A guide in how to add lighting to your layout


Including lights is a very effective way of adding a different appearance to your layout making it even more life like with the room lights dimed or out.

The lights can be as simple as a few lights inside houses to both lights in building and street lights. Even colour light signal could be installed if they suit the time you are modelling in.  Most lights like street and colour light signals are available ready made so all you have to do is fit and wire.  If you prefer it is within the scope of most modelmakers to make their own which is both satifing and money saving.

As 12 volts is readly available then you have to decide if you want them all on at one time or be able to sellect areas.  Which ever you choice the layout would be wired just like wiring a house meaning a ring main around your layout with spurs off to each area.  The main input of 12 volts to the ring main loop will have a two pole on/off switch allowing you to switch all lights on and off in one place only. To make this system a little more flexible each area to be lite can be in the form of a spur off the ring with a switch in-line allowing you to switch just that section on and off. As the voltage is only 12 volts automobile connectors can be used such as 'Scotchloks' and connector blocks.

Another idea is to use self adhesive copper tape under the base board as a 'busbar' and connect each light to it. The copper strip could also be used as a mount for an LED bulb inside a building. 



As the supply to the lights is only 12 volts it is recommended that the ring main should be thick cable to eliminate volts drop over the total system perticualy if the layout is large, but the feeds out to each light can be smaller.

Making you own lights & colour light signals

There are generally two types of light

Grain of wheat (GOW)

These light bulbs are like miniture household bulbs and draw a fair amount of current plus they get hot therefore the number of lights in any system is restricted by the power source available which is usually the extra outputs on your train controller. In fact most transformers having a 12 volts output would be suitable but do ensure it is safe and has a good earth connection


 (usually around 1K ohms) 

Light emiting diode (LED)

These lights are different to the others in the fact that they run on around 2 volts DC max. and therefore if supplied from a 12 volts DC supply a resistor must be fitted in series to one of the wires (normally the +) to ensure the light does not fail.  The advantages of the LED are that firstly they are at full brightness even when the supply volts drops; they drawn much less current; and they don't get hot


If you are making your own lights and are using LED's then you can use plastic tubes, angles, strips, and sheet available from any good model shop.

Plastic is easy to work and the LED's do not get hot and melt the plastic.

Most good plastic glues can be used which melt the plasic forming a solid joint.


If you are using GOW or it's small version GOR (grain of rice) the material close to the bulbs should be metal.

It does have the advantage that if using say brass tube to build your lights the tube could be one of the connections.


Buying ready made lights & colour light signals

If you prefer to buy you lights ready made they are available generally only in '00' and 'N' gauge. Most good model shop stock them from several manufactures like CR Signals, Veissmann, and others. 

These images are from the vast range of lights from CR Signals

Top left .... twin head signal

Top right .......... street light

Above ........... platform light

Right  .................. Yard light


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