Lighting Structures on Your Model Railroad Layout – Part 3: To Outside and Beyond
Now that you’ve successfully lit up your building, there are still more things you can do with light to make your structure special. Not every light has to be within the structure. Roof signage can be lit by mini-spotlights like those from Miniatronics. Some side doors can have goose-necked shaded lights hanging over them. You can also buy a pre-made light up billboard and attach that to a roof or brick wall for a realistic look.
While Neon in a tiny scale is not really feasible, Miniatronics makes a big variety of simulated neon signs that are actually images scribed into acrylic and edge lit. Placed in a downstairs window, they can draw in customers from your miniature streets with promises of hot dogs or cold beer.
Do you want lights that move? Miller Engineering has a nice line of electroluminescent flat sheet signs for the roof or walls or even marquees. Many of their selections are animated, including casino and theater marquee chase light sets and a replica of the famous Las Vegas sign. Miller’s unique approach has a number of signs that include customizable overlays to give you the option of what type of business you are displaying, or you can abandon the preselected choices and use stick on letters from other manufacturers to make your own. Some signs come with photo-etched fold out truss braces to rest on the roof. The Miller signs can protrude from walls too, but you may have to cut a custom slot to receive their connectors. Finally, Miller offers a broad variety of licensed vintage company logos from Reddi-Kilowatt to Rexall and many others.
In most cases, you will power your lights from low-voltage power, either from a power supply or the accessory terminals on your train power pack. Make sure you understand exactly what you need and how to hook up the light components. If you are unsure, ask the dealer who sells you the components or look for a manufacturer’s phone number on the package. Many hobbyist lighting component manufacturers have a technical support department to answer new users’ technical questions. It is to their advantage to be helpful so you will buy their product again. Many will even speak to you before you buy to help you choose what will work best for you. Most Electroluminescent and LED products have specific power needs, usually low voltage DC, although some few have the flexibility to handle incoming AC as well. Be sure you know how you’re connecting any electric accessory before you even start your wiring. Most of these can be damaged by overpowering.
Wow, that was a lot of work! But now that the building is light-sealed and the lights are installed both inside and out, there’s only one thing left to do; turn it on and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. As with most hobby projects a bit of planning and forethought will make the whole process go smoother. I hope that you are now “enlightened.” 🙂