D-I-Y LED STRIPS IN S GAUGE PE CARS

Well by now many of us have received our PE sets and overall I think the reviews are pretty positive.

In my set the lighting in the passenger cars was spotty at best in all 5 cars. The lights would flicker frequently and completely turn off at times. 

The track was not at fault. Lionels' method of wiring these cars is faulty. Instead of soldering the wires to the copper axle wipers they elected to GLUE the wires to the tabs with some sort of gooey stuff that fails with time.

I decided to convert my cars to LED strip lighting and add a means to keep the lights on even if dirty track is encountered.

Here's how I did it.

1. Here's a picture of the parts needed:

 

 

 

PARTS FOR LED CONVERSION

 

I used some double sided foam mounting tape, a length of LED strip lighting, some flexible wire (22 gauge or similar), a 2 conductor mini male/female plug, a capacitor, a voltage regulator and a rectifier to change the voltage to DC (that's what the LED strips use).

 

The foam tape is used to make sure the LED strip stays stuck to the roof. The glue on the back of the strips can't be trusted by itself.

The LED strip can be cut at the copper tabs on it every 3 LED's. Cut it just long enough to fit on the flat part of the roof. Mine was five segments long for  a total of 15 lights. Keep the paper backing on the strip until later.

The mini plug lets you separate the shell from the chassis at a later date if needed for service issues.

The capacitor acts like a rechargeable battery sort-of. When power is applied to the track the capacitor charges up with DC power and then releases it when called on to do so by an interruption in track power like dirty track.

The voltage regulator keeps the power to the LED strip at a constant 9VDC. That lets them put out full brightness without getting hot at all. We don't want any warped shells do we?

The rectifier changes the track voltage which is 18 VAC to 18 VDC.

It is then stepped down by the regulator to 9 VDC.

 

OK enough electrical background info. Let's get started again.

 

2. Remove the center chassis cover: there is a tab on the end where the printing is on the chassis. It fits in a slot in the floor so lift the other end first.

 

CENTER COVER

 

3. Remove the chassis:

 

 

 

CHASSIS REMOVAL

 

Chassis is off...underside of roof shown:

 

 

CHASSIS OFF ROOF SHOWN

 

 

 

4. Detach wires from copper axle wipers and save and secure inside chassis if desired:

 

LOOSE WIRES ON CONTACT STRIPS

 

5. Using some flexible color coded wire solder new wires to tabs as shown:

 

 

NEW WIRES SOLDERED TO TABS

 

Make sure the trucks swing freely side to side. Make sure you solder the same color coded wire to the same tab on each truck i.e. right side of car= white striped wire...left side of car = plain colored wire!

 

6. Glue the rectifier to the car floor and solder the truck power wires to the AC leads (2 center leads) on the rectifier as shown.

It doesn't matter which lead gets which pair of color-coded wires because this is alternating current.

 

AC WIRES SOLDERED TO RECTIFIER

 

7. Glue the capacitor to the car floor and solder the negative lead (marked by a stripe on the side of the capacitor) to the negative DC output lead on the rectifier. Then solder the positive lead on the capacitor to the positive DC output lead on the rectifier.

Now add the voltage regulator. The flat metal part with the hole in it helps to dissipate heat. Glue this metal part to the car floor. I used hot glue. If you prefer you can drill a small hole in the floor and secure the part to the car floor with a small sheet metal screw through the provided hole in the regulator.

With the regulator on its back secured to the floor and tabs pointing towards you the tabs are as follows: 

A. Tab on left is 18VDC in (to be regulated)

B. Center tab is Negative  in and out to the light strip (IT'S JUST THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF THE CIRCUIT)

C. Tab on right is 9VDC out to the light strip (This is now regulated power)

AC [18VAC) TO DC [9VDC) PARTS WIRED UP

 

Here's a side view:

 

SIDE VIEW

 

 

 

8. Add the 2 pin male plug...RED WIRE POSITIVE...BLACK WIRE NEGATIVE:

 

ADD THE MALE PLUG

 

9. Add the foam tape to the car roof:

 

ADD THE FOAM TAPE

 

10. Solder the female half of the two pin plug to the LED strip. THE RED WIRE GOES TO THE POSITIVE SIDE AND THE BLACK WIRE GOES TO THE NEGATIVE SIDE. Do this on a block of wood away from the car shell. It only takes a little dot of solder to do this. Don't take too long soldering these on as too much heat might damage the strip.

Keep the soldering iron tip on the copper tabs and apply a small dot of solder to the copper tabs. Then tin the female plug wire leads and with a little heat from the tip solder them to the dots of solder on the copper tabs.

Practice a few times on some sacrificial 3 light segments to get the feel of how to do it. If I can do it anyone can!

SO...HOW DO WE DETERMINE WHICH SIDE OF THE STRIP IS POSITIVE?????

EASY...TAKE A 9 VOLT BATTERY AND WITH TWO WIRES TOUCH THE BATTERY LEADS TO THE COPPER TABS. WHEN THE STRIP LIGHTS UP MAKE A NOTE OF WHICH SIDE IS POSITIVE FROM THE MARKINGS ON THE BATTERY.

The strips will only light one way and you can't hurt them if you have the wires switched during testing.

Some LED light strips have the positive side marked with a little + sign. Mine did not so I did the battery test.

 

11.When you have the female plug soldered to the LED strip remove the paper release strips from the back of the LED strip and foam tape, center the led strip in the car roof and stick the two together:

 

 LED STRIP ATTACHED TO FOAM TAPE

 

12.Hook the male female plug together with the car roof laying next to the chassis. Apply some AC power to the car wheelsets. The LED strip should light up. If so SUCCESS!

If not.....you'll have to go back and check your work 

 

Let's assume everything works OK.

 

13. Reinstall the chassis to the shell reversing the steps you took at disassembly.

 

Here's some pictures showing the new LED lighting at work.

Room lights off, no power:

 

ROOM LIGHTS OFF...NO POWER

 

Now turn on the power:

 

ROOM LIGHTS OFF POWER ON

 

Here's a comparison of the LED vs. the factory supplied bulb...(Bulb car is on the right side):

 

LED LIGHTS VS. FACTORY BULB

 

The lighting from the LED strips is softer and uniform end to end in the car. The bulb light is concentrated in the center of the car.

The best part is that all the flickering of the light is eliminated due to the capacitor in the circuit.

 

That's how I did it. If you want to upgrade your cars to LED give it a try!

Mark

 

Here's a picture of how the wires hook up in the car. It'll help you make sure you have the right wire going to the right place:

 

 

LED STRIP USE WITH AC INPUT VOLTAGE

 

 

 

Attachments

Photos (17)
Original Post

Mark,

Brilliant work!  Very simple way to convert with only a few components.  As usual, you've come up with another helpful post! 

 

I especially like that you included the capacitors to control the flickering, but have you given any thought to including a potentiometer or resistors to vary the intensity of light output?

 

Thanks for sharing your work.

 

Mike A.

 

 

 

Originally Posted by sinclair:

Are you running command or conventional?  How do the cars look when run conventionally?  When do they come on?

I run the cars essentially in command mode or at least the FlyerChief version of that which is the full 18VAC to the track.

I haven't run the cars on conventional power yet.

I'm not sure what the minimum voltage would be to get the engine rolling in conventional mode. If it's around 9 volts then all is OK.

If it's less than 9 volts I'm not sure if the lights will come on or not.

The voltage regulator holds the maximum voltage to 9VDC but maybe it will let lower voltage pass through to the lights? I don't know...I'm not that smart!

Maybe other electrical gurus can chime in with that info.

I think the light strips will illuminate at far less than 9 volts...maybe something like 3 to 5 volts. They are rated at 12VDC max but will turn on at far less.

I'll test them on a test track with a conventional transformer and report the results.

OK! I just did some tests.

1. The unregulated light strips on the spool will barely light at 5 volts.

2. They really prefer at least 9 volts.

3. A AF 8B trans put out a minimum 7.3 volts. The lights in the car came on but were very dim.

4. At 9 volts the lights had max brightness and didn't vary with the trans push to its limits showing that the regulator is doing it's job.

5. I'm guessing that to run the train conventionally (which I did not do) it would probably take at least 9 volts to keep it moving with a 5 car load on it.

Also I'm hearing that the smoke is pretty weak when run conventionally at less than high voltage.

Your results may vary but the LED strips are a big improvement over the bulbs.

Mark

 

 

 

Originally Posted by OrcasBob:

Excellent!  This is definitely something that I'm going to try, looks like a very elegant solution to the flickering and the uneven light.

 

Thanks for posting the very clear instructions/diagrams and links to the components.

 

Bob L.

You're welcome!

Mark

 

 

 

Originally Posted by Mikeaa:

 Have you given any thought to including a potentiometer or resistors to vary the intensity of light output?

 

 

 

 

 

No I didn't feel the need for that added part. At 9 volts the lights are very mellow throughout the car. The LED strips are rated at a max of 12VDC (they will operate at higher voltages but will not last very long) but they then start to generate some heat which might hurt the plastic shell besides being as bright as a welder's torch!

So I settled on the 9VDC regulator to give consistent, soft light with little or no heat.

I also did the observation car the same way. I was going to try to substitute a tiny red LED for the rear red light in the roof but when I looked inside the shell it looked like too dangerous of a job to do to drill out the red marker and risk hurting the shell.

I am now waiting on some more ordered regulators from China as I used up my supply with these two cars and my 8 Royal Blue cars I did the same way.

The royal Blue conversions were where I found out how much heat the LED strips put out at 18Volts...A LOT! The prewar metal shells got really hot so I decided to regulate the voltage to 9 VDC max and from then on they stayed cool to the touch.

Mark

 

 

 

The 12V LED strips actually start to light around 8 volts, there are three LEDs in series with the resistor.

 

You would want the LM317T for the lights if you want to vary the intensity.  You can use it in either a variable voltage mode or a variable current mode.  I like the variable current mode, that's what I use for my lighting modules.  Here's a diagram of what's in my lighting module, you can wire this from components if you choose.  If you KNOW you'll never run DCS, you can omit the choke.  This circuit gives you about 5ma to 45ma of current.  I find at 45MA of current, the LED strips in an 18" passenger car are way too bright for my tastes, so this works out pretty well.

 

 

 

Passenger Car Lighting Module

Attachments

Photos (1)

Mark,

Thanks for your tutorial.

When my PE loco is returned repaired or replaced with a new one from Lionel customer service I plan on converting my 5 cars to led. You didn't mention the size leds you chose.

I'll be using 3528n SMD warm white (non waterproof) with led, led, r, led for each 3 leg segment along with gunrunnerjohn's constant current lighting regulators with built in pot to vary lighting intensity and use either #28 stranded or #30 solid wire to connect it all together.

I did do the roof taillight on my O gauge PE observation car using a red led modual supplied by Dan's Drumheads but figure the led in that module might be too large a size for the S gauge PE observation car. What size were you planning to use? Also, instead of removing the red jewel lens as I did with the O gauge could you either just use a pin vise to drill or file away the roof plastic that abuts that red jewel lens so light can then shine through that lens? If so, could an led then be placed against that red jewel taillight so it'll then light up that red plastic jewel making it glow? That way the red jeweled light needn't be removed.

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




Gunrunnerjohn,

Can I use your led cclr's in the PE S gauge passenger cars with the led strips I mentioned to Mark in the preceding post? I'm running the set with Lionel's more power wallwart, (I believe the 70 watt, 4 amp one rather than then lower wattage/amp wallwart that was included with the FlyerChief PE set.

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




The rectifier changes the track voltage which is 18 VAC to 18 VDC.

The alternating current voltage is typically measured as an RMS value, that is, using a root mean square that "averages" the voltage of positive and negative swings. A rectifier converts AC voltage to DC, but that is a combination of positive and negative peaks that ends being 1.414 times greater than the AC RMS value. That means that 18VAC ends up being nearly 25.5 volts DC out of the rectifier. That increase means that one must carefully choose a big enough resistor to restrict that current flowing to the LEDs at the higher voltage. 

Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

I don't see why not, as long as you have 12V or more on the tracks.

John, will you be bringing these cclr boards JWA 20110 to First Frost Allentown next weekend? Asking since H's website currently listing just one in stock.

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

I strongly urge you to simply use a current or voltage regulator and you don't have to worry about the "resistor selection" issue.

 

Hi John. Thanks for the comments. I am using a L7809CV three leg voltage regulator in my cars. The components I chose were recommended by an electrical engineer friend who said they would be safe. I'm very much the student when it comes to this electrical stuff and know enough to know that "What you don't know can hurt you".

I'm a cheap skate truth be told but I want to be safe in the bargain.

My conversion costs a little over a dollar a car and so far they seem to hold up pretty well.

Thanks again for helping and commenting on my project.

Mark

 

 

 

Originally Posted by ogaugeguy:
 

Mark,

Thanks for your tutorial.

 You didn't mention the size leds you chose.

Check the original post. I too am using the 3528 LED strips.

I don't remember now where or when I bought the spool of lights I have but I'm sure they are a close match for those shown here.

I was going to use a 3mm red led for the observation car but like I said after seeing what was involved I put that on the "Maybe try this someday list".

Good luck on your lighting conversion!

Mark

 

 

 

 

Originally Posted by TOKELLY:

The rectifier changes the track voltage which is 18 VAC to 18 VDC.

The alternating current voltage is typically measured as an RMS value, that is, using a root mean square that "averages" the voltage of positive and negative swings. A rectifier converts AC voltage to DC, but that is a combination of positive and negative peaks that ends being 1.414 times greater than the AC RMS value. That means that 18VAC ends up being nearly 25.5 volts DC out of the rectifier. That increase means that one must carefully choose a big enough resistor to restrict that current flowing to the LEDs at the higher voltage. 

Thanks for the lesson! I'm no Einstein at this stuff by any means. I'm using a voltage regulator like these to limit the voltage to 9VDC for the LED strip.

It seems to be working OK. Does it seem adequate?

Thanks again,

Mark

 

 

 

Mark, you're rig is fine.  The only bonus for what I posted would be adjustable intensity of the lights, and the choke makes them DCS compatible.  As long as you like the intensity of the lights at 9V, the LEDs will probably outlast you.

 

 

Originally Posted by ogaugeguy:
Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

I don't see why not, as long as you have 12V or more on the tracks.

John, will you be bringing these cclr boards JWA 20110 to First Frost Allentown next weekend? Asking since H's website currently listing just one in stock.

I wasn't planning to, but I can put some in the car.

Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

The 12V LED strips actually start to light around 8 volts, there are three LEDs in series with the resistor.

 

You would want the LM317T for the lights if you want to vary the intensity.  You can use it in either a variable voltage mode or a variable current mode.  I like the variable current mode, that's what I use for my lighting modules.  Here's a diagram of what's in my lighting module, you can wire this from components if you choose.  If you KNOW you'll never run DCS, you can omit the choke.  This circuit gives you about 5ma to 45ma of current.  I find at 45MA of current, the LED strips in an 18" passenger car are way too bright for my tastes, so this works out pretty well.

 

 

 

Passenger Car Lighting Module

John,

Thanks for the lighting diagram.  I do plan to run DCS in the future if the MTH F3s ever arrive so I'm interested in what type of 22uf choke would be appropriate.  I've looked on ebay and have seen many types so not sure what to order.

 

Bob L. 

 

 

John,

I do not run DCS at the present time only Legacy/TMCC. I am curious though about needing the choke for DCS, what does this do? I ask because I can not say I will never have DCS especially if MTH decides to make locomotives in road names I desire to have. Why is the choke needed for DCS and not the Lionel system? I am not an electronics expert but have done these strip LEDs in most of my coaches.

Ray 

 
Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

The 12V LED strips actually start to light around 8 volts, there are three LEDs in series with the resistor.

 

You would want the LM317T for the lights if you want to vary the intensity.  You can use it in either a variable voltage mode or a variable current mode.  I like the variable current mode, that's what I use for my lighting modules.  Here's a diagram of what's in my lighting module, you can wire this from components if you choose.  If you KNOW you'll never run DCS, you can omit the choke.  This circuit gives you about 5ma to 45ma of current.  I find at 45MA of current, the LED strips in an 18" passenger car are way too bright for my tastes, so this works out pretty well.

 

 

 

Passenger Car Lighting Module

 

The choke is used to stop the combination of the bridge and filter cap from shorting the DCS signal on the tracks.  DCS actually uses the tracks as a transmission line to broadcast it's control signal.  TMCC/Legacy has a totally different broadcast scheme and there is no issue with capacitance across the track power for the Lionel system.

Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:
Thanks for bringing them, John, as I'll be needing more packs for the rest of my FlyerChief PE cars and my MTH early Premiere 64' woodsided coaches. I'll see you at Henning's table Saturday morning. (That's where you'll be??)
Originally Posted by ogaugeguy:
Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

I don't see why not, as long as you have 12V or more on the tracks.

John, will you be bringing these cclr boards JWA 20110 to First Frost Allentown next weekend? Asking since H's website currently listing just one in stock.

I wasn't planning to, but I can put some in the car.

 

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




Ray,

I'm working on a circuit modification based on John's information that will work for both conventional (American Models and SHS DC with 3 to 10 volts applied to the rails)and for Legacy (14 volts AC is 20 volts DC within the American Models passenger cars and cabooses after the AC has been rectified.) I had to dig around to find 5-volt LED strips instead of the typical 12-volt strips because the LEDs won't begin to illuminate in the typical strips until DC voltage reaches 7.5 volts. I did learn that the choke installed in series with power from one of the trucks is essential not only for DCS applications but also for Dallee Locomatic that SHS installed as an option in their F3 and F7 locomotives.

 

As an "investment" for any future DCS use and as a practical step for the four Locomatic engines I have, I think installing the choke is a wise move while modifying interior lighting.

If you use 5V strips, my circuit works as well.  Since it's a constant current circuit, it just adjusts the voltage until the current is as set by the user.  One thing for low voltage LED strips is you'd have to probably have to add a heatsink to the regulator.  Since this is a linear circuit, many parallel LED's are wasting a lot of the power applied, which would result in a lot of heat in the regulator.

 

The "right" way to do a truly universal conventional/command module would probably be a switching power supply design, maybe the next set of modules...

 

If the majority of the time the lighted cars are running on conventional 5-10 volts of DC current, will the regulator require as much heat sinking as it would under the 14 volts of AC that I apply when running Legacy? My Legacy locomotives are either steam (Challenger or Y-3) that will pull a caboose with 3 LEDs or modern SD70ACe/ES44AC that would rarely, if ever, pull a caboose or a passenger car. I mainly want the ability to handle the Legacy mode just in case I forget to switch engines.

 

Thank you for all the tips, John. You've given me the courage to experiment and the curiosity to learn more.

Originally Posted by TOKELLY:

I'm working on a circuit modification  ...  that will work for  ...  DC with 3 to 10 volts applied to the rails ... 5-volt LED strips instead of the typical 12-volt strips ...

What circuit are you modifying?  In the circuits shown so far in this thread, the output voltage is LOWER than the input voltage.  So if you only have 3V DC on the rails you can't generate 5V on the output.  In fact, with the circuits shown the regulator IC device itself (whether the OP's 7809 or GRJ's LM317) needs an additional couple volts of so-called headroom or dropout voltage to perform its function.  In other words you need, say, 7V going in if you want 5V coming out.  Additionally the bridge rectifier itself drops the voltage by over 1V from the rail to the regulator IC.

 

If you have the space, you might consider a so-called buck-boost regulator module for about $2 on eBay.  These have been described in various O-gauge passenger car lighting threads to drive 12V LED strips across the full-range of conventional/command O-gauge rail voltages (where the track voltage can be below OR above 12V).

I was using the PCB boards supplied by American Models for their cabooses and passenger cars. They consist of a rectifier, 470 microfarad/35-volt capacitor, and 2 or three incandescent bulbs. I have replaced the bulbs with up to 6 LEDs in parallel, each with a 470-ohm resistor. The LEDs come on at about 4 volts and reach acceptable brightness at 7 volts, but the light varies with input.

 

Using a buck-boost regulator appears to offer steady lighting, but the track voltage would still have to reach 7.5 volts to light up a 12-volt LED strip. The only advantage there would be the constant lighting effect. Would a better approach be to use the buck-boost regulator with the 5-volt LED strips so that they would light up with 4-5 DC volts applied to the track, or would that still pose a heating problem with Legacy 14 volts AC applied in those rare--or accidental--cases?

Actually, with a buck/boost power module, any track voltage from 3-4 volts and up should give you all the voltage on the output you need for a 12V strip.  With a switching power supply, parallel or series won't make a huge difference, though you will be more efficient with the 12V strips.

 

Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:
John, how do you decide on how many groups of 3 leds with a resistor you put in the passenger cars you modify? Do you have a rule of thumb of so many groups of 3 leds for every so many inches of roof space? If so, what is it? I want my cars to look as realistic and evenly lit as possible and not over or under lit.

"... I find at 45MA of current, the LED strips in an 18" passenger car are way too bright for my tastes, so this works out pretty well."

 

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




I just put my lighting regulator in and adjust the intensity pot to the desired brightness.   The module adjusts from around 5ma to about 45ma.  I haven't run across a need for more than 45ma for any of the cars I've done.

 

 

banjoflyer posted:

"Well by now many of us have received our PE sets and overall I think the reviews are pretty positive.

In my set the lighting in the passenger cars was spotty at best in all 5 cars. The lights would flicker frequently and completely turn off at times. 

The track was not at fault. Lionels' method of wiring these cars is faulty. Instead of soldering the wires to the copper axle wipers they elected to GLUE the wires to the tabs with some sort of gooey stuff that fails with time...."

Fyi, Banjoflyer, according to Lionel's Mike Raegan,:

"The wires are in fact soldered to the phosphor bronze contacts. The hot glue is used as strain relief on the wires, as there is no provision (or space) to put any type of zip tie in there to provide that strain relief. So, the wires are not hot glued, they are in fact soldered, the hot glue is just there for strain relief (so the soldered connection does not wiggle so much it breaks the soldered wire."

ogaugeguy
TCA


 




Yeah, I saw that response by Mike on his question/answer post from the other day.

The reality is that if the assembler truly soldered the wire to the copper strips they worked hard at achieving the most minute amount of solder possible. There had been reports of passenger car truck problems during the long wait for these sets. The glue might have been an afterthought or a fix for wires disengaging from the trucks due to poor solder joints.

In any event when I added my LEDs to my cars I soldered my replacement wires to the visible (underside) side of the copper strips and have had no problems with wires being pulled loose or trucks not being able to fully pivot in a curve.

I need to check my other heavyweight passenger car sets and see if they too got the glue treatment. I've never had a problem with earlier passenger cars like those with the PE sets.

The "glue thing" in my opinion is a fix that shouldn't have needed to be done.

Mark

 

 

 

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