LED Layout Lighting – Blindingly Bright!

One of my projects recently was to light my layout properly. I did this in August, and I’m only blogging about it now. Yikes! They were visible in my last 2 posts, so you’ve probably been wondering how I did it.

Power limitations are something I’ve run into time and time again in building this layout – without a panel replacement and a new service from the local transformer, I was limited to a pair of 15A breakers. (20A is not allowed for a branch circuit in a residential dwelling, no matter how sure you are about your wire size.)

One of these 15A breakers was devoted to a branch circuit serving all the receptacles in the room. The other I’m devoting to LED lighting. Room lighting (work lights) are on the original lighting circuit which had a pair of incandescent 60W bulbs on it. It’s fine, honestly.

The circuit goes straight from the main panel to a duplex switch at the entrance to the layout room – directly above another duplex switch which controls the work lights and the layout power. The LED switches control the lights separately for the lower and upper deck.

From the switches, each branch goes to a 600W (12VDC/50A) transformer – one for the upper deck, and one for the lower. These are in a 12×12 electrical junction box because I ordered them off eBay and I’m terrified of fire.

These generate a LOT of heat, so I drilled a bunch of holes in the case for air flow. More than are pictured. I also added 4 80mm computer fans, 2 on top, and 2 on the bottom, to force air through the units in addition to the onboard flow. These blow air in from the bottom and out the top, and are spliced into the terminals of the lower deck supply (which I have on more often.) They probably make it way louder (probably like 50 or 60dB) but I like a lack of fire.

From there, I divided the layout into 6 districts, 3 per transformer, as equal as I could make them so that no circuit exceeds 15A.

On to the LED strips themselves!

I did a fair bit of experimenting with the strips to find what appeared ‘correct’ to my eye.  The brightest strip available as of this writing is a 5630/5730 chip with 60 LEDs per meter. I couldn’t find a single colour that appeared correct, but I found that a combination of ‘white’ and ‘natural white’ side by side worked.

They have adhesive backing, but it doesn’t adhere well to wood and I placed my stripes directly on my benchwork. To solve this, I used hot glue to secure the strips as I went.

Now that they’re in on both the lower and upper levels, they look fab. Fab! Just don’t look straight at them if you value your eyesight.


Kootenay Division video series launch – A conversation through time!

Hey, everyone. I’ve been working on this huge project all year and will continue to for the upcoming year. I’d love it if you would all subscribe to it! The premise is that every Wednesday I upload a video taken a year ago and every Saturday I upload a video taken that week, and converse with myself about all manner of things.

It’s called Past Matt/Future Matt.

First Past Matt:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBvm4qeKzuA

First Future Matt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwnKc_MBJS4

Subscribe!! www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=kootenayvlog

Thanks in advance, please enjoy this 104-video long series!

Let there be light! (And Power)

Project for the last two weekends: Upgrade the 120V systems in the room. If you look back to this post from January, you can see the last lighting upgrade I did – This was at a time when a full time job was uncertain and the idea of actually adding hundreds of dollars of electrical installations to the room was even more so. Still, things change…

I started by adding plugs. Plenty of plugs.

This is how I got power in previously:

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Preeeeetty sure stapled extension cords aren’t up to code.

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Well, whatever keeps them from falling on my face.

Now, understand that I only had space in the panel for a single 2 pull breaker, so I was limited in my options. One 15A circuit for power, one for lighting. Instead of hogging all the receptacles, I decided to add one in the hallway and one in the next room for the deep freeze and other things to plug into. In the railway room, they were installed approximately 12 feet apart as per the Canadian Electrical Code. The main deviation from normal CEC practice was the double switched plug under Castlegar – that’s my nerve centre!

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The bottom left plug, which has the power bar plugged into it, is switched by a switch next to the light switch at the swi- er, door. The blue extension cord goes through the benchwork to be a central power drop under Celgar. All DCC and layout electrical expansions will eventually plug into that power bar, which you can casually turn off as you leave. Awesome!

By the way, don’t pick on me for that being unlevel. The guys who did the electrical when the house was built (may they ever be spit on by Alpacas, Emus, and other long necked creatures) ran that orange power circuit precisely where the device boxes needed to go, preventing them from being mounted properly. Smooth move, guys.

Actually installing the power circuit in 3 of the 5 walls was crappy, removing the vapour barrier and insulation made for some nice irritation on the skin and a cough the first day when I neglected a dust mask. Here it is going in behind Nelson:

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Having to move everything away from the walls and taking drywall off a couple made for everything getting very, very messy extremely quickly.

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Hee hee hee.

But hey, at least they look good on the drywall!

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With the room powered up after 2 days of itchy insulation work, I had a lot of momentum. I got 6 light fixtures and 5000k “Natural” T8 lamps and placed them over the aisles. These are meant as work lights, and while they do a good job of lighting the layout now, once the upper deck is in place things will get a bit darker. I tried to line things up the best I could while still having adequate lighting, and it could have gone worse. At least this meant I had to drill less holes into the ceiling joists! See, this is what my layout looked like after that…

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And of course the irony of wood chips being all over the chip mill…

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But after a good day’s work, the lighting was done. Without insulation to deal with, it was easy as eating a pie!

Well, let’s have a before and after.

Before, after installing the old-new lights in January:

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And after, with permanent wiring:

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There’s a minor (900K) difference in colour, but the difference in brightness is kind of incredible. Especially going back to 2012 and prior, when lighting consisted of 2 13w CFLs at either end and a 500W work light for wherever I was at the time. Plus, no more stumbling around trying to find the pull chains!

Oh yeah, you might have noticed something…since all paint has been discontinued and we haven’t had Polly Scale in Canadiana for years, I gave up on waiting for paint to get my structures done and put up the rest of the Celgar complex (sans tanks and stuff) using nothing but masking tape and a little bit of make-believe.

It’s terrible, it’s bad, it’s ridiculous, but you wouldn’t believe how much it adds.

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Man, the Kraft Switcher really lucked out today with a single C-liner…doesn’t get much worse than that!

One last item: Earlier this year, I installed plastic sheeting to separate the layout from the workbench. I had to take that down to install these lights…I was thinking of putting it up over the entire ceiling to prevent dust coming from above but decided against it after seeking advice on a few forums, mainly trains.com. The reason for this is that there are so many other dust sources in an unfinished basement that a drop in the bucket isn’t work the effort. I also decided not to put the old sheeting back up because the upper deck will be going in so soon, adding tremendous amounts of sawdust and requiring me to redo it anyway. So, this is the last time the layout will be clean for a while!

With that, I’m off to bed. I’m getting at least a 5 day weekend due to flooding evacuations, so we’ll see how much I can get done!

New year: Lighting, Track maintenance, and a valence

Well, it’s been Christmas, so it’s been hectic. It’s been especially full of not-trains since I spent so much time moving and re-organizing everything upstairs!

So after Christmas, I started thinking about how dingy the layout was. There were the 2 60W bulbs at either end, plus the one pair of fluorescent tubes at the far, far end. With more scenery going in, Castlegar to Kraft was so dark you could barely read the road numbers on the cars! Solution: Move the fluorescent to the middle of the room aaaaaand….I bought a pair of 37W CFLs. They’re enormous. ENORMOUS! They’re about 4 times the size of your average CFL! They’re equivalent to 200W incandescents, so they throw a LOT of light. They’re also white balanced to 4500K, which while not daylight, is the same as a standard ‘cool white’ fluorescent tube, so I don’t have to worry about inconsistencies in light when taking casual photos. I also replaced the hallway light with a 23W 4500K fluorescent. Everything is quite bright and white, and I’m not sure if daylight balanced would be too cold!

I also moved the fluorescent tubes to the centre of the room, over the aisle at Robson West. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it brought the light to where it needed to be.

Here’s your after photo:

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Hey, now you can see how terrible the room looks! Fantastic, another thing to think about =)

On the same tack, I took back a couple dozen fluorescent tubes to the local hardware store for disposal.

Or at least I tried.

There was a little accident…9 bulbs ended up on the floor in about a zillion billion pieces.

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That was fun.

Then the big milestone happened. I had my first operating session! That is to say, the first time a real train ran and did real work, and the first time I had a real person holding a real throttle. In this case, my lovely lady played engineer and I conductor on train 87, the Kraft Switcher. It took an hour to work all of the pulp mill and sawmill and get ready to depart Castlegar. Of course, there’s no Nelson, and nowhere for it to go, but the thought is there!

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I also ran trains 12 and 81 past to give some interest, using the helix as staging.

There were a lot of derailments, though. The trackwork was far from flawless, and much of the last week has been soldering, filing, and gluing. Some of the points didn’t have sufficient clearance for all of the different wheelsets, and so I repositioned them. The same was true of many flangeways for guardrails and frogs, especially with the old wheels of the C-liner and GP9 which were about as big as you could get on code 55! Filing the flangeways worked wonders. Finally, the caulk I used to secure the turnouts down wasn’t enough to combat track forces in a couple of instances, and the turnout had drifted slightly causing the points to not close against the stock rail. I used CA (Cyanoacrylate adhesive, superglue) to secure them in place. Now there are perhaps a tenth of the derailments, though that is still enough to be a pain. That’s not including the staging yard, where I’m having trouble with tortoises.

Securing down a turnout while the CA cures:

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Later that week, a friend dropped into town unexpectedly. We ran the same op session, but it was a bit different – he used to be a conductor with CP. He finished in 45 minutes, although I don’t think he ran as carefully as my girlfriend!

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So, in at least the pulp mill, things are going reasonably well. Maybe next time we won’t shove quite as long a cut of cars.

The next project to tackle was also lighting related. I was on a crusade against darkness in the most literal sense. I decided to build a quick valence above the to-be-scenicked portion of the staging yard/Castlegar.  I built it purely out of what I had lying around. 1/2″ ply for the main structure with bracing of 1x2s, a 7″ tall masonite panel spray painted flat black for the valence, and a few bits of 1×3 to support it here and there.

Under construction, gluing on the bracing:

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Test fitting the light, a 39″ under cabinet fluorescent:

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I decided because of the way it was designed I would be losing a lot of light, since the shell would throw light towards the aisle due to the end the cord came out of, so I used spray adhesive and staples to line the entire thing with aluminum foil for a reflector.

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On the inside of the masonite I made sure that there would be a surface to glue to, since I didn’t want any screws showing on this one.

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The finished product seemed to be nice.

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In place:

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And finally, fully completed and lit up. It’s not perfect and I would have preferred a slightly longer fluorescent, but for a days’ worth of work I think it made a big difference.

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That’s it for now, I hope I’ll have more to cover for another post before the end of the month!