Platform Lighting Kit for the Olszewski MSEP:
The standard base for the Olszewski Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade wasn’t designed to be placed on the Main Street Platform – it’s way too big. You can put the individual pieces on the Platform, but you lose the lighting effect which defeats the whole purpose of the Electrical Parade. This page describes how to build a compact lighting package for the MSEP pieces so you can proudly display Disney and Olszewski’s “spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights” on the Main Street Platform where it belongs.
Here’s a video of the compact lighting package in operation on my Platform. It’s hard to capture the intensity and vibrancy of the colors, but it gives you an idea of what it looks like:
FYI: You probably know that Olszewski modeled his MSEP after an earlier, and somewhat larger, seven piece MSEP series. The original version used several flashing Christmas tree lights inside each of the pieces that were very similar to the lights used on the real MSEP floats and that gave the original versions more of a twinkling look. That’s the look I was trying to capture in my compact lighting design. Cindy (of colddeadfish fame) created a nice video that shows the original and the new Olszewski pieces side by side. Here’s the link to her site:
To build a compact MSEP lighting package you need to buy these components:
Buy a very thin 4 conductor cable. I bought a super thin 4 conductor Phone cable from my neighborhood hardware store that was .9mm thick. That’s really thin, but it’s already looking quite visible on the street. Try not to go any bigger than that. This should cost less than $5.
- Buy a set of low profile LEDs. I used six of these LEDs that include individual Red, Green, and Blue emitters in a very compact casing. This one is only 3.5mm (1/8th of an inch!) wide and 1.5mm high. You can’t use the same style LED as Olszewski used because they sunk 3mm of their package into the base – and we can’t do that without raising the MSEP piece up 4 or 5 mm – and they’re already pretty tall. This particular LED is very bright – about twice as bright as the Olszewski lights. This is a good thing. The LEDs are also 120 degree spread so they throw light more evenly throughout the MSEP pieces. These LEDs cost about $2.50 each – or about $15 total.
Purchase a set of 1/8th watt resisters for the LEDs from your local electronic supply house or Radio Shack. You’ll need three for each LED – one for each color. The above LEDs required 100 ohm resisters for the Green and Blue colors and 72 ohms for the Red colors (the Red LED technology they used has a much lower forward bias voltage drop hence the higher current limiting resistance required). All together these should cost about $3.
Buy a special LED Lighting Controller like this one. “Big Clive” has an awesome LED controller that gives you amazing choices for the lighting of the LEDs. The Olszewski lighting in the standard base is very low cost and provides nice colors, but the colors change very slowly and they don’t “twinkle and sparkle” like the real MSEP. Big Clive provides over 20 different light programming modes with dozens of sub-selections. It provides us with the ability to get just about any look we want from the lights – from subtle like the Olszewski look to crazy psychedelic stroboscopic effects and all points in between. It’s a little expensive, but well worth the price as you can see from the video. The controller will provide power for the common Anode (+ lead) for all of the LEDs to use and it controls the individual Red, Green, and Blue LED Cathodes (- leads). Those four outputs are connected to the four wires in the cable. Wire #1 is for the common Anode, Wire #2 controls Red, Wire #3 controls Green, and Wire #4 controls Blue. It can power about 150 (!) of these LEDs so it’s plenty powerful for all of the MSEP pieces planned for the future. It’s about $30 US.
Total cost of the components of this uncompromising design is about $60. [The more cost conscious Olszewski design costs about $10 in parts. The (somewhat unexciting) slow change in the colors is a consequence of the expense trade off they need to make to keep the overall cost of the pieces low. But, if you’re okay with that look and you can cope with raising up the pieces several millimeters (1/4” or so) then write me and I’ll email his design to you.]
There’s only one Lighting controller and it can only produce one set of lighting signals for the Red, Green, and Blue LEDs. If we had all 6 LEDs from the five MSEP pieces connected in the same way to the controller wires then they would all emit the same color – and that would be boring. So, to “mix up the colors” for each of the five pieces we have the R, G, and B resister leads of the each LED connected to the controller wires #2-4 in different sequences. This way, no two LEDs will emit the same color. The result is quite spectacular – and it’s relatively simple.
For example, the first LED in the string (the Train) has its Red resister connected to Wire #2, its Green resister connected to Wire #3, and its Blue resister connected to Wire #4. Then the second LED (for the Drum) has its Red resister connected to Wire #4, its Green resister connected to Wire #2, and its Blue resister connected to Wire #3. This way when the controller activates Wire 2 and 3 the Train will illuminate in Yellow while the Drum will illuminate in Turquoise. Remember, Wire #1 is connected to all of the LEDs common Anode lead. Here’s a chart describing the sequence for connecting the LED resister leads to the Cable wire #s:
Red Resister Green Resister Blue Resister
LED 1 (Train) Wire #2 Wire #3 Wire #4
LED 2 (Drum) Wire #4 Wire #2 Wire #3
LED 3 (Turtle) Wire #3 Wire #4 Wire #2
LED 4 (Elliott 1) Wire #3 Wire #2 Wire #4
LED 5 (Elliott 2) Wire #2 Wire #4 Wire #3
LED 6 (Bug) Wire #4 Wire #3 Wire #2
Construction is not very complicated, but requires serious patience and very good soldering skills because you’re working in a very small space. Realize that the LEDs are normally surface mount devices so the solder pads are only .7mm wide – and that’s really small – at least for my 50+ year old eyes. After about 3 solid days of experimentation (and frustration) I ended up using this procedure:
This Photograph shows a section of the completed Cable:
1) Cut an 18” length of the thin Phone cable and mark where the LEDs will be located. Use the Olszewski MSEP LED locations in their base as a guide.
2) Mark where the LED/Resister leads will be connected to the cable. The common Anode lead will always go to Wire #1 so mark that location first. Then, you’ll refer to the above chart to determine which LED lead connects to which Cable Wire #. To avoid short circuits connect the resisters to the cable 2-3 mm one way or the other down the cable as shown in the photo. Don’t try to connect resisters to the cable right atop each other or they’ll short out. Make marks on the cable appropriately. To keep from getting confused, I always placed the Anode first in the sequence of connections, placed the Red Resister connection second, the Blue resister connection third, and the Green Resister connection fourth. Study the photo and you’ll see what I mean. The lights will look boring, or short out, if you screw up the sequence – so take your time making these marks.
3) Use a sharp exacto knife to split cable into the four individual wires in the area of the marks. I went 5-7 mm either way of the marks to give some extra room for the next step. Be very careful not to expose any of the copper wiring when you split out the individual wires because they’ll certainly short out in later steps. If you see copper when you’ve split out the wires then throw out that cable and start over. This sounds harsh but it will save you a ton of grief later.
4) With a thin tipped soldering iron, melt off the insulation of the Cable Wires at the points you just marked. Expose about 1-2 mm of wire at each point. The exposures don’t need to be very clean because you’ll be soldering on the resisters later and that action will melt off any remaining insulation. The burnt insulation looks a little untidy, but nobody but you will ever see it – and believe me, there isn’t a more reliable way to strip the insulation without breaking the tiny, fragile wires.
5) Solder the resisters to the LED. The LED pads are small and fragile so be careful. Tin the pads and the resister leads first and it goes a lot easier. Bend the resisters so they angle as shown in the photo below left.
6) Here’s the tough step: Bend the Anode and Resister wires and attach them to the cable. This takes a little practice – expect to have a few false starts. Also expect some of the solder joints connecting the resisters to the LED to separate as you’re bending the resister wires. When that happens just remove the LED, reattach the resister, and try again.
7) For the Train and the Drum you’ll need to make another an additional split between Wires #2 and #3 so the cable can route around the magnets. You’ll see that in this photograph of the Train. It’s okay if you see copper in these areas so long as you don’t cut through any of the copper strands. The wheels for the Train and Drum provide enough clearance for the wires to run under the pieces without further adjustment.
8) The Turtle, Elliott, and the Bug don’t have wheels or extra space underneath to run wires, so they’ll sit up on the Cable and they’ll require some supports to keep them from tipping over. I used 2mm white pads I bought from the hardware store and cut them to fit under the feet of the pieces.
9) Assemble Big Clive’s lighting controller and mount it where ever you like – I put mine under the Town Square piece. Attach the lighting controller power leads to the Olszewski “C” power supply or connect it directly to any of the Olszewski 4.5vdc power supplies. Be mindful of + and - polarity. I suggest that you replace the 1N4004 diode with a piece of straight wire (eliminating the diode) otherwise Big Clive’s controller chip will be voltage starved in this application. Also, you might want to leave off the Big Clive circuit board “Power On LED” because in the dark you can see it glowing through the base of the Town Square piece (the pieces aren’t as opaque as you might think!).
10) Attach the cable to the appropriate connections on the Lighting Controller. NOTE: BE SURE TO ONLY SUPPLY 5VDC OR LESS TO THE BIG CLIVE CONTROLLER. More voltage than that may damage the LEDs and overheat the Resistors. Most of the Olszewski AC Adaptors marked 4.5VDC actually output nearly 8VDC - and that's really bad for this design. Write to me if you have questions about this.
11) Read the instructions on the operation of Big Clive’s controller. I used his FX Routine # 20 “Color Burst with Bright Colors” set on the highest speed, but you might prefer some of his other Routines. Experiment with them all and choose the one that looks best to you.
That’s all there is to it!
I used the same design as above and had a single PC Board fabricated to simplify construction and improve durability. It included all of the above electronics on a 1.25" X 11.5" very thin (1/16") board. It was painted to look like the street on top, just like the Olszewski base unit but much, much thinner. I built 14 of them for collectors, but the demand for them was so low that I couldn't get the manufacturing and assembly cost down, so I'm afraid those 14 are all that will exist. To date, three are still unsold. Look for them on EBay over the months ahead.
I have no idea how Olszewski manages to produce his products for such a low cost. His manufacturing processes must be truly amazing. He’s not only a genius artist but he’s a magician at manufacturing high quality art at an incredibly low cost.