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Broadway Limited Imports Rolling Thunder subwoofer system

Read this review from Model Railroader magazine
BLI Rolling Thunder subwoofer system

Price: $249.99 (subwoofer and receiver), $99.99 (receiver only)

Comments: The physical size of the on-board speakers of locomotive models limits their ability to reproduce the low-frequency bass sounds of the prototype. The Broadway Limited Imports Rolling Thunder system wirelessly synchs an under-the-layout subwoofer with the firm’s new Paragon3 line of locomotives to reproduce the missing bass sounds.

The subwoofer cabinet measures 6.5" x 15.5" x 17.5" and is supported by four 1.75" plastic legs. The round 8" diameter polycarbonate speaker faces the floor.

The receiver’s red plastic housing measures 1" x 4" x 4" and includes its own 12V power supply. The supplied RCA plug-equipped cable connects the receiver to the subwoofer cabinet. For those who already have a subwoofer, the receiver can be purchased separately.

After connecting the receiver to the speaker, I plugged both components into a standard wall outlet, then turned them on. Knobs on the bottom of the cabinet adjust the level and the low-pass frequency. Rolling Thunder works only with BLI Paragon3 locomotives.

UPDATE: 2/2/2016: Broadway Limited Imports has announced plans to release Paragon3 Rolling Thunder upgrade kits for BLI Paragon2 locomotives. The first four upgrade kits will be for the Paragon2 Electro-Motive Division SD7/9, EMD SD40-2, General Electric C30-7, and Baldwin "sharknose" diesel. Additional upgrade kits will be announced as the Paragon3 boards become available. Each upgrade costs $129 for the kit ($99 if a customer returns the old Paragon2 board), or BLI will install the board for $164. Check the BLI website for more information.   

I placed a Paragon3 M1a on the track, and after a few seconds felt the “thump-thump” of the locomotive’s air pumps as if I were standing next to its full-size prototype. I found the effect most dramatic as the steamer got underway. The pounding of each exhaust chuff is synchronized with the locomotive sound system. The Rolling Thunder system completed the illusion of standing trackside while one of Pennsy’s finest roared by.

The receiver will pick up locomotives at a maximum range of about 15 feet. Instead of abruptly cutting off beyond 15 feet the effect fades out in a Doppler-like fashion. In our layout room, the receiver picked up the Paragon3 locomotive in a 15 x 20-foot area. Larger layouts require two or more receivers to ensure consistent operation.

Rolling Thunder works with only one locomotive at a time. For those running multiple Paragon3 locomotives, the receiver will pick up the closest locomotive. When using multiple Rolling Thunder receivers, a modeler can use CV212 to change the transmitter channel (1 to 29). For example, one Rolling Thunder unit could be assigned to the locomotives running along a branch line, while another unit will only pick up engines running along the main.

Other CVs adjust the subwoofer volume and the transmitter power. These are all clearly outlined in the included instruction booklet.

Those who run Paragon3 locomotives on direct-current layouts won’t miss out. I ran our Paragon3 M1a with the Rolling Thunder system on a DC test track without any problems.

The Rolling Thunder system is an impressive, easy-to-use enhancement to model railroad sound.

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