LEDs IN MODEL RAILROADING Jim Hinds Richmond Controls SIGNALS LEDs are now available in Railroad Crossing signals, three-color signals, and searchlight signals. Some modelers of eastern railroads have fabricated TRACK PAN POSITION INDICATORS using back-to-back blue and white surface mount LEDs. SIGNALS What’s NEW? Aqua green LEDs with a slight blue tint. Available first in one manufacturer’s three-light signal. Available later in a triple-LED searchlight signal. MARKERS Easy for HO Scale and larger, replacing Tomar marker lamps with white LEDs. Needs a different driver package to replace “diodedrop” circuit. Harder in N and Z Scale due to size. One approach is two back-to-back surface mount LEDs driven rapidly with alternating voltage. MARKERS Special drivers can offer constant intensity and flicker-free operation. When used with LEDs, flicker-free circuits can hold up the light intensity for quite a while. With LEDs, it is unlikely the user will ever have to replace a burned-out light source. RAILROAD CARS Interior light modules are available in all scales from several vendors. Modules range from simple and cheap, to fully-featured and more expensive. Cost tradeoffs may involve features like constant intensity, flicker-free operation, color, brightness, even light distribution, power source, and on/off control. RAILROAD CARS Exterior lights may include tail signs, markers, and signal lights. Low LED currents help extend the operation of antiflicker circuits and batteries. Some commercial offerings are designed to be cut to fit, and others can be special ordered or even ordered as a bag-of-parts kit to save cost. RAILROAD CARS Most scales have metal wheels for track power, and Z Scale will be adding a supplier soon. Some cars have built-in electrical pickup (Kato, Walthers), and axle wipers are available for others. Some commercial offerings are designed to be cut to fit, and others can be special ordered or even ordered as a bag-of-parts kit to save cost. FREDs In most scales, FREDs have been very hard to find because Sunrise Enterprises went out of business. Replacements are in the works but are slow in coming. Track powered FRED flashers can be small enough to put UNDER empty Z Scale and N Scale cars like flatcars and gondolas. FREDs Some manufacturers just furnish an LED mounted on the rear wall of a car like a boxcar. Others offer a more prototypical mounting. Ring Engineering has a system for HO Scale where everything is built into a truck. That can be readily done in HO and larger scales using available flashers, if you can find a FRED. BUILDINGS LEDs are wonderful for lighting buildings because an incandescent color is available. The LED is not likely to ever burn out if treated nicely. BUILDINGS For rectangular areas like a ceiling, a handy technique is the push several LEDs through holes at the corners of a piece of thin plastic or cardboard, wire everything together and test it on the workbench, and drop it into place as a false ceiling. With 12 V power, four LEDs with one resistor makes a great combination. BUILDINGS The same lighting strips that can be used in passenger cars can also be used in buildings. An example might be one over each stall in a roundhouse. For building lighting, much of the passenger car circuitry (rectifier, antiflicker circuit, constant intensity circuit) can be omitted to save cost. VEHICLES Special effects are available for vehicles as well as for locomotives. Emergency vehicles can display great variety. Simple lighting like the clearance lights on 18wheelers and turn signals on trucks can cars can be readily done. Dual red/blue complex strobes on a Z Scale police motorcycle aren’t very difficult. SCENERY ITEMS An obvious target for lighting in N Scale and HO Scale is the Athearn billboard. Other items benefiting from lighting might include • Showcase Miniatures radio tower, • Walthers’ smokestacks, and • Walthers Rocky Point lighthouse. SUMMARY The potential variety for layout lighting using LEDs is huge. Knowing that LEDs probably will not burn out in your lifetime might make you more inclined to build that refinery or drilling rig model and cover it with lights.