Choosing Locomotive Lighting For the Long Run
New locomotives are built with LED lighting, both on the exterior and interior, providing a brighter longer lasting, albeit a more expensive alternative. For existing locomotive fleets, most likely it’s time to upgrade from incandescent lighting to a brighter future with a durable alternative. Both LED and halogen are offering alternatives with safety and maintenance benefits for Class I, passenger and light rail locomotives.
The biggest mistake made in transportation maintenance and repair today is making purchasing decisions based on the lowest price. Price should never be the only consideration even with something as simple as a lamp. For example, a $15 bulb may seem like a small part of a locomotive’s overall expense, but it can have a big impact when it goes out.
In addition to replacing the lamp itself, there is the labor involved in changing the lamp as well as the lost revenue while being serviced. For locomotive head lamps and ditch lamps, incandescent will always offer the lowest price, because they are the oldest technology and are not the most reliable or the most cost effective in the long run. These incandescent bulbs are less durable and continued vibration can cause the filament to break leaving the locomotive with only one light.
For head lamps, incandescent lamps also lose their aim from the constant movement on the track causing the beam to start to tilt up over time. Additionally, these lamps lack the brightness of the halogen and LED alternatives.
When we examine LED lighting options, cost tends to be the biggest concern. Current locomotives in production do come with standard LED lighting. This alternative does allow for brighter, longer lasting light. However, as these LED lights start to get older gradation is a factor. This is evident if you look, for example, at the simple LED strings of lights lining airplanes aisles. When the plane is new, the walkway lights are perfect. Within a few years, areas start to burn out and the lights start dimming. The only way to repair a light is to replace the whole line if LED lights on both sides of the aisle match.