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Menards O gauge illuminated vehicles

Vehicles with a plug & play light system

Price: Autos 24.99, trucks, $29.99, no. 279-4062 4.5-volt three-outlet adapter $9.99, no. 79-4035 Plug and Play adapter kit $9.99 Features: Die-cast metal and plastic construction, front and rear lights, each vehicle has a male barrel plug connector pre-wired to the frame.
I believe the first illuminated vehicles I saw were from Canadian artist Jack Pearce, who rigged lights in fire trucks, police cars, and sedans. You name it and he could put in lights. Jack even came up with diorama scenes for your layout, such as car wrecks and one with a helicopter spinning up (with a sound clip)! So rest assured, functioning vehicle lights are a real thing in toy train hobby.

Menards is no stranger to illuminated vehicles, primarily battery powered. Now, the home-improvement chain has launched a new line of trucks and automobiles with an interesting twist. They have the potential to spice up any street scene. They are pre-wired to plug into a power grid!

We received four of the 12 vehicles (six Mustangs and six trucks) released by Menards: the nos. 279-4207 lighted Menards stake truck with barrels and lumber, 279-4215 lighted F350 Jack’s Links die-cast box truck,  279-4237 lighted yellow Mustang, and 279-4238 lighted classic-style black Mustang. The cars cost $24.99 each, and the trucks cost $29.99.

There is also the no. 279-4035 Plug and Play adapter, an eight-piece plug and play accessory kit. There are six straight male/female wire pieces and two “Y” splitters. This pack costs $9.99.

The vehicles

The O gauge vehicles are standard Menards die-cast vehicles that have been modified. The cars look sporty, the trucks have loads, and there are some great color combos. They are also mixes of die-cast metal and plastic. For example, the Jack’s Links truck box is plastic. On the pickup truck the barrels and lumber cargo load are plastic.

The vehicles all have working headlights and taillights. They have a plug and wire dropping down from the center of the body. The internal wire on the trucks is thin, with a heavy black protective sheath over the wires. The autos don’t have the extra sheath, but a robust plastic insulation. All the vehicles have a male barrel plug attachment at the end.

The concept

Wiring has always been the trick with powering lighted vehicles. Back in the late 1990s, some of the earlier vehicles could be powered with a tap into track power (not such a good idea in the era of steady 18-volt power to the track), and some were directly powered with a small adapter.

The new releases from Menards move the concept forward. Each vehicle plugs into a connector that can be one of a series of vehicles fed from the adapter. While you can feed it over the surface of your layout, you’ll be better served by drilling a hole down through the street/parking lot/dirt road where you wish to locate the vehicle.

If you sink a 7/16 -inch hole, the plug will clear the board just fine. You may want to number or color-code the wire with tape under the table for future reference.   

We used an older three-outlet AC to DC power adapter and powered three of the vehicles from that. We also hooked up the Plug and Play kit to a single line and operated three vehicles from one of the feeder lines. It is a simple process.

Buildings too

If you have added a number of the Menards structures to your layout, this will eliminate the need for one wall adapter per building.

Just apply the same practice as with the vehicles and build your power network beneath the tabletop, feeding the wires over the surface. This greatly simplifies the wiring process and eliminates tabletop clutter. You may want to color the wires to look more natural.

Keep in mind that the Menards Hotel and O Gauge World Headquarters will require the 4.5 volt 5000-mV adapter to suport the greater quantity of LEDs the buildings use.

The new lighted vehicles from Menards will increase the variety of traffic on the streets of your train town. When the room lights are low, they will help its citizens find their way home safely.


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