I have this 18" full dome car that was due for LED upgrades, so I thought I'd show the upgrade in pictures.  First, I removed most of the original wiring as they piped track power to the lights and I want the output of the LED lighting module to go to the lights.  One of the requirements, besides all the benefits of LED lighting, was not to have pieces of the car hard wired together, that's a PITA when you're opening them up to add passengers and the like. 

I started with the outer shell, the LED light strip is connected directly to the spring contacts, all the other wiring was removed.  In order to make a neat installation of the lights, I retain the old light bar plastic and install the LED strip recessed in the light bar.  This blocks the light from the sides and makes for a near installation, and still allows the light to illuminate the entire passenger compartment.  When you look at the dome from the side, you don't see the LED strip, just the smooth side of the light fixture.  I cut away all the intermediate supporting structures and just leave the sides of the light bar intact  The connections from the LED strip to the back of the car are hit-glued in place to route them to the spring contact block.  I also put a few spots of glue along the strip as these have been known to sag over time, I guess the 3M adhesive isn't all it's cracked up to be.

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N1

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N2

This is the main floor of the upper deck, and it has the lighting attached to the bottom.  I also retained that light bar to make a neater installation.  The metal conductors under the light bar was retained as it was a convenient way to bring power to the other end of the car.  I installed a connector at the opposite end to allow connection to the bottom level floor and seating as that's where the lighting control module is located.

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N3

The lower level floor and seating, note the lighting module installed at the right.  That's really the only mod to this beside the notch in the bulkhead to clear the added connector.

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N4

The chassis, (using the term loosely for a piece of plastic), was rewired to repurpose the spring contacts to carry the DC power to lighting, the track power was directly connected between the two trucks.  Track power is also routed to the AC connector that plugs into the LED lighting control module.  Note in the middle of the car there are two small PTC programmable fuses, these protect the wiring in the case of a derailment that might otherwise cook the wiring.  They're rated at 255ma hold, more than enough for LED lighting.  The two connectors at the right plug into the wiring module when the unit is assembled, they're dissimilar 2.5mm plugs to avoid the possibility of mistakes.  The lighting module is equipped with matching male connector headers.

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N5

The bottom pieces all cabled up and setting together, ready to finish the assembly. 

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N6

Now the part that took as much time than the whole rest of the job! 

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N7

Turns out that these cars are some of the cars that MTH thoughtfully painted the whole truck and then put them together.  The only thing is, they forgot that pain doesn't conduct electricity!  All the trucks had to come apart to remove paint from around the sideframe mounts, and on the top and the bottom of the springs.  Since these are sprung trucks, the springs actually carry the power from the wheels through the springs to the fixed part of the sideframe.  Then, there's the screws that hold the sideframes, they were also screwed down on paint, and needed it removed to make contact.  I wondered why the original lights were so flaky, but I figured I was replacing them anyway.  When the job was done, I found out why the lights were flaky!

The joy of all this is I have a while bunch of these D&H cars to do, if they all have the same painted truck issue, it's going to be a time consuming affair!

 

 

The finished car on my York display stand, this will be my LED lighting demo car.  Since this has two light strips, I have the module cranked up to supply about 35ma of current to light the LED's.  Not bad to go from .45A of current to .035A, get better even and flicker-free lighting in the bargain!

MTH Premier Full Dome LED Upgrade N8

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gunrunnerjohn posted:

I got a strip of the super-bright ones and put them above my workbench, great light for seeing what I'm doing.

GRJ, could you provide the particulars of the strip you used.

I have a new work bench with an overhead shelf that could use some very bright LED's.

Thanks.

 

Carl

Carl, I just bought a reel of "super-bright" LED's on eBay, they were rated at 6A for the 6 meter string, and they are a lot brighter than the standard 2A strings.  They're also bright white 5,000K, good for lighting up details.

I use small spots of hot glue to "assist" the strip adhesive, but they're hidden with the plastic light bar.  The remaining task is to populate it with passengers, but my box of passengers is in a big pile of boxes, so until I unearth those, no revenue service.

Thanks Rod, it just happened that I wanted a "new" demo car for York, and that one was staring at me from the closet, so I upgraded it.  

I didn't expect the issue with the painted trucks, I had forgotten about that until I saw the springs sparking and the lights flickering.

If you look in the 4th picture in the original post, you'll see this on the right side.  That's my LED Lighting Regulator that is sold through Henning's Trains.  It offers flicker-free lighting, DCS compatibility, and intensity adjustment.

This is the LED Lighting Module I'm using.

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gunrunnerjohn posted:

If you look in the 4th picture in the original post, you'll see this on the right side.  That's my LED Lighting Regulator that is sold through Henning's Trains.  It offers flicker-free lighting, DCS compatibility, and intensity adjustment.

This is the LED Lighting Module I'm using.

Hi John.  I was wondering if you have ever mounted lighting regulator in such a way where a small hole can be drilled in the floor of the car to make brightness adjustments without having to take it apart?  Let's say for instance you do a whole passenger set and want them to match in brightness intensity?  Is there a way to measure output with a meter so they all would match electrically?

Thanks

Rob (Sparky)

That thought as come up more than once.  I've always come upon the roadblock that the module typically gets mounted in a variety of locations, so trying to make a "one size fits all" solution is difficult.  If I were making a custom module for one specific style car, that would be practical.  Trying to make a module that will work for any brand and style car greatly complicates the possibility of an external adjustment provision.

As for measuring the power output on the bench, that's easy.  Since this is a constant current design, you can simply connect your multimeter in DC current mode directly across the DC output.  Put from 12 to 18 VAC on the AC inputs, and measure the current.  Set the current for each module the same before you install them.  The output current of the module varies from 3-4ma at the lowest setting to around 45-47ma at the highest setting, so a 200ma setting on most multimeters would be appropriate.

Using that procedure, presuming the same LED strip and the same number of LED's used in the car, all the lights will be at the same brightness.

GRJ, I used your kits to upgrade a string of Santa Fe passenger cars with the same trucks. In this video you'll see the lights go off and on when the cars pass over switch tracks that are connected together. I believe poor ground through the trucks could be the cause. Is it possible to purchase the copper ground straps that ride on the axles, from MTH, and mount them to these style trucks? It may be an easier job then tearing them apart. Thanks for posting this project. My dome car is the only on in the video that still needs an upgrade. Your post will be a great help.

Dave Z

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Dave Zucal posted:

GRJ, I used your kits to upgrade a string of Santa Fe passenger cars with the same trucks. In this video you'll see the lights go off and on when the cars pass over switch tracks that are connected together. I believe poor ground through the trucks could be the cause. Is it possible to purchase the copper ground straps that ride on the axles, from MTH, and mount them to these style trucks? It may be an easier job then tearing them apart. Thanks for posting this project. My dome car is the only on in the video that still needs an upgrade. Your post will be a great help.

That blinking seems too fast for the supposed time constant of the power supply. There should be a second or two of power after the truck loses contact.

Chuck TCA LCCA ARRL BMWMOA

The switch tracks are MTH 042's. Their frog spacing is the same distance as the two pickup rollers on each car. I believe the bad grounding my be adding time, to the time, the pickup also loose power. If you watch the video again, notice the luggage car makes it through with out blinking. That car has only two LED's above each door. So the capacitor is supplying enough charge to make it through the long period of no power. Turning down the adjustment for brightness didn't help any. So I believe I loose ground power, then pickup roller power, making it a much longer period of time then the blink time of the LEDs.

Dave Z

Yep, the length of the blinks suggests you're losing power for a significant period of time.  The copper strips are available, but the issue will be where do you screw them down on the truck.  For trucks designed to use them, there are convenient screw holes.

You may have to resort to my fix and clean the paint from the contact points and under the screws.

FWIW, I think this may not be the wheels, but rather the rollers and switch spacing.  A little time with a meter will lead you to the cause.

There is a ground wire to one of the side frames which could be used, if it's possible to mount the MTH ground straps, that ride directly on the axles. Or possibly run a jumper wire over to the other side too,Wire if I could find the right size screw.

Dave Z

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The straps that I have for freight car trucks are too short, and the screw isn't that far offset.  However, if those trucks are painted, the fix will be removing the paint under the springs.

In your case, that may be the case, that's simple to remedy.  My trucks had no ground wire, so I had to get continuity between the sprung wheel carriage and the frame of the truck.  If one truck has no continuity, that would be enough to significantly alter the performance of the lighting.

gunrunnerjohn posted:

Thanks Rod, it just happened that I wanted a "new" demo car for York, and that one was staring at me from the closet, so I upgraded it.  

I didn't expect the issue with the painted trucks, I had forgotten about that until I saw the springs sparking and the lights flickering.

What hall will this car be in at York?  I’d like to see it!

Actually, it will be.  I had this one that I just got to go with my D&H cars, and I decided I needed a new LED lighting demo car. 

My only small complaint is I got cheap and spliced a small piece of a second LED strip for the dome level because the pieces I had weren't quite long enough.  I typically use left-overs for my cars, occasionally it bites me.  The result is that the LED's at one end have a slightly different color temperature than the rest of that level.  That was kinda' annoying, but I didn't feel like taking it all apart and doing that over right now, perhaps later when I have time.

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