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Putting Lighting in structure

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Putting Lighting in structure
Posted by Bedpan1 on Friday, November 11, 2011 4:06 PM

I would like some help with the following building structure lighting.

- What size bulbs should be used for HO guage structures ?

- How do you wire them to your transformer?

- Do you use series or parallel wiring ? Should a resistor be used ?

Help, Gabby

 

 

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Posted by tstage on Friday, November 11, 2011 6:55 PM

Bedpan1

I would like some help with the following building structure lighting.

- What size bulbs should be used for HO guage structures?

Gabby,

If it's interior lighting then it doesn't really matter.  However, it the light source will be visible to the viewer and it detracts from the realism of the model, you may want to use something more prototypical in size - e.g. 1.2mm or 1.7mm incandescent bulbs.

For exterior lighting, you'll want smaller bulbs like those mentioned above for realism.  They can be purchased from vendors like Miniatronics.

- How do you wire them to your transformer?

- Do you use series or parallel wiring ? Should a resistor be used?

I think it's best to have a switch (or switches) between the transformer and the lights so that you can interrupt power to the bulbs from a convenient place on your layout.  I also like to wire my lighting in parallel so that I can control my lights (or sets of lights) individually.

And instead of a transformer, I prefer to use the DC side of a filtered power supply - e.g. an MRC Railpower 1370.  This allows me to be able to dial up or dial down the voltage going to my lighting; thereby extending the life of the bulbs.  I run my lighting @ 50-55% maximum voltage.  The bulbs give off a very warm and pleasant glow and they last a lot longer that way.

If you wire in series, you have to calculate how much transformer is adequate for the number of lights you have and match the output and draw, if needed, with resistors.  And, if one light goes out, all the subsequent bulbs will go dark; just like a string of small Christmas tree lights.

Anyhow, that's what I do, Gabby.  Others will feel differently about it.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, November 11, 2011 7:40 PM

Hi Gabby:

First off, I would recommend that you consider using LED's instead of incandescent bulbs simply because the LEDs will last far longer then bulbs. That means that you won't have to tear apart your structures in the future to replace burnt out bulbs. Most LEDs do require resistors in series with the LED leads to drop the voltage although there are now LEDs being offered with built in resistors.

Colour is a big factor. Cool white LEDs are great for illuminating structures which would have used fluoresent (sp?) lighting, but for most buildings you will want to use warm white LEDs. Warm white LEDs cost a bit more if you buy them from an electronics supplier, but they can be purchased very cheaply by buying Christmas light strings of the right variety and cutting out the bulbs. Since the bulbs will be hidden inside the structures their size doesn't matter. If you need smaller warm white LEDs this source offers them at reasonable prices with the proper resistors included: http://www.quickar.com/index.php

LEDs can also be used for exterior lighting fixtures that will be reasonably close to HO scale. In the past I have used 1.5 volt micro-mini incandescent bulbs in lights over doors etc where the bulbs would be visible. Now you can get micro LEDs small enough that they will not be too obvious but will last far longer. The life expectancy for the mini 1.5 incandescent bulbs is 500 hours. The LEDs measure life expectancy in the thousands of hours. Warning - Real fussy work soldering the little beggars!

If you are more comfortable using incandescent bulbs then go for it. You can extend the life of an incandescent bulb considerably by running it on a lower voltage than it is rated for. For example: a 14 volt bulb used on a 12 volt circuit will last longer than a 12 volt bulb on the same circuit. They will still give lots of light.

As far as hooking them up to your transformer, that is fairly simple. If you are using DC your transformer should have auxilliary outputs as well as the outputs for track power. The voltage coming from the auxilliary outputs remains constant whereas the track power increases or decreases as you move the throttle. Check your transformer. I believe the normal auxilliary terminals provide 12 volts. If you are using 12 to 14 volt bulbs then you can connect them directly to the auxilliary terminals. Again, 14 volt bulbs will last longer because you are not running them at full power. If you are using LEDs with the right resistors then you can still hook them up directly to the auxillary outputs BUT their polarity has to be correct. When wiring LEDs you have to make sure that their polarity is the same. In simple terms, the LEDs have two leads, one of which is longer than the other. Make sure all the long leads are connected together. If you hook the LEDs up to your power pack and nothing happens, just reverse the connections and you should have light. If you are using Christmas light LEDs you might have to test each one to determine polarity.

If you are using DCC you should use a separate power supply to power your accessories. Here is just one source of many on the internet. These guys have a variety of different size units to suit your power needs. (I have nothing what so ever to do with them - I am only making a suggestion) If you search around you can probably find stuff cheaper: http://www.powerstream.com/12-volt.htm

You asked about series vs parallel. If you wire the lights in series and one quits then they all go out. The circuit has been broken. If you wire in parallel the remaining lights stay lit. If you are using LEDs each should have its own resistor so the load on each LED doesn't change regardless of the number of lights in the circuit (within reason).

Hope this helps a bit.

Dave

Edit: tstage makes a very good suggestion about using filtered power supplies with variable voltage. That gives you the opportunity to reduce the stress on your bulbs and have control over the 'warmth' of the lighting effects.

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, November 12, 2011 1:14 AM

Dave,

Since LEDs tend to be more directional in their beam than incandescents, what do you do to diffuse the light of LEDs?  While I do like and prefer LEDs for locomotive headlights, I like the incandescents for interior/exterior lighting - even though there's a trade off on life expectancy.

I used to use the 1.2mm incandescents for exterior lighting.  However, I find that bulbs that small are very inconsistent - even within the same pack.  Sometimes the light beam is well defused; other times it's more directional and skewed.  The 1.7mm are a little on the large size but they generally emit a nice glow.  The 12V versions are rated at 1000 hrs.

I also find it helpful to plan my lighting so that it's as convenient as possible when a bulb does burn out and needs to be changed.

Tom

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Posted by JohnReid on Saturday, November 12, 2011 3:46 AM

A very timely thread indeed ! I am just converting over to LED's for the interior lighting of my latest layout building facade.Thanks !

Once Upon a time.........

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:51 AM

The LION uses LEDs exclusively. I get them at Christmas time from retailers such as Walmart or Menards. (Menards -- if you live in the upper mid-west -- has a particularly fine choice at low price.)

I do not cut the wires, I simply remove the lamps and holders, and then remove the LED from the holder. I am left with the same LED that I could have bought from an electric supplier at ten times the price.

LED's have a (+) side and a (-) side, and will not light if you apply the current incorrectly. Just turn it around and it will light up. LEDs can accept anything from 3 to 18 volts without problem (depending on the LED) and 5 to 12 volts will always work, BUT they are current sensitive, thus something must be used to limit the current. At 12 volts the LION uses a 1KΩ resistor for each LED. Actually you could do them in series and they will work even without the resistor, but I am told this is a major No No, and so have discontinued this practice.

On board rolling stock (pax cars) I place a full wave rectifier ahead of the lighting circuit so that the polarity will be correct regardless of which way the consist is pointed. This is followed by a 5v regulator to limit the circuit to 5 volts. The output of this consists of two wires (+) and (-) at 5Vdc. Across this you can apply your LEDs in which case I use a 500Ω resistor, but I also add one or more 0.33 FARAD capacitors. The capacitors have a limit of 5.5 volts which is the reason for the regulator in the first place, and the capacitors will keep the lights on for several MINUTES while the train is making a station stop.

For Buildings... I install floors and walls, even if they are just unpainted snips of cardboard. This forms a view block so that you cannot see through the buildings. It also allows me to mount the LED from the ceiling, thus it will not be seen by peeps peeping in the windows. The cardboard also softens and colors the light a bit before it escapes through he windows. This technique also blocks off light from many windows, so that the entire building is not lit up. Cut up some old shirts or pajamas to make curtains in your buildings, this will add interest, and attenuate the color and intensity of the light.

When I am done putting LEDs on my layout there will be no need for room lights during an operating session!

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, November 12, 2011 10:25 AM

I really prefer incandescents for interior lighting.  I use 16-volt bulbs from Miniatronics, but I run them at 12 volts.  This gives me a warmer, more yellow glow from the lights.  They give off far less heat, and by running them so far below their rated voltage they will last much longer.

Using this scheme, the bulbs should be wired in parallel and no resistors are necessary.

I'm just finishing up the Walthers Merchants Row kit.  I built an interior for it with foam board, and glued floor and wall images printed on the computer to the board.  In this picture, you can see a bulb mounted in the center room with the red-and-gold tile floor.

I also attached some Walthers Cornerstone street lamps (wall mounts) to the outside of this one.  All are 16 volt, and again I run them at 12 volts.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by JohnReid on Saturday, November 12, 2011 11:31 AM

I just had this discussion with the museum that will have my stuff on display soon.(The cabinets are built but they are waiting for the glass tops right now) I am concerned because they will not be displayed as I had intended them to be with internal lighting.They just don't have ready access to them to change the bulbs easily.

They have asked me to come up when they are on display and see if I like what has been done with them.

If not i will offer to take them back one by one and rewire them with LED's at no cost to them other than transportation.

Once Upon a time.........

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Posted by Southwest Chief on Saturday, November 12, 2011 2:12 PM

I think access is the most important aspect of interior lighting.

I make sure all of my buildings roofs can come off.  If the roof is molded to the walls, then the building should be easy to pick up off the layout.

If you have easy access to the buildings, then lighting is so much easier.

 

Personally I much prefer bulbs to LEDs for interior lighting.  LEDs are great for headlights and signals, but they just don't look right for interior lighting.

Bulbs

For bulbs, I've lately been using the simple peel and stick bulbs by Model Power (12-16 volt).  Very easy to use, and the price isn't too bad.

Transformer

I hook up my lights to 12 volts DC.  So if your transformer has a 12 volt DC output, you can use that.

Resistors

You need resistors if you are using more voltage then the bulbs are rated for.  So say you have a 12 volt bulb, but your transformer puts out 18 volts.  The bulbs will probably work OK, but they will run hotter and burn out a lot quicker then normal.  It's much worse for LEDs which go poof if you use the wrong voltage.

You can also use resistors to vary the brightness of bulbs.  Say you have a few bulbs in one building.  If you want one bulb to appear dimmer then the others use a low numbered resistor like a 10 ohm.

Series or Parallel

Personally I much prefer parallel.  With series, although it is usually easier to wire, if one bulb goes out the whole series goes out.

I don't think your little HO residents will be happy about loosing their power like that.

If you have a bunch of buildings in the same general area you can use a power distribution block to simplify the wiring.

Here is what a power distribution block made by Miniatronics looks like:

Have fun lighting your buildings.  I think no other aspect brings a layout to life then interior lighting:

Matt from Anaheim, CA and Bayfield, CO
Click Here for my model train photo website

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, November 12, 2011 3:43 PM

Very nice scene, Matt!  I love all the roof details.  The lighting is just right.  It's neither too dim nor too bright, and not every window is illuminated.  That adds a lot to the realism.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, November 12, 2011 5:21 PM

Tom

I haven't found the directional light coming from LEDs to be a problem, but I use a fair number of them.

I also have painted LEDs light yellow where the white was too harsh. Painting the bulbs diffuses the light more. Here are some pictures of my scratch built engine house/machine shop:

 

 The walls have not been painted yet so there is some bleed through.

In some instances the directional light is useful. This store has three LEDs under the porch so there is lots of light. I have considered taking two of the three LEDs out to simulate a single light bulb which is all that a lot of stores like this would have used. The result would be to have the light concentrated in the center of the porch like it would be with a single bulb. (I am also considering taking out the Walthers Cornerstone light above the signs and replacing it with something a lot closer to scale)

Dave

 

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, November 12, 2011 11:11 PM

Thanks for the pics, Dave.  Very nice.  What kind of stiff wire are you using for the parallel wiring in your engine house/machine shop?  Thanks.

Tom

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, November 13, 2011 12:27 AM

Hi again Tom

I use phosphor bronze wire for the lighting buses. It is very stiff, not very expensive and it solders really well. I get mine from Tichy Train Group:

http://www.tichytraingroup.com/index.php?page=view_category.php&category=Wire&offset=0

I have used .020 for most of the connectors between the LEDs but thinner wire will work just fine.

Dave

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Posted by CTValleyRR on Sunday, November 13, 2011 8:25 AM

Southwest Chief

Series or Parallel

Personally I much prefer parallel.  With series, although it is usually easier to wire, if one bulb goes out the whole series goes out.

I don't think your little HO residents will be happy about loosing their power like that.

Unless, of course, you're modeling modern-day Connecticut, in which case large blocks of power being out for long periods is perfectly prototypical....

Grrrr.

Connecticut Valley Railroad A Branch of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Sunday, November 13, 2011 9:21 AM

tstage

Thanks for the pics, Dave.  Very nice.  What kind of stiff wire are you using for the parallel wiring in your engine house/machine shop?  Thanks.

Tom

 

The LION uses welding rod which he purchases at Runnings Farm and Fleet. It is a couple of dollars for a one pound tube, about 150 feet of 3' sticks.

LIONS *always* get the cheapest prices.

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:46 PM

MisterBeasley

Please don't get me wrong - I love the look of incandescent bulbs on a lower than maximum voltage. I have a small engine shed (for the critter in my avatar) which is lit with incandescents. I have ordered some very small warm white LEDs and I am going to see if they look as good as the incandescents. Here is the 'before' picture of the shed with incandescents:

 

I will keep you posted.

Dave

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Posted by JohnReid on Monday, November 14, 2011 6:47 AM

Once Upon a time.........

My photobucket:

http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y250/JohnReid/

I am a man of few words but lots of pics

 

I quit drinking beer because the download was taking longer than the upload !

 

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Posted by wm3798 on Monday, November 14, 2011 6:49 AM

I do a lot of N scale decoder installations, so I have a stockpile of old locomotive light boards.  These are handy because they're LED's (for the most part) and they have the resistors mounted right on the boards.

When you're using AC accessory power, you don't have to worry about  them being directional, they'll light no matter how you mount them.

I run a couple of bare wire to be the power supply, sort if on the old "knob and tube" fashion, then wire in the light boards.  The brighter ones you see are older Atlas/Kato boards with incandescents. 

Overall it's a cheap and easy method of getting lights in a facility like this.  For other structure lighting, I've used the old strings of Christmas lights, but I think I'm going to change over to more LED's as I build my cityscape.

Another thing I like to do is to poke lights through the backs of buildings to illuminate the stuff behind them.  It saves you from having to put expensive street lights where they really won't be seen from the aisle.  I did this on an older layout to good effect.

Lee

Route of the Alpha Jets  www.wmrywesternlines.net

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Posted by JohnReid on Monday, November 14, 2011 6:51 AM

How simple can it be ! Love those LED's.

Once Upon a time.........

My photobucket:

http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y250/JohnReid/

I am a man of few words but lots of pics

 

I quit drinking beer because the download was taking longer than the upload !

 

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Posted by Gwolfe on Sunday, March 04, 2012 8:12 PM
Extremely useful and informative thread. Gives me the courage to give a go as I build several structures for my layout. Glenn
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Posted by railandsail on Monday, June 17, 2019 8:41 AM

hon30critter

Tom

I haven't found the directional light coming from LEDs to be a problem, but I use a fair number of them.

I also have painted LEDs light yellow where the white was too harsh. Painting the bulbs diffuses the light more. Here are some pictures of my scratch built engine house/machine shop:

 

 The walls have not been painted yet so there is some bleed through.

In some instances the directional light is useful. This store has three LEDs under the porch so there is lots of light. I have considered taking two of the three LEDs out to simulate a single light bulb which is all that a lot of stores like this would have used. The result would be to have the light concentrated in the center of the porch like it would be with a single bulb. (I am also considering taking out the Walthers Cornerstone light above the signs and replacing it with something a lot closer to scale)

Dave

 

 

I need to return to this subject thread. Those are really nice installations and photos Dave

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Posted by York1 on Monday, June 17, 2019 9:20 AM

I think some modelers may have seen the very first LEDs which were bright white and harsh-looking.

In the past years, nearly every color with shades from cool to warm are available at very low cost.  You can find packs of 20 LEDs for under $5.  If you follow Lion's advice, you can get them way cheaper than that.

What's more, they are tiny for fitting into N Scale structures and signs.  The one millimeter LEDs come with fine wire which can be run almost completely hidden.

 

John

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Posted by robert sylvester on Monday, June 17, 2019 10:25 AM

Idea I love my buildings lit, I put in building lights and street lamps, even my cars have head lights.

101-2566.jpg

The system I use is the Woodland Scenics lighting systems. They are easy to set up, it's plug and play. They are LED's but they work fine.

101-2568.jpg

Now sometimes I will look for less expensive ways to light up buildings, one way is to use Model Power building lights. I use a DC MRC power scource, the Greyhound Bus Station has Model Power lighting.

My street lights are a combination of Woodland Scenic Plug and Play and Model Power lamp posts as seen here.

101-2572.jpg

Again, interior light can be with incandescent or LED, depending on what I have. What I like about that is that it gives me variety of lighting and colors.

101-2534.jpg

I even put one of the Model Power LED lights in my E unit for a head light and it worked great.

101-2592.jpg

So there are plenty of ways to add lighting to you layout, and it doesn't have to be expensive. A string of Christmas lights can go a long way.

Thanks.

Robrt Sylvester

Newberry-Columbia Line, SC

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Posted by kasskaboose on Monday, June 17, 2019 10:28 AM

Exploring lighting is something for the future.  I plan to keep this as a favorite as a reference.  It seems lighting isn't too challenging. 

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 12:53 PM

Sometimes the hardest part of lighting isn't doing the lighting, it's the building that you're lighting up. If you build a plastic structure from a kit "as is" and light it up, the entire building will glow like a christmas tree bulb. You generally need to paint the buildings, or at least paint the interior walls, to avoid that.

Stix
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Posted by gtinga on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 9:51 PM

I've been using string light LEDs with a lot of satisfaction.  String lights can be found in many hobby stores, often wrapped in twine which can be disassembled to provide a string of LEDs. I use the warm white variety. The LEDs are about 4 inches apart and i just cut a string of as many as I need, determine which wire is pos & neg and attach the resistor.  I use a 12 volt 500 milliamp wall wart as power and a bus system similar to a DCC system for power distribution.

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 10:09 PM

gtinga
I've been using string light LEDs with a lot of satisfaction.

I agree. These are my first choice in passenger car and structure lighting. Great color rendition, flexible installation, durable and easy to install.

 IMG_4762 by Edmund, on Flickr

Here's how I routed them around an existing Walthers lighting strip:

 Sleeper_lights-crop by Edmund, on Flickr

Most of the general lighting in this roundhouse are the "string lights". I cut them into lengths with nine LEDs, one for each stall and threaded them between the timbers.

 RH_lights5 by Edmund, on Flickr

The outside gooseneck lights are from an Ebay seller, WeHonest.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, June 21, 2019 9:31 PM

I print interior wall patterns on my computer and glue those to the walls to prevent bleed through of lighting, the "Chernobyl Model Railroad" effect.  This quickly leads to simple interiors and much more interesting structures.  No wonder I spend a month to build a simple 4-walls-and-a-roof kit.  I scratch build simple counters and desks and add cheap figures to make the interiors much more interesting.

I also make rudimentary ceilings and floors plus a few rooms so some are lit while others remain dark.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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