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We've kind of ignored the conventional operators with many of the passenger car LED lighting solutions.  That being said, I though I'd take a crack at a practical application of flicker-free LED lighting for conventional operators.   The difference between this module and my previous designs is this module is designed to operate from 5VAC right through 18VAC on the tracks.  The module uses the available 5V LED strips vs the 12V strips used for the command only modules, the 5V LED strips are available from a variety of sources.

The module seen below is an initial prototype, I've already identified some improvements for the "final" module.

Conv LED Pass Lighting Module N1Conv LED Pass Lighting Module N2Conv LED Pass Lighting Module N3

Here's a brief video to illustrate the operation.  Note that after disconnecting the power, we get 10+ seconds of normal illumination before you can see any noticeable change in the lighting.  The strip I'm using here is a 5V LED strip sized for a 21" passenger car, obviously shorter strips for smaller cars will give you longer hold-up times for the lighting.

In a couple of days I'll have the enhanced PCB's to build up my improved module, DHL says on Friday.  For improvemewnts I doubled the input capacitance to the regulator module and changed to a full-wave bridge rectifier to allow lower track voltages to function properly.  This will allow the lighting module to operate down to about 5VAC on the tracks, at the lower limit of most train transformers.  A bonus is this module is also right at home at full 18 volt track voltages and will operate exactly the same way as it does at low track voltages with no overheating or adverse effects on operation.

This improved design also puts all the components on one side allowing easier mounting and a slightly lower footprint.

The overall size of this module will be 0.8" wide x 1.2" long x 1.0" tall.  This makes it compact enough to fit in most passenger cars out of sight.  This is also an all thru-hole design to allow for kit builds.  Note that the illustrated TO-220 regulator in the lower right will actually be a small vertical switching power supply module with the same footprint as the 5V regulator.  I just don't have a 3D representation for the switching module.

Conv LED Pass Lighting Module 1.1 N1Conv LED Pass Lighting Module 1.1 N2

More to come in a few days.

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Conv LED Pass Lighting Module N0
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The AC supply was 5.5VAC there, as low as I can get my MRC AH-501 to go before it goes to zero.  The current draw to the LED strip started out as 75ma and was down to around 45ma at the end.  It was hard to notice the intensity change.  Note that the eye perceives light in a logarithmic manner, so going to half the light output only affects the perceived brightness by a small amount.  If you reduce the current to around 19ma, the light intensity would appear to be half to the human eye.

The new board should do even better at low voltages, so I'm expecting it to work anywhere you could get a conventional locomotive moving.

Last edited by gunrunnerjohn
@Craftech posted:

I looked for these to make a BCR and this project interests me as well.  They don't seem to be readily available.  Not sure about some of the vendors on AliExpress.  If that's where you get them which vendor.  That size in particular isn't carried by all of the vendors there.

You have to do a bit of searching to find them, but they're out there.  The place I got my last buy doesn't have them anymore now.  I believe last time I looked Mouser had a bunch of AVX caps of that value.

Thanks John, I would be interested in these as well. Can they be modified for cars that are less than 21”?

You can put them in any length car, you just cut the strips to size, this is the same as installing my command version using the 12V strips.  The only difference is you use 5V strips for conventional so you can get down to minimum track voltage and still have lights.

Got the first batch of parts in and made up a batch of the lighting regulator boards.  On unexpected issue came up.  The sample switching regulator modules I had worked better than the ones I bought in quantity.  They changed the right angle pins they used to connect to the PCB thus making the regulator boards sit more offset from the mounting holes.  This caused a problem because there were components too close for them to fit.  I had to modify each one to make them look like the original samples.

As an experiment, I replaced the switching regulator module with 5V TO-220 regulator to see how it fares.  It actually is capable of lighting the 21" car strip at full brightness over the full voltage range.  The only issue is, if you're running with command voltages of 18 VAC on the track, the regulator runs around 90C.  Well within it's ratings, but it's pretty warm.  The switching regulators all run in the mid 40's in the same situation.  OTOH, if you're running with conventional track voltages around 12 VAC, the TO-220 regulator only got into the mid 50's, no problem at all.

LV Lighting Modules

I'm pleased to say these work well and keep the lights on basically forever.  No doubt that big supercap is to blame.

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@dkdkrd posted:

John...

Your photo shows a different arrangement of components from the earlier artwork.  Did this result in any change in O/A dimensions?

Will there be a new p/n for ordering?...or is this now a 'universal' change for 20110?

KD

The footprint is still 0.85W x 1.15L x 1.0H.  I had to re-spin the board for some component clearances.  I'll be selling this personally, I'm keeping the existing lighting product the way it is.

@ThatGuy posted:

John, I have found under cabinet lighting or strip lighting on a roll that has a tape backing also to work fine. It is rated at 14 volts DC and the trip carries the circuit to convert over to DC { the wall wart only drops the AC line voltage} they are about 15 bucks on Amazon and can supply about 6 cars.

These modules are designed to operate when the track voltage is 6VAC, that was the whole point for conventional running.  Also, the supercap allows you to keep the lights on for far longer with power interruptions.

There are mountains of 5 meter LED strips for a few bucks that operate on 12VDC.  I've had my standard command capable lighting product for years: LED Lighting Regulator and the Passenger Car LED Lighting Kit for a one-stop solution.

Some of the attributes of my passenger car lighting products over plain strips are...

  • Flicker free lighting over power interruptions.
  • Adjustable intensity lighting.
  • DCS signal protection.


Note that there are tons of ways to skin this cat, mine is not the only game in town.

These modules are designed to operate when the track voltage is 6VAC, that was the whole point for conventional running.  Also, the supercap allows you to keep the lights on for far longer with power interruptions.

There are mountains of 5 meter LED strips for a few bucks that operate on 12VDC.  I've had my standard command capable lighting product for years: LED Lighting Regulator and the Passenger Car LED Lighting Kit for a one-stop solution.

Some of the attributes of my passenger car lighting products over plain strips are...

  • Flicker free lighting over power interruptions.
  • Adjustable intensity lighting.
  • DCS signal protection.


Note that there are tons of ways to skin this cat, mine is not the only game in town.

Not at all, I was just mentioning another route. If they need constant voltage/lighting than yours is the better plan

@Rod Stewart posted:

John I am just wondering about the peak current impact when you power up a siding where there is say 6 cars or so, equipped with these modules? I realize there is a current limiter in the circuitry to slow down the peak charge rate, but just wondering what the load might be? What’s your take on that.

The peak when they first come up is around .3 amps at 7VAC on the track.  With six cars, it would be a couple of amps, probably similar to incandescent lighting, only with incandescents it's permanent as long as the lights are on.

If the track voltage is higher, the peak voltage is lower since the current limit is on the output side of the switcher.  If you'd like to lower the peak charging current, changing the 10 ohm resistor to 20 ohms will cut it in half, you just have longer initial charging times.

The peak when they first come up is around .3 amps at 7VAC on the track.  With six cars, it would be a couple of amps, probably similar to incandescent lighting, only with incandescents it's permanent as long as the lights are on.

If the track voltage is higher, the peak voltage is lower since the current limit is on the output side of the switcher.  If you'd like to lower the peak charging current, changing the 10 ohm resistor to 20 ohms will cut it in half, you just have longer initial charging times.

OK good to know. I was just curious!

Rod

I've bit!...and it's (pun intended) a deLIGHTful bite!

Having several sets of the K-line (some "by Lionel") aluminum passenger cars, I've been waiting for some time for this sort of 'conventional' solution!  John has delivered!!  I chose our Rio Grande (wife's favorite flag) set to start.  I opted to buy the modules in kit form, because 1) many, many years ago I was a Heathkit nutcase (Favorite project: AR-15 tuner/amplifier built for Dad...still working wonderfully!), and 2) I wanted to see if I could make the dimmer pot in John's module accessible for adjustment without getting back into the car's interior.   And, 3) it saved some $$.

Here's my module next to John's pre-assembled.  I mounted the dimmer pot to the bottom of the board, salvaged the power connector/wires from the factory installation, and added a JST-PH connector to the board for connecting the LED's...

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Here's the reworked ceiling light strip...the two-3-bulb strips removed, the 5v LED strip attached, and a bit of home-made strain relief added at the wire end of the assembly...

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The car interior has been prepped...two seats removed for the module, a square hole cut in the floor for the dimmer pot now mounted to the bottom of the board...

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A pre-test of the power module and lights...(which led to the aforementioned strain relief on the lighting strip!)...

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Assembly of the module and ceiling strip to the car...

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And the resulting comparison with an identical car (front in photo) having the factory original lighting.  I left the LED lighting at full intensity for this photo, since that's the only option for direct comparison...

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Now, you might say 'Not much difference!...why go to the trouble?'  Well if I added a video, just rolling each car back and forth on these pieces of old 'oxidized', as is, track would have had ZERO flicker of the LED car (rear), and all sorts of flicker of the factory-built car (forward).  PLUS, when the power was turned off, the front car went dark....well, duh!...and the LED car stayed lit for a good 3+ minutes...albeit slowly (nearly imperceptible) losing intensity.  AND...I'm confident that my power consumption of the LED car is less, and the life of the LED's will outlast that of the incandescents.

But, the intensity of the LED's is too bright as shown.  So, I will be adjusting the dimmer pot, now accessible through the floor between the bolster and wheel of the truck...

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By the way, my loving wife is the photog...she does a pretty good...no, EXCELLENT!...job.!  IMHO, of course

So, my fellow forum friends, we're all thumbs up...

thumbs up\

on this project.  My sunny-rainy-every day projects at the workbench are going to be fun for the next several months!!!

And, GRJ?!!!!....Here's to you!!...

applause

...with appreciation for a truly great product!!!

KD

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Last edited by dkdkrd

Thought I'd update with another conversion on a K-Line aluminum car...this time a combination car...

Normally I wouldn't take the trouble to put lighting into a baggage car, or the baggage compartment of other car arrangements (like the RPO).  But, considering the ease of installing the strips of LED's with this lighting arrangement, I decided to take the challenge and come up with a way to turn on the baggage compartment lights when the doors were opened...as would be the case at station stops.  I had some magnets and reed switches.  Why not try?

The first issue was with the interior.  The seats/riders were all facing to the rear...a tough way to travel any distance, ...IMHO, of course.  So, I cut the floor, rotated the passenger section of the interior, and added a separation wall between the baggage & passenger compartments, the latter more for isolating the new lighting arrangement...

IMG_3162

(As it turned out, after this photo was taken I had to remove the wall from the floor and re-attach it to the ceiling piece in order to allow everything to slide into place for complete car assembly. )

I made a new ceiling piece from sheet and shapes of styrene.  I found in working on some similarly constructed Williams cars that I could make an excellent ceiling 'hanger' by using a piece of rectangular tube stock, and setting my modeler's table saw just high enough to rip a slot on one long side.  I used a piece of tubing to support the one LED wire that, for this car arrangement ran end-to-end to power the two LED strips...

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John's nifty module fit the non-vestibule end casting PERFECTLY...including the square hole for the dimmer pot access...

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I then attached a magnet (3 pcs of 0.125D. x 0.063L Nd discs, glued into a short length of plastic tubing) to the interior end (right, in photo) of the doors.  I placed the reed switch in a length of square tubing, and attached one to both walls of the car...

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I inserted the ceiling assembly into the car and attached (2-56 hex head screws) the reed switch leads to the copper foil strips...

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Then I temporarily connected the module to  AC power and the LED's, and verified that the doors, when fully opened will each/both activate the baggage compartment lighting strip....

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I've since buttoned up the car and put it back on the track.

I've also begun a search for appropriate 'baggage' to add to the compartment interior.  I thought O scale luggage items...suitcases, trunks, and the like would be fairly easy to find.  But apparently not so!?!  Lots of 'crates' available.  I was sure that some manufacturer (e.g., Preiser?) at one time offered dozens of luggage items on a sprue to load up baggage compartments and station carts.  Hmmm....  Ah, well, for another day.

I'll repeat this lighting arrangement on the RPO car of this set.  Then it's on to the last 'hurdle'...the dome/observation.  And then on to the other several K-Line (incl. 'by Lionel') aluminum sets.

We're definitely having fun!!  Thanks, John!!

KD

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Last edited by dkdkrd

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