DCC Concepts Flicker Free Coach Lighting Kit
and installation of kit
Review by Martin71
For most of us, lighting in coaches adds that extra realism, if done properly. It adds that extra detail and gives your coaches another dimension. Further to that, you can then detail your interiors, add passengers and it almost comes alive.
Now the hardest part was finding the right lighting and after nearly 8 months of trial and error I finally found the perfect kit from DCC Concepts. I purchased their kit about 2 months ago and I certainly have not looked back.
I have had a renewed interest in model trains now for just over a year, after an 18 year break and I am still on that steep learning curve. Lighting really interested me right from the start and I was keen to do something with coaches.
So what do we get? The coach kit consists of the following:
The kit packed.
- 30 Protype or golden white LEDs
- 3 Red LEDs
- 33 x 1k ohm resistors
- 6 Flicker free units (super-capacitors) with full instructions
With this kit we need to wire it up in a parallel circuit (more than one path for current to flow between higher and lower potential) if using 2 or more LEDs or else we will get volt drop. The best way I can explain a parallel circuit, and relate it to what we do, it is think of a railway track, 1 track is positive conductor and parallel to it is the negative track. Joining the tracks are the sleepers and these are your LEDs. Now we have more than 1 path to flow through. At the end of the track you have the last sleeper (LED) which closes the circuit. But what about the start? This joins our power source the flicker free unit.
LEDs are rated for a lower voltage than the track voltage. Therefore a resistor must be wired in series with the LED lead. The LEDs have to be wired to the Flicker Free unit with the correct polarity. If you do happen to wire it in backwards with a resistor no damage will occur, they just will not work!
Tape up your capacitors in insulation tape before applying a charge. It stops you accidentally shorting them out. I know I did it.
If you are a beginner consider drawing a small wiring diagram, it really helps you get it right in your head. If your still unsure ask on here, everybody is more than happy to help.
You may have 5 or 6 coaches to do so I suggest you get a little production plan going. For example Take 12 LEDs bend and cut legs to length, solder 15-20mm wire to each positive length, put red heat shrink on, solder on resister, solder on 35-40mm of wire put heat shrink on etc. If youre really keen do the 30 or so in one hit.
If you are unsure with wire lengths cut them long, easier to trim than add to.
Technical information at end of review.
Standard coach without lighting.
- 1 x long nose pliers
- 1 x Standard pliers
- 1 x wire strippers
- 1 x soldering iron flux and solder
- 1 roll of double sided sticky tape
- Black insulation tape
- Heat shrink red and black
- Modelling knife
Strip the coach down and remove the interior. If you can, try to remove the clear plastic or windows. They are normally glued in so be very careful here. If you cannot get it out it is not a problem you can wire over it. It is hit and miss, I usually manage to get 50% of them out.
Once you have the coach interior out use it as a gauge for LED spacing, for example do you want 1 LED for every compartment or 1 per 2 compartments etc. My preference was one per compartment. See below.
Preparing LEDs for soldering. Make sure when you bend the legs, you give plenty of support to the epoxy body of the LED (hold it tight) or you may break a leg off.
Cutting legs off, I suggest you have a good quality wire cutters/strippers also available from DCC Concepts. Notice the curve on the top of LED this also helps identify positive side.
Here you can see I have spaced 1 LED per 2 compartments. Dont forget to put on heat shrink and if you colour code it always makes identification far easier.
Close up (below). As you can see the pattern I am working to. Now for the fun part, getting here! I set myself reachable goals. Tonight I want to make 2 wiring harnesses with 6 LEDs in each.
I find it easiest to work from the back and do everything in the wiring harness for positive first. Then I just wire my entire negatives together.
Lighting for each row of dining seats and one for the kitchen.
Complete wiring harness with LEDs held in place with double sided sticky tape.
Time to test your work. Notice the LEDs are running only off the Flicker free unit, no other source of power.
Decide what you want to do next, paint the interiors, add passengers it your railroad. Putting it back together is a reverse of taking it apart except now be careful you do not crimp any wires and the Flicker Free unit needs to be hidden. I found the toilets or the rear of the brake coach the best spots.
Bring your black wiring from the flicker Free Unit through the bogie d-ten ready to be wired to your pickups.
One method I used for pick up's of was to create a spring around the wheels. This I found the easiest and simplest to do. Done well you end up with virtually no rolling resistance. Don't forget to re-gauge your wheels when finished.
Jubilee 3rd class close up.
Jubilee 3rd class at night no ambient light when photo was taken.
Silver Jubilee and coaches.
Look no wires!
One of the great benefits of the Flicker Free unit besides the obvious (flicker free lighting), you can reduce your pickups. I used to wire all bogies for pickups now only the one. That is because it flicker free unit stores energy and when you lose power to the coaches it kicks in. It takes about 1 minute to hold a good charge with the flicker free unit being fully charged in 2-3 minutes. Once power is switched off it will take about 30-40 minutes to fully discharge. I have seen a very faint glow in the LEDs after about 3 hours.
Another benefit I noticed only when writing this article when taking photos was any coaches not fitted with the flicker free unit hummed. For any of you that have the Hornby or Bachmann lit Pullmans, have a listen! Without going into too many details it is the bridge rectifier and capacitor that sorts this problem out. It also eliminates mechanical stress on the LEDs if you want to get really technical.
Another good point is the constant supply of 4.7v DC. In theory you dont need to add resistors into your parallel circuit but I feel much safer with them in and I think you also get a better lighting effect. It also eliminates the need for ohms law. Everything is done for you. As long as your supply voltage is below 20v AC/DC and goes straight into your flicker free unit. No calculations needed.
The natural or prototypical lighting itself is the biggest advantage of the flicker free kit and you dont have to shop around for all the different components. It looks the part and I would recommend it to anyone with a basic understanding of electronics.
What to do with the Red LEDs? Here are some ideas.
Express lights on 9f. So many uses if you got a couple left over.
Technical Data and some useful information:
- Input 20v AC/DC Can be used on DC layouts or DCC layouts.
- Output to LED side 4.7v
- Capacitor storage 300,000 uF (that a lot for such a small capacitor)
- A capacitor is a device that stores energy in the form of an electrical charge. It comes in all different shapes and sizes.
- We then have Capacitance which is the ability of a capacitor to hold charge and the unit of charge is the farad (F), which is defined as follows:
- A farad is the capacitance of a capacitor which stores a charge of one coulomb at a potential difference of 1 volt.
- 5th time constant I have worked out to be about 148 seconds using t=RC which
means after 29.6 seconds the capacitor will be 63%charged, at 1 minute about 84%
- Resistance is defined as opposition to current flow.
Hope that you enjoyed the review.
- February 2007
Flicker Free is available as follows:
1 pack: 1x Flicker Free, 5x G/White LED, 1x Red
6 1,000 ohm / 1k resistors & instructions
3 pack: 3x Flicker Free, 15x G/white LED, 2x Red
17x 1,000 ohm / 1k resistors & instructions
6 pack: 6x Flicker Free, 30x G/white LED, 3x Red FF-6
33x 1,000 ohm / 1k resistors & instructions
Input: AC, DC or DCC, 9~20 volts.
Connection: Pre-wired (150mm fine wires pre-fitted) and ready to connect.
Storage: Super Capacitor, 200,000 microfarads.
Output: 4.7 volts, current limited & protected
(already current limited and so safe for direct LED connection)
Flicker Free has a I year "Goof Proof" warranty.
Flicker Free is made by:
DCCconcepts Pty Ltd
Unit 3, 13 Lionel Street, Naval Base
WA 6155 Australia
You can contact DCC Concepts for the Flicker Free Kits.