Lighting – What I Did

There has been lots of discussion on the Yahoo Groups lately about layout lighting. A couple people have emailed me asking about what I did. So, here it is…

ligthing-1.jpgI used regular 4′ fluorescent tubes on my old layout (12’x14′) and was satisfied with the light they provided. However, I was going to have to buy several more 4′ fixtures for the BS&T since it would be a little more than twice as big and I wasn’t looking forward to the outlay of cash for 4′ fixtures. So I decided to use regular, inexpensive fixtures intended for incandescent lights and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). Using these lights would decrease the amount of heat generated by the lighting. I found Daylight CFL’s at Home Depot at $20 for 6. (Addendum: Here’s a little more information on the CFL’s. They are Phillips Mini Twister 15 watt Daylight. This is the Home Depot page for these bulbs.)
The view behind the valance over Stevenville (above). It’s hard to take a picture of lights without everything else going dark.

A quick check around to the local hardware retailers showed me that Canadian Tire (it’s more than just tires!) had the cheapest price for light fixtures and octagonal boxes (@ $6/light). By code you are not supposed to mount the fixtures without an octagonal box. I decided to mount the lights about every 3′ around the room behind the valance. I probably could have gotten away with every 4′. Total cost for fixtures and lights – less than $10 each.

lighting-2.jpgAnyway, the lights were installed during one of our weekly work sessions. I can’t remember who exactly was there (it’s been almost 2 years) but there was probably 5 or 6 on hand. It didn’t take long to get the bulk of the wiring and fixture installation done. I think I had a half dozen or so to do myself, plus wiring the plug to turn them on and off through the rest of the week.

The photo, above, shows behind the valance over Chappellton.

After the main wiring was done I had to install a new breaker in the main panel. It was the first one I had ever installed and was a little intimidated. There’s a lot of power there to be mucking around with! But the new breaker went in without incident – I was very careful!!! I also tried to do the install as neatly as possible, much like the original electrician did it.

lighting-3.jpgI wasn’t pleased with the amount of light you could see (glare) when you stood at the layout to operate, so I added a strip of 1″x3″ to the inside of the valance under the lighting. This helped to reduce the glare considerably.

You can see the 1×3 (black) near the bottom of the picture. The wire that passes under the fixture in the photo runs to the switch for the lights.

A benefit of the Daylight CFL’s that I hadn’t anticipated is with layout photography. I am able to get quite good results using the available light. I’ve been experimenting lately with depth of field and have found that at F22 I do require a long exposure, so a tripod is required. I am pleased with the color rendition and overall quality of the light without having any supplemental lighting. These pictures are examples.

I hope this post has clearly described what I have done. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me.


No Responses to “Lighting – What I Did”

  1. doug says:

    I am slowly converting to the Daylight version of CFL, but I am using the 10 watt version and a two or three movable spot fixture. May look at adding shields on the fixtures to direct the light.



    Do you notice any “hotspots” with the moveable fixtures? Of course that assumes you want even lighting. Some folks like to highlight certain scenes for effect. I prefer an even light over the whole layout.


  2. Michael says:

    Thanks – been thinking about lighting options of late and this comes at the right time. Is there any difference between side mounting the lights (as you’ve done) and mounting them vertically? I suppose you save quite a bit of space…

    Great minds think alike! Ha!

    The light from the CFL’s dissipates in all directions, unlike a spot, or flood, bulb would. So I really don’t think there would be any difference. For me, since I have a drop ceiling, the only economical option was to side mount them on the valance supports. I think it worked out well.


  3. doug says:


    Still working on the lighting in the basement. I do have a few spots that are underlite, that because I do have the fixtures in the correct spots yet.

    As to Micheal’s question. Yes mounting them side ways in your setup does help. You are able to use indirect lighting effect from the white ceiling, helping to fill in the lighting for the space between the bulbs. If you were to mount them vertiically you should install a “white” painted surface behind the valance.


    Thanks Doug!

  4. Jon says:

    Hmmm…looks surprisingly like a layout I used to know…oh, wait that was my old layout! :^)


    HaHa! I told you that visit influenced me!


  5. Eric says:

    I’m looking to use the CF/Bulbs like you have done on my lower level of my layout. I just stuck a large on in the garage and I can not get over how good the light is from just one CF/Bulb.

    I especially like the colour from the Daylight CFL’s. They seem to make a scene come alive.

    On another note, I’ve had most of these bulbs since the lighting was installed, almost 2 years, and so far haven’t replaced any. Due to finances at the time I did have a few cheapo CFL’s that I have replaced, both out of necessity (stopped working) and becuase they were too yellow compared to the Daylight ones.



  6. german cardenas says:

    Hi my name is german cardenas I’m from Colombia and I going to make a special video about model trains scales, I wish I had at least one of your pics on my next video. Can I?

    Watch my videos on youtube.

    Greetings from Colombia
    thanks in advance

    Bye bye

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