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Quick Look: NCE Light-It and Iluminator lighting decoders

Read this review from the May 2018 Model Railroader
NCE Light-It and Illuminator lighting decoders

Price: Light-It 3 pack, $19.95; 6 pack,
$39.95; 15 pack, $99.95; Illuminator,
$16.95; 5 pack, $79.95

NCE Corp.
82 E. Main St.
Webster, NY 14580

Comments: Lighting is one of the more basic forms of animation we can add to our model railroads, and NCE has released a simple way to add programmable lighting effects to rolling stock, scenery, and signals using either direct current (DC) or Digital Command Control (DCC).

The Light-It and Illuminator decoders have three outputs for light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and two inputs for power, one pair on each end. There’s a warm-white surface-mounted LED on the decoder. The Light-It is a little larger than a dime. The Illuminator is about the size of a matchbox.

The Light-It requires soldered connections for wiring. The Illuminator uses screw terminals for power and plugs that are compatible with Woodland Scenics’ Just Plug LED lighting system.

There are 15 lighting effects on the board for mobile or stationary use. In addition, as a signal decoder, the Light-It can produce 18 different lighting effects appropriate for railroad signals. An NCE Mini Panel can provide the logic to drive the signals.

I tried the decoder with several LEDs we had in the shop, including two types of Christmas light LEDs. All worked fine on any of the outputs. The board has built-in resistors for LEDs, but won’t work with incandescent lights such as grain-of-wheat bulbs.

I attached a Light-It to the DCC bus of an NCE PowerCab and was able to choose effects and change the address.

For DC, I used an AC-to-DC wall transformer. I used the 13.8V power supply from the PowerCab, and also an old 6V power supply. However, a DC power pack from a train set didn’t work. An NCE rep said the pulsed DC current was likely the issue.

A button on the circuit board allowed me to toggle between the lighting effects. All three outputs display the same effect in DC, except for the alternating flasher effect for a grade-crossing signal.

This compact board would be handy for many uses on a layout.

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