Throttle Modes

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Check out our video overview of all of the Throttle Modes available in TCS WOWSound, or continue reading for detailed descriptions of each mode individually

Prototype Throttle Mode

Proto Notch

Proto Notch™ is the TCS exclusive approach to matching the motive power sounds of your model locomotive with the prototype. Using our advanced BEMF motor algorithm, Proto Notch™ decoders can sense exactly how much force is being applied to the rails to move your locomotive and train. By matching that information with prototype performance, we can scale the effort of the model to the real thing and play the right sound to match the work being done.


WOWDiesel decoders are configured with diesel-specific prototypical notching. The WOWDiesel decoder selects which notch (1-8) the prototype locomotive would have to be in to haul your scale load at your scale speed. Then it plays the corresponding prime mover sound to emulate the correct power for that notch.


WOWSteam decoders are configured with variable chuff intensity to emulate prototypical throttling. Your locomotives will make faster and harsher chuff sounds as you ramp up speed or increase the load, and soften to slower and smoother chuffs under lighter loads and less pressure. When the locomotive is coasting, rod clanks and snifters also activate depending on coasting rate and track grade.

The video below can teach you all you need to know about Prototype Throttle Mode:

WOWDiesel Auto Notching

TCS brought auto notching to the model train hobby with the advent of the very first WOWDiesel decoder. It is arguably the coolest feature of the WOWSound decoder!

Auto notching is only available in the Prototype Throttle Mode. Auto notching allows the decoder to sense the load it is under, and decide what notch to be in. Auto notching is unlike Traditional Throttle Mode where the active notch is based exclusively on the speed. With Auto notching the prime mover sound is constantly changing as it goes up hills, around curves, picks up more cars, and coasts down hills!

In order to make the best use of auto notching, you must calibrate the locomotive in Audio Assist® so it knows what the ruling grade is on your layout and will be in notch 8 as it traverses it. Every locomotive is different, both in the sense of unqiue characteristics of the motor and gearing, as well as the "normal" operating conditions in which you run it. All of these factors need to be accounted for, and thus a calibration is needed in order for the decoder to "learn" your railroad.

To calibrate your WOWDiesel locomotive so that it knows the ruling grade and downhill grades on your layout enter Audio Assist® and go to the calibration menu (menu 3.2) and follow the audio prompt from the decoder. It will ask you to run the locomotive in a coasting condition and then a notch 8 condition. (PRO TIP: While on the calibration menu you can calibrate the coasting point by pressing function 1 or the notch 8 point by pressing button 2, even if the menu is telling you to do otherwise)

Behind the scenes Audio Assist® is saving the calibration data to indexed CV4:17 BEMF Calibration Low and CV4:18 BEMF Calibration High both CV's can be programmed tweaked manually. TCS recommends calibrating using Audio Assist® and then manually tweaking the CV's if need be.

WOWSteam Auto Chuff Intensity

WOWSteam Auto Chuff Intensity

Other Prototype Throttle Mode Features

In Prototype Throttle Mode, the default momentum values are set to the "Mainline Momentum" values stored in the decoder as part of the Momentum Modes feature. The Mainline Momentum values are typically high momentum values which create a more realistic operating experience. The higher momentum values require you to use the Train Brake to slow down your train, rather than simply using the speed control on your throttle.

Traditional Throttle Mode

Traditional throttle mode is how sound decoders of the past would "traditionally" operate, where the chuff intensity was one constant volume, or the prime mover notch is related directly to the speed. E.G. every (n) speed steps (of 128 speed steps) is a different notch, so the faster you go the higher the notch you will be in.

See the video below for a demonstration of Traditional Throttle Mode:

Configuration Options

Traditional throttle mode can be selected though and can be selected using Audio_Assist® menu 4.1. Both WOWSteam and WOWDiesel support Traditional Throttle Mode.

(WOWDiesel ONLY): The speed setpoints that the prime mover changes notches are controlled by CV165 through CV172 - where CV165 controls when the locomotive goes into Notch 1 and CV172 controls what speed step the locomotive goes into Notch 8.

(WOWSteam ONLY): To adjust the volume of the Chuff while in Traditional Throttle Mode, you need to change the volume level for the sound type "Chuff." This can be done easily through Audio Assist®. Note that making this change to the Chuff volume type will affect the maximum volume that the Chuff can reach when in Prototype Throttle Mode.

Other Traditional Throttle Mode Features

When you select Traditional Throttle Mode, the momentum values are set to the "Switching Momentum" values stored in the decoder as part of the Momentum Modes feature. The Switching Momentum values are typically low momentum values which disregard realism in favor of a "snappy" and "slot-car-like" operating experience which closely ties the speed of the locomotive to the speed on your handheld throttle. While it is still possible to slow down your locomotive using the Train Brake, it is not a requirement with Traditional Throttle Mode. That said, you can use the Momentum Modes feature to switch back to Mainline Momentum in case you only want to have the notching or chuff intensity be constant but the momentum be realistic.

Manual Notching Throttle Mode (WOWDiesel)

WOWSound from TCS is the original "Full Throttle" diesel decoder. We call it "Manual Notching" but the feature is essentially the same. Manual notching is available on every WOWSound diesel decoder ever made, beginning with Version 1 released back in January of 2015, as part of our overall Proto Notch™ experience.

What is Manual Notching?

Manual Notching allows you to independently adjust the prime mover sound or "notch sound", and separately control the speed of the locomotive. Real life locomotives can be set in notch eight but operating at slow speed because of a heavy train and steep grade. Your TCS decoder by default is configured to Prototype Throttle Mode, giving you the correct load-based sound!

Manual Notching is for users who like to run prototypically without letting the decoder have all the fun of Auto Notching. If you'd like to move notch sounds manually, there are two modes: Semi-Manual Notching and Full-Manual Notching.

The main advantage of TCS' Manual Notching, when compared to many other implementations by other manufactures, is that with a WOWSound decoder you can completely separate the locomotive physical speed and RPM while still retaining complete control of both simultaneously. Additionally, entering and exiting manual notching is simple. Continue reading to learn more.

How do I use Manual Notching?

Using the throttle, you set the desired speed of the loco, and by using the Manual Notch up (default button 10) and Manual Notch down (default button 11) you can change the notch sound to the desired notch. Yes it is that simple! The notch sound you manually select locks in and overrides the current throttle mode's selected notch setting.

Semi-Manual Notching

The manual notch buttons are always active regardless of which Throttle Mode is selected; however, when not in the Manual Notching Throttle Mode, manual changes are overridden when a speed change is made. For example if you are in Traditional Throttle Mode and running down a hill you may want to manually notch down, and then when you reach the bottom of the hill, changing the speed will revert the notch back to what it was before going down the hill. (Note that this is the behaviour you would observe when in Prototype Throttle Mode.) While in manual notch mode speed changes do not override the manual notch setting.

With semi-manual notching active, when you change the throttle the decoder automatically takes back control and sets the appropriate notch sound as determined by the active throttle mode. Ergo, the notching will return from manual to autpomatic if you change the speed of the locomotive.

Full Manual Notching

With the Manual Notching Throttle Mode active, you can manually select the notch by pressing the notch up or notch down buttons. Meanwhile you can still control the speed as your normally would without affecting the active notch setting. This gives full control of both the speed and notch to you simultaneously and completely independently! With full manual notching active, the decoder does not take back over the selected notch when you change the throttle. You remain in full control of the selected notch at all times. To override the decoder's selected notch setting simply use the Manual Notch up and down buttons at any time. Manual Notching overrides the automatically selected notch sound. You can notch up before you even move the locomotive!

Can I remap the Manual Notching buttons?

Yes. By default, TCS "Manual Notch Up" is button ten, and "Manual Notch Down" is button eleven; however, if Manual Notching is something that you would like to use often then we recommend you re-map the Manual Notch buttons which are more accessible such as three and four respectively. Moving the notch buttons to buttons three and four makes it more convenient to access them on most throttles compared to the default of buttons ten and eleven. This remapping be done very simply through Audio Assist®, without the need to ever program a CV.

Ultimately, the most fun, premier, and realistic way to notch your locomotive is to allow the exclusive TCS Auto-Notching feature to control the notch sound. The decoder automatically sets the notch according to the load, not the speed. That said, manual notching is another one of TCS' pioneering features which gives you a true "in-the-cab" experience!

See the video below for more information and a demonstration: