Lighting the Layout, an overdue task

So something that is critically important for my layout, has constantly been getting punted down the road, the lighting! While my layout room is fantastic in the daytime thanks to the skylight, it still needs proper lighing for operations and photography. I have been struggling as to change out the room lighting, which is a single fixture off-centre (because of the skylight), would be a challenge. I used some leftover LED lighting from our kitchen to light the CPR staging in the closet, but I didn’t think it would be powerful enough to light the layout, as the ceiling is 36″ above the benchwork, and I did not design/install a lighting valance when I built the benchwork. There is also the challenge that the end of the peninsula is beneath the skylight.

Fortunately, my friend Mark has recently installed and been testing lighting on his Comstock Road layout, using LED light strips, and his valance is give or take 36″ from his benchwork…starting to sound familiar here.

After a chat with Mark during our weekly Train Night In Canada Zoom, I dug out the remaing LEDs from the kitchen, and set about testing in the closet, where the open area that needs more lighting is closer to 24″ from the benchwork. Fairly quickly it became apparent that the LED strip lights stuck to the ceiling would provide more than enough light.

LED Strips just hung in place to see how it looks.

Pretty quickly it became apparent that I love the look of the LED strips, so it was on to figuring out the best way to control the light direction and get it onto the layout instead of all over the closet. The way I build the backdrop I have just enough room that I can install a styrene valance across the corner of the layout to direct the light strips down onto the layout. I was also able to connect the LEDs to the power supply already in use for the closet, so all the layout lighting in the closet is now on one switch.

Showing the LED strips installed, left with the closet light on (yellowy CFL), centre the two strips behind the valance, right, the LED light only.

With the closet lighting resolved, I have moved on to looking at the main layout area. I left enough space above the backdrop before the Ceiling that I actually have room to install a lighting valance to support the LED’s and frame the top of the layout. I hadn’t intended to do this, but I think it will actually be a net improvement once I figure out exactly what I am going to build. It will need to be reasonably lightweight, but the LED strips weigh next to nothing. Simple shelf brackets like what supports the layout can hold a lightweight wood frame that the LEDs can be mounted do, and I can then add a styrene skin to form the valance and match the fascia on the benchwork.

I was worried about Mowat Ave and installing a lighting valance, but the room fixture is just further from the wall than a lighting valance will need to be.

So now I am working on a design for the lighting. I’ve got a few days off around the Civic Holiday weekend that starts August in Ontario. I may get materials and try to do the lighting then, but I suspect I will do some other things on the layout this weekend, and get on the lighting come Labour Day weekend in September just so I am not rushing myself into the design and decisions. At least it looks like one of the critical things in how to light the layout that has been flummoxing me is finally nearing a resolution.

4 thoughts on “Lighting the Layout, an overdue task

  1. Glad I could help in some way. It looks like you have things sorted out design-wise.

    I am impressed by the way that vertical straight stick in front of Mowat Ave. is casting five! distinct shadows. Where is that light coming from?

  2. I saw a presentation at the Cocoa Beach RPM meet back in January 2016. The presenter advised to mount the LED strips inside the valance shining towards the backdrop to avoid seeing rows of points reflected off the rails.

    • Thanks Colin, thats an interesting thought, I will have to look at that, right now I have LED’s in the closet mounted both directly down and at a 90 degree angle to the layout depending on where they are. I will certainly be doing some testing before committing to anything as I build the valance rig. That might be starting this weekend, so stay tuned!


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