locomotive headlight assemblies

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I've done a few searches and not yet found what I'm looking for. I want to replace the "old time" headlights on a couple of HO steam locomotives. Does anyone know of a source of pre-wired headlight assemblies, hopefully complete with LED or bulb and lens?

Thanks, 'n hugs,


Well-Known Member
I have not heard of any. Generally the headlight castings I use are brass castings. They have to be drilled out for bulbs and in my case soldered to a bracket that is soldered to the smoke box front. This is not to say there aren't any, but I'be been doing the detail switch out on brass models for a number of years and I've never come across any. If you find some let me know!

What sort of models are you doing this to?


Whiskey Merchant
I have not heard of any such light. Here's what I did over 20 years ago. I used a 1.5 volt grain of rice bulb, drilling out the back side of the headlight. After getting the bulb into the housing, I got an MV lens that fit the headlight housing. These lenses come in different sizes and colors. I chose one with a silver backing, and then carefully drilled a small hole into the dead center of the back of the lens through the silver coating. The hole doesn't have to be deep, just enough to go through the silver coating on the back. The lens was then glues to the headlight housing. We didn't have LEDs back then. I built my own diode bridge for constant/reverse lighting. The light on the tender will come on in reverse, with the front headlight staying on. There used to be kits available for this, but I have all sorts of electronic parts hanging around and used what I had on hand.

With the hole in the center of the back of the light, it gives the appearance of having a bulb in the headlight.

I'm still shaking my head over this. :confused:

As I've mentioned, I'm also into r/c airplanes. If this part were something to go on an r/c model airplane there would be seven manufacturers offering a pre-wired LED headlight. You'd be able to get one delivered to your mailbox direct from Hong Kong in a week. I do find it curious how these two vaguely related hobbies function so differently at the supply level.

Mark R.

Custom Painter
It's not so much of preferring to roll your own, but the fact there are SO many different styles of steam engine headlight housings. Seems every steam manufacturer and / or railroad had their own preference / design.

To make pre-lit versions of steam engine headlight castings IS a great idea .... but which one(s) would you make. No matter which ones you decide to make, you'll get umpteen requests for castings you don't make. ;)



Whiskey Merchant
Each railroad in the steam era just about had their own headlight configuration. Many times I have been able to tell what railroad a locomotive is from just by glancing at the headlight.

Brass castings are available for most railroads and you could try to build an accurate one yourself.
3D printing headlight

OK, I'm speculating here 'cuz I don't have one of these things yet. But it seems to me that
the new technology for HO locomotive headlights or any other part can now be to print it on a 3D printer. :D

All the different prototype headlight-housing designs can be reduced to data entry into the printer's softtware. If the locomotive existed in the real world there are almost certainly blueprints somewhere. Get the prototype info, enter it into the printer, and have a cup of coffee while the machine produces an HO scale plastic headlight. Now all we have to do is drill it out, mount a bulb or LED, etc., etc. Hmm, did we really get ahead here?

How many more months before a manufacturer sells you a software download that your own 3D printer device uses to create a complete HO locomotive? These are exciting times!

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Stuck in the 1930's
The Model Railroaders might also use MV lens lenses, and you would have to drill out the back of one, using CA, glue a "Grain of Dust" bulb into the hole and thread the wires through the back of the headlight casting and into the boiler body. Good thing we aren't hard core......


Whiskey Merchant
That's what I did in the top photos. Works quite well. You can probably find a brass headlight casting for most railroads and do that.

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