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 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) :)”

A big thanks to Craig.

That’s all for today folks, except a few of you have asked for Gary’s link again, so here it is:

Gary’s model railroad journey.

(It is one of my fave posts.)

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you want to make that start – just like Craig and all the others did – the Beginner’s Guide is here.




53 Responses to Craig’s lighting ‘how to’

  1. Max Shellenvbarger says:

    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. del says:

    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. 'nother grandpa says:

    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. paul Otway says:

    nice lights

  6. Randy Knaub says:

    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. george williams says:

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

  8. neil pettingill says:

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


  9. Stuart says:

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

  10. Jim Sarosi says:

    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. chris says:

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

  12. chris says:

    Thanks david howarth

  13. chris says:

    Thanks Stuart

  14. Maverick405 says:

    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. Maverick405 says:

    By the way, it’s a great layout!!

  16. Don Wick says:

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

  17. El Paso Jeff says:

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

  18. Lee Barry says:

    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. Monty Perth Australia says:

    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. Christine says:

    Another nice layout.

  21. GOPAL DAGA says:

    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. Cecil Sandige says: 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. Desert Rat PHX AZ says:

    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. Damien DeLucco says:

    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. Norm says:

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

  27. GOPAL DAGA says:

    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. Everett says:

    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. Noel says:

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

  30. John Ramm says:

    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. Rick says:

    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. Sam Carter says:

    Thanks very helpful

  33. tom in az says:

    To the gentelman in chandler AZ. I moved out of Chandler a year ago to Payson AZ. I also bough these same lights, they work well lower the volts to dim them a little. I also go by DESERT RAT. Good name for us!!!!! I model in N scale and now building a HO. Go to Obies in Apache Junction he has a lot of stuff. Tom in Payson AZ

  34. Dave says:

    Very nice video. Great layout, thank you for letting us see your excellent work. Dave

  35. Joe says:

    That looks amazing. I only hope I can make my first layout ever soon and it will look even a bit that nice.

  36. You should try WE HONEST on e-bay very cheap you can buy in bulk quantities makes better sense than to buy from retail Micro Mark Walthers ect. I do all the lighting on all our museum layout’s and this is by far the most effective and the cheapest . Just go and look then let your imagination run wild it won’t cost you much and soon you will be lighting up the world.
    Joe Fitzpatrick Scenery Chairman CRMHA

  37. Rick D says:

    There are 3 (that are relatively) specific to us on Amazon. I got 100 for $11.00 CDN and a whole bunch more on white street light poles that are white. There are some doubles, a coach light on poles that are black, Don’t get them too flimsy. But if you shop around on the Amazon site, you’ll get exactly what you want for way less than the guys at the top of the blog are getting. They work great. a little shot of glue in a smaller than 1/8′ HOLE, YA GOTTER BEAT and it looks and works great and best of all, cheapo on the bucks. Check it out, no guarantees, strictly FYI


  38. Allen jones says:

    Would like to contact Monty from armadale west australia as i live close by and we may be able to help each other with modeling etc regards Allen also from west auatralia

  39. Dan Hulitt says:

    This site is a recent find, and I enjoy the info and the international flavor. Since I watch a fair # of British mysteries etc, I pick up on some of the idioms, but blyme , there are more to learn.

    Dan – modeling the D&H in HO.
    Minnesota, USA

  40. walt emerson says:

    Craig, i saw your layout in a different Alistair posting. It is top shelf, all the detail! Could you possibly send me the original track layout? Maybe a pic or two from overhead of the finished layout? Thank you, walt

  41. Gerry Grafstrom says:

    I use the DC lights made for Christmas villages. They run on 2 AA batteries, but I remove the battery packs and wire them into old 3.7VDC cell phone chargers. You can usually find them for about $1 each at yard sales or Good Will/Salvation Army stores if you don’t have a bunch sitting around from old cell phones.I use bus bars and terminal strips to simplify wiring and reduce the number of chargers.They have internal circuit breakers so if you overload them they just shut off until they cool down. Then you just add another charger in parallel.

  42. Brad says:

    WE HONEST-yes have bought scenery items from them(trees) and the prices are insane cheap.Takes awhile to get them,but worth the cost.Just got a load of trees in for my future layout.I will hand paint them a little to make them all different so as to avoid the “cookie cutter” trees(aka same trees everywhere you look).They are more realistic than others I have tried and maybe with a little modeling skill I cna make each one different by painting and trimming them to my own taste

  43. Joseph Augeri says:

    i\I’m looking for lionel O-27 latout

  44. For “N” gauge I made street lights from aluminum rivets used for blind rivet guns common for home do it yourself projects purchased from Home Depot or Lowe’s. They have hollow stems and a base that looks like the base of common street lights as well as a small tip that is useful in putting it in a hole in your layout. I then purchased beads from a craft store in both plain and milk color of the size appropriate for “N” gauge. They, of course, have holes in them. I super glued the beads to the top of the rivets and ran the microlight bulbs down through the stems and you have some realistic and cheap street lights. You can leave the stems aluminum or paint them green or whatever. You can also glue a smaller bead or another small object to the top of the bead as a crown like you see on some street lights. Glue street signs to them if applicable. I also bent some of the rivets to form bent neck lights and inserted shaded light bulbs from Micronics and they look very real. Also, I glued several plain beads together to form a chandelier with multiple bulbs to hang in the foyer in an “N” station I built Looks fantastic. I have also used spare chargers from discarded toothbrushes or cell phones to power these lights. Use resisters to control the voltages as needed.

  45. Ian McDonald says:

    great how to on the lights. great pictures of the layout. thanks for sharing.

  46. Sid Pratt says:

    Great, love the lighting.

  47. Karl Gruca says:

    lots of fun work you do , love it , giving me great ideas.

  48. bob nestle says:

    I’m not good with my hands, so I model in O scale. I use LEDs for homemade street lights and I have found using black plastic drinking straws or coffee stirrers for the lampposts work best. Run the wires through the hollow inside the straw and down through the layout base. Totally hidden and no painting required.
    Thanks for the great article!!
    I’m frim the USA and I get a massive adrenaline rush by driving on the wrong side of the road! Lol

  49. Daniel Jeffrey says:

    To Alistair,
    I’m new to model railroading and new to your blog.
    I started collecting O-gauge several years ago, but recently “caught” Flyer Fever, and have now switched to S-gauge for building my layout.
    I’m amazed at how many folks worldwide are into this hobby!
    I find that there are very few manufacturers who support S-gauge, so I find myself left to my own “means” for making S-scale accessories, scenery, etc.
    This blog is very helpful in that respect.
    Thank you.
    Dan J.

  50. ron McCullough says:

    Hi! my first time on this web site. how can I see this lay out that Craig has??
    I don’t know who Craig is. I’ve been in and out of the best hobby ever, for years.
    Not any room anymore so just looking at pictures and reading. I’m 86 now (how time has gone by) Bought a couple of HO engines at Navy Base in North Africa back in 1957. Had new tires put on few years ago. think they were $7.00 each.
    I may have access to collection of Merklin?? (old)

  51. Randy Deredita says:

    I would like to know how I can purchase All of the patterns in the light layout

  52. SteveBaker says:

    It’s very simple – we Brits drive on the right side which is the left side. Americans drive on the right side which is the wrong side.
    Hopefully this clarifies the situation for everyone. 🙂

  53. Ronald LaRue says:

    none at this time thank you Ron,,,

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