Aristo Heavyweight Lighting


The Aristo heavyweights have 4 "automotive type" light bulbs in the roof (bayonet base). George Schreyer says they approximate a #53 bulb (shades of Lionel!). The lights are spaced every 5-1/2 inches.

The sockets for the bulbs are soldered to an electrical "bus" in the roof. There are two or more (more on that later) contacts from the roof to spring contacts in the body to conduct power.

The "floor" of the car is a "sandwich" of plastic and circuit board that connects the power picked up from the trucks to the spring contacts on the body.

In the picture below, you can see:

  1. The electrical power bus made of two uninsulated wires (more on that later)
  2. The bus wire is soldered to terminal lugs which are screwed to plastic "bosses" in the root.
  3. Two metal contacts at the end of the bus, which will contact similar ones on the body to conduct power.

Be sure to notice the slack in the bus wire, more on that later:

It may be hard to see, but there is a "clip" on the socket, and the wire is passed through it and soldered there. Then a gob of hot glue is put there to secure the bulb from moving. (more on this later)

The "bus" is 2 wires running the length of the roof, and soldered to lugs that screw to the roof. The light sockets have sort of a clip that is slid over one wire, soldered, and then the wire from the tip of the bulb is soldered to the other wire. 

The picture below shows the end of the car with the matching contacts.You can also just make out that the floor is a circuit board, and you can barely make out the traces underneath, running down the center of the car on the bottom side of the floor. That is how power is transmitted back to where the truck pickups can attach.

In the car shown, there were only contacts at one end of the car (more on this later). These contacts are not spring steel or bronze, so they will eventually lose some spring.

The other end of this car did not have contacts (but maybe would be a good idea to add if you are using these bulbs.

Typical problems:

The bus wires are not very taut and can sometimes allow the outer shell of the socket to hit the other wire, causing a nice short and often melting something. This is the most common problem.

The lights are spaced about every xxx inches. The sort of uncontrolled placement of the bulbs allows the lighting to vary from car to car.

 number of contacts

Tips and improvements:

Avoiding shorts and meltdowns:

The first thing to do is to make sure you do not get a short. Half of the cars I have (purchased new) had the globs of glue not attached to either the socket or the roof. This allows them to move around, and the resulting short circuit of the uninsulated base creates a short that almost always melts something.

I do not like how the wires can go slack also, so you can loosen one of the screws and try to turn the lug "out" a bit to try to take up the slack.

You might also want to put fuses in line with the truck pickups. There is no convenient spot to do this, but it's a thought. There is a reasonable argument to put fuses in all powered cars to avoid melting wires in this case and derailments.

Better/more consistent power:

I have not figured out a pattern yet, but the roof and body have places for two contacts at each end. I have found cars with 2, 3 and 4 in place. I have not found the rhyme nor reason. I have not investigated to see if the circuit board in the floor always supplies power to both ends of every car, although I suspect it does. I just don't get it. Anyone who has figured this out, please let me know. 

The spring contacts can weaken, and being chrome plated, make poor contact, so flexing of the body and just age will weaken the contacts. Make sure they are not smashed down, and a little anti-corrosion spray like DeOxit will help keep things working well.

Special constant track power (DCC, DCS, Aristo TE) considerations:

I run constant track power. If you are in this situation, you have constant voltage on the tracks, but often higher than what stock lighting can take. This made the tops of the roof hot, and worried me. If you are in this situation, you could rewire the lights in a series-parallel arrangement. See George Schreyer's excellent site for this: (scroll down to "Lighting Issues" near the bottom of the page)

Improving the appearance:

I'm currently evaluating some led strip lighting to replace these lights. I need to do something since they use too much current (xxx amps per car at 22 v DCC), and they make too much heat, the roofs are hot to the touch when I run on a constant 22-23 volts.

Here is the link: (the ones I am looking at are the ones at the bottom of the page)

Here are the first ones I purchased for the test: (these are white, and I will be getting the warm white ones)

Compare this to the stock lights below (on the same track, at the same time, same camera):

Notice the "hot spots" from the stock lights? The light is concentrated in the 4 locations, of course. But there is another thing I did not like, since the lights are physically large and they "hang down" from the bus wires, which themselves hang down from the roof, you are looking right at the bulbs through the celestory windows.

On the LEDs, since they are actually attached to the roof (they have a self-adhesive backing) and are very thin, they are up where you do not see them directly.

The major improvment is the more even distribution of light. with 3 leds every 2 inches, you get a very even distribution. Notice the reflection of the lights below the car (the concrete edge of my patio). Notice how much more even this reflection is with the LEDs?

These LEDs are on a long roll, and can be cut to length in 2 inch increments. The amount I purchased was about 2-4 inches short, that's why the clestory windows at the ends are dark. 

They run from 9-12 volts, so I took a long strip and cut it in half, then wired the 2 halves in series. (positive to one strip, negative from that strip to positive of other strip, and that negative back to power). 5 minutes and now I have an 18-24 volt light unit. Since I run DCC, I put a minature full wave bridge ahead of it. No "anti-flicker" capacitor yet, but I'll probably do that later.

I'm thrilled with the results and will be purchasing the warm white ones in a "reel" 16 feet long, so I can cut it to my particular lengths. 


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