Lighting a Passenger Car?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jfreden, May 17, 2006.

  1. jfreden

    jfreden New Member

    Hi everyone, I have been screwing around with my set of IHC CB&Q streamline passenger cars for quite some time now. They were awful out of the box but after about a year of TLC they are now my showpiece. The next piece for me is to light these cars, I have looked at several different methods of pickup but not certain which one is the best. After the interior is shoe horned in there is not much room for a simple battery and light bulb so I'm hoping to pick up the power from the tracks. I could use any insight anyone has. Thanks much!
  2. Iron Horse

    Iron Horse Member

    You might want to try an internet search if you are looking for more of a how to. This is how I think it is done and may help you, but this might not work, because I am doing it all from memory. Basically, just trying to help you.

    First, you need metal wheelsets for the car if it doesn't have any. Metal axles too, would be helpful. Metal wheels are insulated on one side w/ plastic in the middle of one wheel (so it doesn't short out the track). You need to face the wheelsets on one truck so the insulated side is on the right, and on the other truck face the insulated side the opposite . This is to complete the circuit. Also, your car must be (i hope) plastic bodied, to insulate the trucks from each other.

    Now, you need wipers (little pieces of copper, usually) to install so they rub on the axles (or wheels) to pick up the power. I have seen them made of sheet copper or also I have seen someone use the insert of a kadee coupler (bent to fit). The wiper needs to touch one or more axles and then probably attach to the (plastic or isolated) truck. Then, you need to attach a wire to this wiper to run up into the car, or use a washer and the screw that holds the truck on to route the power into the car. Then attach a wire to the truck bolt (or your wire from the wipers) to one or more light bulbs , then attach the other lead of the lightbulb to the other truck of the car (If more than one bulb you can do series or parallel, I guess). If the light is to bright use resistors to drop the voltage. You could use LED's too, i guess. Viola, lighting.

    It really sounds more complicated than it is. Most likely all you will need is some light bulbs, and maybe some copper. I hope i helped a little.
  3. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    :wave: welcome to the gauge :wave: there are several makers that have lighting kits that would fit your cars.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you light your cars from the track you will get flickering, unless you are runniing dcc. Do you have any head end cars for the train, baggage car, rpo, or express reefer? If you do, you could put rechargeable batteries in those cars with charging units that pick up power from the rails. Then run wires from the head end cars through miniplugs to the passenger cars.
  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    While I'm personally not a big fan of working lights on anything, partially for the reason that Russ mentioned, I think that his suggestion would be the best solution. I picked up some mini plugs at an electronics supply warehouse: they were multiple pin connectors, probably for computers: you just cut off the number you need. Male and female ones are available: I use them between locos and tenders for improved pick-up. Cheap, too!
    Another thing that you might want to consider is the use of LEDs instead of bulbs: a lot less heat generated, and a much lower current demand.

  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Good point about the leds, Wayne. I thought of them, but didn't mention them in the original post because they need more electronics to lower the voltage from 9 or 12 volts down to 1.5-3 volts. If he is using battery power in a head end car, then it shouldn't be too difficult to get a charging circuit to take the 12 volts from the track and charge a 1.5 volt battery. Another method that might work well for a dining car is to hide a small bulb in one of the underside detail boxes, and use (having a senior moment) you know those clear plastic wire things that carry light. That way you could put individual lights in the center of each dining car table.
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Fibre optics!!:D Something all of us seniors need: more fibre and better optics.:D :D

  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Thanks Wayne. For some reason everytime I want to post something about fibre optics, I can never remember what to call it.
  9. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    You didn't say whether you were using DC or DCC. In either case, you need metal wheels and pickups as described by Iron Horse.

    The next decision is what type and voltage of light bulbs or LEDs you are going to use. There is everything from 1.5 volt bulbs to LEDs to 12 (use with DC) and 14 (use with DCC) volt bulbs. The light bulb decision is also impacted by whether you want to use or have a constant voltage setup and/or battery/capacitor backup.

    DCC already provides a constant voltage (usually about 14 volts) to the track. If you are using DC, there are quite a few constant intensity lighting circuits for use with 1.5 volt bulbs. 1.5 volts is a standard battery cell, so battery backup can be easily incorporated with these bulbs.

    The battery or capacitor systems prevent the light flickering that occurs when you have less-than-perfect rail to wheel electrical contact or are crossing over insulated turnout frogs.

    As you can see, there are lots of workable choices to achieve lighting. More complexity is required to achieve constant brightness and no flickering. But without knowing your choices and situation providing specific recommendations is pretty difficult.

    my thoughts, your choices

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