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Passenger Car Lighting

Started by beanozork, February 15, 2007, 07:40:52 PM

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I have a Pennsylvanian & just bought a East Broad Top combine to add to the train. I noticed it's lights are track powered. Can I convert the other two cars I have that came with the engine & tender? They are presently battery powered.

the Bach-man

Dear Beano,
You can, and there are a variety of ways. However, the parts from the car you have may not be currently available. You'll have ti check with service to see if they're available.
Have fun!
the Bach-man


Personally, I was disappointed that Bachmann decided to go with track powered lighting on their great coaches. Track powered lights are always flickering, and if you stop the train, the lights go off, not very prototypical in my opinion. Also, track power can increase drag, limiting train size. When I buy some of the new coaches, I am converting them to battery powered lights before they even touch the rails. Just my 2 cents.

Boulder Creek and Western Railroad (G scale 1:20.3)

Paul W.

I also add battery powered lights to cars. Even if the train is stopped, they stay on. I know some folks don't like having to reach under to turn them on, but after a flip of a switch, my cars are lit and I'm off for some nightime running. 
Happy Steamin'


Terry Toenges

I'm converting a battery combine to track powered.
I decided to use the LGB ball bearing wheel sets that Curmudgeon recommended.
They have the contacts built into them. Just attach the wires to the two little prongs sticking up. They even include the fittings for attaching the wires to the prongs.
They are expensive, though, at about $26 per two axles.
Curmudgeon also recommended wiring all the wheels together on each side.
I'm also using plugs, so I can remove the body when I need to change bulbs or passengers.
I'm still doing the wiring on them now.

Feel like a Mogul.

Loco Bill Canelos

I agree with Matt and much prefer the battery powered lighting.   I was looking over the track powered cars and noticed that they come with metal handrails while the battery powered cars have the old plastic handrails. 

I would love to see the metal handrails and battery powered lighting become the standard. 
Loco Bill,  Roundhouse Foreman
Colorado & Kansas Railway-Missouri Western Railway
Official Historian; Bachmann Large Scale
Colorado RR Museum-Brakeman-Engineer-Motorman-Trainman
There are no dumb or stupid questions, just questions!



Boulder Creek and Western Railroad (G scale 1:20.3)

Ron Schunk

I just finished converting two passenger cars from battery to track power.
Parts list and info at:

Cheap ( <10.00 except for the wheel contacts) and easy.

I really got tired of changing out the batteries....


I want both! I would like to see someone design a circuit to combine track power with batteries.  Track power would light the lights and charge the battery while the train is running and the battery would keep the lights on for a time while the train was stopped.  I would not know where to begin to design such a circuit but I am sure that some electrical genius could do it for us.

Jerry Kay
Big Sandy & Cumberland Garden Railroad
Virginia Central & New River Railway & Navigation Co.
"I love the smell of coal smoke in the morning!"


Most of the average runnig on most pikes, is during daylight hours; so the lights are wasted when on track power. The Battery power was much better as others have indicated. The nine volt batteries lasted a good, long time, and rechargable batteries were always an option.

  So; I'd stick with battery power and enjoy !

   You might be able to get the battery boxes from the parts department, if they are in a good humour....!!!!


Loco Bill Canelos


I definitely like that idea 8), because I still use track power and have that kind of system to recharge my sound system.  It is built into the sound card so I wouldn't know how to replicate it, but it is definitely something that could be done. 
Loco Bill,  Roundhouse Foreman
Colorado & Kansas Railway-Missouri Western Railway
Official Historian; Bachmann Large Scale
Colorado RR Museum-Brakeman-Engineer-Motorman-Trainman
There are no dumb or stupid questions, just questions!

Jim Banner

The run time of battery lighting can be greatly extended.  Using LED's instead of incandescent bulbs can cut power consumption by 80%.  So instead of 1 hour on a 9volt alkaline, you get 5 hours.  With rechargeable NiMH 9 volts batteries, the time goes up to around 12 hours.  Make that a lithium polymer battery and it goes up to about 25 hours.  Still not long enough?  Put two AA cells in the battery box and four more in a battery holder in the washroom.  Make those high capacity NiMH cells for a life approaching 150 hours.

I run DCC which gives a constant voltage, but the pickup can flicker.  So I regulate the rectified DCC and regulate it down to about 9.5 volts.  Then with a pair of diodes, I let the lights choose either this regulated track voltage or 9 volts from a battery pack of 6 AA alkaline cells.  After 5 years running with this setup, I have yet to change the batteries.  And this is with the original bulbs, not with LEDs.   I have never measured it, but I suspect the lights run 99% of the time on track power and 1% on battery.  The only drawback is that it only works with DCC.   
Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.


Jim - when you say regulate, do you mean just a resistor or an actual voltage regulator?  Can you also explain the diode setup?

Thanks, Bob

Jim Banner

Dropping voltage with a resistor can be a risky business, and this is one of the cases where it is.  How much voltage a resistor drops is proportional to the current through it.  So if you install a resistor sized to drop from say 18 volts down to 9 volts for 4 lamps, it will not drop enough voltage for the remaining three lamps if one burns out.  If the voltage drop decreases, then the voltage on the lamps increases.  With lamp life varying as the 13 power of the voltage, a small rise in voltage shortens lamp life radically.  Within hours, a second lamp will burn out.  Then, within minutes, a third lamp, and seconds later the last lamp will burn out.

For that reason, the circuit I use contains a voltage regulator.  It is shown below

In this circuit, a bridge rectifier rectifies the DCC track voltage to dc.  As the DCC waveform is rectangular, virtually no filtering is required.  A small capacitor (.1 to 1 microfarad) is connected across the bridge rectifier to keep the voltage regulator from oscillating.  Too large a capacitor here can overload the command station or booster on start up if many lighted passenger cars are used.  The regulator is an LM317 adjustable voltage, integrated circuit regulator.  With the resistors shown, it can be adjusted from about 7 to 12 volts output.  The output of the regulator and the output of a 9 volt battery are both connected to the lamp(s) through diodes.  With this arrangement, whichever source (regulator or battery) has the highest voltage will be the one that supplies power to the lamp(s).  I usually adjust the regulator output to be about .1 volt higher than the output of a fresh new battery.  This is easy to do it you connect a voltmeter from the output of the regulator to the positive terminal of the battery.  Then you are measuring the difference in voltage between the two sources.  If you connect the plus lead of the voltmeter to the regulator output and the negative lead to the battery +, the variable resistor can be adjusted until the meter reads +.1 volt (NOT -.1 volt.)  By keeping the regulator and battery voltages similar, the lights do not noticably change brightness when switching over between sources.

I usually build this cuircuit on a piece of perforated circuit board and hide it either in the washroom or under a seat, depending on whether I install AA batteries or a rectangular 9 volt battery. 
Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.


Jim,   Thanks for the posting of the circuit, this is just what alot of folks wanted...

I'm not a wiz at this stuff but I can follow a circuit enough to make it work...

A couple of ?'s  for clarity..

Is the output watts enough for all four lights, and would it power a second car if wired to the circuit?

Does the battery type make a differance? ie: NiMH, Nicad, alk,  and or do they need to be rechargable?

What works best?  6 AAs or 9V  cells.

Dave Taylor
New Mexico Northern RR
New Mexico Northern Rail Road