Lighting a Passenger Car

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by nkp174, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I could use a little advice.

    I'm scratch building the first (of many) 1880s On3 passenger cars. O scale cars look bad without I'm going to want to light up the interiors...realistically...which probably means oil lamps in the clerestory. (for non-1860 to 1960 modelers...the raised center roof...I'm also guessing oil lamps as the gas lamps were not really feasible except in the New York area where the fuel factory was located)
    Therefore, as I've just about finished the outer sheathing/windows of the car...I need to consider how to light them. What lighting methods have you heard of to represent oil lamps? This would be a similar color to 19th century headlights. I also need them to be small. I don't view the lights being in the clerestory as long as the car is illuminated with adequate illusion to appear as if it could be.

    The other key ingredient is DCC. Has anyone wired passenger cars to be equipped with on/off lights just like engines? I'd love to incorporate such an accessory I need to plan the wiring layout now...before I begin gluing the wall assemblies together.

    Here's the car's thread...

    I can also promise a future thread about scratch building the trucks...I've been performing research and I've been testing my construction methods on a prototype freight truck.

    Thank you.
  2. I would go with warm-white LED's, though O-scale is large enough you could use tiny incandescant bulbs, too. This months RMC (Railroad Model Craftsman) has an article on passenger car lighting, with surface-mount LED's, and the article highlights their usefullness in replicating the even lighting of passenger cars, by locating the lights with the same spacing as the lighting of the prototype.
    As for the color, you can always fine-tune it with thin coats of tinted translucent paint.
  3. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I'll need to acquire a copy of that issue...I appreciate the suggestions...especially painting the lights to fine tune them!


    Any other ideas?
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    In O scale, I would be tempted to use grain of rice/wheat incandescant bulbs to most closely match the glow of the oil lamp.

    The lights in the clerestory might be the easiest to replicate, partly due to the fact that the wiring and bulbs are not easily visible ;)

    For a 1915 version of clerestory lights in a passenger car:

  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If I were putting lights in an O scale car, I'd go with LEDs. Since they don't get hot like a bulb, you could build a lamp body around them using styrene, designed so the leads extend upward into the clerestory, then solder them to contacts mounted on the underside of the roof. I'd power them with batteries, as the very least flicker will destroy the illusion. (Most powered model trains will run through small dead spots on the track without stopping or hesitating, but the lights will still flicker.) Depending on track power for lighting will compromise the work that you're putting into this model. You can install a magnetic reed switch beneath the roof for on/off control.

  6. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I've debated the battery or track power issue with myself...I think a capacitor with track power is a nice it eliminates the flicker...or a constant lighting circuit.

    I like the idea of being able to encase the bulbs in styrene...although I doubt I could fit them into my favorite style of Westlake fixtures.

    I've also considered those small grain of bulbs...but I don't know how large they are.

    I've never done anything with lighting never really interested me before. I've been wondering how large those grain of wheat bulbs from my old Walthers catalogs were.

    Ironically, since I double sheath's easier to hide the wiring in the car sides than in the clerestory...while every other car that I've ever seen is the reverse...but I have to have a plan in advance!

    Pitsch lights became the standard just a few years after my time period...and they'd be the easiest (and best) to model in the clerestory.

    Thank you so far!
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I used to like fooling around with lights in structures and trains, but now I not only don't bother, I usually go to the trouble of removing the existing lights from locos, prefer extra weight to working lights.
    When I referred to mounting the LEDs upside down, I envisioned the leads being soldered to a pair of parallel bus bars, brass or phosphor bronze, mounted on the underside of the clerestory roof. This would hold the lights in place, and the twin leads, when viewed through the windows, would look something like the gimbal-style mounting used on the prototype. You could run wires from the ends of the bus bars to the switch/battery, or wheels, as you choose, routing them through the framed walls.
    You could use tubing (brass or styrene) and a few discs, punched from the same material, to make simple lamps, built right onto the LEDs.
    I just measured a grain-of-wheat bulb, and it's about one O scale foot long, with about 9" of that being clear. There's also about another foot of wire lead extending from the bulb which is very stiff, (coated either with a sealant or glass from the bulb) then the insulated leads, which are very flexible.

  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Good stuff! Thank you!

    I have an Athearn 2-8-2 which, while doing some slight detailing upgrades, it lost its functioning headlight for a proper Pyle w/visor casting from PSC. I did drill a hole in the casting for if I want to add lights later...but I've never really missed the light.
  9. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    That was one of my cases of removing lights for more weight, although I took that a bit further. Boosted output...
    I use MV Products polymer lenses in place of working lights. They make them in a wide variety of sizes, and several colours, too, and there's one that will fit almost any commercial headlight casting. They can also be made to work with a functioning light, which looks extremely realistic, (if you're into working lights). :rolleyes:

    I've always felt that working lights contribute to the general paranoia about track cleaning: as soon as lights are observed to be flickering, :eek: out come the track cleaners. :rolleyes: Often, the loco itself continues on as if nothing is amiss, with no hesitation or faltering as it passes over the spot that caused the headlight to flicker. The flickering light draws the operators attention to a supposed problem. I'm not saying that some people don't have a need to clean track, but I think the problem may be exagerrated by this. I haven't cleaned track in over 15 years. :thumb::-D:-D

  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Plus you have the advantage of running the era when (I believe) lights were for night and flags were for days...! ;) :D

  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    That's true, I suppose, and my LPBs refuse to work shifts, so there's never a situation where lights are needed. ;)

  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Hmm...I've been thinking of something very similar to your air tanks...

    My next styrene purchase will include adequate material to build two platform cars...a flat car and a coal car (DSP&P speak for gondola). I've thought about attempting to use brass for the frame...or at least part of it...and then filling it with lead. The option I'm probably going to use for my first couple cars will be to place the weight on the underside of the deck and then build a shallower frame underneath. The side sills will still be to hide the weights.

    Ironically...I'm more concerned about having lit passenger cars & waycars (cabeese) than having lit headlights. Actually...I'm more interested in have lit fireboxes than lit headlights :mrgreen:
  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    You should be able to find sheet lead somewhere, maybe a plumbing supply place. I picked up some at a place that makes lead ornamental flower pots. It's about .035" thick (you can cut it with a utility knife). I used it in these Intermountain composite gondolas,

    placing it atop the kit's sub-floor, then installed the interior floor over the lead. I don't recall what the car weighed originally (it came without a weight), but it now weighs about 3.25 ounces and tracks well anywhere in a train.


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