|LED tube lights installed inside enclosed fixtures illuminate an Amtrak passenger car. (Photo courtesy LEDtronics)|
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|At tunnels near New York’s Penn Station, it’s out with old, orange, energy-inefficient HPS lights and in with LED wall packs from LEDtronics. (Photo courtesy LEDtronics)|
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“Embarrassing” is how Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle
Group, describes the lack of modernization on America’s rails.“
It is embarrassing, particularly given the country’s railroad history and
leadership in computing and aerospace technologies,” he said. “U.S.
trains once led the world in technology and innovation, but badly fell behind
over the last 40 or so years. Now, much of the innovation comes from places
like Japan, Germany and especially China.”
Enderle pointed to LED (light-emitting
diode) lighting as one of the easier upgrades that U.S. railroads can undertake
to modernize the domestic system.
“Just changing fluorescent lights to the right kind of LEDs, those that
are warm white, not only saves energy, but also creates an environment that
is far more
comfortable for passengers,” the analyst said. “We desperately
need to update our trains while containing costs, and LEDs would be a relatively
place to start.”
Echoing Enderle’s take is one of the largest U.S.-based producers of LED
products. Having partnered with Amtrak and regional rail transit authorities
to light up trains, tunnels and stations from coast to coast, that company is
on a quest to replace antiquated lighting that exists on the nation’s
passenger and freight trains.
“The majority of our country’s trains have old-technology lighting,” said
Pervaiz Lodhie, founder and CEO of Torrance, Calif.-based LEDtronics. “For
safety and money-saving reasons alone, it’s paramount that the railroad
industry be educated on the clear advantages of switching to LEDs.”
Lodhie’s hope is that one day soon, going with LED technology will be
automatic for the American railroad industry. Once the giant freight-hauling
see the myriad benefits of LED technology, he contends, incandescent lighting
will rightfully go the way of the steam locomotive. From merely a bean-counting
perspective, Lodhie, holder of numerous LED-related patents, pointed to cost
savings resulting from reduced energy use and maintenance.
has huge advantages over incandescent lights that makes it a natural for the
rail industry,” he said. “For one thing, incandescents
typically last a few months, whereas LED lighting, even if operated 24/7, is
last up to 10 years under normal conditions. Also, because solid-state LED
lighting withstands vibrations, this newer technology is virtually maintenance-free.”
is already riding the “LED train,” so to speak. LEDtronics
has supplied products at several points along the national passenger rail network.
At eight stations, Amtrak uses the company’s LED
indicators for controls, tube lights inside trains and wall
packs to light up tunnels, among other applications.
These stations are located in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, along
with New Haven, Conn.; Wilmington, Del.; Perryville, Md.; Beech Grove, Ind.;
and Oakland, Calif.
LED technology is riding the rails at lower speeds than mainline railways,
too, thanks to several early-adopter regional transit authorities across the
From Oregon to Massachusetts, light rail agencies are replacing incandescent
bulbs with LED solutions that include miniature-based indicator bulbs, tube
lights, intermediate-based bulbs and PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) spot
bulbs at the control panels and passenger cars of its light rail operation.
One of LEDtronics’ newest customers is also one of the nation’s
oldest. Riding the rails since 1873, the beloved cable cars of San Francisco
with LED light bulbs earlier this year. Replacing dim incandescent headlights
LED bulbs from LEDtronics, in addition to installing A19-style LED
light bulbs inside the passenger cabins, has improved safety and has saved
the city money on energy and maintenance, according to Arne Hansen, maintenance
at the San Francisco Municipal
Cable Car Barn.
“What a neat idea,” was the first piece of feedback Hansen said he received
from a cable car operator after the LED headlights were installed. He also
said visibility has gone up tremendously since the upgrade.
“The San Francisco
cable cars are a prime example of today’s technologies
bringing new life, and in this instance, new light, to one the country’s
oldest and operational treasures,” Lodhie said. “Upgrading modes
of transportation of yesteryear should bode well for upgrading the modes that
move Americans today and will tomorrow.”
The future of LED technology
on U.S. railroads does look bright both inside and out, according to Shrikant
Mahankar, senior research analyst at MarketsandMarkets.
“With the interiors
of trains, we’re seeing an increasing demand for comfort
and luxury, and that is propelling the U.S. market and others internationally
for advanced lighting applications such as reading lights, vestibule lights,
emergency lights, toilet lights and cabin lights,” said the India-based
researcher. “LEDs also allow designers to develop imaginative train interior
As for exterior train lighting, Mahankar said such applications
as headlights, tail lights, marker lights and indicator lights open up huge
for LED lighting in coming years owing to their advanced benefits.
main benefits for using LEDs in train exterior lights are long warranty periods,
due to the long lifetime of the LEDs and low maintenance costs,” the analyst
said. “Low power consumption is an added advantage as LEDs are energy
By David Dickstein
Originally posted in Railway Age, March 2019 issue