Interior Car Lighting and Marker Lights

Interior Car Lighting and Marker Lights

By Roger Heid


Not much has been written about interior car lights and end-of train (EOT) marker lights. Some people outright dislike interior lighting for whatever reason, or else they are ambivalent about this; they can take it or leave it. Others have a distinct desire to have their passenger cars lit and have marker lights. It is all just a matter of personal preference.

Personally, I fit into the latter category. While I was commuting by train on a daily basis, it was dark during the trips from and to school/work during the winter season. Therefore I am astutely aware of the importance of interior lighting and marker lights. I seek to have all my passenger cars equipped with interior and marker lights; all my freight train consists feature EOT lights.

Sometimes I like to watch my trains operating in total darkness. This enhances interior building and street lights and other lighting effects. It gives the layout a very charming character, and it actually simulates real world conditions. I am not worried about ‘accidents’ occurring, making a mess of things. After careful track installation and proper coupler choices, my trains do not derail. My track control units provide sufficient track power to accommodate the internally lit passenger trains without brown-outs or shut downs. All other off-track lights are supported by two transformers delivering power to spare. I can also simulate dawn and dusk conditions, along with full daylight.

images  images (1)

images (2)  images (3)

Most manufacturers offer passenger cars, even whole trains, that come factory equipped with the lights. The particular cars or trains may not be what you are after, well, that’s the way it is. You can also find passenger cars that are factory prepared to accept installation of available light kits. I do know that Liliput and Roco also provide suitable pickup shoes for 3-rail tracks. If not, you will have to learn to improvise.

In many cases one needs to install the lights from scratch. This can be very tedious, requiring surgery that is best left to the advanced modeler having the skills, craftiness, tools and equipment required to achieve success. If at first it seems to be impossible, look again, and you will find a way. Granted, it does take some experience.


Sample of Maerklin PU Shoe and Wheel Wiper

The simplest kit I ever used is made by Maerklin for the cars shown below. I run two trains like that, in their respective livery. The light bulbs sitting on the car floor do not look unrealistic, but there is light inside the cars. I have started to replace the bulbs with LED strips. The strip offered by Maerklin needs to be cut in half to make it fit. Tools and soldering skills are needed to accomplish this.


Maerklin 7323

4039  4038

Maerklin 4039 and 4038

4107  4108

Maerklin 4107 and 4108

Due to the inherent high power consumption all incandescent light bulbs should be replaced by LED strips. Those can be had from several manufacturers including Maerklin and Viessman.


Maerklin 73401

ESU (Electronic Solutions Ulm) ( has gone a step further. They now offer LED strips with marker lights attached. The brightness can be adjusted.


ESU LED Strips with Marker LEDs

In addition, they also offer a kit with just a pair of marker lights. The wires from the small circuit board hook up directly to track power. I installed two of these already. They work just great.


They also have a similar kit for a cab light. I plan on installing a few into some of my locomotives as an added effect. Seen above on the left.

Another item they feature is a wheel wiper to pick up power from the tracks. It glues on a wheel truck (bogie) or under an axle of a 2-axle car. This is a quick and elegant solution. In case of 3-rail operation, simply bridge the two wipers together to pick up power from both outer tracks. It is that simple.  The capacitor can be soldered across the polarities to prevent flickering.


If you are a Maerklin user, you will find that too many pickup shoes can impose too much of an undesirable drag factor preventing the locomotive from effectively pulling a given passenger train. I have encountered that with some of my trains. In this case, you need to resort to interconnect the cars via current conducting couplers, except the one that has the pickup shoe installed. This I will address in a separate article.

After years of trials and errors, I always seem to be able to find a solution. I have been working on a way to install interior lights and marker lanterns into a Maerklin made caboose. I found a way. It is now just a matter of doing it; the required logistics are standing by. I am in process to expand and improve my work shop by adding better lighting, tools and equipment.

Note: Reynaulds has not yet entered all items offered by ESU into their web site, but you can access the ESU web site directly. There you can explore everything they have, these days. You will find that to be of interest.

If you have any questions, please post them in the Forum under the topic ‘Technical Corner’. The Blog System is not designed to answer questions and to open lengthy threads.

Happy Railroading!



8 Responses to Interior Car Lighting and Marker Lights

  1. Carlos Alberto says:

    Dear Sirs, please, what should I use the decoder wagon Roco # 64140A in the DCC system to use the arrow lights. Thanks, regards, Carlos Alberto Zenkner.

    • Carlos Alberto says:

      Dear Sirs, please, what should I use the decoder wagon Roco # 64140A in the DCC system to use the arrow lights. Thanks, regards, Carlos Alberto Zenkner.

  2. Paul Khera says:

    Can the Marklin 73401 lighting systems be used on an analog system?

    Could the ESU systems be used to light the 42730/42740 Eurifima train cars more simply than the Marklin LED systems?

    Is installation of current conducting couplings something that only experts should do?

  3. Ernest Robl says:

    The above types of questions are probably better suited for the Reynauld’s Forum — or in direct e-mail questions to Reynauld’s.

    – Ernest

  4. Vijay Nangli says:

    I was planning install ESU lights on one of my Marklin HO passenger cars and came across your article. It is well written and very useful, however I wasn’t able understand when you mention “.. In case of 3-rail operation, simply bridge the two wipers together to pick up power from both outer tracks….” Can you please help me with this?
    I am aware of the Ground spring and pickup shoe in Marklin…


  5. Ernest Robl says:


    I did not write the above article. I simply commented on a previous comment. (Roger Heid who wrote the article has chosen not to participate in this Blog any more.)

    I would assume that the ESU product you are considering comes with instructions for both two-rail and three-rail rolling stock.

    The basic feature of three-rail is that the two outside rails are electrically linked and that the other power pickup comes from the center wiper. If a product comes with wheel wipers, then both sets (sides) of wheels would carry the same current and could therefore be connected together for more reliable current pickup.

    I use the two-rail DC system myself, but think I have a reasonable understanding of the difference between the two systems.

    – Ernest

  6. Arnold van Loozenoord says:

    Hi, I have the marklin 73401 lights and the 7319 close couplers. What I am missing is the square connectors that go into the 73401. Do you know where I can buy them? I need both the male and female connectors to make it work. Regards, Arnold

  7. Ernest Robl says:

    This type of question may get a better response on the Reynauld’s Forum, where discussions are easier.

    If these are currently available Märklin parts, any authorized dealer should be able to order them for you.

    – Ernest

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