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Solving The Problem of Dim Lights in Passenger Cars

Club member Michael M asks readers:

“I want to improve the lighting in my passenger cars? The lights are very dim and not easily noticeable unless the room is completely dark. I seem to recall reading somewhere that capacitors store DC current, so presume they will provide a constant voltage to the lighting? It is all a bit confusing. Can anyone help.”

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7 Responses to Solving The Problem of Dim Lights in Passenger Cars

  • samuel colmansays:

    for the different scales, they have LED light kits, you can look on the web and find articles on O gage lighting for passenger cars, like i did, you can make them up your self or buy one and copy it. if you don’t understand the electric part just buy the boards.

  • Frank Bsays:

    DCC track has a constant 12 volts AC, so there is plenty of power available for carriage lighting.

    On DC track, you have a voltage that is set to control the train speed, from 0 to 12 volts. Typical carriage lighting is designed for 12 V, so for much of the time it will be very dim.

    So for DC, you can fit small rechargeable batteries to provide lighting, LED lighting is best because it uses much less power than the old incandescent bulbs. For older pattern rolling stock, make sure to use warm white LEDs to reproduce the effect of the old bulbs.

    For DC, I think it would be possible to use 12 volt (or greater) super-capacitors to run the lighting in the carriages, if they charged up through a diode bridge whilst the track voltage was high (train running fast), and powered the lights through a step down module to provide constant brightness.

    I recommend every railway modeller to study the basics of electricity and electronics, there are many free courses available online.

  • Gustavosays:

    Hi, Michael. As Samuel mentioned, you can use LED lighting. If you don’t want to spend too much money buying brand kits, here’s a video that explains how to do it at a much more affordable price. https://youtu.be/v9zq5Ay5Ua0

  • Sheldon Clarksays:

    Capacitors smooth out fluctuations in voltage (“stay-alive” feature) or release power in a big bang (point solenoid motor control). I don’t see the point of having bright lights inside trains during daylight – you don’t see it in real life; I suspect your lights are quite realistic.

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    I have changed all my incandescent lighting over to LED lights. I got a 5 meter roll of LED strips from China for a few $$ that can be cut after every third one. I also ordered about 20 SMD full wave bridge rectifiers from China for a few $$. Since I usually save all electronic parts I had some 3200uF capacitors. I use a strip of 12 LED’s per passenger car. The capacitors have a + and a – side as do the LED strips. The full wave bridge rectifiers have a ~ ~ on one side which is the input side and they have + and – on the other. You take the positive and the negative side coming from the trucks and solder them to the ~ and ~ on the bridge rectifier. It doesn’t matter which goes to each ~. The outputside has a + and a – and those must be soldered to the + and – side of the LED strip. You must solder the + on the capacitor to the + side of the LED strip and the – to the – side of the LED. I usually put the full wave bridge rectifier at one end of the LED strip and solder the capacitor to the other end of the LED strip. That way I can hide the capacitor in an inconspicuous place in the passenger car. The full wave bridge keeps the LED’s lit in either direction, i.e., they stay lit when backing the train up. The capacitor provides for flicker free lighting. I wouldn’t use anything under a 3200uF capacitor.
    I had ordered the bright white LED’s and found out that they were too bright for my application but there’s a way around that as well. I took the car apart and painted each little LED with yellow acrylic paint and now they look very good even better than the warm white LED’s. (My wife’s suggestion which worked quite well)

  • David Broadsays:

    My coach lights are LEDs and I have capacitors and rectifiers on board and they work fine with old tired locos which need a lots of volts to do a decent speed but are absolutely hopelessly dim at any realistic speed with modern high efficiency locos. Solutions are on board batteries, DCC or High frequency lighting, an onboard voltage limiter might work with different resistors but I’m skeptical

  • David Stokessays:

    Michael – why waste time and effort lighting your cars so you can see the lights in “daylight”. Surely the point of lit cars is for when it is dark and your model passengers need to read of move around. Don’t sweat the small stuff brother.

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