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Hello,

I am looking for a different way of lighting Dept 56 buildings on my Xmas layout. I find dealing with the stock lighting very cumbersome. Last year I made a 20 light cord using standard 18 AWG zip cord and replacement C7 sockets. It helped but I didn’t find it much better than the individual cords from D56.

So I’ve been thinking about making a bus from 20 AWG with some sort of mini female connector about every 12”. The building light would be made using 18”, 22 AWG jumpers with the matching mini male connector. I wouldn’t be using all the connectors on the bus, but having many locations would give me versatility in building placement. Also the smaller gauge wires would be less bulky to run under the ‘snow’.

However, I don’t know if any of this is reasonable using standard C7 bulbs on 120V or what I could use for mini connectors…

I would really like to know what you think of this or if you have any other ideas for lighting D56 buildings.

Thanks,

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

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@Danr posted:

These are not for 120 volts.  But they would be great for LED lighting.

I have seen these and I believe the wire gauge is 26, as you say not good for 120V.  But would they work for just 1 C7 bulb?  That’s the stuff I don’t know.  I’ve also seen JST connectors on Amazon; some are for 20 AWG.  Again, I have no idea if that would be okay for 120V. Maybe 10 bulb strings?

As for LEDs, I don’t think they would work for ceramic buildings.  I don’t think they would make the building ‘glow’.  Though, again, I don’t know.

@trainman129 posted:

Last year I used a string of 12 volt bulbs in screw in sockets. I connected them with small wire nuts and powered them with a 12 volt transformer. Worked well.

I’ve also though about lower voltage bulbs, like the 1447 18V bulbs.  My memory of these bulbs from American Flyer accessories is they are really hot when run for a long time -- much hotter than a C7.  And would they give off enough light to rival a C7 bulb?

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Perhaps some elements of this led conversion will help.  I have a few Lemax buildings.  Same problem big cords.  Converted to led using the following method.  Only had to do it once and leds have lasted for years.  The power comes from the accessory side of transformer, dialed down for my taste to 10 volts DC, through an ac/dc to dc buck converter.

41B8F045-8324-49A0-BA6D-F24ACCA73EC50E7A3BF4-5DC0-4F87-BD9F-995BB3856D03
BC1CD7FE-CA60-4946-B77B-C7D98F234486F754B9F3-784F-4C3F-B241-C18B53D44C2FCFF2EBD7-B31E-42DD-8691-78A346F9C25B687B4E6B-67F5-442B-9265-058DBD7BC6E32AC7ACE7-430C-426B-9FFA-7D2780EBF124

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@TedW posted:

Perhaps some elements of this led conversion will help.  I have a few Lemax buildings.  Same problem big cords.  Converted to led using the following method.  Only had to do it once and leds have lasted for years.  The power comes from the accessory side of transformer, dialed down for my taste to 10 volts DC, through an ac/dc to dc buck converter.

0E7A3BF4-5DC0-4F87-BD9F-995BB3856D03
BC1CD7FE-CA60-4946-B77B-C7D98F234486F754B9F3-784F-4C3F-B241-C18B53D44C2F

This is interesting Ted, thank you.  I like the size of your connectors.  Are the LEDs from a lighting strip that can be cut?  You said they are dimmable too.  It is hard to tell from your pictures if the LEDs make the buildings ‘glow’.  I also realize that ‘glow’ can be rather subjective, so it is hard to compare.  I guess more LEDs could be added to you building for more ‘glow’?

I’ve attached a couple of pix that I feel show the ‘glow’ from C7 bulbs.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

street scenebuilding illumination

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SCOTTY!! I need more power! 😏  Yes the led are from cuttable 15meter reels.  In groups of three, of course.  From the pics below, I don’t think Lemax buildings “glow” like I see your D56 do.  Here is the three led at 12vdc and then I threw in a 24 led strip and still don’t get the glow you do.  I just think your walls are thinner or something.

6A647FBF-1D95-44E4-AD75-277B21897F2B4B6AFD2B-89E4-40A8-8BD0-AF70FBB31A0AF17F209F-40EF-4C2F-A41E-74B43A0B937D2318936D-C6C6-4864-BB2E-CE7226CE5348

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Last edited by TedW
@TedW posted:

SCOTTY!! I need more power! 😏  Yes the led are from cuttable 15meter reels.  In groups of three, of course.  From the pics below, I don’t think Lemax buildings “glow” like I see your D56 do.  Here is the three led at 12vdc and then I threw in a 24 led strip and still don’t get the glow you do.  I just think your walls are thinner or something.

6A647FBF-1D95-44E4-AD75-277B21897F2B4B6AFD2B-89E4-40A8-8BD0-AF70FBB31A0AF17F209F-40EF-4C2F-A41E-74B43A0B937D2318936D-C6C6-4864-BB2E-CE7226CE5348

This is where I get confused.  From what I’ve found on line, brightness is measured in lumens.  They tell me a C7 bulb gives off about 24 lumens.  The strip LED system I found on Amazon is 2140 lumens for 300 LEDs of about 7.13 lumens per LED… also claims to be not dimmable.  Ted, your light stick looks to be 5 LEDs so that should be like 35.67 lumens for each building – way brighter than the C7.  I have some Lemax buildings mixed in my village and don’t find their ‘glow’ any different than the D56 buildings.

Do you still have the C7 light for the building?  Maybe you could see if the C7 makes a difference?

@Avanti posted:

I suspect that you can get the effect you are looking for by using automotive LED tail lamp replacements. They look like this:

1157 LED Bulb - Dual Function 18 SMD LED Tower - BAY15D Retrofit

Pete, I looked at these on Amazon and though pricey, deals can be had.  However at 300 lumens and also not dimmable, I would be concerned these might be too bright.

So how does one figure this out?  The LEDs are appealing, but not at the cost of the building ‘glow’.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@Tom Stoltz posted:


Pete, I looked at these on Amazon and though pricey, deals can be had.  However at 300 lumens and also not dimmable, I would be concerned these might be too bright.

All DC-powered LEDs are dimmable with a proper PWM dimmer. The only LEDs that are really "non-dimmable" are the 120VAC ones designed to be plug-replaceable with standard bulbs. This is because they contain special electronics.

Plus, if you look around on eBay or Amazon, you will discover that every conceivable LED form-factor is available, usually very cheaply from the discount sellers.

Have you looked at places like superbrightleds.com ?

@Tom Stoltz posted:

I have seen these and I believe the wire gauge is 26, as you say not good for 120V.  But would they work for just 1 C7 bulb?  That’s the stuff I don’t know.  I’ve also seen JST connectors on Amazon; some are for 20 AWG.  Again, I have no idea if that would be okay for 120V. Maybe 10 bulb strings?

No.  Using any wire less than 14AWG with 120v is asking for trouble.

As for LEDs, I don’t think they would work for ceramic buildings.  I don’t think they would make the building ‘glow’.  Though, again, I don’t know.

To get that “glow” you would need a couple LED’s or an LED bulb designed to be brighter.

I’ve also though about lower voltage bulbs, like the 1447 18V bulbs.  My memory of these bulbs from American Flyer accessories is they are really hot when run for a long time -- much hotter than a C7.  And would they give off enough light to rival a C7 bulb?

An 18v bulb operating at or near 18v will generate a lot of heat - think easy bake oven.

The 1447 is an E10 base bulb.  If you poke around Amazon you will find E10 base LED bulbs in multiple colors and voltages (but not 120).  You will, also, find E10 sockets.  Combine those sockets and bulbs with the prewired male and female plugs Pete (Avanti) suggested and you can create a safe, low voltage solution to light your buildings.  There are a lot of colors available but if you want “glow” stick with warm white.  Bulbs labeled white or bright white are bluish and will look like fluorescent lights.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Tom, we may be putting too fine a point on this exercise, but as others say, it is a discussion forum.  So yes, there are 5 led on the stick, but remember, they only work in groups of three.  Two don’t light.  5 wrapped around nicely, so I thought that’s cool, go for it.  Doh! My forehead slap! 🤨  3 was sufficient for my needs, so I let it go and moved on.  Now, for the next question, I put in an original frosted incandescent C7 for the first two pics, and an led C7 for the second two.  Brighter than 3 led but less than 24. 😏  And, original frosted incandescent brighter and the color temperature is lower to my eye than the led bulb.  My thought is that you are getting diffused/reflected light from the large number of buildings you display, and the C7 brightness.  If you look up to the top of this thread to my full layout pic(all led), and your full layout pics in another thread, the whole layout is diffusely lit from all the lighting on the table, including the tree of course.  Hope this helps.

A3BFC5FE-29BC-4A37-80CE-84BBAC4C5DFD9F491360-7F40-489D-8234-011EE3051980E1FD0DC2-8FA9-485D-88DD-40DFE2761DEFDE42F982-2EFA-4804-8AF6-1C8A86D587663B4D1CBC-8FF1-44EC-9CEA-859A47F8A12F

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Ted, thanks for the comparison, I think perhaps your building, being a darker brown, just might not transmit the light as well.  As for putting too fine a point on it, you may be correct for some people, however that is typical me.  I am known for pursing a topic to the nth degree before making a decision.  So I thank you for your indulgence.

Using LEDs is something I had dismissed based of older LED performance.  But the newer ones are intriguing and I especially like the looks of the brake light Pete introduced.  However from an affordability point of view, the light strips are the way to go.  Also Pete’s informing me that LEDs are dimmable if you use a PWM dimmer is welcome news.  I already have a pile of them because of experimenting with using them for train speed control (the correct ones work quite well for that -- I run DC).  Being able to dim them makes overkill manageable.

On the 120V front – I have learned, from an electrical engineer, you can run 83 C7 bulbs on 20ft of 20AWG wire.  22AWG is more than sufficient for the jumpers using a single C7.  Problem is finding some sort of mini connector.  JSTs have an exposed section which could be a danger.  I’m wondering if liquid electrical tape would cure that.

Thank you to everyone for your input and I hope you will continue to comment.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@Danr posted:
No.  Using any wire less than 14AWG with 120v is asking for trouble.

I have a ton of extension cords that would argue that point!  AAMOF, most of the lightweight extension cords don't use #14 wire, they use #16 wire.  120V Christmas tree light strings with C7 bulbs usually have fine wire, I've never actually measured it, but it's no larger than #18, and I suspect it's more like #20 or #22.  The primary consideration for a 120V circuit wire to a lightweight appliance is will the cord safely carry 15 amps for a short period of time to trip the breaker in the event of a short.

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Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

I use the D56 cords with 12 VDC candelabra based LED bulbs I purchased very cheaply from China.  I installed 16 socket power strips under the table connected to a 12 VDC supply.  You have to keep your polarity correct.  I drilled a hole in the table and passed the plug/cord under the table and plugged it in.  D56 buildings with cords out the bottom of the building were easy and the cord doesn't show.  Buildings with cords out the back require a little camouflage.   i have a ton of D56 buildings on an elevated section where I still used the D56 cords.  I cut the cords and fastened under the elevated platform.  I used barrier strips to connect the cords together and had a single 12 VDC pair passing under the table.  Bulbs are similar to Avanti only screw base E12.

Last edited by shorling
@Tom Stoltz posted:

Ted, thanks for the comparison, I think perhaps your building, being a darker brown, just might not transmit the light as well.  As for putting too fine a point on it, you may be correct for some people, however that is typical me.  I am known for pursing a topic to the nth degree before making a decision.  So I thank you for your indulgence.

Using LEDs is something I had dismissed based of older LED performance.  But the newer ones are intriguing and I especially like the looks of the brake light Pete introduced.  However from an affordability point of view, the light strips are the way to go.  Also Pete’s informing me that LEDs are dimmable if you use a PWM dimmer is welcome news.  I already have a pile of them because of experimenting with using them for train speed control (the correct ones work quite well for that -- I run DC).  Being able to dim them makes overkill manageable.

On the 120V front – I have learned, from an electrical engineer, you can run 83 C7 bulbs on 20ft of 20AWG wire.  22AWG is more than sufficient for the jumpers using a single C7.  Problem is finding some sort of mini connector.  JSTs have an exposed section which could be a danger.  I’m wondering if liquid electrical tape would cure that.

Thank you to everyone for your input and I hope you will continue to comment.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

IMHO, extensive use of 120 VAC in your layout is a safety risk and should be minimalized and installed to code.

Last edited by shorling

Tom, here are a few “dimmers”(actually voltage adjustment) that I and a large number of OGR members use.  You may already have some laying around.  I use either xfrmr ACV acc power or a dedicated 30 amp DC power supply for all my led lighting.  The buck converters are readily available in a variety of configurations from the Bay, Amazon or distributor of your choice.

03AF9EA9-E072-428E-8A77-83675F4C77EF2D034840-59B7-46B0-832F-2747F57871E8

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@TedW posted:

Tom, here are a few “dimmers”(actually voltage adjustment) that I and a large number of OGR members use.  You may already have some laying around.  I use either xfrmr ACV acc power or a dedicated 30 amp DC power supply for all my led lighting.  The buck converters are readily available in a variety of configurations from the Bay, Amazon or distributor of your choice.

Proper LED dimmers do not adjust voltages. LEDs are current-driven devices, not voltage driven. Their brightness is determined by the amount of current going through them. Changing the voltage (e.g. using a buck-converter) will sorta kinda change the brightness, but this is because when you change the voltage, the current changes as well, but the relationship is non-linear and there is an absolute voltage below which the LED will not work.

There are several ways around this, but the most common one is to use pulse-width modulation (PWM) to turn the LEDs on and off at a rate too high to see. The voltage is always the same and the current is determined by the duty cycle of a square wave.

The first of the two pictures you show is in fact a PWM controller, not a voltage controller. Those little buck-converters in the second picture have many useful applications, but dimming LEDs isn't one of them. PWM controllers are cheap, readily available, and will support the linear control of brightness across a very wide range.

I use these for train speed control:

HiLetgo 12V~40V 10A PWM DC Motor Speed Control Switch Controller Voltage Regulator Dimmer for Arduino

HiLetgo 12V~40V 10A PWM DC Motor Speed Control Switch Controller Voltage Regulator Dimmer for Arduino

4.5 out of 5 stars 235

$6.99$6.99

And these for LED dimming:







Hiletgo 3pcs DC12-24V 8Amp 0%-100% PWM Dimming Controller for LED Lights, Ribbon Lights,Tape Lights,Dimmer is compatible with Hilight, LEDwholesaler, fillite, and others' strips

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@shorling posted:

I use the D56 cords with 12 VDC candelabra based LED bulbs I purchased very cheaply from China.  I installed 16 socket power strips under the table connected to a 12 VDC supply.  You have to keep your polarity correct.  I drilled a hole in the table and passed the plug/cord under the table and plugged it in.  D56 buildings with cords out the bottom of the building were easy and the cord doesn't show.  Buildings with cords out the back require a little camouflage.   i have a ton of D56 buildings on an elevated section where I still used the D56 cords.  I cut the cords and fastened under the elevated platform.  I used barrier strips to connect the cords together and had a single 12 VDC pair passing under the table.  Bulbs are similar to Avanti only screw base E12.

Thanks Steve, but the whole idea is to get rid of the D56 cords.  I find them just too bulky.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@Tom Stoltz posted:

Thanks Steve, but the whole idea is to get rid of the D56 cords.  I find them just too bulky.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Hi Tom,  yes I realize that you consider the cords bulky.   They are more bulky than others.  However, D56 places the bulbs via their socket mounts to provide even illumination in their products using their bulbs.   I'm using LED's since I can't re-lamp my buildings.  But by using the D56 sockets, I have my LED bulbs positioned in accordance with the D56 design.

Last edited by shorling
@shorling posted:

Hi Tom,  yes I realize that you consider the cords bulky.   They are more bulky than others.  However, D56 places the bulbs via their socket mounts to provide even illumination in their products using their bulbs.   I'm using LED's since I can't re-lamp my buildings.  But by using the D56 sockets, I have my LED bulbs positioned in accordance with the D56 design.

Steve, do your 12V LEDs light the D56 buildings with the same 'glow' as the original C7s?  Sounds like it might be something to consider.  I would be rewiring with lighter gauge wire but otherwise it could be a go.  Like I said to Ted, it's the 'glow' I'm concerned about and based on earlier LED performance, I had dismissed them.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Saw this on the S-scale.io site:

AirBrite lighting system  (for Dept 56 Buildings)

Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2021 12:46:30 PDT

Friends! Our friend, Michelle K at the Colorado Model RR Museum recently posted a product review of the AirBrite Universal Wireless  Lighting System. IT IS WAAAAY COOL!

https://youtu.be/AhSzqQUQJ10

https://www.airbritelighting.com/

Worth a look if you don't like running wires to light you buildings.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

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