Friday, April 23, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 24) - Let There Be Light

The plan for lighting my layout has been kicking around for several months.  The rooms' current lighting is two 18" LED boxes, and a 12" LED box hung over my work bench.

The room lit with the previous 18" LED bar light and LED work lamp.

This is one of my previous ceiling LED work light bars.

The new layout needs more lighting with additional fill.  My old lighting bars focused the light over the work space on the work bench, which is good, but I'll be moving them to better places now.

New LED Strip Lighting

The process of lighting the Jawbone Branch is starting.  Three 5 meter (16.5ft) rolls of 4000-4500K LED strip were ordered a few weeks ago and have arrived.  

Roll of 4000-4500K LED strip pulled out of the bag.

A view of the 3/4" plywood strip I ripped on the saw to point the LED strip at the layout.

I wanted the light to shine down on the layout and not really need a valance to shield the operators' view of the layout.  The angle of lighting emitted from the strip is focused roughly on a 60-70 degree angle.  So I settled on 25 degree angle after testing some LED strip on the ceiling.  This keeps the lighting mostly off the workbench and floor.  Any extra light coming out the top against the ceiling will be bounced and help fill on the backdrop wall.

I cut strips of 3/4" plywood with a 25 degree angle to incline the LED strips.

My stock of spare 3/4" plywood worked out to cut three strips a bit over five feet long and a bit over 1" wide increasing with a 25 degree slope.  

Temporary LED Attachment

Close-up of the LED strip, east end.

The plywood strip is clearance drilled for screws to hold into the roof beams of the shop.  The foil-foam panels have the reflective silver foil down, which helps to bounce the light which spills onto the ceiling back down onto the layout as a high-angle fill.

The magnet wire I'm using to twist-tie the LED strip in place for now.

The LED strip is wire twisted to the Plywood with some fine magnet wire.  This is a temporary method to hold the LED strip in place.  The magnet wire has a lacquer insulation coating, so it shouldn't short out to the LED strip.

4000-4500k LED strip wired in place on ply strip.

Once I decide exactly where the LED strip will go, then I'll probably peal the tape backing off, but I'll be using some other adhesive too.  I don't trust the stock tape backing to stick in my passenger cars, so I won't be trusting it in this application either.  As the plywood lighting bar gets closer to finished, I'll probably paint it, sealing the wood.  Also there are three plywood strips, currently the LED strip just bridges over the ends of it.  If I'm going to be taking it down and painting the wood, etc. then I'll need to cut the strips and solder some wires or plugs between the sections.

As the layout construction continues, a second set of plywood strips will be installed along the opposite side of the room for Bartlett and Little Lake.  I may also make a shorter section to keep the lighting consistent around the west end of the room.

Color Temp Test Photos

The 4000-4500k LED strips are installed, let's see how it looks.

LED 4000-4500 strip installed on ceiling.

I cut three sections of 3/4" plywood with 25 degree angle to point the LED strips' light down onto the layout modules.  These LEDs actually light up the whole room with secondary lighting bounce off of the ceiling and the wall.

4000-4500K LED strip lighting only.

The new 4000-4500K LED lighting looks ok in terms of fill, but in-person casts too blue-green of light to my eye.  In some situations I feel there should be more light in general.  I believe there will be room to run the 2800-3200k LED strip next to the 4000-4500k strip which is shown in these photos.

I'm satisfied with the low-profile nature of the plywood strip.  I didn't want a large valance hanging down from the ceiling.  On this side of the room, I can easily reach the lighting and screw it in place while standing on the floor.  I suppose I could put a small additional valance, maybe 1-1/2" tall to shade the light from dropping straight down onto the floor and work bench under the layout.

SP 3259 Weathering Comparison

SP 3259 posed at Owenyo in 4000-4500K light. - Test weathered flex track in front of 3259.

While the SP 3259 won't be a regular Jawbone Branch engine popping up north of Inyokern, I decided to use it in the color temp testing.  The weathering on it matches the LMRC scenery color very well, so I want to see how it looks here.

SP 3259 at Mojave Yard, working the Blitz Local. - LMRC ops session

These two photos of SP 3259 with its weathering matching the color of LMRC's Mojave Yard.  The 3259 is not one of the engines shown in the ETT's suitable for service on the Owenyo Branch.

Crew of the 3259 pose for the camera at Mojave between trips. LMRC ops session.

The second shot here shows how the color of the dust on the engine matches the dirt color at the LMRC Mojave yard.

SP 3259 sitting on the Krylon painted flex track.  Wood ties stained and stacked in the foreground.

I've already test painted a section of flex track with some Krylon Almond spray paint to make the ties look more dusty and mud covered, which is how Owenyo's trackage looks in the period color photos.

SP 3266 Weathering Comparison

SP 3266 with the bluish 4000-4500K lighting

I tested several models with only the 4000-4500K lighting.  The 3266 looks too cold and blue to my eye.

A couple of the boxcars sampling the 4000-4500K "sunlight".

These two cars are just a quick test of two boxcars.  I want the B-50-12 with the dust weathering to mostly match with the Jawbone (Southern California desert) scenery colors.

Passenger cars in staging with 4000-4500K lighting strips.

I tested a string of LED strip along the inside edge of the Owenyo modules to light the Mojave Staging Yard.  At full power, this is certainly plenty of light.  I might drop this strip to about 75%, as it is very close range.  The over-Owenyo lighting is about 30" away.  The staging lighting will be 4-12" away... so don't need nearly as much light there.

4000-4500K LED string under Owenyo, lighting Mojave staging yard.

The Staging tracks are on about 14' scale centers.  Trying to read car numbers on the rear tracks will be nigh impossible.  As staging tracks, I'll be planning to have the cars or train consists stored there already listed.  The "Main Track" is right at the front of the yard and the arrival-departure track being right behind.  This will allow the two tracks which will have the newest or most needed to see cars in front.

I'll be coming back and doing a future post about the lighting in the staging yard.  I will be cutting the strip and mounting it up inside the module structure.  I'll need to fashion some plugs to join the lighting between the modules.

Also, I'll probably put the staging lighting on its own control.  Turning the staging lighting off during operating sessions will keep the focus on the sceniced area of the layout at Owenyo.

A bit cluttered with construction stuff... but I foresee this being the Mojave Yard Clerk's desk.

The lead at the east end of Mojave yard (under the Owenyo wye and the end of the branch) is right above one of my desks.  So it should be a good space to work the yard and make lists with the cars pulled out on the main line next to the east door.

I may also put in a book case and places for switchlists and operational documents to keep the staging yard organized.  A computer may also find a place to live in this area.

Lighting Comparison

"Max Lighting" 4000-4500K LED with both work lamp and warm LED bar light.

Currently, this is layout with "Max Lighting."  Hopefully a second string of 2800-3200k LEDs will get the lighting up to this level "normally".

4000-4500K LED strip only.

Just as reference... here's only the new 4000-4500k LED lighting. Compare this with the photo below.

LED 4000-4500 with LED 18" bar light

Partial lighting without the LED work lamp.  This isn't bad... the bar light is doing a nice job of accenting the tail of the wye.  I might need to put a bit of extra LED strip to catch the wye tail when I'm done.

"Old" Lighting without the 4000-4500K LED. - With LED work lamp.

This is more like how the lighting has been when I've been building for the last three months.

PS - Edit 04-27-2021

The new 2800-3200K LED strip showed up, so I installed it beside the 4000-4500K strip.  I shot a quick video with the static 4000-4500K strip, and put the 2800-3200k strip on a variable voltage power supply.  The 2800 strip ramps up and back down.  The camera adjusts to the changes, which makes the color change less noticeable as it mostly keeps up.

In Closing

New switch tie material cut and stained to finish the switches.

Obviously, there will be more along this topic in future posts as I get the next LED strip of 2800-3200k temperature and continue the testing.  Also placing the lighting under Owenyo to light Mojave staging. Before then, in the next couple posts I'll be looking at the special construction and track laying on the wye.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP "Jawbone" Branch Index Page - Links to all my blog posts on my new Jawbone Branch layout.


  1. Hiya Jason

    I wouldn't fuss too much about lighting at this stage. You would do better to wait until you have some ground cover and scenery on the layout first, then see how the light affects.


  2. I agree with you that the 3000ish lights are better. Also, you are right not to trust the peel-off adhesive that the strips come with. We used a latex caulk and held it down with pushpins until it dried.

    1. Yup, we're in agreement Burr. I usually used CA or RTV-Silicon in the roofs of the passenger cars when I glued the LED strips to the dimensional styrene backing strip. So figured that I'll have to do something similar with the layout lighting situation.

  3. What is the CRI of these lights? I've played with color temps on my layout using fluorscents, and recently upgraded from 3000k 80-CRI bulbs, to 4100k 90-CRI bulbs. I'm not sure about the temp; there's also a 3500k option for these T8 bulbs, but for now the family opinion was the 4100k looked better.

    However - the main thing is actually the CRI (color rendering index). Sunlight is 100, and incandescent is also 100. New flouroscents go up to about 93 CRI (although there's a 5000k option with 98 CRI - but it's too cold to my eyes).

    Anyway, CRI is the main spec for how well color renders. Color is 'viewed' by wavelengths of light reflecting off paint colors, and if a wavelength is missing from the light, the color is perceived as gray. Thus - if LEDs are missing red wavelengths (for example), oranges and reds on the layout will appear muddy. The best LED options I found (that I could afford) still had CRIs in the 70s or low 80s, which wasn't high enough for me. I'm wondering if you've found anything with higher CRI yet.

    1. The new 2800-3200k LEDs have a CRI of 80. The 4000-4500k LEDs are not rated.
      The 2800ks arrived today and I strung one set of them along side the 4000k strip. I'll have an upcoming post soon with the blended lighting of the two, which looks pretty good.


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