Yes, I know there are exceptions, but I've seen more than enough model railroads lit with nothing more than a couple of bare bulbs on a pull chain fixture to know how little we as model railroaders think about lighting before starting a layout.
I thought there was sufficient recessed can lights situated over the planned layout when I started. Remember, the railroad was planned and built as a double-deck layout. I lit the upper level with the aforementioned installed can lights (equipped with daylight LED bulbs) over the railroad and the lower deck with a seemingly endless string of thin profile (and pricey!) under-cabinet light fixtures. You can see the result by looking at the lower deck to the left of Bernie:
The result was sufficient and even lighting for both decks but when I removed the upper deck the layout suddenly looked dark - those can lights just weren't shedding enough light on things, and the backdrop wasn't helping.
|Early shot of the peninsula under existing light. At least Jeff's sneakers are visible!|
|Again under existing light. The fluorescent light fixtures were an improvement!|
|The aisle-side wall of the cannery in Waterbury was always buried in shadow.|
A few weeks before I took Christine out shopping in Gainesville (a trip that included "let's take a look at those new houses ...") I'd actually purchased an LED track light fixture - and planned to install it over the aisle just in front of Waterbury to see if that addressed the back-lighting problem.
I never installed the track light (it's currently packed up in storage) - but I'm determined to avoid some of the cobbled together solutions from the previous layout.
As we approach the rough wiring phase of the new house project I've been thinking about layout lighting. Three considerations:
(1) Making sure there's sufficient, even light
(2) Ensuring the fixtures are placed to prevent, or at least minimize back-lighting
(3) Distance from the light fixture to the layout.
To address the first two, I'm having the builder install extra can lights over the layout area - but I have a feeling they won't be sufficient. At least know how to get more light onto the center of the layout, although this time I'm going to use some better looking fixtures and try to arrange them with some sort of order so they don't look quite so hodge podge.
Some of the local guys have had some luck with strip LED fixtures - these pump out huge volumes of light, weigh practically nothing, and stay cool. I might even be tempted to play with adjusting the colors of the LED fixtures to produce nighttime effects - ("Moonlight in Vermont"?). Not unlike this layout (left) from the Portland NMRA National.
I'm also placing a number of can lights above where I think the layout aisles will be - hopefully that will address the back-lit problems - and if not at least they'll be sufficient connection points to hard wire other light fixtures.
Item #3 is a unique one for tall basement ceilings - ours are nine-foot ceilings - so the light has be strong enough to actually reach the layout surface!