Why do the LED lights on my layout flicker? – Reader Q&A

If the lights on your layout flicker, follow this advice that I gave to Paul who contacted me over the weekend.  The answer was simple but of

Over the weekend I got an email from a visitor to MRE who was having problems with the LED lights he’d fitted into an engine shed on the layout.

The lights were coming on but flickered.

While an interesting effect it wasn’t the look Paul required and was disconcerting distraction on the Ratio model he’d spent ages making..

After a few emails back and forth the problem became apparent.

He’d connected the LEDs to the 16V AC accessory terminals on his Gaugemaster controller.

The problem, of course, is that LEDs typically need DC — direct current. Hence using the AC terminals was producing the flicker he’d observed. Actually, it’s likely that with prolonged use the AC supply will probably destroy the LEDs!

I suggested he use the DC accessory terminals that are available on the Model D controller being used and this solved his problem. (The AC terminals should be left to point motors, etc)

If you have this problem but don’t have DC output terminals an alternative power source will be needed (along with resistors). A standard adaptor for other household electrics can be used — just look for 1AMP 12V DC output.
Update: I should point out that there are LEDs that can now work with AC although these aren’t the usual ones found in model railway shops but they are available if you look around: search for AC LEDs.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


One comment
  1. I fitted front and rear lights to an updated Triang Dock Shunter. The white LEDs on the rear flicker when running forwards, the cause, back emf from motor. Haven’t done it yet but an extra diode in the chain should quench it.

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