere. North Idaho is the main Northern route from East to West. 60+ trains a day pass through here so there is always a chance to get recordings year round. I recorded many trains back in the late 90’s but they were with a DAT machine and now I wanted to start recording all theses trains at high resolution. So, it begins!
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