HO Scale Trains LED Light

Posted on May - 16 - 2015

IMG_1429I seem to enjoy having lights on my HO scale locomotives whether they are DC or DCC. With DC, however, the lights are just “on” (unless you build a small switch into the circuit – which can complicate things). DCC allows you several lighting options such as “forward light on”, “forward light off”, “reverse light on”, “reverse light on”, etc. (including blinking and other light patterns). This post will review some HO scale trains LED light installations I have done and provide supplemental material for you to explore.

My first attempt to build a locomotive is pictured in this post. It has forward and reverse LED light installations. I used two different types of LEDs, placed resistors in the circuit and otherwise installed them in accordance with the guide that came with the DCC module I used. As you may be able to discern from the photo, the LED is bright (which is the way I like it, but using a higher value resistor will dim the LED)

The first LED install I attempted was to replace the bulb light in a Rivarossi 4-6-2 Heavy Pacific Crescent Ltd. locomotive. The headlight on the Rivarossi locomotives are unreliable at best and replacing it with an LED significantly improves performance. (My Rivarossi 4-6-2 Heavy Pacific Crescent Ltd. locomotive is for sale and a picture of it is here.) The most challenging part of that install was routing the wiring around the weight in the boiler of the locomotive. I also placed a small red LED in the cab to add the sense of a coal fire.

What’s needed to accomplish LED installation? The ability to solder small wires (a skill not too difficult to become proficient at), the ability to dis-assemble and re-assemble your locomotive, parts (LEDs, resistors, solder, flux, shrink tube and wire) and a soldering iron. Additional helpful items are a cradle for your locomotive and some type of wire soldering jig or third hand tool. I have a third hand tool with arms and clips at the ends of the arms.

Instead of me continuing to talk about the process, here is a video explaining the basics of LED work.

There are other helpful things to know about LED lighting. For example, you can save quite a bit of money if you shop around on the internet for vendors. If the items are available at the site you are looking at, combine your order for LEDs with your order for other items such as shrink tube or wire (see, e.g., Mouser Electronics).

I figured I would find a site with inexpensive LEDs for sale (even if it was overseas) and make a large purchase to maximize the shipping cost benefit. My order of over 400 LEDs was about $55.00. (I will add the seller information when I find it.) My repair parts inventory for LEDs is flush! [More to come.]


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