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When I was a kid, growing up in the 60s and 70s near Trenton, NJ, I used to ride the train to NYC all the time. I can remember vividly the engine approaching the station and the Mars light flashing, which thrilled me.

I have been trying my best to find an o gauge train that could duplicate that experience for a while now, but I guess I first need to figure out what engine would have been pulling passenger cars in the Northeast Corridor, passing through Trenton, and sporting a Mars light.

Any ideas?

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@BobbyD posted:

Worst case is a repaint if you can't find a model of the actual one. The MTH Mars light is unbelievable in brightness. The Atlas does a decent job and the newer Lionel units where they have with a "working" light if you need a donor.

Bobby, do you know of a Lionel or mth engine with a mars light? I’ve been a bit frustrated with Lionel putting in their specs Mars light only to discover there isn’t one.  Some of their 2.0 engines list this feature but when I ask someone with the actual loco it isn’t there.

@pdxtrains posted:

When I was a kid, growing up in the 60s and 70s near Trenton, NJ, I used to ride the train to NYC all the time. I can remember vividly the engine approaching the station and the Mars light flashing, which thrilled me.

I have been trying my best to find an o gauge train that could duplicate that experience for a while now, but I guess I first need to figure out what engine would have been pulling passenger cars in the Northeast Corridor, passing through Trenton, and sporting a Mars light.

Any ideas?

Mars oscillating headlights were not popular in the Northeast.  The DL&W ("Lackawanna") did have EMD E8A units equipped with Mars Lights.  The Lackawanna trains terminated in New Jersey, and you would have finished your trip on a ferry.

The Pennsylvania Railroad -- while it did not normally use oscillating headlights -- did purchase a small number of passenger diesels so equipped:

  • One BP20 Baldwin sharknose DR6-4-20 with a Mars Light, in 1948 and
  • Two EP22 EMD E8A's with Pyle Gyralites, around 1952.

I am not certain that these orphan Pennsy locomotives retained their oscillating headlights into the 1960's, but someone on this Forum probably knows.  And they were diesels, so I do not know if you were riding outside the electrified zone.

Now, if you're referring to Amtrak locomotives (after 1971), there's only on choice.  The only electric locomotives equipped with oscillating headlights in the Northeast were Amtrak's E60 locomotives, which had Gyralites.  If an electric locomotive was used on your train, it was Amtrak and the locomotive was an E60.

Last edited by Number 90

Thanks for that info Tom.

I'm guessing the original poster rode the PRR mainline (NEC) from Trenton. I've spent my entire life living along the same line and do not recall ever seeing a PRR engine with a Mars or Gyralite. It would have been a rare event indeed for the Baldwin or EMD to transit the electrified main.

Whereas Amtrak's E60 did make stops in Trenton on its way to NYC.

@PRR Man posted:

Thanks for that info Tom.

I'm guessing the original poster rode the PRR mainline (NEC) from Trenton. I've spent my entire life living along the same line and do not recall ever seeing a PRR engine with a Mars or Gyralite. It would have been a rare event indeed for the Baldwin or EMD to transit the electrified main.

Whereas Amtrak's E60 did make stops in Trenton on its way to NYC.

It could well have been Amtrak. I was riding that line into the 70s.

But something came through Trenton to Penn and it had a nose light that gyrated. Those lines were electrified, so I suspect you're right PRR Man. Amtrak would have been the most likely. The local trains when I was a kid were almost Budd Car lines and so it wasn't those. I'll bet it was Amtrak E60s.

@pdxtrains posted:

I’ve been a bit frustrated with Lionel putting in their specs Mars light only to discover there isn’t one.  Some of their 2.0 engines list this feature but when I ask someone with the actual loco it isn’t there.

Lionel often lists features for an entire line of a certain engine, but doesn't put the MARS light on those engines where the prototype didn't have one. As noted above, a lot of railroads never had them on their engines. They usually put a "disclaimer" that notes certain features are included if they're true to prototype.

BTW, many may be aware of this, but for those who don't know the origin of the name, it's a fascinating story how MARS lights came about, and the involvement of Mr. Mars (yes, the founder of the candy company), for whom the light is named.

@Number 90 posted:

Mars oscillating headlights were not popular in the Northeast.  The DL&W ("Lackawanna") did have EMD E8A units equipped with Mars Lights.  The Lackawanna trains terminated in New Jersey, and you would have finished your trip on a ferry.

The Pennsylvania Railroad -- while it did not normally use oscillating headlights -- did purchase a small number of passenger diesels so equipped:

  • One BP20 Baldwin sharknose DR6-4-20 with a Mars Light, in 1948 and
  • Two EP22 EMD E8A's with Pyle Gyralites, around 1952.

I am not certain that these orphan Pennsy locomotives retained their oscillating headlights into the 1960's, but someone on this Forum probably knows.  And they were diesels, so I do not know if you were riding outside the electrified zone.

This isn't really relevant to the topic, but didn't some K4's and possibly a T1 or two have some kind of oscillating light installed as well?

3rd Rail is offering scale E60s currently in several variations.  They will be accurate to the prototype with the Mars light on the E60CP and E60CH versions.  They were removed when rebuilt into E60Ms.

If you don't have the space for a scale one, the old Williams ones are available at very affordable prices and you can always add the circuit yourself.  They are only 15" long for 027 layouts.

@GG1 4877 posted:

3rd Rail is offering scale E60s currently in several variations.  They will be accurate to the prototype with the Mars light on the E60CP and E60CH versions.  They were removed when rebuilt into E60Ms.

If you don't have the space for a scale one, the old Williams ones are available at very affordable prices and you can always add the circuit yourself.  They are only 15" long for 027 layouts.

Thanks, but you are correct that I can't fit scale. But I'll investigate Williams 027.

Some photos of my baby E60s.  I have something like 5 now.  Never paid over $100 for one used.  They run forever.  Williams offered these over a long period so if you are shopping for one, look for one of the new ones from the late 90's for the best runners.  The early ones were simply shells you placed over a Lionel GP20 or SD20 with a Pullmore motor.  I have an early one on a GP frame in Conrail as Williams originally offered these in Amtrak, Conrail, PC, and New Haven as I recall.  The one that is very hard to find and considered rare the the New Jersey Transit one.  The Metroliner is a Willams as well. 

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@pdxtrains posted:

That's exactly what I'm looking for!  Out of curiosity, does one need full DCS to trigger the light, or does it illuminate along will the main light in conventional as well?

Thanks for sharing!

The manual says all lights operate in conventional.

I went looking for an engine with the MARS light because when I was a kid in Chicago, the C&NW engines had MARS lights. I really like this MTH light. This engine also has the horn that the C&NW engines had. I assume the C&NW commuter engines were E8s....not sure.

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