Aristo Streamline Observation

    I have an Aristo Santa Fe streamline observation car that I have
been wanting to upgrade since the day I bought it.  These cars are made
out of extruded aluminum and are good representations of the cars built
by Budd.   If your railroad did not run ribbed side passenger cars, take
heart, they are coming out with smooth side cars this year.
    I have already improved the spacing between these cars by cutting
7/8" off the coupler mounting arm, and adding Kadee couplers.  At this
distance, the diaphragms touch when backing, but clear each other when
going through "S' curves.
    I wanted a more realistic look to the observation car as far as
lighting was concerned.  My first step was to make the side marker
lenses red instead of clear.  I  used Testors candy apple red paint
which is a transparent red and painted each lens.  I kept coating the
lenses until I achieved the shade of red that I wanted.
    The top light on many of these observation cars was actually a
rotating Mars light that showed white while running, and was changed to
red or turned off when the train was stopped.  In surfing the internet,
I found a company called RAM Products that makes a variety of lighting
and sound systems for model airplanes and trains.  I ordered a RAM57
Mars light, and a RAM59 9 Volt track power supply.  While I was at it, I
ordered a lighted drumhead for the Santa Fe Chief from Walthers.
    The Aristo observation was difficult to open up.  I removed the two
screws on the bottom that hold the rear piece in place, and could not
get the part to budge.  I finally worked it loose, and found that Aristo
had used about one ounce of silicone glue to hold the wires in place and
of course they glued the rear piece to the shell.   I used an x-acto
knife to cut this glue, being careful not to cut the wires.  I have
since found that all Aristo streamline cars have their ends glued along
with being attached with screws.  Since this makes it difficult to
change burned out bulbs,  Lewis Polk has said  that the gluing will be
eliminated on future production runs.   The wires run to the marker
lights and top light on this car, and were too short to allow me access
to the interior.  I wound up labeling each wire and cutting it to
completely remove the rear of the car.  Once removed, I cracked the bulb
in the top light and removed it which was tough again due to a large
quantity of glue.  I then smoothed out the back of the light case with a
Dremmel, and scraped off all the old glue.
    The RAM57 Mars light is a compact well built pc board which includes
a screw to adjust the rate of flash, and a 9V battery snap connector.  I
cut off this connector since I was going to use their 9V track power
module.  The RAM59 9V track power module is also compact, and has a heat
sink attached to it.  It comes with screw terminals, and both units come
with excellent instructions.  I mounted the RAM59 track power unit to
the floor of the car with hot glue.  I then ran wires to the power
pickup leads on the rear truck.
The RAM57 unit was mounted on the inside of the rear piece with hot
glue.  The bulb was pushed into the top light mounting tube, and secured
in place with hot glue and a solid piece of styrene to prevent light
from flashing back into the car interior.  The module was then connected
to the RAM59 being careful to match the polarity on the output leads.
    The drumhead was then mounted on the rear piece with hot glue.  A
small hole was drilled under the drumhead and the wires were run to the
RAM59 and connected to the output leads also.
    RAM products recommends that a 9 Volt rechargeable battery be
connected to their light systems to provide full power at low voltage
(prototypical) slow running.  The RAM59 puts out a maximum of 9 Volts at
18 Volts track power, so the 9 Volt battery is a necessity to get the
light unit to work properly at lower voltages.  I took the battery box
off the bottom of the car, and added a switch and ran battery leads to
the drumhead and MARS light module per the instructions.  The box was
reattached after I added a 9 Volt battery snap connector and 9 Volt
rechargeable battery.
   The observation car now has two red marker lights, a lighted Santa Fe
Super Chief drumhead, , and a white Mars light.  The Mars light and
drumhead stay bright even when crawling through the yard or entering a
station at low speed.  Because I use Aristo PWC for power, the regular
car lights all stay bright, and the battery will recharge while
running.  My next project involves running power connectors between cars
to prevent light flicker, and when I get more ambitious, I want to lower
the cars so they look more prototypical.
    RAM products are excellent, and I would highly recommend them.  The
instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the lighting effects are
well worth the extra effort. They may be found on the web at or call them at (847) 740-8726.