Layout Lighting Idea and Questions

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Hoss, Jan 20, 2004.

  1. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    Instead of using track lighting or something on the ceiling of my garage, I am thinking of plans to attach lights to my layout something like what I have drawn up below.


    I would probably space these lights about 2 feet apart around the outside perimeter of the benchwork. I antipate my backdrop will be 12-18" high and I would probably place the lights 24" above the benchwork. I think this would provide very good lighting on the entire layout and it would be that when the layout moves the lights automatically move with it. The lights would all be wired on one circuit that I would attach to a dimmer switch...allowing me to adjust the lighting as I desired.

    My question you think this would be a good method of of lighting the layout? AND....what type of lighting would be the best to simulate daylight?? Incandescent?? Florescent?? GE "Reveal" (whiter light)??

    I will also have lighting attached underneath the benchwork for the lower level staging. This will most likely be florescent lighting and it will definitely be on a different circuit from the other lighting, allowing me to control the lights independently of one another.
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The only mod I would make is a valance of some sort on the viewing side of the light. Ideallly, it should come down low enough that you can't look straight at the light. (Should also be far enough from the light that it doesn't catch fire.)
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not sure of the size of the layout, but the florescents would use less energy. I don't think they can be dimmed though. One trick might be to double the number of sockets, and use the screw in florescents of different wattages. Put the low watt bulbs on one circuit and higher watt bulbs on another circuit. With separate switches for each circuit you could simulate dimming by shutting off the high wattage bulbs and leaving the low wattage bulbs lit.
  4. Lightbender

    Lightbender Member

    I had a few coiled fluorescent screw in bulbs which have now been replaced with the new fluorescent floods. They have loops rather than coils and are enclosed in a silvered reflector glass globe that focuses the light into a bright flood using only 15 watts each.

    The only problem is they have a start up time of a few minutes to achieve full brightness. This also happens with the coils but the floods are more noticeable. They seem white enough for a good colour rendition using an X10 or a digital camera.
  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    A few years ago I had a light table (used for manually laying out circuit board artwork) and it had flourecent lamps that were dimmable. I never bothered to see how they did it, but they were continously adjustable from full off to full on and it used standard 40 watt bulbs.

    Oh yeah, it weighed in at about the same as a prototype 4-8-4 steam engine I think.:D :D
  6. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

  7. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    Seems like halogens would be awfully hot. Am I wrong??
  8. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    The bulbs themselves do get hot. The ones I point to are contained in a finned metal housing with a glass cover. After several hours they get warm, but they are suppose to be mounted above the layout out of touch on frames, not held in your hands. They even make "shop trouble lights" with the same housing with a stand and wire grill over the glass. If you ever use one of them under your car it's hard to go back to a 60 watt incandesent trouble light (which will burn you too). Even florescents get hot as far as that goes. Also, I have read florescents put out lots of UV which is what fade our layouts unless you put them in a plastic sleeve. If money were no object a few thousand white LEDs would be a cool high tech lighting system. DASH
  9. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    I was talking more about putting off heat in the room than being hot to the touch. I'd think halogens would put off a lot of heat. In fact, I have used big halogen lights to warm my hands on cold winter nights when I had to be outside doing something.

    That might be an idea though. A few big halogens strategically located would certainly light the layout up.
  10. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Hoss:

    Your original lighting diagram has the merit of being portable and does not alter the room in which it is located. It has a couple of weaknesses. One is that unless you place the light source above or in front of the front edge of the layout, everything on the layout between you and the light will be backlit. Makes it harder to work on the layout if you are looking “into” the light. Remember, light moves in a straight line from its source bouncing off the object you are looking at and then traveling to your eye. Think “pool table” logic here. So, if the light source is in front of you, you will see the light source reflected in glossy objects you look at on a table. If the light source is slightly behind you, say over your shoulder, you won’t see it because it will be reflected up onto the ceiling in front of you.

    Also, as 60103 stated, it would be helpful to make a valence to hide the bulbs from your eye. That way, you will see the effect of the light instead of the light itself. I wear glasses and I’m constantly fighting the reflections of light sources on my lenses vs. the view of what I want to see.

    One measure of light is its temperature in degrees Kelvin. Daylight at noon is about 5500 degrees Kelvin, about mid spectrum in color, say whitish yellow. An overcast day is more like 6500 to 7500 degrees Kelvin, kinda bluish. Sunrise is about 3500 K, a nice warm red/ orange. Our typical incandescent bulbs are about 2700 K, which is in the warm range. Most of us have gotten used to this as being “normal” light, although it’s not “daylight” by any means.

    Also different types of light sources have different ranges of temperatures so some have a better ability to properly render the full spectrum than others. Incandescent is better at this than the old “cool white” fluorescents. The newer compact fluorescents have largely overcome this, look for ones labeled “full spectrum”. Fluorescents also are cost effective to run and come in a wide range of temperature/color rendering indexes.

    Halogen lights, while giving a good light spectrum and generally being centered in the 2800 to 4000K range, are not very energy efficient in the small wattages we use in our homes and they get very hot.
    What you want to get in a lamp is something that mimics daylight and has good color rendering ability. Check out these tow websites for some general info:

    For some additional info go to Google, or whatever, and type in something like “lamps temperature Kelvin”. Also, fluorescents can be dimmed but you need dimmable ballast which is fairly expensive compared to a regular ballast. Call a lighting supply store and they can get you a price.

    For my money I’d paint the ceiling white, get some two or three lamp indirect fluorescent fixtures for general lighting, putting the lamps on at least two separate circuits so I could vary the light level based upon whether I’m working on the layout or operating the layout. Three lamp fixtures give you three light levels using just two simple on/off switches. I’d use a combination of bulbs with differing temperature ranges so I could get a “blended” effect for my work lighting. Then I’d install some two circuit track lighting on dimmers with different color bulbs in each circuit, say some cool whites for evening and moonlight and some warm incandescent for sunrise. These directional lights can then be aimed at each “scene” or area of your layout giving the illusion of a point source for lighting, kinda like sunlight or moonlight, so you can get strong shadows.

    I guess you can tell I kinda like thinking about light. (“Boy, shore do rattle on about that light stuff don’t he?”) Hope some of this helps Hoss. Remember, you can achieve most of what I’m talking about in a 12’x 12’ room by replacing the one existing incandescent ceiling fixture in the room with a three bulb fluorescent. Then get a clip on lamp or floor lamp and add a dimmer to use as a direct source, you can then put the bulb you want to use in the lamp based upon the effect you want to achieve.

  11. Hunkiedoo

    Hunkiedoo Member

    Layout Lighting

    Lemmee just add to all the previous valid comments. You should check the local electrical code re attaching 110V wires to portable modules. ':('

    Most codes frown upon stapling some extension cords onto your layout. The light fixture has to be in a proper receptacle, splices have to be in a junction box, everything has to be grounded, etc. What about lo-voltage light circuits?
  12. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Watt per watt all lights put about about the same amount of waste energy as heat. There are small differences between the efficency of the various lights, but in real life it would be real hard to measure. So a 300 watt halogen puts out about the same amount of heat as ten 30 watt florecents and their ballasts, and about the same amount of total lumes. The halogen concentrates both in one spot so they seem hotter and brighter. FRED

Share This Page