Monday, 6 February 2017

Creating Authentic Station Announcements


I recently downloaded a program from the RailPage chat forum called DVA 5, and started the fun project of creating sound files for the station announcements on Philden. The program was written and copyrighted by Jonathan Boles back in 1999-2000 and I believe it was the same program used by CityRail to collate their station platform announcements across the Sydney network. With the program now obsolete, Jonathan posted the links to download the Javascript program which he updated to version 5.3.4 on 8th January 2017. Not wanting to be one who violates any redistribution laws, I've simply included the link to Jonathan's post on railpage.com.au below, for those who want to download the program for their own personal use.



The program setup file is 27.1 MB in size, is free to download and is also free of any addware. It was simple enough to install and even placed a groovy little CityRail L7 logo as the icon on my desktop. On the screenshot above, you'll notice that the left hand column shows the different sound file catalogs, including Sydney-Female and Sydney-Male. Sydneysiders will remember that the male voice that made the platform announcements on the CityRail network was that of Grant Goldman, the 2SM breakfast radio guy, Manly Sea Eagles ground announcer and now the voice of Sky Channel. He was of course replaced by the female voice of Taylor Owynns around 2010. Before recording the announcements for what is now known as SydneyTrains, Taylor was already famous for being the voice of Lulu on the popular children's show Bananas In Pyjamas.

Anyway, using Grant's booming male voice to fit the 1995-2005 era that I model, I soon started playing around using the 1,251 pre-recorded sayings that Mr Goldman had recorded during his time, to collaborate my own CountryLink station announcements for Philden's South North West Explorer. As my fictional Explorer train goes everywhere except east, (or it would fall into the ocean off the coastline of Australia), I had a bit of fun recording the following announcements. Simply press the play button on each of the following clips below to hear what I mean.

There's this train that goes anywhere ending in 'O'.



Or this train going everywhere ending in 'I'.



Or perhaps you'd like to ride this train heading everywhere ending in 'E'.



Or perhaps you'd like a ticket to anywhere ending in 'A'.



Each file you create can be exported as an MP3 file into a folder of your choosing. I then uploaded the MP3 files above to a free sound file sharing site called Clyp, which I felt was a safer way of publicly sharing these examples than providing a link to each MP3 file stored on my Google Drive account. I figured those serious enough to want to add these station announcements to their own layouts, would simply have way more fun downloading the program and creating their own announcements.

After the fun of creating some bogus station announcements had passed, I soon took out my 1990's railway timetables and began compiling announcements for the trains listed within them, starting with all the CountryLink Explorer trains that I could simulate passing through Philden. I then moved onto the CityRail services that I'm going to pretend my 2 car Sydney suburban double-decker is substituting for on my upper level.

So far, I've created over 40 MP3 files. Next up, I'm going to load the completed files onto an iPod Mini Shuffle and connect it to a small hidden speaker beneath my layout. I figure that playing a different station announcement each time my same 2 car Explorer set or double-decker electric train comes and goes from my station, will do wonders to help create the illusion that my models actual connect to somewhere beyond the layout. Because having a small layout sometimes calls for a bit of creative thinking outside the box.



Speaking of boxes, another feature of the DVA 5 program is the station indicator boards. Clicking the indicator tab will open the boxes that enable you to call up various services from actual timetables, and alter the arrival times and platform numbers etc., before sitting back and watching the station names scroll up on the screen just as the blue computer screen indicators do at the Sydney stations that are fitted with them. Perhaps after I have the sound files finished and working in time for the Brisbane Model Train Show in May this year, I can then look at building a working replica indicator screen into the upper level expansion on my layout. Or at least I can have the program open and running on the desk in front of my layout when I running my trains.

Finally, in keeping with the light-hearted approach to my modelling, I'll leave you with one final clip in honour of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks winning last year's NRL Premiership. The Up, Up Cronulla service.



Next week I'm heading to Sydney for a short break where, apart from some general sightseeing, I'll be scouting a few train stations in the hope of finding some inspiration for the NSW A-8 centre platform station building on my upper level layout extension. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Phil,
    An interesting write up, you never know whats next on your blog.
    Now you being a writer, I'll have to fail you. Your stations ending with the letter "E" includes MullumbimbY, KempseY, HornsbY, BlayneY, AlburY, HentY and SydneY.
    But thanks for including Mt. Kuring-gai.
    The ending with "A" suffers the same malfunction.

    Bob

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    1. I know, I know. But I exercise the right of poetic license. That being that the short and long vowels can constitute an artistic interpretation of the cross-pollination of the English vocabulary. In Australian, that translates as what rhymes is fines, i.e. "I'm a poet and I know it." See? Good enough. Thanks for putting a smile on the dial, oh damn. See. I did it again!

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  2. Phil,
    Like A B Paterson on a train - poetry in motion.
    Bob

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  3. Phil, what link did you use to the program in RP? Every link I clicked on seemed to lead to an error page.

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    Replies
    1. When the links don't seem to be working, I believe it is because the file is hosted on a private server which is not always up and running. In the meanwhile, I've found another site here; https://github.com/jaboles/DVA5 that had the files and instructions for downloading, set-up etc. Look for the file name DVA4 or DVA5 to download, if you can work all that sort of stuff out. I know the program needs Java script installed on your computer to be able to run on Windows. Otherwise just drop me an email from my About Me page and I will email you the DVA5 setup file. It's 27.1 MB in size. I just can't embed a setup.exe file on Blogger to make it available as a direct download.
      Cheers, Phillip

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil