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Lighting Problem With Older Passenger Cars

Jess models HO scale and asks readers:

  • Do you have any experience with older, lighted passenger cars – HO scale?
  • I bought a set and cannot get the light to work.  Only one car had a bulb and interior wiring.
  • I did test the light with alligator clips, and the bulb works when tethered with the clips to the track.
  • I can’t figure out how the current gets to the bulb.
  • I have included pics.  My restricted knowledge of electricity is confused on where the copper pickups need to draw their current.
  • I think if I could position the front to pick up the right lane and the rear to pick up the left it would work.

lighting in older HO scale passenger cars

Any input would help. 

4 Responses to Lighting Problem With Older Passenger Cars

  • Dale says:

    First, check to make sure that the wires from the contacts to the lamp are intact.

    From the picture, it looks like the power is picked up by wipers touching the axles. To work, the wheelset and axle needs to be metal and one wheel on each axle needs to be insulated from the axle. So, use an ohm meter to test that there is connectivity from the axle to a wheel on one end and not on the other.

    Each truck has two wheelsets so make sure that the insulated wheels are both on the same side of the truck. The trucks must be installed so that one has the insulated wheels on one rail and the other has them on the other rail. If the lamp is an incandescent bulb, polarity won’t matter; for LEDs it will so some testing should be required.

    • Jessie Shirley says:

      Thx Dale, I actually found this info on a very old thread. I couldn’t figure out how the wheels knew positive and negative 🙂 I have it up and “flickering”. Who knew one side was insulated! Thanks for you response. If you have a suggestion about the flickering, I’d like to hear it.
      Again, thanks for your help.

  • Hervey says:

    From what I see you have one wiper per truck. This means your power to your lights is coming from the contact of 1 wheel for the positive and 1 wheel for the negative. Unless you have the cleanest track and wheels known to man you will always have some flickering. You might be able to get around it with an additional wiper on each truck to the axle that is not supplying power currently. Another option would be to use a capacitor to fill in while the axle is not able to.
    The size and wiring of the capacitor would be a good project but you will have to do some research.

  • Frank B says:

    Ideally, it is good to have electrical pickup from every wheel. The axles are easy to pick up from, just a metal strip or wire touching it with a light pressure. If you are clever (like me !-), you can fit another wire and contact to touch the opposite wheel for picking up current from the other rail.

    A railroad modeller needs a good basic understanding of electricity, and preferably also electronics. I suggest buying a basic book on railroad modelling, there usually contain a section on basic electrics. There are also free online courses on electronics.

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