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LOVE Trains of Light

LOVE Trains of Light

Original Trains of Light from LOVE. Photo by the Las Vegas Sun.

Sin City Scenic has worked with Cirque du Soleil's LOVE at The Mirage Hotel & Casino before and they were very pleased with the high quality work we delivered. Because of this relationship, they came to us to rebuild some of their props. In the show there are several trains full of cars with candles on them. You can see a picture of the original trains to the right.

These trains have served the show well for its 11+ year run, but the properties department decided that they're due for a revamp. They asked us to design a clean and streamlined way to distribute power through the whole train and well as from the individual cars to the candles on top of them. The existing wiring was functional, but a bit fiddly to maintain. Because we were putting together a new electrical system for each brand new car it also made sense for us to assemble each car from components specified by the members of the show staff.

When I began to discuss the project with them we decided that a solution utilizing terminal blocks would make maintenance much faster and easier for them. Looking at other requirements they had, like a local fuse to isolate the car from the rest of the train, I decided that the best option was custom printed circuit board (PCB). This will allow me to quickly assemble a large number cars, saving the customer money, as well as keep all the bits secure, together, and streamlined. The silkscreen on the board also allows for thorough labeling of everything so when a technician does need to work on a car they can immediately see what parts they need to perform the repair. 

PCB design for Trains of Light power distribution.

Assembled board ready to be installed.

Once I drew a schematic and started to lay out the board in Altium Circuit Maker I added a few other details to improve quality of life long term. I choose to go with a thicker 2mm PCB for added rigidity, a 2 ounce copper pour to lower trace resistance and reduce voltage drop along 20+ foot long train, and an Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold finish on the board to lower contact resistance continuing to help minimize voltage drop.

Wago had recently released their 2604 series terminals that use a leveler action for wire insertion instead of a screw or a spring pin that requires a tool to remove. These seemed like a perfect match as they allow basic electrical maintenance on the trains to be completely tool free. I think I may have bought the first 300 terminals sold in the US.

Once all the components arrived it was time to get to work with assembly. The soldering took a little more attention to detail because all of the components are through hole and have a tendency to not sit flat on the board, but the added physical strength that comes from bonding to the backside of the board and through the via will ensure that these boards remain reliable long term. Surface mount components would have resulted in joints that would be more likely to crack or rip completely off of the board. Regardless, once I figured out a method to keep everything flat my one man assembly line ran like a well oiled machine and I was able to hand solder all 50 boards in just two evenings.

Lots of boards to solder.

In the mean time Sin City Scenic's carpentry team began to assemble the train cars. The assembly process was pretty straight forward and after a while we had quite the train yard in the shop. After preparing the car's candles and installing them to the customer's specification the cars were ready to go. Our agreement was to deliver the cars separately to be assembled into trains onsite, so once we had all the pieces in place and the electric components tested we packaged them up and brought them to the showroom.

Assembled trains waiting to go into the show.

Because of some long hours put in by the crew at Sin City Scenic we were able to deliver the train cars almost a week early. This gave the show enough time to assemble them and get them integrated into the show for a dress rehearsal well ahead of schedule. The properties department likes the aesthetic and functionality of the trains during the show, and is much happier about the ease of maintenance. This is exactly the kind of solution that we love to deliver at Sin City Scenic. 

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