Thursday, August 28, 2008

Layout Progress as of 8/28/2008

This week I started installing the lighting for the CSX Dixie Line layout. For my lighting solution, I decided to go with compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). I estimate I will have about 70 lighting fixtures on the layout, so the choice to use CFLs was an easy one since they use little power and generate little heat. For example, I am using 40-watt equivalent CFL bulbs--this means the light output of the CFL is comparable to that of a 40-watt incandescent bulb, although the CFL actually uses only 9 watts to produce the same amount of light. Using 70 40-watt incandescent bulbs, I would be drawing a whopping 2,800 watts just for the layout lighting! However, by using CFLs, I am only consuming 630 watts. Plus, the heat generated by those 70 incandescent bulbs would turn the layout room into a walk-in easy bake oven!

Of course, while I determined CFLs to be ideal in this situation, they are not the perfect choice. Most CFLs are not dimmable, and the ones that can be dimmed are quite expensive and unreliable. Also, the color choices available in CFLs are limited. This latter problem is not much of an issue since "soft white" CFLs have recently become commonly available at all of the big box home improvement stores.

The first picture shows all of the components I use for a single light (clockwise from top): light socket with 15' plug in cord, 9-watt "soft white" CFL, #14 x 3/4" wood screw, 1 1/4" conduit hanger and a small strip of craft foam. The lighting fixtures were purchased from Ikea for about $4 each and are readily available on the Ikea website.

To distribute power around the layout for the light fixtures, I am building a "power strip" along the bottom of the layout all the way around the room and down the peninsula. The picture below shows the first section of this power strip. The blue box at the far left in this picture is for a light switch that allows all of the layout lights to be turned on/off from a single point. You can also see where the power strip plugs in to a standard wall outlet using a 14 gauge cord. There will be a double receptacle installed at the bottom of each wall bracket and on each peninsula support. The cords running down from the fixtures to the power strip will be covered by the layout backdrops, while the power strip and the bundles of excess cords will be hidden by the layout skirting that will hang from the lower level. In this picture you can also see four of the lighting fixtures that have been installed under the benchwork for the middle level of the layout:

This picture shows a closeup from below of one of the installed lighting fixtures. You can see how I used the small strip of craft foam between the fixture and the conduit hanger. This piece of foam allows the conduit hanger to better "grip" the fixture so that it will not slide around or come loose over time:

Here is the same lighting fixture shown in the previous picture, this time viewed from above. Cable ties keep the cord secure and route it behind where the layout backdrop will be installed. You can also see two of the double receptacles installed at the bottom of each wall bracket along the power strip:

Here is the same light fixture once again, this time looking straight down through the upper level benchwork:

Here is a view looking along the benchwork for the middle level, showing the light fixtures that illuminate the lower level:

This is the same view as in the previous picture, except that the lights have been turned on:

Here is an overall view of the lower level being illuminated by the newly installed lighting (the room lights are off in this picture). I currently have the fixtures installed at 2' intervals, but this spacing can easily be adjusted as needed. Next I will install and paint the backdrops which should allow me to determine if there are any bright or dark areas that will require adjustments to the fixture spacing.