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While running my 6 car Lionel 21 inch passenger car set, the lights in all cars stopped working. Powered down, and back up, no lights.  Power to track in fine. Possible short ?  Turned individual on/off car switches, nothing happens.  Is there a reset for these LED light strips or am I screwed ?  I think these power strips are costly to replace. 

Original Post

Thats pretty odd. A short in track power would have no effect other than turn off the lights for the duration of the short. A high voltage spike might blow them all but then I would expect the engine to be damaged too.

Take one apart and see if there is any obvious damage to he board. The newer ones come apart pretty easily with a pair of screws at each end. Pull apart carefully so you can disconnect the wires to the body from the frame.


The switches for these lights are certainly not robust and I would not be surprised to find one of them failing as a result of a power spike. But for all six of them to go at once is really strange.

The only point that occurs to me is which 21" cars are these - the first run of 21" ABS cars or later? The first run cars take a very long time for the capacitors to power up sufficiently to get the lights to full brightness. The second/later runs work faster/better in my experience. How long are you waiting to see if any of the lights illuminate?

P.S. I think Lionel made changes in the power system for these lights between the first and later runs of the 21" ABS cars. When I had a problem with one of my first run cars (no lights at all - a StationSounds dining car), I took the shell off and rigged up a temporary connection direct between the light bars power lead and the track. They worked and the problem turned out to be the main board in the car, which had shorted due to a screw being driven through the main power supply from the trucks on factory assembly. Possibly not your problem if you don't have such a car but it should establish whether the LEDs are working at all.

The later 21" cars have a combination switch/PCB board shown below. It might just pass power from the trucks through the switch to the LED boards but I have found that some of them are not adequately insulated from the frame.



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Last edited by Hancock52

I’d go back to Norton’s original idea of taking off a body shell and looking at one of the car’s LED boards to see if there is any obvious sign of damage to the components on the board connected to track power - maybe the caps have blown or some other component failed. 

The Lionel replacement parts illustrations are not clear enough to ID individual components but, from memory, my boards have a set of conventional components to convert AC to DC with a pair of caps to supply power to the LEDs. But even to my untrained eye these looked odd compared, for example, to 3rd Rail’s old LED strips or GRJ’s LED passenger car lighting sets.

I’m not techno-savvy enough to guess what sort of power incident could have caused similar components in each car to fail at the same time and I won't speculate on that.


may i suggest taking car apart and checking the circuit board. it is usually in the ceiling and should slide out. check input to board and input to lights direct at where light adjoins board. that should give you an idea where failure is. if board is gone replace it with GRJ's board and lights. you can get it from hennings trains web site. great lighting, easy to do, affordable. 

Wow , sounds like they got all damaged somehow.  Perhaps your engine handled the surge or whatever it was better and was not affected but the lights couldn't.  You said your train was running and then power slowed down all of a sudden and then back up.  

Obviously something's damaged with them now.  

So for the experts, when it slowed down like that, is that a power surge?  or more like a power brownout?

Really no way of knowing what happened, we're all just guessing.  I'll say it a final time before I check out of this thread.  Resolving this is going to require opening up one of the cars and finding out what got cooked.  Finding that out may reveal the "why", and in any case will show the way to fixing them, and also a possible fix to preventing it from happening again.

Finally opened up all the cars and examined each board.  One on the light strip itself and the switch board.  Everything looks clean and no damage.  No black marks on circuits or anything. Also unplugged each connector from switch wires to LED light strip to make sure of good connections.  Wiring looks to be clear of any breakage or touching anything. All looks clean and brand new...............................

Last edited by Troy Towery

OK, one last thought. Some of these cars (the dome cars) have separate light boards that all wired back to the main board on which the electrical components are mounted, as shown below, parts 10, 11 and 12:


A test I have done is to feed some low voltage battery power to one of the separate boards to see if the LEDs light up at all independently of the main power components. I used a depleted 9 volt battery and just made momentary contact as I do not know what the voltage rating of the LEDs is. In my case they lit up so I knew the problem was either in the components on the main board or further back where track voltage is supplied to them. 

P.S. I had separated the single boards I tested from the main board and worked out the polarity of the contacts leading to its LEDs. 


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Last edited by Hancock52

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