Lighting in N

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by FrankG, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. FrankG

    FrankG Member

    Lighting the interior of a structure is not a problem. But any chance of adding exterior lighting -- like a porch light seems hopeless.

    Even the smallest bulbs are grossly out of scale. I've tried fiber optics, but because they don't "spread" light very well, they only seem to work in instances like a theater marque.

    Has anyone had any luck with adding relatively realistic exerior lighting in N? A wall light, billboard downlights, etc?
  2. theBear

    theBear Member

    There are some very small leds, including some surface mounts.

    However I haven't played with any so I can't tell if they would work or not.

    What have you played with in regards to fiber. It may be a matter of some heat forming that would do the trick. I've got to get an experimenters kit and play a bit. Signals are something I would like to have a lot of and I came to the conclusion that fiber may be the only way to go.
  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    I am going to use LEDs for the interiors. Unless I want to detail the interior (open stable door for example), then I will give firbre optics a try.

    Fibre optics seems the way to go for exterior lighting. Of course, I am attempting to simulate rural 1900, so street lights are not an issue.
  4. FrankG

    FrankG Member

    Fiber Optics

    Here's what I've tired with FO.

    I've drilled a small hole in an old structure, inserted the fiber and then burned the end -- to expand the viewing angle and help hold it in place.

    That looks like a bare bulb hanging on a wall in a small fixture, but the problem is that if you're just slightly past the viewing angle, the "bulb" disappears. Also, there is no "spread" of light from that light source, so the wall or let's say loading dock doesn't have a cast of light from this source. It's generally just a pinpoint of light. Which might be fine in an overall scene that has other lighting going on....not sure. I was just hoping to get more realistic lighting with FO.

    FO works great for things like marques, headlights, etc. The only thing that is problematic is that the FO needs to come straight into the object or have a relatively broad bend. If you bend the FO too much, you'll get a large light leak at the bend.

    The other thing I've tried with FO is to "trim" around the clear outer casing of the FO by the tip. So that technically the light is viewable from all sides. But side-leaking light is much dimmer than end light, so I didn't think this worked very well. But that method would work well for a small flame if you cut the FO into a point. Like the flame in a gas street lamp. But again, you run into the problem of the FO not casting the light onto nearby objects.

    Another possibility I've been paying with is to set up "theatrical" style lighting within the layout. I haven't seen this done before, but thought this might work.

    The idea is to use the FO to place the "points" of light on stuctures and around the layout. Then use small spotlights, hidden by other structures, ceiling valance or scenery to cast the light onto the structure wall, centered over that FO point. The combination of the two, should, in theory, provide the FO "bulb" or light origin, and the cast it's giving off. I think the spotlights would need to be relatively dim and would need some thought behind placement. Add in structure interior lighting and some logically placed grain of rice bulbs and the overall effect should work.

    I played around with this last night with a small LED that I made a "shade" for -- to cast the light into a specific direction. It seems to work pretty well. I would just need to be careful about making sure a train would never pass in front of a spotlight and that the spotlights not cast light on anything in between itself and the obect it's lighting.

    Might be difficult to pull off, but I think I'm going to experiment with it.

    I'd still like to do more with the FO rather than jump to out-of-scale grain bulbs, so if anyone else has any suggestions....
  5. bigdonnie

    bigdonnie Member


    You're right --- getting exterior lighting to look realistic in N can be a challenge!

    One thought I have is to 'mask' a portion of the LED so that it appears to be smaller (paint, maybe a piece of painted foil wrapped around part of the bulb, etc).

    I will try to remember to post a picture from my coffee table layout where the lighting does look reasonably realistic.
  6. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    If you heat plastic fiberoptics strand with a soldering iron without touching the fiber while rotating it you can form a round bulb. Then optionally apply a thin coat of white nail polish to just the "bulb" if you want a more diffused "frosted" bulb look. Using a small halogen bulb you can get these "bulbs" pretty bright. The more light you pour in the brighter you output will be. But the trick is forming the ball with the heat. Fred
  7. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    It really does work, and looks great. Not quite as scarily hard as it looks either, but I would suspect an Optivisor would be useful. I used their micro LEDs along with their #38 wire, and you can get two pairs (apparently) through their 0.018" stainless tubing. You certainly can get a twisted pair through it even when it's bent in all sorts of directions. Fast delivery too. I have some of their nano white LEDs too (0.040 x 0.020) and they look a whole lot more tricky to solder -- I haven't got that far yet.

    Obviously you're not going to light the world up, but there's a whole lot more than fibreoptic lights. One I installed in a doorway light outside my Majestic Warehouse looks like an old 40W bulb -- just right!

  8. bigdonnie

    bigdonnie Member

    Can you guys post pictures of what you've described here --- both sound very interesting!
  9. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

  10. FrankG

    FrankG Member

    Great Site

    Thanks for that URL. Some of their products look amazing. I think that's the way I'm going to go.
  11. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Thats a great link Charles. Thanks for providing it.
  12. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Their products are every bit as good as the pictures (if not better). I have some of their photo-etched stuff, and some of the ultra-thin sheets of glass too. Quick service, well packed. As I said, I made up a gooseneck outside light like their pictures first-off, and it worked well, even though I've never done anything like that before...

  13. cookyy

    cookyy New Member

    FrankG try a fibor optic tube you could light up more than one unit with only one source.
  14. vanda32547

    vanda32547 Member

  15. 2slim

    2slim Member

    Wow that's cool, thanks for posting that URL Charles


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