How to wire lighted accessories (street lights)

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Arc, Dec 23, 2007.

  1. Arc

    Arc New Member

    I got some life-like brass street lamps for my layout and was wondering if it is bad to wire these in parallel? There nice and bright but I don't know how long they will last like that. If I wire them in series they are noticeably dimmer, but they might last longer. This is the only thing hooked up to the acc output of my transformer except for turnouts.

    So can these things take the power? When I was young it seemed like every acc I hooked up melted from the heat of the bulb. But maybe since these are brass, they might not have any heat problems. So how do you guys hook your stuff up?
  2. Chartiers

    Chartiers Still plays with trains

    I'm not sure which ones you got, but last time I used street lights I wired like kind ones in parallel and used an inexpensive DC wall adapter at about half the voltage that the lights were rated for. It dims the bulbs and lets them last a lot longer.
  3. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    It makes sense that wiring the lights in series would make them burn dimmer since you are dividing the voltage by the number of lamps you put in series.

    I've got my streetlamps and structure lamps wired to a cheepo power pack so I can control the brightness. Running the lamps at a volt or two under their rating will extend their life by two or three times or better, but you lose a bit of brightness in the process. If your using an unregulated supply and you wind up with one or two volts higher than their rating, the bulbs could only last maybe one-tenth to one-quarter their normal life.

    One thing you could do is to put a small resistor in series with each bulb, then put that combination in parallel with others like that. The size of the resistor is going to depend on the voltage rating of the bulb and the brightness you're happy with.
  4. Floyd

    Floyd Member

    :wave:EZ how do you go about hooking the lights to a power pack so you can control brightness? I was thinking about some type of dimmer switch or ??. My knowledge of electronics is limited so I need some non-complicated manner of how to control brighness of the street lights on our layout. Any help would be greatly apprciated.
  5. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I hook up my street lights in parallel, but I use those old cheap transformers from train sets and use the DC side(normally for connecting the track to). This way I can control the voltage. I add more lights, I tweak the throttle up.
  6. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Ed is right on. I use the DC, or rail output like he does. Wire them in parallel and connect them to the DC output. Set the control to the lowest setting then gradually increase the setting until you get the brightness you want. It's always better to run them just a bit dimmer, that way the lamps will last a lot longer. Running a 14 volt bulb at 12 volts will increase it's life expectancy by up to ten times its rating. Running a 14 volt bulb at 16 volts will reduce it it's life to maybe just a few minutes at best.
  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Oh, one other thing, the really cheap supplies don't have much power output so you are limited in the number of lamps you can light this way.
  8. Floyd

    Floyd Member

    Thanks for your replies guys.:thumb:
  9. Arc

    Arc New Member

    Yea, thanks! To keep it simple (for me anyway) I decided to wire in parallel and use resistors to drop the voltage. Works great for my setup since I already have a single transformer attached to the layout.

    Here's a shot of my layout: (If you look hard enough, you can see the street lights)


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