Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cheap Lighting, Good Results

Over the the years, most have been said about layout lighting. You can waste enormous time reading online articles, printed press and a plethora of comments without ever doing anything close to lighting your layout.

A few years ago, I added lighting in my office room to bring some life to my figure collection displays. Basically, it was a series of small projectors on a track with LED lamps. Nothing fancy, but more than enough for the task and still good looking. I was pleased by the amount of light and ease of pivoting each lamps. As you can guess, from time to time, I did display trains on the shelves and thought to myself it would be a decent way to light a small layout.

Forward a few years to yesterday. To light Jérôme's layout, which is about 13' x 11', we used three of these track lights, one for each module. This time, instead of 3000K LED, we went with daylight 5000K. At first, it looked awkward, but in a matter of a few minutes, we couldn't tell the difference. Better, color rendition on locomotives and cars was up to the task and thus we kept the 5000K lamps.

I won't go in detail, but we found out a 3-projector track light was good enough to light an 8 foot long layout module when installed about 2 feet from the fascia. Depending on module geometry more or less lights can be needed. Another positive thing is you can orient the lamps in such a way to put emphasize on certain part of the layout, which bring some life on what we see.

Another positive aspect of track lights is they don't require complex wiring, use easily available standard components, don't need to build valence and can be located anywhere in a room. That last point is important because lights to close to the fascia cast very unrealistic shadows on model. With track lighting and no valence, you can locate the lights were they are more optimal. They look good and deliver a substantial amount of light economically. We spent about $110 on fixtures and LED bulbs to light about 20 linear feet of layout which is quite decent given the results.

I wouldn't be surprised we will soon update certain parts of Hedley-Junction to take advantage of this new lesson.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

St-Pie Layout Progress Update

Over the last few weeks, I've been working almost "full" time on the grain hopper fleet, altering, renumbering and weathering them to better reflect how they looked circa 2006-2008. I don't expect to finish that as soon as I would like, but I've set myself the goal of weathering all the rib-sided cars first then move on working on something else.

Jérôme and I also worked a tentative set of steps to achieve for the layout. No deadlines are set because his working schedule is highly atypical and we get very little time to work together. Since Jérôme is highly proficient at track laying, wiring and scene detailing and I'm bettter at scenery, rolling stock and structure building, we decided to divide the work between us in such a way we can optimize each steps.

To be honest, under most normal circumstances, this project would fail if expectations, resources and time available aren’t taken in account. This is why we decided to define our goals according to what can actually be done. The first thing that must be taken into account is the fact I won’t have access to the layout itself often. At best, once a month, probably less. It means a lot of stuff only me can do will have to be done on my benchwork then delivered to Jérôme for installation.

In that regard, it means scenery work (ground cover, grass, vegetation, river, etc.) will have to be kept to a minimum so they can be done efficiently in one session. The only way to achieve that is to minimize our expectations. It means we won’t go crazy over hyper-realistic scenery, but we will be careful to do a decent job, focussing on correct colors and textures based on the prototype. Given Jérôme’s focus is operation, this trade off isn’t that bad.

Thus, here’s the goals we set for ourselves:
  • Lay tracks and wire them as soon as possible using readily available components (NCE PowerCab and Peco track);
  • Assemble a realistic fleet of cars (correct prototypes, correct paint scheme, correct amount of weathering for the era);
  • Build required structures as close to prototype as possible. Reuse existing structures when possible, model only what was there;
Once these goals will be achieved, stuff like scenery, details, road vehicles and other secondary items will be added accordingly. 
Things we won’t do are backdrops (painted or photo), over the top scenery and tricky structure details. The goal is to get the sense of the place to support realistic operation. These things can be added at a later time but shouldn’t be important at first.