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Light up the night

The November 2023 issue of Model Railroader features my article, Light up the night, on adding lights to your layout. The article covers the steps and products I used to add LED lights to the interior and exterior of the structures on my layout. The new lights add a “wow factor” to the layout when the room lights go down and the layout lights up. I installed a dimmer for the layout room lights so that I can control the amount of light available for night operations, and so that operators are not in complete darkness when operating. Hosting operations at night add a realistic experience for the guest operators. Just like on the prototype, operations at night go a little slower as it is harder to read car numbers and operate safely.

To control the LED lighting I chose the Model Train Technology DCC LED Scene Controller. (www.ModelTrainTechnology.com)

The device offers 16 ports that can control up to a total of 64 LEDs, a maximum of four lights for each port, with various lighting effects options for each port. The controller is equipped with resistors for the LEDs on each port and the light intensity can be adjusted. The company also offers LED “chip lights” in various light colors from 2000K to 6500K, which work well for the interior of structures. In addition, I purchased a 3 color LED chip light that replicates the flicker of a TV.

The GNRR locomotive service facility features interior and exterior lights.

For the exterior lights I purchased 0402 SMD pre-wired LEDs from a vendor on EBay. These very small lights work great for exterior light fixtures and parking lot lights. Having those LEDs pre-wired makes it much easier to work with and install them.

The exterior light fixtures that I installed the 0402 LEDs were purchased from a seller on Shapeways and they look fantastic. The article in MR details how I made the exterior lights and parking lot lights using the fixtures from Shapeways.

One of the benefits of installing lights in my structures is that the fully detailed interiors I have on some of my structures are now visible. When I originally built the structure I did not add the lights, thinking that the interior would be visible through the windows. The problem was that once I installed the roof the interior was too dark to see very far inside. Now with the lights installed visitors can see the details I added and it really brings the building to life.

A TV flickers in the window as the occupants settle in for the night. The Model Train Technology controller has lighting effects that replicate a TV.

While installing lights is not a difficult project, you do have to consider a few things as you install the lights. You want to make sure the light does not shine through any gaps you have in the structure walls and where it meets the foundation. You also should mount the lights on the ceiling of structures so that it shines down on the finished interior, as most rooms and structures are lighted from above.

A photo interior of a coiled steel facility, and LED lighting simulating florescent light, really highlight the interior of Georgia Metal Coaters facility on my GNRR layout.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the November 2023 issue of Model Railroader when it hits the newsstands and check out my article. Until next time stay safe and keep model railroading.

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