As the title of this post suggests we're going to "LED" the light shine out of AM Budd Streamliners! It ain't that hard to do...really!


First a parts list:

1. You will need rectifier to change AC track voltage to DC voltage so the LED's can operate (they only can use DC). I use these:

2. You will need a capacitor to prevent flickering lights at low voltage. I use these:

3. You will need some mini male/female plugs. I used some ~ like these:20-Pairs-Micro-JST-1-25-2-Pin-Male-and-Female-Connector-plug-with-Wires-Cables

4. You will need some LED strip lights. I used some like these in warm white:New-Warm-White-500CM-300leds-3528-SMD-Flexible-LED-Strip-Lights-12V-Lamp


5. You will also need a voltage regulator. This one is adjustable so you can preset how much light you want your cars to put out. When used in conjunction with the above referenced capacitor you can get a steady flicker-free light effect at low voltage. I used some like these:

6. You'll also need a soldering gun, solder, some double-sided foam tape, and some patience.

Here's the parts:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 001 I've shown two regulators so you can see the back side  but you'll only use one/car.

OK...let's go. First find a suitable location that let's you spread out the components. Make sure it's padded so you don't scratch the car's paint. I'm using a coach car for this demonstration. The observation car and diner  which I did earlier differed in that it was harder to hide the components. I haven't tackled a dome car yet but I will next week. Here's a typical coach car:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 003

There are four screws under the car. Remove them and put them in a safe place because they will do everything they can to run away:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 004

Here's what you'll see inside the car:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 005

With a black felt pen mark the floor end with an X  and the underside of the shell end with another X so you'll reinstall the shell correctly later.

The green circuit board is what powers the incandescent lights supplied with the car. We will use it for the LED's because it provides a place to access the AC power (on top) and also a place to secure the LED strips (underneath). First we need to remove the 3 bulbs. It's easy. Leave the board attached to the car, pull down on the bulbs while at the same time touching the solder joints of the bulbs on top of the board with a soldering iron. You'll need to alternate on the solder dots while pulling down on the bulbs. When they let go keep them for some other use.

Next you'll attach the LED strips to the underside of the board. Remove the two screws that hold the board to the car. (DON'T LOSE 'EM!). With the underside facing you attach a length of double sided sticky foam tape. Use about a 3/8 inch wide piece and keep it to one side or the other so it doesn't block the mounting holes. Mine was as long as the distance between the holes. Cut an equal length strip of the LED's being careful to only cut at the middle of the copper solder discs every 3 lights on the strip. My strip was 15 bulbs long. If it were mounted in the center it would block the board mounting holes so that's why it's offset to one side:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 006 Now solder a female plug to the copper tabs at the end. Polarity means everything here to keep things straight. I like to use the red wire to designate (+) DC power. My strip wasn't marked as to which side was (+) or (-) but it's easy to find out. Take 9 volt battery and with jumper wires try different combinations until the strip lights up. Then mark which side of the LED strip is connected to the (+) side of the 9 volt battery. You can't hurt the strip if it's hooked up backwards to the battery...it just won't light.

Here's a close-up:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 007

Now we need to add the rectifier so we can change the AC power to DC power. If you look closely at the rectifier it has 4 legs on it. The center two are marked  with an ~ sign. That's where the AC power will go into the rectifier. The two outer legs are marked (+) and (-). That's DC power coming out of the rectifier.

First reinstall the green circuit board on the pegs of the car. At the end of the board there are two solder dots. Attach a female plug to these two dots. Wire color DOESN'T matter here as the power going in the wire is AC (alternating current). With a little hot glue attach to the car floor the rectifier standing legs up next to the partition at the end of the car. Solder a male plug to the two center (AC) legs. Attach the female plug from the top side of the circuit board to this male plug. We now have completed the path for the AC power to get into the rectifier:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 008

On the outer legs we will attach the capacitor. Think of the capacitor as a kind of a battery. It stores up energy to be released when called on such as on dirty track. Happily it will also supply power to the circuit allowing the LED strip to output light at a level higher than track voltage. The capacitor is also polarity sensitive. On one side you'll see a gold stripe. The wire on that side is the (-) wire. Solder it to the (-) leg of the rectifier. The other wire out of the capacitor is the (+) wire. Solder it to the (+) leg of the rectifier. I was able to hide the capacitor in a partition hole near the rectifier:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 009


Now solder another female plug to the two outer legs of the rectifier. Solder the red wire to the (+) leg and the black wire to the (-) leg.

We're getting close now to the finish line.

Next we will install the voltage regulator. Luckily it is just the right length to match the car partition. Solder a male plug to the "INPUT" side...red wire to (+) and black wire to (-). Mate this male plug to the (DC) female plug coming from the rectifier. Solder another male plug to the "OUTPUT" side red wire to (+) and black wire to (-). This OUTPUT wire is what will mate with the plug on the LED strip. I secured the regulator board to the end wall of the partition with two small screw using the provided board mounting holes:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 011


The regulator has a tiny adjustment screw on the blue thing-a-ma-bob which allows you to set the intensity of the LED light. I powered up the car with AC and turned the screw one way or another until the strip lit up. I then adjusted it to the light level I wanted (about 10 VDC). To do this I touched  volt meter leads to the regulator outputs until it showed the 10VDC I wanted while adjusting the screw. You may need 6 to 8 hands to do this.

OK with all the plugs connected correctly and the LED voltage adjusted to 10VDC apply some AC power to the car wheels. If all is correct you'll see this:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 010

If not... You'll have to recheck all your work and make sure the solder joints are tight and correct as to polarity where required.

Here's a refresher. The AC power comes from the track through the wheels... into the wires attached to the trucks...into the green circuit board...out of the green circuit board into the center legs of the rectifier...where it is changed to DC power... and exits the two outer legs and enters the voltage regulator (+) to (+) and (-) to (-)...then leaves the voltage regulator and enters the LED strip (+) to (+) and (-) to (-). The capacitor is just along for the ride being used when called on and boosting voltage.

When I ran my Texas Special set at the speed I wanted I measured 6 VAC on the track. The capacitor kept the LED strip putting out light at 10 VDC. The difference in lighting between the factory supplied 3 incandescent bulbs and the LED strips at 6 VAC was huge:

LED'S in AM Budd Cars 012

In the attached videos (if they work) you'll see the difference. The video will probably be herky-jerky. That's my fault. I haven't figured out my new camera yet. If you have questions or see I have written something confusing I'll try to answer and clarify what I've done.

I have a few more videos but the limit to a post is 100 MB. I can add another if you want to see another view of the cars. Hey, I just noticed the video ran smoothly!















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LED @ Oil Facility
Original Post
Drummer3 posted:

In lieu of the Buck step down module, can you just use a resistor?   I would try different values to get the brightness I like.


No. You absolutely need the voltage regulator which is contained in the step down module. It does many jobs at once especially allowing the setting of the voltage to your preference with out any heat build up which could damage your cars. I tried that once with a prewar 3/16 car with no voltage regulator. The metal car got so hot you couldn't touch the roof where the LED strip was attached.





Drummer3 posted:

Hey BanjoFlyer, great instructions here!   Is it possible to post a circuit schematic for the components ? 

See my youtube channel here:     My channel


That's above my pay grade. My verbal description in the original post detailing the path of the electricity from track to LED is as technical as I get.





I bit the bullet and did two of my cars with the cool white led's and it is a huge difference.  I will try a couple with the warm light and see what I like best.,  I brought a reel of each and got them in about 8 days from China.  I am putting them in newer Lionel Flyer cars.  I beats the heck out of only having one light bulb lit up.  Last step, turn off the room lights and enjoy.,  Costs for led's per car is about .18 cents per car,  300 led on reel, 18 per car. $.98 for buck converter.  .11 cents per car for the filter. I am only using a 1 amp rectifier, a 2 amp rectifier is about .37 cents.   That's $1.64 cents in parts per car....





"Buy another round of track for the boys"

Mark, A very nice job on the instructions for the installation of the leds. I have done most of my Flyonel cars with these. I do have one set of my Gilbert cars done also. I have one American Models train to do but, I am still working through the "Turnout Surgery" on my layout and will not find time to do the AM set for a while. You do continue to add to my work load.

But, Hey thank you for the tutorial.


That's the board that's been talked about before, I sell them through Henning's Trains.

LED Lighting Regulator

FWIW, I take any lighting strip out of the cars and put the LED strip directly on the overhead of the shell.  That gets it a bit farther out of view.  I stick the little regulator module to the ceiling with DS foam tape, it's out of sight that way.

What's the difference between that and using a LED Lighting Driver like this one?  Obviously no intensity adjustment, but meant to output a constant level of power (e.g. 25mA) over a wide range of input voltage.  Thanks.  

David Horn

Precision Flyer Repairs

Specializing in S-gauge train repairs, upgrades, and DCC conversions

Member NASG, TCA, BAAFC, and founding member ACSG Old Dominion Division 


In a word... well two words, intensity adjustment.  Also, the CL2 needs the rectifier to convert track power to DC and also the capacitor to buffer the DC to kill the flicker.  Finally, my lighting module also includes the 22uh choke for DCS compatibility.  You can't just use that bare component.

Marty, the CL2 is just a constant current regulator, it requires filtered DC in order to function.  In order to perform the functions necessary for constant intensity lighting with flicker protection, you have to wrap it with a bunch of components.  You have to add the rectifier, capacitor, and if you want to run with DCS, the choke is also recommended.

Mark, you are very close, but my regulator board actually is a constant current board, so that pot controls the current.  Of course, since LED's are current mode devices, I've always felt that's the better way to operate them.

No cap required on my board Marty, it's all there, rectifier, choke, capacitor, and regulator.  It takes track voltage AC or DC and provides a constant current output to power the LED strips.  You can adjust the module constant current from around 5ma to 45ma, that's enough to go from quite dim to very bright with a strip of the LED roll in a typical passenger car up to 21" long.


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Martin Derouin posted:

I have four of them coming, do they have install directions???   I emailed Hennings and as of right now, no response...

Here you go, pretty simple install.  Hook up the AC on one pair of connections, the DC to the LED strip on the other, and you're ready to light.

Pass Car Lighting Module Documentation.pdf


Martin, a picture of what you bought would help. If you have those referenced in the original post they would have a band (some color) that differs from the body of the cap. It also has a (-) sign on that band. And the lead on that side is the (negative) short lead.


If you bought something else please provide a picture. I'm certainly no electrical wizard by any stretch but GRJ and others would be able to set you right on the polarity. If you Google your question you'll get lots of info but little consensus without pictures.



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