Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Have a look at some of the new 2020 designs

Using LED Loco Headlights

Led loco lightsRon posted this suggestion:

“Just to let everyone else know I used LED lights to upgrade diesel engine headlights. They are brilliantly bright white on my diesel engines. If you haven’t tried LED’s I recommend you give them a go. They even light up details on my structures and scenery when the room lights are switched off or dimmed. Just so you know they’re miles better than regular lights, and heaps more realistic. Well that’s my opinion anyway.”

19 Responses to Using LED Loco Headlights

  • Mickaelsays:

    Excellent idea, wish I had thought of it in advance. Well done!!!

  • Bobsays:

    Incandescent bulbs are appropriate for older locos, especially old steamers…they give a genuine yellowish hue to the light. Like you, Ron, I replaced the yellow LEDs in my diesel locos with white ones, and the improvement is outstanding! I don’t know why the manufacturers don’t use the white ones to begin with.

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      Genuinely white LEDs are a relatively recent innovation, I believe. Previously, everyone had to make do with a relatively pale yellow, although in some applications a brighter yellow or orange will be appropriate. Colour photos or video of your chosen prototype (taken at night) will usually be necessary.

  • Ron Pelletsays:

    In would have to try them as to me may be too bright for some reason I like the regular old style bulbs as they add a coziness to the scene… like I said I’d have to see them in person to really make a judgement ….

  • Anandasays:

    I prefer LEDs as well. They are a less drain on your power supplies and if one wants to buy them from a model train parts supplier, they are pretty expensive. I find them much cheaper at local Fry’s though. If the color is a problem one can always get LEDs in amber color as these come in so many different colors.
    Just my thoughts.

  • Frank Bsays:

    White LEDs are available (In a vast range of shapes and sizes) in Cool White or Warm White.
    The latter is appropriate for simulating old type filament bulbs. The brightness required (according to the situation) is controlled by the resistor added in series.

  • Dr. Phool Singh Chauhansays:

    Ron, thanks for sharing your experience with community. LEDs are wonderful devices. They work on very low voltage and consume extremely low energy with long operation life of 50,000-100,000 hours. Also they are unbreakable and comes in different colors, sizes, shapes and flavors like clear, diffused, narrow angle, wide angle, high power and high efficiency for variety of application. They may be used for creating different effects using driving circuits.

  • Bernie piorkowskisays:

    Where can I get some for my o gage Lionel?

  • Tim Ehnessays:

    I love LEDs I use them with fiber optics if they are too bright I use a filter to get the right light level and color .

  • George Smithsays:

    If you have old LED string lights don’t throw them away. They can be a good source for lighting with a little voltage regulator conversion.

  • Robert McFarlanesays:

    I buy LED’s in a range of colours as well as white as they can be used for a multitude of applications, it’s just a matter of buying enough resistors to drop the voltage down and using your imagination. Also, your white LED’s don’t have to be white, you can but tint paints to turn your white LED’s a little yellow, i even paint the base and sides of my LED’s in a coat of silver then a coat of black so the only light coming out is directed forward and is even more powerful.

  • don jenningssays:

    Ron Everyone seems to be in agreement with having the LED lights in diesels.
    Go for it Don J

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    I purchased some strip LED’s from flea bay and installed them in my coaches. I had gotten the bright white ones and when I installed them they looked too bright. Even my wife said the coach didn’t look real (prototypical) so I took it apart and painted each section of 3 LED strips (total of 9) with some yellow acrylic paint. I then re-assembled the coach and it really looked great. So you can change the hue and intensity of the LED’s if you use your imagination. I’m gonna go back to my other installation of LED’s and paint them with yellow acrylic paint to soften the ambience. I also used a full wave bridge and a 3300uf caps so the lights would be lit no matter which direction the coaches travel. They will light forward and backward and the caps provide for flicker free lighting.

  • Col Rannardsays:

    Agree. I’ve done that with some N gauge locos – bright is good where you are replacing a single globe that sits behind the clear plastic light fitting that conducts the light. The biggest problem has been finding room for the resistors. Does anyone know of a source for really tiny resistors?

    • Roland Pintosays:

      Hi Col

      I have some 0805s, 0603s, 0402s. I have used them with LEDs of the same sizes on my locos in N and done some on our clubs HO models here in Adelaide. 1K values are the most commonly used. All you need to do is solder the ends to your LEDS via conduit. Happy to send some to you.


  • Robert OBriantsays:

    Have any instructions on how to convert the recent Athearns (DCC equipped?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add a photo or image related to your comment (JPEG only)

Model Train DCC HELP


Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

Submit your model train questions here.

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

Download Your Free Catalog

N Scale Track Plans

Watch Video

Model Train Help Ebook


FREE Tour Inside Club

Take a FREE tour inside the club.

Scenery Techniques Explained

Scenery & Layout Ideas

Model Railroading Blog Archive

Reader Poll

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.