Lighting & Wiring


To achieve a more even and brighter spread of light in a carriage instead of having one or two bright spots where the bulb or bulbs are, is to paint the whole of the inside of the roof and floor with gloss brilliant white. Any part of the interior can be painted similarly providing it does not show through the windows with normal viewing. When dry and the lights are on it is surprising how the white reflects the light and gives a much better effect.

LIGHTS for the layout

It is possible to use clear sprue to make your own fibre optics to illuminate your car park or street lights. Stretch these clear runners to the desired thickness — thicker strands will show more light while thin strands can be curved tighter. Light can be transmitted from a light source to the tip of the fibre.


Lighting in model buildings is fairly commonplace, but sometimes the material the walls are made of allows the light to show through. If this is a problem, try painting the interior of the walls with aluminium paint. This will also make the lighting inside appear brighter and you may not need such a strong bulb.


It is possible to make optical fibres from stretched sprue. Use clear runners from windows, windshields and other clear parts and heat them over a candle until they soften, then pull the ends apart. The faster and father you pull, the thinner the strands that are stretched. Thicker strands will show more light, while thin strands can be curved tighter. The resulting strands can be used as optical fibres to transmit light from a light source to the tip of the fibre.


When lighting your layout, arrange the lights so that the background receives slightly more light than the foreground.


If you haven’t got a proper wire insulation stripper, cut gently around the plastic insulation covering and then place the wire in the claw of a hammer. A light pull should see the insulation come off.


In order to find the polarity in a set of leads, immerse both ends at least 15 mm apart in a glass of water to which a small amount of salt has been added. After turning on the power you should see small bubbles immediately form around the negative lead.


One of the problems facing modellers when adding lights to buildings is changing the bulbs when they go dead. Unless a hatch in the base is left or the roof is not fixed on, changing bulbs can be difficult. By mounting small bulbs at the top of a piece of brass tubing, bulbs are easily removed from structures without disturbing the building itself. Pass the wires to the bulb down the tubing and fix the bulb at the top. Solder a bracket at the side of the tube for fixing underneath. (For clarity, the fixing bracket is shown here on the top of the baseboard, but it should be screwed under the baseboard for access). Then drill a hole through centre of the the base just large enough to clear the bulb and the tube. Now push the tube with the bulb up into the building and screw the bracket under the base. When the bulb dies, the tube van easily be with-drawn to replace the bulb. LAMPSHADES FOR HO OR N— With an ordinary paper punch, cut several discs from a used flattened toothpaste tube. Now shape the shades by pressing them over the top of a biro pen that has a rounded end. Fit the shades over the bulbs and you have the perfect light fitting. Of course, if you require lampshades for O, No.1 or G then you will have to find a punch that cuts a larger hole.


Use of lights whether they be flashing, advertising signs, buildings, trackside features all add to the scene bringing it to life transforming a sleepy town into something more vibrant.


Some confusion exists about the little plastic wiring connectors as to whether they are chocolate boxes or chocolate blocks. Years ago they were made of a brown brittle plastic and you could break off one, two, three individual segments from a strip as you needed. Just like little pieces from a block of chocolate. Surprise, surprise, they earned the nick-name of chocolate block connectors. Today they use a different plastic and the correct trade name for them is just Connector strip.


Most modern offices and factories lighting is by fluorescent tubes and to get the effect in a model building, use windows made from discarded X-ray film. Soak the film in hot water to remove the gelatine and cut the film as usual to fit the window space.