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In 2021, a new feature was introduced to LionChief locomotives in both Ready-to-Run sets and separate sale locomotives. Equipped with Bluetooth BLE 5.0 and other supporting hardware, these locomotives support streaming voice sounds from the smart-device to the locomotive’s speaker. These sounds can either be real-time or prerecorded messages saved to the APP.

VSR was released for the LionChief Bluetooth APP for both iOS and Android. The Cab3 APP supports this feature as well. When the APP is connected to a VSR-equipped locomotive, swipe the screen to the right from the homescreen to view the VSR menu. 

Once in the VSR menu, you’ll notice 3 separated sections as well as a “Live” button at the bottom left. These are part of the VSR feature. You’ll also still have real-time access to the connected locomotive’s throttle, horn/whistle, bell, and dialog buttons.


Live Streaming

The “Live” button at the bottom left of the screen is used for streaming real-time audio from the smart-device’s microphone to the locomotive’s speaker. Holding the VSR Live button down streams your voice. When you release the button, the audio will immediately stop streaming. While VSR Live is streaming, the button will turn blue.

Note! During Live voice streaming, other buttons on the VSR Menu are disabled except for the throttle slider.

Note! During Live voice streaming, you may notice a delay of approximately half a second from when you speak to when the audio plays from the locomotive’s speaker. This is normal as it takes the APP a little time to process the audio data and send the data across the Bluetooth stream.


VSR Recording

The voice streaming and recording feature allows for up to three recordings to be saved and played back at any time. On the VSR Menu screen, you can see buttons 1, 2, and 3. These are the buttons pressed to play those three recordings. When you first enter the VSR Menu, only the “REC” and “folder” buttons are available to tap on for the three recording channels. This is because there are no recordings saved yet.

To create a saved recording of your voice, tap on the “REC” button next to each corresponding number. The “REC” button will turn blue, and a 60 second timer will begin.

Speak clearly into your smart-device’s microphone. When you wish to stop recording, tap on the “REC” button again. The recording will stop, and the “REC” button will turn back to orange. If the 60 second timer ends before you end the recording, the recording will end automatically.

The button for channel #1 will now be available, as is the “trash” button. Simply tap on the #1 button to play the saved recording to the engine’s speaker.

You can record additional announcements in the #2 and #3 channels using the same procedure outlined above.

Note! During streaming, other buttons on the VSR Menu screen are disabled except for the throttle slider.

The “trash” button next to each channel can be used to clear the saved recording from that channel. When tapped, you will get a prompt asking if you are sure if you want to delete that recording. Note that once deleted, a recording cannot be recovered. You will need to rerecord the announcement.


VSR Volume Level

In the Engine Volume Menu, the volume of VSR is controlled by the “Master Volume” slider, which also changes the volume level of all other sounds on the engine. If you wish to lower the volume of VSR but still have control of the volume levels of other sounds such as the whistle and bell, use the individual dialog volume slider.. This will change the volume level of VSR as well as the dialog that comes with the train. For more on volume settings, click here.

Note! When recording your own voice, the volume of the recording is impacted by the distance from your mouth to the smart-device’s microphone. For clear, loud announcements, it is recommended to place the microphone approximately six inches from your mouth while you speak. The volume level will be reduced at further distances. This can also be observed when using the Live voice streaming feature.

VSR-Compatible Locomotives

Locomotives that are equipped with VSR are currently only LionChief Ready-to-Run set engines and separate sale engines that have Bluetooth BLE 5.0. The engines first appeared in the Lionel 2021 Big Book catalog. When looking at the catalogs, web listings, or product manuals, a VSR icon will be shown to indicate the feature is supported.

VSR & Smart-Device Compatibility

Not all smart-devices are compatible with the VSR feature. Voice streaming over Bluetooth requires a high transfer rate of data. At a minimum, this requires BLE 5.0 in not only the Lionel locomotive, but also the smart-device controlling it. The smart-device also needs a capable processor that can handle the data at a rate capable of keeping up with the transmission.

Many tracphone-type devices typically do not have processors that are fast enough for VSR to work properly.

Additionally, some smart-device manufacturers limit the BLE transfer rate in their proprietary code. One such manufacturer is Samsung. Some of their devices do not allow a high enough BLE transfer rate for VSR to work properly. One example is the Samsung S21 Ultra.

Given the high number of different manufacturers and devices supporting the Android system, Lionel cannot guarantee your specific device will be VSR compatible.