Craig’s lighting ‘how to’

After Arnie’s wonderful video and pics on his lighting, I thought it fitting to post this sent in by Craig:

“Al: I have been getting your e-mails for some time now. They are great and I look forward to them. But up to now, I have been a taker, not a giver. I found an inexpensive way (OK, cheap) to make yard lights. I wanted to share.

Street lights cost upward of $10 each. I did find some that were about $10 for 2 lamps on posts. Still expensive if you need several of them. I want to share a new way to get street lights with the guys. I ordered 20 of these building lights. Peel and stick type. They were $18+ for 20 of them and they had Grain of Wheat sized LED’s. I think I got them from Micro Mark. Also I got 40 grain of rice sized LED’s for somewhere around $20. I used the light that came in the peel and stick lamps and they were good for yard lights but a bit too big for outside building lights. So I used the Grain of Rice LED’s in place of the lights that came with the peel and stick fixture and came up with some good building lights for a service station or grocery store loading dock, for instance. Here’s the process:

Take the peel and stick lights and remove the sticky pad. The light slips easily out of the housing. Cut off a portion of the housing as shown on the photo. You come up with a funnel shaped thing and a straight collar shaped thing. There is an inner collar in the light housing. Either use a large drill bit and rotate the drill bit by hand to slowly shave away this inner collar, or use a #11 blade and rotate it until it trims this collar down to a fine edge so that it will accept the lamp and thread the light back in the opposite way it came out and glue it in place. Paint the housing inside white or silver to reflect the light back, or leave it black. Paint the outside a color that would go good with where it will be mounted: maybe gray for an industrial area, green for a store loading area or maybe silver for residential street lamps. I drilled a hole in a skewer (saw this in a recent issue of Model Railroader Magazine) and threaded the wires through the hole, painted the skewer to look like a light pole and mounted one outside a line shack. The one pictured with three lamps will go in the train yard. I also cut the funnel a little shorter and mounted it to the outside of a service station off of a piece of styrene channel I had left over from a project. It passes. Just a note about the post with the three lamps: I cut the wires off two of them and wired them to the third set of wires. I used tape and don’t like it. Maybe shrink tubing would work better to hold them together?? In any case. the wires that come with the peel and stick lamps are long enough to run them to a nearby building then down to wherever you are going to connect them to your power source. The grain of rice LED’s only have a few inches of wire with them. Be very careful when trimming the insulation from these lights. There are not many strands of wire and it is very easy to cut these small wires, and you need them all.

I have been a rail fan since I was a boy, and recently got into model railroading, HO scale. I bought a cookie cutter benchwork and have spent the last three years adding terrain and scenes. I’m a first-timer, but if you are interested in seeing some of my mistakes, I can share the photos.

Craig in Utah (That would be the USA: I see from looking at your layouts that many of you are driving on the wrong side of the street) :)”

“Hi here is a video of the last N Gauge layout i built, and one of a layout as used then i rebuilt it into new, then 6 month’s later had to make it bigger.


Updated again – latest ‘ebay cheat sheet’ here

What a wonderful video Chris!



32 Responses to Craig’s lighting ‘how to’

  1. Do you have these cardboard buildings for o gauge? Will they look ok if I just enlarge the pattern even more than you state?

  2. nice layout you have built there Chris

  3. Great layout and info on lighting. But my question is what did you use …. it appears to be redish brown to go around the outside of the lay out?

    Thank you


  4. Chris- how did you go about painting your background scenes– they are very nice and look something like I want to accomplish on my amateur set.

  5. nice lights

  6. Hi,
    I looked at the Micro Mark web site and the only LED self stick light they had were 5 meter strips for $50 each. And they could be cut into 3 inch strips and powered by 12 dc. I did a global search by “LED” and that is what i got. Also its the brits that drive and the wrong side.

  7. How come the cars are all on the wrong side of the road?

  8. craig, I live in West Jordan. would like to see your layout.
    give me a call 801 415 0508 weekdays until 2 pm


  9. To see it all come together like that on video was wonderful, a great town, and a very good layout

  10. Love seeing all the graet work being done by such talented folks. Thanks for sharing.
    For cheap lights try eBay, search “grain of wheat lamp”. I got 100 for around $10 back in January.

  11. To ‘nother grandpa i use Peco Scenic Backgrounds or Backscenes.

  12. Thanks david howarth

  13. Thanks Stuart

  14. I don’t understand the remark made by a number of people regarding the “wrong side of the road”. Surely it depends on the country emulated and the period. Around a third of drivers in the world today drive on the left in RHD cars; as the US did until the late 18th/early 19th Century.

  15. By the way, it’s a great layout!!

  16. Great detain! Lighting was done at a reasonable cost.
    Don Wick
    West Bend, WI USA

  17. Great soundtrack, too. What is the musician/song???

  18. super ideas regarding the lights. wish I had the room for a large layout. I would probably go back to N from Z, don’t care fer HO, a model railroad size not a woman of the night.

  19. Hi Chris, I have Been looking for small LED lights that run on 12 volt like the ones you show in your photo’s for some time without success. I also looked at the micro web site but was unable to find them, do you have anymore information that you can give on locating the suppler of the 2 lights you spoke about.

    very nice layout you have created thanks for you help

    Monty Armadale West Australia

  20. Another nice layout.

  21. I would like to ore about LED lights for my N gauge layout. Lights for street, parks, plate form Yard, Factory Public places etc. Would be obliged , if some one can help me to create the same. Thanks &regards!

  22. Arnie:
    Sure would like to see your wiring diagram. Show me a couple items wired to work simultaneously in your buildings etc. Thx much and keep sharing your great works. I’ll be able to see if you are tying items into a bus line or whatever you use.

  23. has a lot of LEDS starting at $0.25 each. Power suplies too. I have got stuf from them for my layout several times and have always been pleased.

  24. This is to Monty in the outback I live in the desert Chandler AZ. Love your country. As for the 12 volt lights I just bought a bunch 2 in a pack from MODEL POWER BUILDING PRODUCTS Part number 491 12 to 16 volts DC. Nice lights in holder thats easy to install has about 6 inches 0f wire on each. I build N scale, these are for any scale. I bought them through a local hobby store. Love everybodys notes and Pics Great web site has helped me a bunch. DESERT RAT IN AZ

  25. Years ago I built about 20 N gauge street lights. Very simple in design and to build.

    Take 1/16 brass tubing and cut to height of typical street light for the scale you are modelling.
    Now, using a yellow or white led sized appropriately for scale bend the shorter lead 90 degrees at the body and 90 degrees at about 1/4 of an inch from other end. Bend the longer lead 45 degrees toward the same side as the other lead.
    What you will now do is solder the short bent lead to the brass tubing where the 45 degree lead lines up with the end of the tubing. Flux works well on the brass tubing and led lead for soldering. Do not overheat.
    Now take some magnet wire and connect to the 45 degree lead end. Make sure this does not touch the brass tubing.
    Pass the magnet wire down thru the tubing.
    Glue an open rivet to the led for a reflector.
    Paint the assembly light gray or color of preference.
    Don’t forget to use a 470 ohm resistor in series with either the tubing or magnet wire when connecting.

  26. Love the LED tips.
    Just curious. I wonder what they were driving in the U.S. In the 18th and early 19th centuries?

  27. Hello everyone,
    I can supply light poles complete in any scale for railroading. Thease can be street lights, garden/park lights, platform lights, and so on. Thease are all home made and come very cheap. interested ? drop me a line …..
    GOPAL Daga, India

  28. I have gotten a lot of good information from your postings. I am new to model railroading, what is the best source to find “How to” information for scenery, roads, etc…….

  29. Hi Chris,
    Very nice layout,lots going on,thanks for sharing it with us,

  30. Sold the house several years ago, and so also had to liquidate the “Spaghetti Western”, an S gauge American Flyer tinplate railroad which occupied most of my basement. I would have loved to have had this resource available to me when I was actively railroading. It’s terrific! Keep up the good work!

    I have one tip for lighting your layouts, and that is to power your lights that are dimmable (which usually most or all of them) through a rheostat of some kind. Most layout lighting is too bright, and needs scaling down, and it’s great to be able to dial in just the perfect amount of illumination to suit the scene. I used several wall-switch dimmers in different places on my layout, to good effect.
    Give it a try! Thanks! -John

  31. Guys, making it tough on yourselves. Go to your local electronics surplus store and you may pay one or 2 cents each. Where I go in Toronto, the guy just looks at your pile and asks if $5.00 OK Sure is OK The place is on the s/e corner King and University.

    Rick, Markham, Ontario, Canada

  32. Thanks very helpful

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