Friday, November 26, 2010


This is a continuation of a subject that will pop up on occasion - electrical issues on my layout.  I know a bit about electronics but am by no means an expert, so I will try to keep it simple.   I intend on using a fair number of LEDs to light my layout.  I like their longevity and their efficiency, but also realize they have limitations.    One big issue for me is they might work for modernish industrial lighting but for the early 50's, their whitish glow doesn't work well.  They do make yellowish white LEDs but they are a little on the pricy side so I plan on using some translucent stains or paints to see if I can adjust the tone of a LED.  For now, however, a little experimentation - against my better judgement, I found myself in a Home Depot on Black Friday - the $1.98 LED Christmas Light strands caught my eye so I picked up five boxes, figuring on using them for their stated purpose if I couldn't find a model railroad use for them.  
The strands are configured like a traditional light string with the LEDs wired in series.  There are two larger pods inline that must contain resistors or current limiters.   The individual LEDs and their holders can be cut from the string individually, leaving you with a pre-wired LED - no soldering near the device.  It also will allow you to change the LED if it ever burns out.   With this brand, the wire coming out of the locking nub side is the positive.  You can go further and take the LED out of the holder and then take the plastic base off the LED, leaving you with a raw diode - the long lead being the positive.    For hidden wiring just using the LED and its holder should work fine.
I did play around some more, creating a light post from a single LED, some 1/16 tubing and a 1/8 inch H-column.  The LED leads are simply inserted into the tubing (bend the lead a little to insure contact) and then the whole deal is locked together with some epoxy.  The bulb and pole can be painted  to complete the effect.  These lamps might be used against a backdrop so I've left the tubing protrude in order to make my connections.  If this was free standing I'd have to attach wiring to the tubing and route it down the H-column.   I will need to pick up some translucent tint to see if I can adjust the bulb color.    A 2 or 3 volt power supply will work fine with this set up.

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