Looking for fiber optics for lighting

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by ghostconductor, Nov 25, 2004.

  1. ghostconductor

    ghostconductor New Member

    Happy Gobblers to you all. Today I'm sittin in my chair thinkin over my ho loco and how neat it would be to install lights into all the right places by running strands of fiber optics to the areas- steps, deck, etc.

  2. theBear

    theBear Member

  3. KCS

    KCS Member

    Hey, get an issue of the December 04' of Model Railroader. Vol.71 issue 12. on page 98 there is an article on how to use bright white LED's for head light's using fiber optical strands. The article show's how to file off LED's and hook up fiber optical threads. I thought about the same thing your thinking of myself. I looked threw this article and thought about it for a bit and figured why not get a LED big enough to run more than one optical thread off of? well this may be a trick task, and i have not pursued it yet but I'm thinking if you can get a bundle of them on one LED, you might be able to run small threads down across (away from the motor of course) the frame and out to where the porch's, steps, decks, etc. now i do have 2 locomotive's that i have installed tiny red LED's into right on top of the control stand's and painting them black until only a tiny rectangular red strip of light appears this give's the effect of the red digital board that has "locomotive in slave, unit 1" I'm not for sure what this digital board actually says but it's something along that line. i love it. i looks really nice in the dark and gives it the real prototypical look i want when the lights are turned off and the room is dark.
  4. ghostconductor

    ghostconductor New Member

    Wow, KCS! You are on the right track! Bundle of strands going to each area...i like it- can picture it already! Thanks...I'm George, and we'll keep the lights on for ya!

  5. vanda32547

    vanda32547 Member

  6. jeffjan2001

    jeffjan2001 New Member

    Source of cheap fibers

    i used a severly marked down fiber optic pumpkin for my lighting project.
    just gutted the thing and used the light source even...
    i've seen several cheap things that are a lot cheaper for fibers than buying them separately... you'd be amazed at how much is in those funny pumpkins or christmas decorations...

    hope that this is helpful...

  7. vanda32547

    vanda32547 Member


    Thanks for the suggestion, however I have some 2-3 foot runs to make with it and I believe the fibers in those items you mentioned are rather short for my purposes. I ordered a coil of 100ft so I can cut it to whatever length I need.

  8. jeffjan2001

    jeffjan2001 New Member

  9. theBear

    theBear Member

    Cool [​IMG][​IMG] , err I mean HOT man HOT [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
  10. docsnavely

    docsnavely Member

    What about those old wands they used to sell at theme park kiosks (the big house of the mouse comes to mind) that were just multicolored flashlights that had strands of fibers coming out of it? I always thought of using one of those for a fiber-op project. The strands are about 6-8 inches long, so you would be restricted on how far you could go with them, but it's also another cheap alternative for say a house or factory on your layout!:thumb:

  11. vanda32547

    vanda32547 Member


    What you did was awesome man !!! How many strands did you use? What color is your source light? Did you enhance the photo in any way? Looking forward to the details.

  12. up_santafe

    up_santafe New Member

    Using Led & Fiberoptics

    I've experimented with many of my locos and have now installed LED lighting in almost all of them.

    On my Athearn F7A's I have installed a green 3mm led (round with a flat end that I got at Radio Shack) inside at the rear and run a double strand of fiber optics to the front classification lights. I believe it is 2mm, (I can't find my ruler on my workbench right now, buried somewhere under all these couplers and stuff.)

    Anyhow, after drilling out the class lights with a 3/32 bit you have to carefully heat and bend the fiberoptics to come up behind the windshield and go across the ceiling to the led to clear the motor and gearboxes. I purposely did it this way after breaking a couple that were too close to the front of the engine to allow some bending without snapping off. Some fitting and rebending a couple times was necessary to get a good fit. I left about 3/8 inch stick out the holes until I got every thing mounted inside.

    I used a piece of shrink tubing to hold the led and fiberoptics together instead of gluing. That way if I ever have to take off the shell, the led will come out of the tube without disturbing the fiberoptics. (Sometimes its a real pain to get it back in, but it is worth it)

    After everything was mounted and lit up satisfactorally, I cut off the tips of the fiberoptics down to about a 1/16 inch. Then I carefully heated the ends with a soldering iron tip so they would "mushroom" and form a lens. I pushed the "lenses" in tight from the outside and put a very tiny drop of CA on the inside to hold them in place.

    Man, did they turn out great. The led is bright enough to make them really visible in the day, yet at night they are not overly bright. Very prototypical. And they still have a "domed glass" appearance.

    The fiberoptics will also allow a slight glow into the cab at night, so it looks like there are instrument lights on.

    I plan on cutting out the numberboards and lighting them also, as soon as I get up the courage to decide which engine is going to be the "guinea pig".:eek:
  13. jeffjan2001

    jeffjan2001 New Member

    I never would've thought...

    thanks for your compliments. the pic is not touched up at all. It actually flickers… somewhere on the same site the webmaster added a video of it... with some smoke effect added (though i wished he hadn't). it really looks good and has become the part of the layout that folks talk about the most... i have to admit its a little embarrassing at times.

    if i thought that it would've turned out half as good as it did i would've documented it.

    i probably ought to do a thread for it... but here is the "scoop" on construction.

    History: my father-in-law says to me, "look at all of the fibers in this thing! do you think that you could make this into something?"

    "i dunno. what do have in mind?" i asked

    "how about a grass fire?"

    "i can try."

    NOTE: this kind of conversation has gotten me into a lot of "trouble" over the years... and added to my "To Do" list immeasurably! :rolleyes:

    and so it began... with a $10 pumpkin on clearance

    it took about an hour of cutting and grunting to get the fibers and light source out of the plastic pumpkin shell. the eyes nose and mouth were lined with strands sandwiched between strips of tape. since those were already grouped and flat, i decided to use them.

    after deciding on a location on the layout, i cut a board to size and shape to serve as the base (although it was going to be the top... )

    out of the base i cut out the fire's shape. i used black spay paint and some ashes from the fire place to color the burned out area. added some bits of weeds (painted black) to serve as the catalyst for the blaze.

    Next came the gymnastics of getting all of the fibers in the hole at the same time. I used hot glue to secure the fibers to the outside of the hole (this leaves the center removable so it can be changed out with new causes for the fire from time to time)

    After that I sprat painted the fibers yellow, trimmed off all of the excess, and mounted the light source underneath.

    Then came the mounting. I cut the hole in the layout and verified that no light was coming out of the wrong places

    The light source originally used a 10W halogen reflector bulb, and this was a bit warm, so I changed it with a 5W (these are the ones that are about a quarter to half-dollar in diameter and used with low voltage systems as a spot light)

    Now came the part that I figured would be easy… getting the colors right.

    The light source is a light fixture with a motorized multi-colored disk rotating between the bulb and the fibers creating a psychedelic display. No problem I can just change out the blues and purples for red and yellow, right?

    Well, sort of. I scanned in the disk, substituted colors, printed it out on transparency and was soundly not impressed. I played with the colors added oranges and darker yellows but they all seemed to wash out and blur together. The final solution was to turn over the disk (printed side down) and shim the disk so that it lightly scrapes against the ends on the fiber bundle.

    Reinstalling all of the parts and adding some weeds, ground foam and firemen for scenery was all that remained.

    Now I have to go rest my fingers…


    P.S. there were a couple of fibers that had pushed up so I stuck a “weed tree” there and hid the fibers with the trunk. The glowing ends make it look as if the tree is starting to catch…

  14. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Here is another site to pick up cheap fiberoptics. American Science & Surpluss It pays to check bacl with them periodically as their inventory changes fairly often. Also lots of other bits and pieces that come in handy.

Share This Page