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Lighting for n scale buildings

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tjm
  • Member since
    November, 2006
  • 21 posts
Lighting for n scale buildings
Posted by tjm on Thursday, November 16, 2006 6:55 PM

What would be the best system,wire,bulb type,switches,etc for a rookie.I have no experience as  an electrician,carpenter,engineer.I am trying to wire several buildings.Any help is always welcome.

Thanks

  • Member since
    May, 2005
  • From: Westcentral Pennsylvania (Johnstown)
  • 1,402 posts
Posted by tgindy on Thursday, November 16, 2006 11:12 PM
John Underhill has a three-page article in the November 2006 Model Railroader, "Add lights to your structures," including some nice pictures.

John Underhill's layout & past article(s) have always come from practiced experience as opposed to theory.  This articles subsections include:

[1]  Intensity makes a difference.
[2]  Concealing the source.
[3]  One room at a time.
[4]  Beware of light on the sky.

John Underhill has an article box about "Interior detailing" with how and when:  "The need for interior details depends upon the viewing distance."   It is here John refers to a recent August 2006 Model Railroader article by Mike Tylick, "Quick and easy interiors."

Here are some bookmarked "Lighting Buildings" forum threads:

(07-03-2006) Lighting or no lighting...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/846787/ShowPost.aspx

(05-03-2006) Lighting Structures...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/795486/ShowPost.aspx

(03-08-2006) Structure lighting, heat and ventilation...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/748165/ShowPost.aspx

(12-05-2005) Thinking of using fiber optics for lighting...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/652159/ShowPost.aspx

(10-08-2005) LEDs and Structure Lighting...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/593672/ShowPost.aspx

(01-15-2005) Recomend any good books for lighting buildings...
http://www.trains.com/trccs/forums/375683/ShowPost.aspx

Conemaugh Road & Traction circa 1956

  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 12,000 posts
Posted by tstage on Thursday, November 16, 2006 11:29 PM
tjm,

First off: Sign - Welcome [#welcome] to the forum!  Good to have you aboard! Smile [:)]

Hmmm.  I model HO so I'm more familiar with wiring in that scale.  However, there are some things that can be scaled down.  First question for you: Are you asking about interior lighting, exterior lighting, or both?

Personal preferences: Incandescent or LED?
Personally, I like the look of incandescent lighting because:
  1. It's gives off a warm and indirect beam.
  2. That's what we use in our homes - just in a larger sense - so why not mimic that realistic look.
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) last longer but - to me - their light is more direct and harsh.  (Great for the headlight of a locomotive.  Not so great for lighting a building.)  Even so, some folks do light their layouts with LEDs.

Lighting your buildings and structures
For interior lighting, you can fudge a little, since the "effects" of the lights will be seen more than the actual bulb itself.  If you have an old power pack, you can hook your lighting wire/switches up to that and adjust it up or down to vary the level.  I use 12V incandescent bulbs for my interior lighting and run them with a 15VDC (or volts DC) power pack.  Since the power pack is rated higher than the bulbs, I can only safely run 12V bulbs at 80% power.  (80% of 15VDC = 12VDC).  In all actuality, I run my bulbs at about 50-55% power (or 7.5-9VDC).  This serves two purposes:
  1. It makes for a more softer lighting effect.
  2. Extends the life of the bulb.

For exterior lighting, you can use N-scale lights with the shade already attached.  Miniatronics makes a 1.5V version that's rated at about 1000 hrs.  The lights come with the 8-9" of 30ga wiring already attached.  I use 24ga wire to wire from my switch to the lighting wire.  For my exterior lighting, I have my lights hooked up to a regulated 1.5VDC wall transformer so that it remains constant.

Wiring your lighting: "In parallel" vs "in series"?
That leads to how best to wire your lighting.  I prefer to wire my lights "in parallel".  Essentially that means that the wires for each light are connected to their own on/off switch - also known as a single-pole, single-throw or SPST switch - and the switches are in turn connected to one another from the power source.  This is the best way to individually control your lighting and to know which bulb(s) has burned out.

The other method is to wire your lights "in series".  The best example of that is a long string of Christmas tree lights.  If one light goes out; they ALL go out.  Most folks prefer wiring their lighting "in parallel" for that reason.

Switches
I use Atlas #205 connectors to control my lighting.  I would actually prefer toggles because the on/off contacts on them are more precise.  The slide connectors are nice because you can daisy-chain them together.  However, the contacts are not as definitive as the toggles.  This is what an Atlas connector looks like:


Preparing your buildings
tjm, do you already have your buildings built?  Are the roofs of your buildings glued on?  The reason I ask is that you will need to think about how you will change your bulbs when they eventually burn out.  If you already have the roofs glued on, you may want to light your buildings from below.  There a few ways of doing that, too.

It's best to buy your bulbs with the longest or highest rating (in hrs.) so that you minimize the amount of light changes you'll have to make.  It's also good to muse what is the most efficient way to mount your lighting that will make bulb changes as painless as possible.

Here's a link to a neat product that may work well for you: Cir-Kit Concepts.  I haven't had a chance to use it but I like the concept.  They use it for lighting the interiors of doll houses.  In some instances, it seems to me that it would make fast work of lighting the inside of structures, especially ones that you might eventually want to show off the interiors of - e.g. a roundhouse.

Making connections
Lastly, my wire-to-wire connections are soldered.  The only place they aren't soldered is where they are connected to the connector terminals, with that being a mechanical attachment (screw).  I still tin the tips of those wires to keep them from unraveling.  As I said above, I use 24ga wire to make all my connections that lead from and to my connectors (or SPST switches).

Epilogue
Anyhow, tjm, that's just a short explanation on lighting.  (And a pedantic one at that.)  Check out my web site link below and see what I've been able to do with both interior and exterior lighting.  And I just got into it myself only a few months ago.  If this non-electrical engineer can learn how to wire, so can you.  And, as the real pros on here can tell you, I still have a lot to learn. Smile [:)]  I'm sure others will chime in to fill in the gaps that I left out.

Hope that helps...

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

  • Member since
    April, 2005
  • From: West Australia
  • 1,751 posts
Posted by John Busby on Friday, November 17, 2006 3:13 AM

Hi tjm

 OK start with Kit buildings before assembling the kit paint the inside of the building walls flat black.

Once the building shell is together paint the inside corners black this is to make sure no light bleeds through the walls some black may bleed through the joints

Having painted the outside of the building walls to taste and the window frames attach them and the glassing put in the paper curtains as well using a pva glue

paint the inside windows that are not to be lit black making sure it doesn't bleed through the paper curtains.

Treat the roof the same way and attach to structure again make sure no light can bleed through.

Leave the glass out of a window that will not be visible to dissipate heat.

Mark the position of the building on the layout and drill a hole for the wire to the bulb holder in the centre of the building foot print use a std 12 to 16v model RR lamp holder and screw in lamp.

Wire the first lamp in series and the rest of the lamps on that CCT in parallel

You will need more than one light CCT

It is a good idea to have a separate transformer for lighting and point motors etc so that the trains don't slow down because of the lights etc

It really is a lot simpler to do on the layout than to try to explain in a logical way

This is only a very basic way of doing it nothing fancy just a building siting over a lamp.

It is very effective provided the building is properly blacked out and seated so that light can only come out of the selected windows instead of through the walls.

Lamp replacement is also simple lift building replace lamp them re place building on layout making sure it re seats properly.

regards John

tjm
  • Member since
    November, 2006
  • 21 posts
Posted by tjm on Monday, November 20, 2006 4:04 PM

Do I have to have a separate switch for each light? Is there a way to light individual buildings? Are there any articals that show how this is done?I would like to see a pic of "in parallel" and "in series"

Once again Thanks for the info

 TJM

  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: Northeast OH
  • 12,000 posts
Posted by tstage on Monday, November 20, 2006 4:30 PM
 tjm wrote:
Do I have to have a separate switch for each light?

No.  Only if you want to control your lighting individually.

Is there a way to light individual buildings?

Yes.

Are there any articals that show how this is done?I would like to see a pic of "in parallel" and "in series"

Once again Thanks for the info

 TJM

TJM, here's a site that covers some basic electricity principles

Give it a read and see if you can't glean some info from it.  In the meantime, unless someone beats me to the punch, I'll try and work on a simple lighting diagram to help make things a little clearer for you.

Tom

My web site: http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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