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Cheap lighting for passenger cars

By Bill Barnwell | August 6, 2022

Add battery-operated LED lights to your project for about $20

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Group of large-scale rolling stock

Cheap lighting for passenger cars: I had kitbashed an LGB No. 3080 passenger car into an observation car and wanted to add interior lighting. Instead of track-powered lighting, I opted to install battery-powered light emitting diodes (LEDs). For around $20 in supplies, you can have flicker-free lighting in your car too.

Battery pack and wires on an interior passenger car roof
The author used a small battery holder and added added a small on/off switch to the interior of the roof to add cheap lighting to his passenger car. Photo by Bill Barnwell

I cut the roof (on the interior) to hold the battery case (2 AAA batteries). The case is held in place by friction. I then added a tiny slide switch with connectors most commonly used in radio-controlled cars to the clerestory section. I cut a piece of Evergreen plastic tubing (size #257) to fit on the roof’s underside, then drilled several holes. In the holes, I installed 10mm cool white LEDs. I also drilled holes for small screws, so I could easily attach the tubing to the top of the roof interior.

Tools and a plastic model passenger car roof on a workbench
The author adds the plastic tubing to the underside of the roof. He drilled holes in the tubing, added the LEDs, and soldered them to the copper tape. Photo by Bill Barnwell

I added a yellow LED to car’s exterior. I also added a lit drumhead. I used AWG 32 wire for the project.

close up of power switch on model passenger car
The power switch for the lighting. Photo by Bill Barnwell

On the back of the plastic tubing, I ran a length of copper soldering tape down each side (used for making stained-glass windows), then soldered the positive LED leads to one side and the negative leads to the other, along with the attendant power wires.  I attach the plastic tubing to the underside of the roof with two small screws.

cheap lighting for passenger car in the dark
The lights cast a nice glow in the dark. Photo by Bill Barnwell

After soldering everything together, I now have nice, non-flickering lighting in my car. I’ve since converted other cars to this type of lighting and they all work great.

Cheap lighting for passenger cars supply list:

X-acto knife

Drill with drill bit

10 mm LED lights

Evergreen rectangular plastic tubing, size #257

MPX Maxx #1470 microswitch harness

2 AAA battery holder

Copper tape

Small screws

32 gauge wire

Soldering iron/tools

Group of large-scale rolling stock
The author has added similar lighting to other pieces of rolling stock. Photo by Bill Barnwell

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