Adjusting Lighting Features on the Athearn Genesis SD80MAC

You purchased a brand new Athearn Genesis SD80 MAC with the Soundtraxx Tsunami2 decoder with sound and you think some of the model locomotive lighting features are too dim, specifically, the number boards and ground lights. Keep in mind that these two functions are set from the factory, but fortunately we can adjust them to our taste and layout environment. This is a lot easier than you might think thanks to the Soundtraxx Tsunami2, in fact, everything can be adjusted to your taste but for today let's concentrate on lighting adjustments for the number boards and ground lights. So, grab your SD80MAC, place it on your layout or programing track, grab your throttle, and let’s get to it.

With your throttle in hand let’s start playing with CV (Configuration Variable) values. Let’s start with the ground lights. Enter CV #61, and your throttle will read a value for that CV, in my case, it is a value of 50. Each lighting CV can have a value from 0 – 255, 0 being off and 255 as the highest intensity. For this example, let's change the CV rating from 50 to 255 and select enter (I’m using an NCE throttle). Right away, you’ll notice a huge difference. Now to be honest, ground lights are never this bright in the real world, in fact they are almost an ambient brightness, they are mainly visible in a low light setting, so you’ll want to adjust that setting to your liking based on your layout. If you do low-light operations, maybe a value of 40 – 50 will work for you. Likewise, if you want that a bit brighter, adjust the rating until you are happy with the results. For me, a value of 65 was a good value.

Next, let's work on the number boards. Like the ground lights, these are all but ambient but are a bit brighter as they need to be seen during the day but a low enough light for the numbers to be legible at night. Enter CV #62, it should display the value that was set by the factory, in my case, 70. Once again, enter 255 and select enter. You will see a big difference in lighting intensity. Because these are number boards and not axillary lighting, let's adjust the intensity to a more appropriate level. My layout uses LED lighting so I wanted it a little brighter than the factory value but I only needed to bump it up to 85, again, experimenting with the intensity for your layout will be tailored to your personal taste. Want to see it in real time? Check out this video from DG Modelworks as Deryk walks you through the adjustment of lighting features on the very same model locomotive. "HOW TO" SD80MAC Lighting Improvements for Athearn Genesis with Tsunami 2

Another question we get a lot is for those who are modeling in the ditch light era, is the desire to have flashing or alternating ditch lights when the horn is pressed. This is a practice that Conrail used and has continued with current railroads such as CSX and Norfolk Southern. All Athearn Genesis models that feature ditch lights will have their lighting features set up per the prototype. That means, if the actual locomotive does not have flashing ditch lights in the prototype world, then the model will not either. However, many modelers like to employ a bit of modeler's license and want their model to feature flashing ditch lights despite the prototype's practice. Once again, it’s as simple as adjusting CVs.

Starting with a model locomotive with front ditch lights, enter CV #55, Tsunami2 FX7. Enter a value of 201. Next, CV #56 and enter a value of 233. If your locomotive is equipped with rear ditch lights, we can make those flash as well by entering CV #53 and entering a value of 201 and CV #54 a value of 233. Want to go back to standard non-flashing ditch lights? Simply enter a value of 0 for CVs 55, 56, 53, and 54.

The beauty of Soundtraxx decoders is how much can be adjusted to suit your personal preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different values. If your model has all those neat lighting features, you might as well cater it to your layout and preferences.

Share this article