I received an email from a rather well-known US model railroad identity asking me about the layout lighting Peter Lewis used on his A-Tractiv Effort layout. Since I often take photos of layout lighting as a personal interest, I had some photos to send to him.
I then started to think that perhaps I could write a post on layout lighting at model railway exhibitions, using the Epping Model Railway Exhibition as a starting point for an ongoing look at the issue. After all, in a previous post I was quite critical of poor layout lighting at the Sandown exhibition.
There are really two perspectives on the layout lighting issue at exhibitions. The visitor wants to be able to see the layout displayed so that he/she can actually see the trains, buildings, and scenery as easily and realistically as possible. Th exhibitor wants to use layout lighting to show the layout as well as can be, within the constraints of time, cost, portability and ease of setting up (and down) at exhibitions. The biggest challenge is providing even light across the entire layout on display and to minimise shadows (and still within those exhibitor constraints). It's a tough ask.
The following photos show examples of layout lighting from most of the layouts at the Epping Model Railway Exhibition last weekend. Layout lighting is usually a subjective issue, so I just want to illustrate the types of layout lighting on show last weekend. I will, however, exclude my personal comments on layout lighting for photographic purposes since most visitors to an exhibition aren't there to take photos of the layouts.
The first photo (above) is of the layout, Dungog. The layout used hooped lights in a rather art-deco looking light shade. I don't recall the lamps being obtrusive as the photo might indicate and the layout lighting seemed adequate for viewing purposes. By using single lights in fixed positions one must be careful in trying to provide an even light across the display area.
Another form of spotlighting was in the shape of this under-cabinet light unit attached to a tubular post on the Myallie Yard layout. There were two of these fixtures on the small loco-depot based layout. I have seen these under-cabinet lights at the local hardware store but I am not convinced they provide sufficient even light.
The N scale South Bend layout is 7.5 metres long and therefore offers both lighting challenges and set-up challenges. The layout uses fixed positioned lighting (fluorescent, I think) within a boxed light shade.
The previous layout examples featured lights that were fitted to posts of some kind and "hung" over the displayed portion of the layout. The next two examples show how the lighting is part of the actual layout structure within a "showcase" type of presentation. The first layout is the HOm Bergun and the second layout (with two photos) is the HO scale A-Tractiv Effort which is fully enclosed, the front panel being clear Plexiglas. Note the double fluorescent tubes used under the front fascia on A-Tractiv Effort.
I do know, from helping set up layouts at exhibitions, that layout lighting is not a simple thing to do. The planning and construction methods are important but perhaps compromised in terms of ease of transport and setting up. Layout lighting is, as you can see, as varied as the layouts themselves. And layout lighting for exhibition layouts is different to layout lighting styles for home model railway layouts.
Layout lighting is an interesting topic and something I will return to every now and then in the future.