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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.

@PRR Man posted:

That’s true. The Metroliners did come initially with a light that shone a circular pattern. I distinctly recall seeing the beam sweep the ROW in the evening. I believe there were three headlights centered up top, with the Mars in center

I remember being surprised it was not a GG1, but the new trainset.

That's what I'm remembering: gyrating light in the center.

@mashinter posted:

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.

Have seen images of both C&NW E units and C&NW F units in commuter service. Google will pop a lot of them.

Last edited by BobbyD
@pdxtrains posted:

An E60  o gauge is going to be a tall order to find.  The reality is, I don't care if it's a non prototype engine at this point--I just want a Mars light.

The easiest solution may be to send my PRR MTH P3 Alco to Gunnerjohn and have him install a Mars light. That would scratch the itch.

Thanks everyone for your help!

That's probably your best bet. I have the Mars Light obsession too, and have installed the Ngineering modules in a number of 3rd Rail engines. GRJ's methods are undoubtedly more efficient than mine, and I haven't attempted - because it was never necessary - to use these modules in an MTH engine.

The Ngineering Mars Light Simulator requires an onboard DC power supply, which you can get from Ngineering, but it's an incredibly small separate module and requires some soldering effort to install. (I don't say soldering skill, because despite my best efforts I don't have any!)

The Lionel/MTH approach to this feature has not been consistent. I have found the latest versions of the Lionel effort, including in a VL GS steamer, less than convincing. In certain TMCC models, they did it 'way better. This is a very short video of a Santa Fe F3 from about 2003:

This is a conversion of a 3rd Rail E7 diesel I did a few years back. I think that 3rd Rail now uses the Ngineering modules in their 3-rail models:

Last edited by Hancock52
@Hancock52 posted:

That's probably your best bet. I have the Mars Light obsession too, and have installed the Ngineering modules in a number of 3rd Rail engines. GRJ's methods are undoubtedly more efficient than mine, and I haven't attempted - because it was never necessary - to use these modules in an MTH engine.

The Ngineering Mars Light Simulator requires an onboard DC power supply, which you can get from Ngineering, but it's an incredibly small separate module and requires some soldering effort to install. (I don't say soldering skill, because despite my best efforts I don't have any!)

The Lionel/MTH approach to this feature has not been consistent. I have found the latest versions of the Lionel effort, including in a VL GS steamer, less than convincing. In certain TMCC models, they did it 'way better. This is a very short video of a Santa Fe F3 from about 2003:

This is a conversion of a 3rd Rail E7 diesel I did a few years back. I think that 3rd Rail now uses the Ngineering modules in their 3-rail models:

Yes, the Ngineering version is far superior, it actually looks a MARS light! I think the only real way to scratch this itch is to have a pro install it for me.

For the fun of it, it would be interesting to add a mars light circuit to the Williams Metroliners.  At 15" also they work nicely on small layouts. 

Here is a video of my Williams set (1 car is missing as I robbed parts as donners for other projects).

I also have a Welz set, but with a Lionel Pullmore motor drive, I don't think it is compatible with modern electronics.  I like this set better even if the Williams set is a much better running one. 

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No sweat to add a MARS light simulator...

I would like to use a miniature simulator module to produce mars light action with the taillight on my Northland, a heavyweight business car.    This is a K-Line model with incandescent overhead lighting. The car marker lights are LEDs and I have wired a red LED to that circuit. I run DCS with 18 voltage. The overhead light board has resistors for the LEDs and the red taillight works fine.   

Question:  How easy would it be to add a Ngineering MSM to that circuit?  Would I just solder it in series to the red LED.  Also, which module would you recommend - Early-era Flasher Simulator N037 or Earl-era & Modern-era Alternating Flasher Simulators - N038?   

I am a little confused since the instillations and specs on the web site only refer to DCC operation.    

Thanks for help and any recommendations.  

Cheers, Dave

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You wouldn't use any of those, the N8031 MARS Light Simulator is the one you want.  It needs a filtered DC power supply from 6V to 18V, preference being 12VDC or lower to avoid overheating the tiny regulator on the board.  If you are driving a red LED, then you want the N8031C version for the lower voltage red LED.

Thanks for the recommendation.   From your experience, and possibly with this K-Line car, are the marker lights & end light  using AC?     The filtered DC power supply has me a little confused, are you saying add an 18volt diode in series to convert AC into DC for the red light?    I will test the two leads to the red LED to read the Voltage.   Any other suggestions?

Thanks, Dave

Last edited by darlander

C&NW eventually started taking the MARS lights out and painting over the lens.  Some F's had "gong" bells placed in the MARS light location.

Rusty

Yeah, that shows in the images. He wanted to know if the C&NW used E and F units and I have no idea what year he is modeling.

@mashinter posted:

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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