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Service and Design - Gyrating Warning Lights


Service and Design



This page is a collection of information on Gyralite and Mars design and the servicing aspects of this design.

Trans-Lite is currently producing the Gyralites and should be contacted for the latest products and information for servicing.

120 Wampus Lane
Milford, CT 06460-4857
phone: (203) 878-8567
fax: (203) 877-2630


20585 Gyralite notes:

The 20585 Gyralite was designed with ease of maintenance in mind. Whereas other lights had to be removed from the locomotive for servicing, the 20585 mechanism could be easily retracted and removed from the case. This was a most beneficial to a mechanical department, as a spare mechanism could be used while the other is rebuilt, repaired, or lubricated.

Metra seems to have a very good maintenance program for its locomotives. The red-clear Gyralites are maintained and use has been continued. With the wide assortment of accessory lighting (beacons, strobes, and Gyralites (FG-4509, 20585)), it can be seen that Metra has a very efficient program of maintenance to keep everything operational.

Metra may enjoy an advantage over RRs that have run a 20585 with both bulbs illuminated. The lower wattage of using one bulb would certainly be realized in servicing of wiring or bearings (lubricants) which are most impacted by the increased wattage.

On one 20585 mechanism the drive pulley shaft was bent. I had a new shaft made at a machine shop. One thing to note is that the hole for the pin which secures the gear to this shaft inside the gearbox could be at an inclined angle. The hole through the gear and shaft is drilled in one operation, so the angle may not be at 90 to the shaft.

The brushes used in the motors are not as hard as they had been in the in older units. These newer brushes therefore cause less abrasion on the commutator. They may need to be replaced more frequently, however.

The motors used in the Gyralites are now made by the RAE Corp.

RAE Corp.
4615 W. Prime Parkway
McHenry, IL 60050-7037
phone: (815) 385-3500
fax: (815) 363-1641


The RAE motors are now being made with a washer spacer on the armature to prevent the brush box arcing to ground, which used to be a problem.

The RAE motors now have a plastic cap on the free exposed end of the shaft which prevents any moisture from getting into the motor or motor bearing.

The slide attachment to the pulley on the 20585 is a bolt which is threaded into an aluminum pulley. A hex set-screw on the perimeter of the pulley is tightened to secure the this threaded bolt. One problem encountered is that invariably, the hex set-screw has been excessively torqued down resulting in deformed bolt threads. These deformed threads must be retracted through the threaded hole in the aluminum pulley to release the slide assembly. There is a risk of damage to the threads of the pulley in this removal of a bolt with deformed threads.

There are no published tightening specifications. To do whatever is necessary to achieve smooth operation of the mechanism is the norm. The belt is accordingly adjusted. The slide assembly attachment to the bulb plate is adjusted so it is not too loose that it has slack and not so tight that it strains the motor or parts. The smoothest operation with the least loading on the motor and parts is the most desireable.


Gearbox and parts - not bearings:

The Sinclair 'Shamrock "F" Grease' called for in the maintenance instructions has apparently been discontinued.

The Witco (Allied-Kelite) No. 2254 has been used for the gearboxes but since a merger with Fuch's Lubricants, has been discontinued. The grease is a no melt product which includes bentones.

RAE states that the W.W. Granger No. 4ZF44 grease can be used with RAE Gyralite motors (2410-006 and 2423-097) currently being made for Trans-Lite. This is also Mobil's XHP222 grease. It is classified as a water resistant grease with 1% moly (molybdenium disulfied), has a dropping point of 425F, and color is black. It is sold in 14 oz. cartridges. Lubriplate No. 930-2 - was recommended by their representative for this application based on a description of the intended use. This grease is used in the motor gearboxes and in the groove in which the slide bearing rides.

Basically, a grease is needed that will withstand high temperatures, will be water resistant, will be compatible with the materials it has contact with and is acceptable for low torque - low speed applications. The greases that are used contain molybdenum disulfide or "moly" as an additive for anti-wear and anti friction. There are greases that contain bentones as the thicker and others that use lithium complexes.contain molybedium and bentones, and not provide excessive strain on the motor by being too viscous. It is used also for the parts of the slide and mechanism.


FAFNIR Bearings for a 20585 Gyralite:


DSP Series





load limit







1340 lbs

slide groove to frame






4400 lbs

bulb plate pivot

REP Series





load limit







1200 lbs

slide to pulley


The Torrington Company (main office - 59 Field St./POB 1008/Torrington,CT 06790-1008/tel. (860) 626-2623) is a company owned by Ingersoll Rand. It's Fafnir Division produces the bearings used in the Gyralites and Mars Lights.

Heim Bearings Company (60 Round Hill Rd./POB 430/Fairfield, CT. 06430-0430/tel. (203) 255-1511/fax (203) 255-3862) is a company owned by RBC (Roller Bearing Company of America). The 4 bearings that make up the crosspiece (universal joint) in the Mars 300 Unit were Fafnir, and the 4 remaining bearings on the linkages between the motor and gearbox were Heim. (according to Griff - see below).

The grease used in these bearings is an ester grease with a temperature range of 100 to 250F. The product called for is "MIL-G-23827 which is either red or tan in color. This is a less viscous grease than the above gearbox grease. Some greases that would meet these standards are Aeroshell 7 and Royco 27 (supercedes and replaces all previous revisions of Mil-G-23827).


It is important to remove the old grease, on using a new product, as there are reactions that can take place between greases. In the aircraft industry, Mobil 28 grease should not be mixed with Aeroshell 7 or 17 as this combination forms an acid.

The heat inside the cases tends to cause the bearings to dry out and they therefore need to be cleaned and relubricate or replaced. The heat also tends to dry out the wiring inside the case, as evidenced by cracking of the insulation. Trans-Lite indicated that they do send bearings out to be repacked.



The following excerpt is by:
Griff Hamilton

In one email I asked Griff if he worked for CGW or C&NW. He replied :

No, but I knew an awful lot of people who worked on the Northwestern, and I lived close to one of their shops. For a few years, I was a "semi-official" horn and bell (and sometimes light) "repairman" for an outfit that dealt in locomotive parts... they sold everything - from complete engines, to main gen-sets, to air brake equipment. If there was something in that line that didn't work and they gave me the nod, I would do my best to make it a saleable item for them. You get to see a lot of stuff from different roads that way, and you get to see it up close. Because I got to sort through a huge amount of this "junk," I learned more in five years than I would have ever thought. So, a genuine workin' rail, I'm not - I'm just an enthusiastic amateur who from birth to the age of 40 had always lived close to the C&NW in some form or another. I stopped being as active beginning in the late summer of '95, when the C&NW was merged into the UP, then the CC&P became a part of the IC/CN outfit... at that point, the fun just plain went out of it. Many of my railroad contacts transferred, took buyouts or just disappeared; other contacts closed up their scrapping/parts operations, and that put an end to doing anything except horn and bell work, which I still do off and on as demand dictates.


Griff has serviced both the Pyle Gyralites and the dual Mars 300 Lights. He therefore has an excellent knowledge of their workings and he explains the aspects of these lights as follows:


The CGW used the clear/red 300's in the oval casings only in the GP30/SD40's, and after they were absorbed by the C&NW in 1968, the order came down to paint out or deactivate the lights. I suppose that a reasonable number of them survived basically intact, while others had different parts "liberated" from them. Most had the lamp leads cut by the time I saw them (from the mid-1980's and later). In no instance that I know of did any of these Mars lights in the hood units actually end up being used as a stationary or oscillating dual clear headlights (at least officially). If I gave the impression that the Northwestern ran dual clear Mars lights after 1968 as official (or even unofficial) policy, then I have to apologize, because that is not the case with these units. On older stuff, I am not so sure... I saw at least two covered wagons whose lights were apparently left as stationary dual clears, but they may have been oddities on the road... the F's were pretty much gone by the time I got into the lights, so I couldn't even tell you what specific model of light they were for certain. My guess is that some of the lights were still in service in the GP30/SD40 fleet for some time after the merger, and that some units did get repaired as the parts inventory remained or as they could be "scrounged" from other units. I worked on a couple that had lost their relays, which I did not really think that much about until you brought this question to my attention. I now do know that some lights had parts removed, but I don't think I'll probably ever know exactly why... I am still somewhat baffled by the removal of some of the "guts." A lot of the guys at different locations amassed pretty good-sized collections of "junk," so that may be one place the stuff ended up, or maybe when something got bad-ordered, they just took out the offending part and buttoned it back up. The C&NW had a fair amount of double trackage, and probably would have left everything alone had they opted to keep the lights indefinitely. Now on OTHER roads, it made pretty good sense to simplify the lights, in my opinion.

Okay, just to prove that there are no absolutes, I dug out some old C&NW books, and lo and behold, C&NW SD40 #928 (ex-CGW 408) is shown (in "Prairie Rails" by R. P. Olmsted) at Rochelle, IL sometime between 1969 and 1979, and the lower roundel in the Mars light appears to be... CLEAR! It does not, however appear to be illuminated.

All I can say is that most, if not all, of the CGW GP30/SD40 fleet went to the C&NW with red roundels in the lower spot, and they stayed that way unless something broke or the light got removed (as on C&NW GP30 #808, which got a piece of steel bolted over the resulting hole in the nose). Whether or not the relays remained intact is another matter. I am beginning to think more and more that some of them got "robbed" for use elsewhere by the time I got hold of them. Various "tourist" railroads in the Midwest were generously supplied by some of the people on the road (sometimes even the road itself).

Now about covered wagons... I have combed my archives, and I can't find any photographic evidence of C&NW/ex-CGW covered wagons actually running with a dual sealed beam headlight AND a dual clear Mars/Gyralite illuminated, so I am going to go out on a limb and suppose that the dual clear assemblies I saw in the two covered wagons back then had simply "lost" the red "lens." It just makes sense.

Because the Mars oscillating light situation was in flux over such a protracted period, the CGW/CNW lights are probably not a good thing to base too much on as I observed them firsthand in the late 1980's/early 1990's. When the CGW had them prior to the merger in 1968, though, you can bet that they were set up as straightforwardly as possible, with the red provision functional, and the red lens/roundel always on the bottom. Period.



I emailed Griff a photo of a CNW Mars 300 showing the relays intact.

Well, I'll be darned... it is strange to contemplate this one. When the ex-CGW GP30 fleet went to the torch, I looked at every Mars light I could find in the lot, and except for one, I can't remember these relays in them (though they might have been in some). I doubt if their SD40's (most of which did NOT get cut up at that time) would have had different equipment originally, but who knows? My best guess now would be that some of the parts did get removed on the deactivated setups despite what I have been told. I was about 20 years too late to see these things as they were originally configured, so I may have a more distorted view of them than I would have thought. Because I was more interested in just making the motor/mechanism work than in the electrical hookups themselves, I really didn't pay that much attention to the niceties. But there has to be someone out there who knows for sure, and to that end...

The more you tell me, the more convinced I am that I was working on a lot of gutted Mars lights, or at least lights that had the electrical switch gear relocated (that would play @#$%! with resistance, but as you know, everything has been done at least once). I am a little upset that I was given to understand that the ex-CGW stuff was "untouched" except for severing the leads, but those sources were undoubtedly telling me what they had seen themselves. The Gyralites don't have the mystique, but they have always been a much more pleasant item to rework. I guess I didn't realize just how much more!

I did run across a relay like the one you indicated in the picture , but only twice (possibly more, but I only remember two instances for certain). All the other ones I messed with did not have those items in the case with them, so I really can't give you any solid info. I would have thought that those devices would have been better off being quite a ways away from the motor and the lamps. Too much stuff in a small area!

One of the Mars lights I mentioned that still had the relay you showed in the photo was from a Rio Grande engine (I am almost positive it was a D&RGW, although it may have been something else... it was all black and dirty as heck, but I seem to remember Rio Grande markings on it). I did not (and still do not) know if the D&RGW had both makes of oscillating lights inventoried at the same time, but they did use both at one point or another. Maybe the D&RGW kept all of their lights fully functional longer than some other roads. That particular light was a very nice Mars light, and looked to be almost new inside; after I checked out the motor/gearboxes and the Heim ends, it got sold real fast to someone who was going to put it back on an engine (which was a shame). I also checked over (and bought, then sold) a Gyralite from the nose of a D&RGW (for certain) GP30 that was also very nice. The only thing missing was the original diffuser shields which had once been on the door (it must have originally been intended to go "up top"). This particular engine had the most dismal cab I have ever seen. GP30's are odd inside to begin with because of that roof configuration (you can smack your head real easy in them), and this one had been painted all black at one time, and had also developed a leak somewhere, so that much of the rear wall and "ceiling" were rusty. It did, however, have a very nice, clean set of air gauges, a really clean Viloco horn valve (and that nice Gyralite), so it must have had a fair amount of work on it before they sold it for scrap. That locomotive also had a real odd little metal "can" at the rear of the frame, with some sort of copper line going to it. It looked almost like some sort of little Bunsen burner or oil lamp. The people who were scrapping the unit had been railroaders most of their working lives, but they did not remember ever seeing one of those, and they were baffled by its use as well.


Relays mounted outside case:

There may have been remote mounting of the controls, but not on the CGW. Really, the Oscitrol was a good idea which was indifferently developed and poorly marketed. Having a simple assembly with the "guts" inside the cab was really very logical. Having all of the electrical "switch gear" at a remote location was a lot better on anything, in my opinion. The C&NW had all of it's ATS/ATC equipment in the short hood, and it held up very well because it had reasonable protection from the worst.


Bulb Plates and Retainers (Mars):

On upside-down plates: it could happen very easily. After looking at lots of dual headlight assemblies on engines about to be scrapped (and going through a very large pile of ones that had already been removed), I noticed that there would occasionally also be a lamp installed "wrong" in a headlight, particularly in the Mars dual sealed beam units (those nifty ones ones with the doors having that big oval glass in them). I suppose people get in a hurry and don't always orient the lamps, but the stresses on the components involved would have to be tremendous. One of the biggest problems with those Mars dual headlight assemblies (besides severe corrosion of the fasteners) was fractured lamp retaining rings, and I believe that improper bulb orientation when closing the retaining ring was likely the cause. Even if you could get the ring down and everything clipped into place, those "spring" retainers do exert a fair amount of pressure, and if one lamp was flush - but not the other - you could easily bust something. When those cracked, things could rattle around pretty good, depending on where the break occurred. Still, they did seem to let things stay in place well enough if there was only one crack, which was usually the case. The engineering on those retaining rings really wasn't too great when you consider their cross-section and the force they exerted. The Mars oscillating setups suffered from the same potential breakage problem, in my opinion. In any event, I have seen a lot more dual sealed beam headlights than I have oscillating ones, and I sure do have definite opinions about the merits of each type... in fact, I have very recent memories of trying to salvage plain old, garden variety Mars dual headlights that I would like to forget!

On the bulbs (lamps) themselves, I never did understand the thinking on the different orientation of the filaments when there were so many other variables in a two-lamp setup (reflector discoloration, dirt on the glass, cockeyed lamps). That isn't even taking into consideration the vertical/horizontal orientation of the mounting itself. I just never saw the necessity of it, but maybe I am overlooking something very simple. I think that just adhering to some sort of industry interchangeability baseline (maybe to get the PAR 56 designation?) would dictate the basic parameters of the lamps and their molds. These bulbs themselves are somewhat interesting, what with the variations among one supplier alone, such as the GE "smooth" rear vs. the "pebbled" rear, "GE" cast into the front vs. not cast into the front, etc., etc. - I wonder if most of it isn't just a case of making minor changes in a part as the existing tooling wears out and is replaced. Variants in marking would be even more arcane!

Most of the newer bulbs that I saw about the time I was wrapping things up (and I am just talking about their use in regular dual headlights here) were Philips lamps, but I don't know if that is because of geography (so much of the stuff I saw was ex-CNW) or not. The oscillating lights overwhelmingly had GE lamps in them... again, you sometimes wonder if there is some deeper reason for this (like excessive lamp age), or if it is simply accidental. Why I remember this kind of lamp trivia, I can't really say!


Bulb Plate for Mars dual 300 Light:

If memory serves me correct, the "floating" end of the sideways connecting rod actually bolted to the cross piece that ran behind the bulb plate (and which had the pivot/bolts for the vertical movement threaded into its ends). What was the result was a kind of "U"-joint with the vertical movement pivots out at the ends and the horizontal movement pivot in the center. The floating end of the horizontal crank was offset a bit from the center to get the necessary movement. The vertical connecting rod did have the floating end bolted directly to the bulb plate. You know, I suppose the plate could be rotated 180 degrees, but I don't recall the other boss ever being drilled and tapped on any Mars 300 lights that I saw (they might have been, but I really don't remember it ever being the case). I just assumed that it was there for either balancing purposes or to be drilled and tapped just in case the other end got stripped out or cross-threaded during maintenance.



There are EIGHT bearings in the Mars 300 Light, one pair of which allows the bulb plate to pivot in the vertical axis, and another pair which allows pivoting in the horizontal axis. These four bearings end up making a kind of "universal joint" (but without as good a geometry). Those four can be disassembled, but the others have to be cleaned in place or replaced. If I remember right, each end of both rods connecting the gearboxes to the bulb plate have "crimped-in" (or press-fit, possibly) bearings. "Crimped-in" bearings would be like the one used at the eccentric off the Gyralite gearbox... they have a series of pressed-in "indentations" (crimps) kind of like a the edge of a pie crust. The crimping ensures that the bearing stays in place - forever. Press-fit is exactly that... pressed in with an arbor press, and sometimes shrunk on using heat to expand the end slightly and then letting it cool, thus shrinking it around the bearing after it is pressed into place. A person might be able to carefully drill or grind out a crimped-in bearing, but I would be reluctant to do so. The four bearings supporting the bulb plate are fairly easily disassembled and repacked, at least in my experience. The others are another story. The crimped-in bearings would have to be replaced in the whole if they were really shot, but they can usually be flushed out and repacked "more or less." A long, long session with solvent and a good air compressor will be necessary. I handled the bearings one of two ways: replace them outright at a bearing specialty shop, or repack them by hand. The free ones (as in the Gyralites and the Mars bulb plate/cross piece... not the crimped-on ones on the Heim-type ends) do come apart, but you have to be careful not to bend stuff inordinately. Some will have the synthetic "washers" so aged and brittle from the heat and the lube that they are cracked and crumbly, and those should be replaced outright. McMaster-Carr in Chicago used to have reasonably good replacements available. I would also guess that way more Mars units went south because of gummed up bearings than every other cause combined. The Gyralites were more forgiving, but not a whole lot more.

The bearings may well come from any number of sources, but their "specialness" is a bit suspect. Don't get me wrong ... the bearings in the oscillating lights are good ones... but they aren't gemstone quality! Maybe an FAA-certified aircraft repair shop could be a source for them in smaller quantities. As I said earlier, a lot of the bearings not permanently pressed into ends were marked "FAFNIR," and they actually were pretty easy to repack (the "floating/Heim-type ends were not).

Fafnir was the brand name of the bearings. Outfits like McMaster-Carr and Grainger get stock from whomever has the best price on identical specs, so any manufacturer could be a potential supplier of "generics" at a given point. The last sealed bearing I got from them was just marked "MADE IN USA" and had a number, but it went right into the EMD layshaft lever that had a trashed original. It seems odd that Pyle-National/Translite did not go with a more "off the shelf" bearing. I think it might be worthwhile to sit down with a dial caliper or micrometer and determine the o.d. and i.d. of the bearings, and the width of the inner and outer races. I really wonder about this...

You are right on the "Heim" end reference... they are the "universals" that are bolted to the lamp plate. A lot of the people who work around aircraft and machinery call them either "floating" ends or "Heim" ends, but whether Heim is a generic or a proprietary name, I don't know. Although I wouldn't swear to it, I do think that PN and Mars used the same supplier of these. I also think that may be true of a lot of things besides motors and roundels - for instance, nearly all of the "regular" sealed bearings that I can remember were marked "FAFNIR" (which sounds pretty Wagnerian to me).



The grease for the gearboxes was the stuff specified by Trans-Lite, a kind of beige/tan stuff of very odd consistency, as I recall. I have no idea what Mars may have specified, as I didn't run into any Mars technical material and had to play it by ear. As far as I know, the railroads would have inventoried one type of grease for use in both lights (one gearbox, one bearing). Furthermore, I'd bet that the bearing grease would be whatever they had sitting around at the moment, as some of these guys were not too picky about what they used as long as it said "grease."

As for the bearing lubes, I do not recall ever using a red lube, which I would assume is a more updated synthetic grease (but I could be wrong). I do recall picking out congealed brown stuff, though... and a translucent brown/tan is what went back in. I was frequently "on the borrow" for odd materials at the time I had the Mars units, so I would often end up with a container with a big dab of whatever I needed. In fact, I still have a well-sealed plastic yogurt container half full of pneumatic bell ringer grease eight years after a machinist gave it to me. Teflon would also be something that might work very well but be historically incorrect.


Sleeve bearings:

I always used the grease, but I could have been doing it wrong. Oil would certainly be easier to apply, and would also ease movement somewhat due to the lower viscosity. Unfortunately, it would also tend to migrate. Either one would pick up and retain crud. As for the cloth material, I recall set screws, but not the little cloth material. Is this a little "wick" in the same axis as the motor shaft?


Sleeve Bearings - Gyralite Gearbox:

I am not sure if those sleeve bearings/bushings were "Oilite" types or not, although I think that they would almost have to be. I always oiled them up with a good grade of gun oil (like Hoppe's or Outers') after I cleaned them up (they still got grease, even though the clearance didn't allow a lot to be there).


Oilite bearings:

The bronze bushings are the Oilite items. They are plain old friction "bearings" made of porous bronze (I think that brass is a generically-used term for bronze in this case) which is impregnated with oil. As for lubrication, I used either a good grade of gun oil or oil used for electric motors (a synthetic really is the best, by the way). The oil should be of a low viscosity, but I don't have any numbers to give you. In the case of the Gyralites, the bushings are acceptable because of the low loads/speeds to which they are subjected. They are used in the old-style Viloco bell ringers, too, which is a much more jarring application, but the bell operates only intermittently... I guess that they probably equal out in severity. One thing to avoid if possible is a thorough solvent cleaning of these (for obvious reasons).


Gearbox set screw in end cap of gear shaft (Gyralite):

I just always assumed that the setscrew you describe was just a happy combination of end-thrust "bearing" and pre-loading device to get rid of excess play, as you stated. This feature was something of a refinement, given the natural "tolerant" nature of worm gears. The "felt" washers may very well be for putting 20/30W oil on... I just took them as a means of keeping the lube from migrating too far.



Boy, I sure wouldn't hazard a guess on the switch ratings, but I would suppose they had a heck of a margin of safety engineered into them, given their era of development.

As far as I know, nearly all SP power had a single red Gyralite, a dual white Gyralite, and a dual sealed-beam headlight on each end. This standard package was still the norm for a lot of power near the end, but once UP took over, the big light packages were on borrowed time.

The "Model Railroader Cyclopedia Vol. 2 - Diesel Locomotives" has a good end view of a typical SP setup. I was able to see a lot of SP SD9M's as they were being scrapped, and the oscillating lights had been removed some time earlier and the resulting holes plated over. Most of the cabs still had Gyralite 20380 controls still bolted in place to the left of the "cash register" stand (I think that controlled the red single unit, but am not certain), and Pyle-National "knife-blade" controls for the dual Gyralite was bolted to the left side (again - that was my understanding, but I could be wrong). Both were mounted at the same level as the air gauges.



You know, I never heard people say that anyone other than Mars themselves made the early motors, but I certainly don't believe that they ever did exactly that. I know the Bodine and RAE connection is there (with Mars putting their own ID on them), but I am not aware of any other suppliers. I can't imagine Mars would go to the expense of setting up their own production line to make electric motors, because the initial cost would be incredible for a company whose volume was relatively low. The fact that they purchased roundels and raw castings from outside vendors and subcontractors would lead me to believe that they could not possibly have made their own motors. Just between you and me, Mars seems to have had a somewhat shaky position in the game, never having the product depth that P-N had... thus my suspicions that they relied on vendors for most items, doing the machining, light fabrication and assembly in-house.

The motor observations I made might be a bit speculative, but having seen what setup costs are on any production line, I have to believe that anyone who had a financial stake in Mars would have gone through the roof if they had been presented with a proposal to do motors "in-house." Pyle-National and Western-Cullen-Hayes move(d) much more product, yet they outsourced the motors... I would be shocked if Mars did otherwise. On the RAE motors for the Gyralites, I noticed that late production of the earlier style motors resorted to a small adhesive-backed foil label that looked terrible and frequently came off; the later "can" type motors have that larger, better quality one... neither holds a candle to the screwed-on Mars tags, which allowed the data to remain clearer, and for a longer time.


Lamp wattage - 350 watt bulbs:

Replacing the 200W 30V bulbs with 350W 75V bulbs may look like an attractive option to eliminate voltage dropping resistors. The increased heat generated, however, is a problem.

Yes, I think that in this particular scenario, we can draw the correct conclusion and the simple one at the same time: those big-time lamps are going to cook out the lube and deteriorate any polymers inside the case. I can't recall many specifics from my college Materials Science and Engineering (just one of the things I went through to get certified to teach K-12 art!) classes, but I still retain some of the generalities, and elevating the temperature can certainly lower the life of many materials, as you well know. Most people understand that you need to keep a computer cooled off, but they may fail to realize that many plastics, resins and rubbers have the same problems. To add to the misery, the more advanced the age of these materials, the more they are affected (up to a point).

The standard dual locomotive headlight can no doubt take the extra guff from a 350 W bulb, because the only thing that is going to be affected is the neoprene gasket surrounding the bulb and any paint that may be on a set of diffuser louvers (if so equipped) hanging out in front. The gaskets are cheap and easily replaced, and the higher heat levels would tend to dissipate moisture from the louvers (so the 350 watters might actually decrease corrosion). The temperatures are not high enough to affect any material properties of the headlight castings holding the lamps in position. Brighter bulb = better visibility, and there are no real drawbacks for this particular application that I can think of, unless it might be more irritating to the crew in fog (but that may not be the case... I am speculating).

The Gyralites are another story, in my opinion. As you said, that higher wattage means more heat, and while the Gyralite case may not be insulated in the accepted sense of the term, most of them are going to have their "backsides" in the nose toilet or numberboard light areas, so they are "insulated" from a cooling air flow as far as I am concerned. I remember my sister's unwitting experiments with different bulbs in her 1960's "Easy Bake Oven," and I think that a simple analogy with the lubes/polymers can be made. It just makes common sense that lube "Z" will hold up for "X" amount of time times "Y" degrees, but maybe not "X" times ("Y"+88%). Because there is simply no place for the additional heat to go, I don't think the higher-wattage lamp is practical in an application where the heat has already proven to be of consequence. Now, if someone wants to vent the case, then that is a whole new ballgame, and probably not a bad idea regardless of lamp output. Most wayside signal equipment has been effectively vented for years, so certainly there is an adequate method of filtering and/or baffling that would still enable the case to remain free from too much additional "locomotive crud." Even cast-in cooling fins on the rear of the case would help as heat sinks. The single light would seem to me to have the potential for bigger problems than the dual ones, as the bigger case would possess at least a little more surface area to dissipate the heat (unless, of course, both lamps in the dual unit were going at once!).

The heat from the motor probably doesn't need to be factored in, as the variable here is the wattage of the lamps. All in all, I suppose that lubricant breakdown and the deterioration of lead insulation would be measurably accelerated by the 350 W, 75 VDC bulbs, but it would be up to the operators to determine if the normal service intervals would still meet their needs, not to mention additional replacement costs... some outfits act like they are made of money when it comes to certain items. As a case in point, I'd like to be able to ask NJ Transit how they can justify the purchase of Nathan's factory snow shields ("snow cones") for their K5LA air horns... these simple stamped sheet metal cones cost more than the horn they go on! I am getting into areas that are more theoretical than I ought to be in, but I just can't see any positives in the use of the big lamps in Gyralites, except for what may be a modest increase in effectiveness under clear conditions. Not even if it eliminates the resistors. As far as I know, nearly all SP power had a single red Gyralite, a dual white Gyralite, and a dual sealed-beam headlight on each end. This standard package was still the norm for a lot of power near the end, but once UP took over, the big light packages were on borrowed time. I think that photo just shows a very dirty dual white Gyralite. If you have the edition that shows the SP GP40X and the Cotton Belt (SSW) cabless conversion, you can see the same combinations. The "Model Railroader Cyclopedia Vol. 2 - Diesel Locomotives" has a good end view of a typical SP setup.I was able to see a lot of SP SD9M's as they were being scrapped, and the oscillating lights had been removed some time earlier and the resulting holes plated over. Most of the cabs still had Gyralite 20380 controls still bolted in place to the left of the "cash register" stand (I think that controlled the red single unit, but am not certain), and Pyle-National "knife-blade" controls for the dual Gyralite was bolted to the left side (again - that was my understanding, but I could be wrong). Both were mounted at the same level as the air gauges.



Glass... yes, glass is actually a very viscous liquid, and does flow, but it takes a fair amount of time, and generally requires a fairly good sized piece to show the symptoms (like the stained-glass windows in European cathedrals, which show signs of it). I can't say if heat does much damage, but certainly exposure to some chemicals will cause it to etch and/or discolor. I generally try the following on glass if it is really "dull"... sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't: I apply a dab of "Flitz" brand polish, and then take 0000 steel wool, and rub it gently on the glass. Then I just take a soft rag and polish the glass with the Flitz alone ("Simichrome" would probably work, too).



Gaskets are fun, aren't they? I never could get the rubber ones in as good as Trans-Lite, but I did get the knack on the rope types that were used on wayside signals, etc.: they never really do "seal" as I would define it. I would have liked to have known what Trans-Lite used at the time to cement the rubber ones, because it was good stuff, and held up fairly well. I'm sure that elevated temps would not be good for it, though.



Most of the Gyralite lead ends I saw were the full circular ones, not the spade type. I suppose if a terminal went bad, an electrician just crimped on an angled spade like most of the headlight leads used (or maybe whatever was in his kit). The full circle terminal would have been the most fail-safe, I suppose, but they are a pain. Most of the signals I messed with had the full circular terminals, along with lots of jam nuts and washers as well, so you had to remove a lot of stuff to add or remove one wire.



I was sent an email stating that the wiring in a Mars 300 Light off a C&NW had burned wiring (the notation of "burned" was explained in another email to mean melting at ends of wires) Many of the wires were cut on this unit - perhaps a cutting torch was used in removing unit.

Burnt wiring was not real common on the ones I worked on, except for the ones that were toasted by someone who was too playful with a cutting torch. Usually, only a bit of the leads would be gone near the ends, so I trimmed and crimped on a new connector whenever possible. To do it right would require the AAR wire, but that is really hard to get unless you know someone "on the inside." If this fellow has one of these ex-CGW/CNW lights, I am kind of surprised that there was a problem with burnt wiring, as that was not a real common malady on the roads, probably because there were people at Oelwein who knew how to keep the guts on these jobs happy right up until the time they stopped operating all of the old oscillators, at which point, they just disconnected them or pulled them out. They had some problems with "lube deferral," but not as bad as the later problems with people not lubing the electric nose-mounted bells used on some of the bigger power. At least with the Mars lights, there was kind of an excuse, as they required some effort to lubricate.

Really, the leads do hold up pretty well, although I can't really be sure how old the leads actually were on anything I messed with. Like you, I found the trouble spots to be where any continual flexing occurred, and at the ends where the bending and re-bending from the process of bulb replacement had fatigued the insulation AND the wire.


Hinge pins:

On the oscillating lights, the Gyralites used nuts/bolts from the factory, and Mars used the pins... but all of the dual headlight assemblies (Mars, P-N and most Mercors) that I have run across were set up for pins, and I think that any bolts in those instances were substitutes. I haven't seen the G&G Locotronics (Power Parts) products, so I can't comment on theirs. I still have one of the pins in the parts box, and as I said, they are blackened (or blued) carbon steel rolled pins that were 1/4" dia... the one in front of me came from a P-N dual headlight, and is 1" long, but I think that Mars may have used a slightly different length. Here is the weird part... some of them look almost new when they are removed, while others are awful. Whenever I reassemble a good set, I use a lot of anti-seize compound, but I'm sure they didn't get lubed up at the factory, so why the difference?


Mars 200 case:

The Mars 200 Light in the GP9 No. 514, located at Steamtown had a cracked case. The mounting plate with the mechanism bolts to the locomotive. The case (front and sides with the 2 mounted roundels has to be removed on servicing.

The 200 must have been a headache to service under any but shop conditions. Can you imagine doing any servicing in a drizzle or light snow? Ouch! Creative railroad cursing.

I prowled around a sizable batch of SP SD9 rebuilds in '97 and '98 - just before they went to the torch - and all had once been equipped with the SP light packages which had been removed and the mounting areas blanked out. Some still had the Gyralite controls, some didn't, but the ones that were left were in pretty sorry shape as a rule. One GP9 (the odd GP of the lot) still had the single and dual Gyralites on the front end, which I inadvertently ended up with (temporarily), along with another single, some miscellaneous empty cases, and various associated parts (I also bought the 12" bronze bell from one of the SD9's... which I still have, but getting that to where it is today was a comedy of errors). By this time in my life, I had no burning desire to mess with the lights, but I ended up disassembling everything to one degree or another and eventually sold them as I found them, albeit much cleaner (I did repaint one of them). These had a great deal of surface corrosion evident, and I replaced most of the small fasteners after having to carefully drill them out and painstakingly pick the remaining brass out of the threaded holes. Even so, it was probably less work than resuscitating a small batch of plain Mars headlights that I ended up working on... NEVER AGAIN!


CP "Mountain Lights":

CP used dual dual horiz Gyralites in the F9As. These were inclined upwards at an angle of close to 45 degrees. They were mounted on a bracket which Trans-Lite shows no record of CP obtaining.

My guess would be that an enterprising shop conversion took place. If there is one thing that mechanical people are good at, it's improvisation.



About a decade ago, the C&NW had some old switchers in the dead line, but before they could be sold, they needed their (stolen) bells and horns replaced. The horns I won't go into (they were a truly odd lot), but a few of the bells were replaced with the W-C-H 74 vdc electric nose type bell. They cobbled together a big square steel plate with a large hole in it, welded four approximately 1' long brackets to the back, and bolted them to the front of the cab, sticking out forward over the rear end of the hood. The bells were then bolted to this, and the wiring ran into the engine interior through a grommet in a new hole. Ugliest thing you would ever want to see, and probably more costly than a new steel bell and ringer in a homemade bracket. I suppose it was a cost-effective solution because the electric bells were handy and not being used. Atrocious!

I mentioned before a little book that Carstens put out years ago, "Chicago Great Western Railway" by the late Phil Hastings. Other than the cover photo, there are not really many good shots showing the Mars lights, but there is one with a caption that says it all. On the top of page 78, the photo caption reads "The Great Western equipped its F's with Mars lights, headlights having a rotating figure-eight pattern to the beam. Many roads preferred the oscillating light as a means of alerting motorists at grade crossings. Normally a white light, it could be changed to red when needed to give danger signals to other trains. C&NW painted over the Mars lights, preferring to rely on the powerful twin-beam units." The picture was taken sometime in the 1970's, and shows an ex-CGW covered wagon with what looks like an unlit Mars in the nose. That about sums it up, at least for the last Iowa road to use the Mars units to any extent. The ex-CGW shop people supposedly breathed a sigh of relief when the C&NW ordered the Mars units deactivated... they were not well loved by the mechanical types if the comments I got were any indication. They looked very ugly painted over, though (this is on the covered wagons... the GP30's and SD40's were not painted over, just deactivated). The C&NW itself got rid of the single red Mars stuff on their road switchers relatively early.... that was before my time in the railroadania scrounging game.


Use of the oscillating lights:

I would agree that the oscillating light is not getting the attention it might deserve by the powers that be. Sadly, it appears that if it isn't some microprocessor-controlled, solid state gizmo, it doesn't get much respect. It is funny to watch the railroads adopt the latest gimmick only to find that the rail environment just doesn't let it work out. The Vapor Mark IV digital speed displays that were used on some of the "low-MPH only" C&NW ex-RI units were an example of something that worked, but didn't catch on because they hindered the flexibility of the unit (because there was no recording capability built in, they were illegal over a certain MPH). The late, unlamented electric locomotive toilet was a good example of something that sounded great - the waste would be converted to harmless ash, which was a lot easier to handle/dispose of - but actual practice proved it pretty unreliable. Really, the thing was kind of like sticking a small dynamic brake into a nose toilet. I was told that nobody really wanted to use one, as they felt it was like urinating (that is not the exact railroad term that was used) into a toaster (which I thought was a funny but inaccurate description). That was a small experiment that didn't work... now the UP is supposedly going to convert all of those big, new AC locos to DC over the next few years. Plenty of $$$ lost because they thought that high-tech was the way to go, only to find out that repairs were getting out of hand.


We had an I&M Rail Link engine hit a pickup at a crossing downtown yesterday... no one was hurt, but the unit was an ex-SP EMD of some sort with the Gyralites removed. I'll bet if they were still in place and functioning, there would have been no accident. Yes the engine involved in the hit had ditch lights, but they didn't do the trick in this case.


Pyle and Mars:

Anyone who asks me about getting one of them gets the same advice: if you just want an oscillating light, get a Gyralite; if you want a piece of railroad exotica and don't mind the pitfalls that go along with it, get a Mars. By the way, at the time, I was just a little old graphic designer who was helping out a friend to paint three locomotives in primer. It was kind of fun for the first two hours, but it lost its charm over the next three weekends. There were two (ex-BN, ex-Seattle & North Coast) covered wagons involved in the deal, and they ended up on a Michigan dinner train. One of the two had it's big nose headlight replaced by a round steel plate with a regular PN dual sealed-beam headlight bolted to it... what an abomination!


Ease of Removal for Servicing:

As for the Mars lights being easy to remove, the answer is "yes, BUT"... the Gyralites were easier because the two threaded hex studs were right up front, but the Mars 300's required you to get in there with a socket for each bolt (there were three or possibly four, I believe). Not HARD, mind you, but the Gyralite was easier. Better electrical receptacles on the Gyralite, too (easier to disconnect).



There are a lot of people no longer in the railroad game, and even more that are shadows of their former selves. There just aren't enough new units being built to keep that demand up, and so much of the used equipment just gets by. Who'd have thought that Pyle-National would exit the headlight business back then? Viloco gets bought by Vapor, who gets bought by Brunswick, and so on, and they have let the horn/bell valve and bell ringer business go to heck, in my opinion. Prime does something similar, Nathan becomes a horn-only outfit, NYAB gets purchased by Europeans... sad.

More and more, restoration/preservation means rollin' your own parts. I have to fabricate a valve stem for a Hancock three-chime longbell whistle, and it is a truly daunting task... Mars lights are becoming much the same way.


Installation of Mars and Gyralites into F and E bodies:

Installation literature for oscillating lights in streamlined locomotives warns of excessive heat causing melting of the lead in the nose. The literature calls for installation of the oscillating light in the topmost headlight opening and if necessary, to use a cutting torch to make a second hole in the nose.

Melted lead huh? Yes, you're talking about covered wagons! Since lead was the body and fender filler of the '40's and '50's, they had plenty of lead in them. Oelwein, IA was the CGW's only big locomotive shop, so it did all of the heavy repair... after the '68 merger, it and Proviso, IL were the two really large shops on the C&NW, (although Marshalltown, IA did most of the injector work for the system, along with a couple of other specialty services). While I was talking with some guys standing by a hood unit getting some minor bodywork done at the Oelwein shop in the late '80's, one of the shop men told us about the bodywork they had to do on covered wagons, and he said that the lead in some of them was beyond belief. He was using a torch on a damaged section of one F-unit nose, and he got the temperature a bit high; the lead started to go soft, and before he knew what was happening, he had a waterfall of lead streaming down the nose of the unit. By that time, any repairs were done with body putty, so he didn't have to mess with replacing the lead. According to another sheet-metal man, there might be up to a ONE INCH thickness of lead covering particularly bad areas, and this was when delivered new from EMD! I suppose it was compact ballast, if nothing else.

But back to bodywork. A lot of roads got replacement nose doors from EMD, and the road-modified doors were innumerable. The weirdest-looking F in the world was Rock Island F2A #49... it lost the upper nose light (originally where a Mars light was, and I think one with a large red lens) in a wreck, and they rebuilt it without it! They just cobbled up and blended in some curved sheet metal to match the curvature of the top of the nose and left it with a door-mounted headlight. Considering they probably had a dozen bad-order units in the dead line that could have contributed a nose, it was really a bad (and cheap) idea, but the RI was the absolute king of making-do. I don't know what eastern road would be the equivalent, but the Rock had the most clever "on-the-ground" operating people in the Midwest, because they never got any money to do stuff right, so they had to improvise. I used to hear stories about "quick fixes" that were too stupid to be true, but then someone else would confirm them! A bit later, I was able to confirm his story when I helped to prime and otherwise stabilize a pair of very weary ex-BN F-7's that were going to be stored dead for a while. I started to patch up some bad areas around the numberboards and headlights, and I can confirm that there was a lot of lead in those babies! Oh, my! There wasn't much I could do for the most part, but I gave it a shot anyway... since I am by no means a body and fender man, I may have hurt more than I helped, but they did look pretty good when we were done. The main headlights (at the top of the nose: the normal place for oscillating setups was having the Mars or Gyralite there, with the stationary headlight being in the nose door, which was an easier thing to add and remove) had been replaced with a dual sealed-beam conversions, and any oscillators were long gone, although some of the controls were still in the cab. I saw a picture of these two units a few years later in "Trains" magazine, pulling a dinner train in Traverse City, Michigan. My gosh, there was a lot of lead in those things... it amazes me to this day.


Painting over oscillating lights:

I was told by a Senior Claims Agent (name withheld for obvious reasons) with UP that all lights emitting light forward was a `safety device`. If any light was burned out it could be held against them in lawsuits. That would be a `faulty warning device`!

Now, before the merger MP didn't want to have the expense to fix the wiggle device in the nose lights so they just let them operate till the bulbs burned out and didnt worry with any of it. Then UP got in a lawsuit after the merger over 'faulty devices' so orders were passed down to 'remove/paint over/weld over or what ever it took' to take them out of service forever. I do have (somewhere) some shots of a unit with regular headlights installed.

I believe that strict interpretation of the regulations would mean that if something is on the engine, it has to be functioning correctly. For what it's worth, I was once told by a parts broker that the reason some engines got the oscillating lights removed was that a particular CMO or someone else would get all verklempt about this strict interpretation. Just painting them out was probably not a great solution, but it was done a lot, nonetheless.

I don't know if they "dismissed" the strict interpretation of working devices or not, but that seems to be the only conclusion in some cases. There are documented instances where they occasionally just left the lights unenergized, but with the covered wagons, that was either an atypical or a short-lived "solution."

Apparently, it was felt that painting over was sufficient to keep everyone happy in some cases where the lights remained in place, and also when the assembly had been removed. I suppose it was done as much from the standpoint of looks as anything, because a vacant porthole in the nose doesn't do much for appearance. After a number of years, photographic evidence shows that here were a lot of these vacant headlight holes that were blanked out with painted metal plates, despite the slightly misleading "painted over" phrase in the picture books. The glass would get broken or shed its paint, and it would get replaced. There was a lot of variation in the details of the F's during this time (there were a lot of different backgrounds to the late F fleet), which brings up the final chapter in the holes for the covered wagons' signal lights:

The C&NW developed a habit of putting the 74v W-C-H electric gong bells into the space once occupied by the signal light on many of its F7's. Actually, it was a fairly clever use of a circular space and an electrical connection, when you think about it. In these cases, the signal light assemblies obviously had been removed to make room for the rear of the bell. That, I think, was another reason that some of the "working" wagons (especially the ones used in commuter service) ended up without a trace of the signal lights.



It is purported that any item having "antique" status may be devalued by repainting, even if that means that the item looks like it need repainting. I asked Griff what he does on restoration.

I tend to clean everything as well as I can - maybe more than others would, but refinishing... in the larger sense, it is best to leave stuff alone. Sometimes even a careless cleaning can mess things up. Ideally, I clean and leave alone...HOWEVER, if the finish is really bad, I will go ahead and refinish; I kind of go by a 50% rule... if half of the finish is gone or badly damaged, I refinish. I don't, however, EVER sandblast or abrade anything unless the pitting is so bad that it is absolutely necessary. On really old items, I'd also tend to leave the piece be, but if it is a relatively modern item, has 20 bad layers of paint over dirt (like your average Conrail air horn) and is peeling badly, I usually repaint. Most horns of my own got repainted, but they were not really big- time collector's pieces; those I did for others, I left as is. I have a speedometer that came out of C&NW 4176... the base was peeling off badly, so I refinished it (but not the speedo itself). I would have loved to have left it alone, but there was corrosion where the paint had flaked, and it was pretty bad; since it was abused and already in need of TLC while it was in service, I went for it. More than anything else, I wanted to remove the corrosion and keep the item from getting worse, and I wasn't concerned with the resale value. It is really a toss up sometimes, but one thing I don't ever do is polish up anything just to make it shiny... that really does lower the value, even if it does make people look at it.