Lighting for the Layout

Because there is nothing like doing things backwards, over the past two weekends I have undertaken a major layout project, installing layout lighting (I started to talk about this project here) which of course has meant working over the layout and partially finished scenery, because why would I do anything in an easy way?

Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t undertaken efforts to install layout lighting in the main room yet, as frankly, until recently, I hadn’t figured out how I was going to do so as I noted in the July post linked above. I had done a little bit of work in the closet for CPR Staging as it was easy to do. In the main room, the lighting challenges are much greater. I looked at full replacements of the room lighting with a big track light system where I could point lights around the room, but the more I looked at it, the more a “layout only” lighting system was going to be the right one. With this, for operating sessions as you will see when we get to the finished product, the layout will be the star of the room, as it should be!

Bare LED strips hung approximately at height just to see if they would be bright enough.

Once I was certain that the LED strips generally did what I wanted from the test hanging of the loose strips, it was on to finalize the design and build the lightweight frame to support them. Frankly I’ve probably overbuilt this thing, but I don’t want it falling off the wall when I’m working on it, and its plenty strong if I decide I need to add more lighting in the future. The valance extends 14″ off the wall, except for the peninsula, so the lights are basically aimed down along the front of the benchwork which is also 14″ wide.

Preparing the support arms for the lighting valance an installing them.

For my valance, I am using metal shelf brackets, technically upside down screwed into the studs in the wall above the backdrop, with wood extension arms to reach the width of the layout below. Along the end, I installed a 1×3 white pine board which ties the arms together, and provides the location for mounting the LED strip lights along with stabilizing everything.

This works well for the main part of the layout, but the peninsula needs something different. It extends a total of 54″ from the wall, the last 12″ or so are under the skylight well in the ceiling. I really really did not want to drill into the skylight well or the ceiling if I could at all avoid it, plastering holes in the walls and repainting them whenever the layout inevitably comes down is one thing, but I really don’t want to have to patch and paint the ceiling if it can be avoided! With that in mind, I decided on having the peninsula lighting extend not quite as far out as the benchwork, at 48″ and use a metal rope stay to add support and spread the load out. I don’t know for sure if this is needed as the frame isn’t particularly heavy, but it gives me a lot of piece of mind, and frankly, the rigging and turnbuckles look cools, even if they are almost invisible when the room light is off and the layout lighting on!

Because I like doodling what I am doing, my working my way though the wire stay options for the peninsula hanger (I went with the left), plus pictures of installing the hanger and the piece installed.

Once all the woodwork was up and connected, I installed LED Light Strips. I used 6000K daylight strips, 300LED/16.4′ Strip. There are lots of sources out there. I bought from Amazon as the pricing and deliver timing was right for me. I can always replace them or add more if needed. I bought a power supply that puts out enough wattage to light the whole layout with up to 3 full length LED strips. I used a bit over two strips to light the main layout, and connected the lights in the closet to the same supply. I also discovered about half way through that there is a colour tone difference between the leftover strips from our kitchen I used in the closet and my new lights, so I had to try and gently remove the ones stuck to the ceiling as there was a decided purple appearance of the closet compared to the main layout. I haven’t bothered yet to change the strip over the staging, but over the corner of the layout was really bothering me. The tone difference is less obvious in the constricted staging than it was at the closet door transition.

Comparison of room light on vs room light off and LEDs on once the LED Strips are in, but before the valance is added to control the light and direct it to the layout.

For the valance, I am using the remaining 0.060″ black styrene that I had from the fascia on the benchwork. Buying styrene by 4’x8′ sheets is a cost effective way to do this. I’m going to be buying another 4’x8′ sheet of 0.040″ white styrene for building structure cores in the near future, it does take up a lot of space until I get the sheets cut down, but it is so much more cost effective if you are building a layout to buy it by the sheet. I’ll have used full sheets for the backdrop, fascia, valance and most of the building cores by the time I’m done!

The “finished” project, or at least roughly finished without some corner trim (which I need to find) and a coat of paint.

I am super pleased, as I now have decent lighting across the entire layout. It makes a huge difference for looking at Scenery and weathering and colours, as now I know what things will look like. Over the next bit I’ll make some fit and finish adjustments, add some corner trimming to hold everything together, and probably paint the exterior to improve the cleanliness of the styrene, but I am super happy with how this has turned out and the impact it makes on the layout!

From the Lynn Valley to Liberty Village

This hobby is about a lot of things, one of them is friends, as its a hobby that while it has so much solo time, is also about bringing people together, and a lot of the reason I now have made a network of very good friends in the hobby is my friend Trevor Marshall. I discovered his blog at some point several years ago now, before I started this blog (in all honesty I was inspired to share my rambles in model making seeing how he did and used it to make friends and learn), and we got in touch about our overlapping interests. He invited me out to a monthly dinner group of modellers he had organized that still continues though neither of us attend regularly anymore, where I met a lot of people I’d heard of, but never met, and made a lot of new friends. Today, Trevor announced that he is tearing down his layout, Port Rowan in S Scale as he is moving from Toronto to the prairies. I had some advanced warning of this, as Trevor started offering me bits and pieces of stuff he couldn’t justify moving a couple of weeks ago (stacks of old magazines, a big box of HO Scale parts and half a box of SuperTree Material are very much appreciated and wont go to waste!).

Scenes from Port Rowan. A few quick snaps I took on my phone in January 2020 during what would be my last visit (though I had no idea it would be the last at the time thanks to Covid’s arrival a couple of months later).

Another, and far more meaningful gift is that Trevor surprised me with two of his lovely trees from his layout. The rural nature of his layout meant he built a lot of trees, the urban nature of mine, even in the same 1950s timeframe means I don’t have a lot of trees, but I have two large ones in the corner of the prison yard that is along the back of my layout.

My work in progress trees, they’d gotten as far as having armatures in place for me to modify and build out from.

I need to make some adjustments to fit and some minor touchups as leaf material is falling off from the removal and trip from his place to mine, but a little bit of Trevor’s layout will live on on mine, and that’s a nice part of the hobby!

A pair of Trevor’s trees from Port Rowan, finding a home in Liberty Village.

I look forward to seeing what Trevor’s next layout is and how it comes together on the prairies, and he’s now one more friend I need to head out west and visit to explore other parts of Canada I haven’t spent a lot of time in once he gets settled in. Who knows, depending on when that can happen, maybe I’ll get to be useful in building his new benchwork as he was in building my layouts!

New Workbench Tool

Sometimes I really wonder about how I’ve ever managed to build anything. It seems to be a regular occurrence that I’ve blogged about tools that seem like something I would have had for years, that I’ve been making do without. This time, its about a small portable workbench vise, from PanaVise. This is their entry level PanaVise Jr (201) model vise, but its compact, and plenty big to hold HO Scale freight cars upside down while you are installing brake and underbody detail. For years I’ve made do with an ever more cat fur coated foam cradle for this task.

Recently received PanaVise Jr in the box, out of the box, and holding a boxcar.

In the week or so I’ve had this, I’ve now gotten back to working on the brake and underbody detail on the first of many boxcar kits I am building that reached the point of being ready for that, but never got any further as underbody detail is not my favourite project. It still isn’t, but having a proper tool to hold the car while I am working on installing it can only make it better!

Tuesday Train #208

It’s a solar powered boxcar! CN has converted 8 50′ box cars to be autonomous track monitoring cars. They take video and 3D model imagery of the line from in service trains to look for faults before they occur. This supplement monitoring trains that take up line capacity to provide constant monitoring on parts of the network.

Another photo of the special scheme and the car is below.

Urban Wildlife in HO Scale

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I dabble in 3D printing and selling prints of my designs through Shapeways. One of my friends and a fellow modeller in Toronto Bernard Hellen, has taken this a step further and gone all in on his own business selling 3D printed animals and critters of his own designs. His company is Miniprints, where he has used some downtime in the Pandemic to start a business selling 3D printed animals for scenery and working to fill a niche in the marketplace. We’ve been discussing if there are opportunities for him to help me with printing for my layout with parts I’ve drawn. He kindly offered to send me some samples of the Raccoon’s he has designed, as my layout set in Toronto in the 1950’s would most definitely have had some of our City’s legendary “Trash Panda’s” hanging about.

Yup, they are tiny HO Scale 3D printed raccoon’s, all ready for painting.

The models are simple, but they don’t need to be super detailed, that is the trick in HO scale and printing, too much detail in the print sometimes actually hurts the model, the detail is better created through painting and detailing. I chose to paint these by airbrushing a thin coat of white primer, then building up colour from there using Vallejo Washes (pre-thinned paints). I applied a light grey wash, then picked out the eyes and tail stripes in a full strength black, then applied a black wash over top of that. This to my eye captured the grey/white fur colouring of a raccoon without getting too dark.

After priming and fully painted. They certainly look like Raccoon’s to me.

I will definitely be buying some of the raccoon’s when I am ready to start adding little details like this into my scenery, and Bernard has a growing range of critters in different scales and to suit different parts of the world people may be modelling. Its certainly worth a look if you are working on a model and looking for some wildlife to add into your scenery.