4th Jun 2020, 08:05 PM
Review - Part 3 - Couple more tests and technical comments
At this point, it's clear that the kits met everything I wanted in a lighting kit:
- They work on DCC
- They don't flicker
- The light is nice and even throughout the car
- The light level is acceptable
- They are affordable.
But since not everyone has DCC, I figured I'd do a few more checks. I switched over to my beloved MRC Tech II power pack I bought in the mid-1980s (and is a FANTASTIC power pack) and did some checks on DC.
In a completely dark room, the lights are BARELY lit at 0.67V (Maybe someone with younger eyes than mine would notice at a lower voltage but - really, who cares.)
So then I wanted to check at what voltage level they would be fully lit. A lot of adjustments got me to 3.0V for full brightness. NOW - be careful - because at 3 volts it might take a moment for them to reach peak brightness. This is because the capacitors need to charge. So it took a lot of fiddling for me to be sure that they reached steady state.
For those that use DCC, the instructions specifically state NOT TO EXCEED 16V. (I have a Digitrax Zephyr; track voltage is 14.9V.)
The light bars have 14 (!!) LEDs built into them, along with the capacitors. Hard to find the 14th, but it's there... it's on the other side of the vertical contact piece and lights up the vestibule. (I've noticed that Kato light kits always seem to be installed on the vestibule end.) Well, for most full-length passenger cars you'll have 14 LEDs... but if the light bar is too long you may have to trim off one or more of the LEDs.
I had to do this on an observation car, because of the Kato-installed tail light. I cut off a single LED. (Unfortunately, this meant that the observation end didn't get lit and it looks a bit odd with that part of the car dark.) See photo of the Observation car installation. Of the 14 LEDs, you can cut off up to 8 of them. I used a knife, but in retrospect a razor saw might have been a better choice.
One thing to note - for those who want to use DCC to control the lighting in their passenger cars, these kits aren't for you. There is no provision for a stationary decoder.
Couple of downsides. First one is that the quality is.... well... OK. The vertical pieces were clearly soldered on by hand, and there was some variation there. Almost like the fixture they used wasn't aligning things consistently. It was good enough, and I didn't have any problems with that. Another issue I had was that two of them were stuck together. The vertical pieces between two of the kits weren't sheared apart. And again, I had to break out the knife to cut them; and again, in hindsight, I should have used my razor saw. (See photo.) But they all work as intended and the price was right. If they can consistently manufacture these to a high level of quality this product will be a home run. (And frankly, to me, they are a solid "triple" - the quality issue was a mere annoyance.)
The second downside is that, once you start lighting your passenger cars, the interiors are much more noticeable. I'm going to have to add some figures to mine.
One last comment on the color of the light... I had 14 light kits, and used 8 for the Budd cars, which have the light tan interiors. The remaining 6 went into some cars from the Broadway Limited set, and these have brown interiors. The color of the light looks different based on the color of the interiors, and I really like the way it looks in the cars with darker interior.
ANYWAY - those are my observations. Let me know if you have any other questions.
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4th Jun 2020, 11:07 PM