Yes, there is the power draw penalty. I thinking the NiChrome wire is wrapped around a bimetallic strip and acts as a strip preheater. The resistor would draw current through the strip adding more pre-heat thereby reducing the trip margin. Like Stan said some experimentation would be required to assess feasibility and resistor value. The Lionel 253 Signal could be used. If the signal lights were objectionable, the 253 could be easily modified to essentially a similar look as a Lionel 153IR..