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I have the three pronged 4.5v Menards power source, #1 is going to Menards Fed Ex,  #2is going to Mendards lighted truck.   #3i cut the  the plug of to directly wire to Lionel Tough Guy Gym - i find there is not as much lighting in that building as I like to have.  I have added a couple of lights see picture attached.  

So does the set up I have here (picture attached)  work - it works fine...just want be sure I am good permanently attach.  Might want to add a couple more lights





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Last edited by Rich Melvin
Original Post

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If staying within the Menards "family" you simply add up the power requirements for each device and choose one of their DC-output voltage power adapters.

menards power

For example the FedEx bldg says 670 mA, a lighted truck says 30 that's 700 mA total power required.  The 3-prong adapter says it can supply 2000 mA so you're good to go.

Lionel accessories are generally powered by the Accessory AC-output from a train transformer.  This is generally a much higher voltage such as 14V AC rather than the 4.5V DC used by Menards.  I'm surprised your Lionel building lights up at all with "only" 4.5V DC applied to it.

If Lionel is now offering buildings that are directly compatible with the Menards DC-output adapters then great and ignore my ramblings.


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Last edited by stan2004

You can use the Z-4000 Aux Accessory Voltage (10V or 14V) output to directly power the Lionel building.  The 14V output will be slightly brighter.

However, to be clear, do NOT hook up the Z-4000 directly to a Menards building or truck!


If having two separate lighting power sources and attendant wiring is undesirable, inconvenient, or what have you, then yes there are methods to convert the Menards adapter voltage to a voltage suitable to drive the Lionel building...or to convert the Z-4000 Accessory voltage to a voltage suitable to drive the Menards lighted items.  It's not expensive to do so and methods have been discussed in previous OGR threads - sort of depends on your comfort level with DIY tinkering working with electronic components, modules, soldering, using a meter, and so on.

Separately.  There have been several OGR discussions about reducing brightness in Menards buildings.  That is, from what I have read, Menards buildings tend to be bright - of course to each his own.  Also, IIRC the Menards LED buildings tend to have a cooler white color rather than the warmer white color from other manufacturers or from traditional incandescent lighting.  Again, there have been OGR discussions on what to do if this is of interest.

One way to ease the inconvenience of having multiple lighting power sources is to use a terminal or distribution block like the one pictured below. For instance, you could run the Z4K 14v accessory output to the block and then run wires from there out to all of your buildings and structures that require 14acv-18acv to light up. As long as you don't exceed the capacity of the output, you should be able to power many, many buildings in that power range.



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So - I am happy to use a distribution block to power several buildings with my Z.  I just thought I could only use the transformer power for the incandescent lights not the LED.    

and yes the lights are much brighter

I will keep the Menards with Menards but if I can use the transformer to power LED i am in good shape

this would be buildings that I add strip lighting to and others with lights already attached

@msp posted:

... if I can use the transformer to power LED i am in good shape

this would be buildings that I add strip lighting to and others with lights already attached

To be clear, you can use a train transformer's Accessory AC voltage to power building LEDs as long as you have electronics in the building or external to the building to convert the AC to DC...and to adjust/reduce the voltage that the LEDs see.


In your photo, there is a small circuit board with less than $1 of components that performs this function.

If by "strip lighting" you mean those LEDs you get for a few pennies each on a roll, then those too will need some components.  It's not that it's expensive or complicated to add the electronics but there are too many options to describe without more information.  If you have a project in mind, post the specifics.


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Stan - thank you - that has been the missing link for me.  

so those electronics you speak of - is it project specific or can I buy/ build what is necessary separately and use on each of my “homemade” lighting projects?   Or is there a link you can direct me to that shows  what is needed

I assume that all modern buildings have those necessary electronics  do those are a non issue

I think the quantity and variety of LED lighting threads here on OGR is a clue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The good news is there are plenty of knowledgeable folks here to answer your questions within the O gauge tent.

So do you already have the LED strip lights you mentioned?  What are they?


Above photo from this OGR thread shows the 2 main types of LED strips that you might see for O gauge building lighting.  Note how the strips already have the "electronics" (a resistor) to make them directly compatible for operation with 5V DC or 12V DC...both of which are commonly available DC voltages.  By commonly available, I mean in the PC world as opposed to our O gauge hamlet where 14V AC is more commonly available!

As a slight sidebar, in preparing my response, I stumbled across this OGR thread showing how even Menards is using LED strips in their buildings!


Actually, in looking at the FedEx building, if you peer under the eaves (or whatever you call it) I wonder if that building too has an LED strip facing downward?

Anyway, what I'm getting at is if you can imagine a "technique" where you standardize on using LED strip lights, then you can eliminate the arguably tedious process of calculating resistor values which seems part-and-parcel of many LED lighting discussions.  That is, with 5V LED strips you can get a "cut" resolution of as little as one (1) LED.  With 12V LED strips you get a cut resolution of three (3) other words cutting to length means 3, 6, 9, 12, etc..  Again, I'm just musing about a fantasy world where you don't have to mess with "loose" resistors and "loose" LEDs.

If starting from, say, 14V AC from your Z-4000, I suggest an AC-to-DC converter module that just does that...converts 14V AC to either 12V DC or 5V DC:

ac-dc stepdown module


For example, above photos shows an AC-to-DC converter module (about $5) set to an output of 4.5V DC to power Menards buildings using a train transformer Accessory AC.  Note in the lower photo how there is even a mini-voltmeter (about $1) module showing the module set to the proper voltage if you don't have a DC voltmeter handy.  Or you could adjust the module to an output voltage of 12V DC if driving 12V LED strips.

Note that Menards chooses to drive the 5V LED strips with only 4.5V as provided by their wall adapters.  The reduction if brightness is hardly noticeable and in fact many guys choose to operate Menards buildings at 4.0V or even less to tone down the brightness.  Some Menards buildings have hundreds of LEDs which can overwhelm a layout!

I see I'm rambling perhaps about irrelevant matters for your project(s) but if my general direction is in alignment we can continue...


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Not to further confuse the issue, but one of our Forum sponsors, Evan Designs, has LED's that already come with a resistor built-in, so that you can just hook them up directly to a 7-19 volt AC/DC transformer or to a distribution/terminal block connected to such a transformer.

That may be a more viable and easier option if you're wary about piecing together your own system.   

Last edited by Richie C.

@TedW. - generally speaking yes-  However, I am not in the middle of any project now and I am sure I will have specific questions when I get there.  My problem is sometimes I will start a project then put it down and it takes time to get back to it and I have to "relearn" what i thought I knew.    For now i am good.  I like to keep the electronics as out of the box as possible but still do like to try some creative projects.

thanks for all the help


Okay some specific questions......

1.  I have Menards building (see pictures attached)  As you can see it has been wired to attach to an alternate source then Menards cables.  I thought I  could take a plug and attach to the wires and plug in with the Menards plug.  So the first picture is the underside of the County Inn you can see what has been done.  The second picture was my solution.   This did not work as it shorted the other building that was lighted.   This was the the three pronged input.   So why would this not work?

2.  I have have the WS department store (see pics 3-5)  the three lights lighting the window display don't the work the main light does.  So i thought I would replace with my own light - see picture 4 - that did not work then I tried to plug the light directly into the hub on the building that did not work.  That seems to me like it should work - thoughts on this one.

hopefully a picture is worth 1000 words in this case......


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Last edited by msp

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