Model train lighting

Dean’s been in touch with his model train lighting post:


I’ve been updating my lighting (and other electricals) on my N-scale Conejos Valley Railroad.

I’m getting back to the layout as you can see from the placing of tape for pouring plaster roads (shown in the first photo), a project I’m now working on. More to come!

This entry deals with how I built a more permanent lighting system. It could be adapted to any small train layout as you can see.

Here’s how I made it using standard lighting and PVC plumbing parts from a big box store.

The first shot shows the final double lights.

model train lighting

The next photo shows a diagram of the dimensions of pipes using ¾” PVC parts.

model train lighting wiring diagram

The next shot shows how the two vertical pipes were held to the sides of the model train layout. This is a tight friction fit which allows the height of the lights to be adjusted.

 train wiring tube for lights

Here is a photo of the parts I used. How to wire the lighting fixture was shown on the back of its package.

parts for model train lighting

Here is a lighting diagram for wiring the standard lamp fixtures. The wires run through the pipes going to the left. In the US, the wire used for the neutral is marked with a molded line or ribs.

The pipes were temporarily held together with tape for support. The two wires from the lamp fixtures were connected to an extension cord with the female end cut off.

This extension cord ran down the vertical pipe through a drilled end cap. Wire nuts were used as shown in the photo below.

Be sure to connect the three neutral wires (marked as above) and the three hot wires together.

Model train lighting:

 lighting rack for model train layout

The wire nuts were then wrapped with black electrical tape for insulation and the wrapped wires were pushed back into the pipes.

model train lighting wiring

Finally, here are three photos which show the even lighting with these lights.

N scale freight

N scale model railroad

N scale model train

Al, thanks for all you do for this hobby.

Dean from New Mexico”

A big thanks to Dean for sharing his model train lighting post – there is lots on the blog about adding lighting to the actual layout, but I think this is the first on shining a light on the actual layout.

Here are just a few of the posts on LED lights:

Adding lights to model railroad buildings

Model train LED lights

Connecting LED lights to power

LED street lights

LED lighting for your model railroad

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More N scale layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

9 Responses to Model train lighting

  1. Ross Herbert says:

    Very well done!
    I especially like the fore-thought on disassembly.
    Do you see disassembly happening often, or just when the layout gets taken apart?

  2. Glenn says:

    I did something similar over my work bench, except I used the gray electrical conduit system. It’s advantage is the system junction boxes have covers that are screwed on, only I used the typical lamp base sockets without the covers. For wiring I used replacement lamp cord and a switch that plugs into a socket.

  3. James Lawler says:

    Great Idea Dean! You gotta love PVC pipe you can do so many things with it, other than its intended use, gas pipe is another one of those wonderful products. Keep the updates coming Dean and the rest of you too, an thanks Al, for keeping us all connected. Maybe one day I can put my ideas on paper and create something really cool like the rest of you.

  4. Martin Gainsbury (FIET) says:

    Don’t do this in the UK, it is against no end of requirements of our legally required standards and we have 240 volts!

  5. Jim AZ says:

    Nicely done. A great idea to achieve lighting that’s practical, affordable and mobile. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim AZ

  6. Arthur Romano says:

    I like lighting up everything. It adds warmth and ‘action’ to small layouts in any gauge. Nice work here for sure.

  7. Rich B. says:

    Can’t say a lot with this one. The light socket diagram is spot on for polarity at least. I don’t believe this to be any sort of risk but still haphazard. Should be at least plugged into ground-fault if in basement. Not sure with those sockets/floods if left on might melt the PVC.

    Can this be removed from U-tube, may get sued for liable? No, I’m serious….


  8. robert dale tiemann says:

    nicely done. very nice layout.

  9. Will in NM says:

    Neat idea for improving the layout lighting Dean! I did notice some sag in the top PVC pipe between the tees for the lamp sockets which could get worse as the heat from the lamps softens the PVC. The gray schedule 80 PVC pipe is designed for use as electrical conduit and has thicker sidewalls than schedule 40 PVC. That might be less likely to sag under the weight and heat of the lights. Of course, using LED bulbs would generate less heat than incandescent bulbs. I like the western look of your layout.

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