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model railway lighting

3 sections of County Gate on exhibition

It is most important that you model your layout under the lights that you intend to use. Colours can look very different depending upon the light wavelengths.

We have actually spent more time on developing the backdrop and lighting pelmets than actually building the model itself. Initially, we were going to use the pelmet as part of a system to enclose the baseboards during transit. This worked well, but we then purchased the largest trailer we could find and they would not fit! The description below describes our mk3 pelmets which do fit the trailer!

Our lighting pelmets are extended metal frames that are easily stowed in the trailer. They are identical to the lower crowd barriers but have two stub uprights that help keep the pelmets vertical. On the front face of the frame, Velcro is attached, and to this, the foam sandwich pelmet fascias are fitted.

Our thanks here go to David Zelly of the Mid Essex Model Railway Club who had the kindness to patiently explain his techniques to us. David is a professional theatre lighting expert who has developed model railway lighting using his knowledge. Luckily, we were able to contact him before we charged into the project and made all the normal mistakes!

David uses lighting to give the impression of distance from the front to back of the baseboard. His first rule is that the light pelmet must be AT LEAST 9" forward of the baseboard. This ensures that structures at the front of the baseboard are brightly lit which draws visitors to the model.

David Zelly suggests the use of daylight fluorescent lighting tubes all along the front, just behind the outer pelmet. We have used B & Q lightweight tubes that are enclosed in plastic covers so that in the event of a tube fracture, the model is not covered in poisonous powder.

Behind the inner pelmet he suggests fitting 25 watt 220 V AC halogen spot fittings (GU 10) at about 12" intervals. The bulbs used are 50 degree 'floods' rather than the narrower beam spots.

We tried this method and then had a halogen bulb explode all over the model. Even Major Colvin was blown off the platform!It was enough for us and we have now fitted bright white fluorescent lighting tubes instead. The effect is almost as good and a lot safer!

We have chosen to present the model at about midday. The lighting system used minimises shadow and fits our requirements very well indeed.

IEC 320 plugs and sockets (kettle plugs) join all the lights together which are suspended from the exhibition frame using wiring straps.

Thanks again to David Zelly. Your system really does work.

Graphics for the front of the pelmet are printed on plastic/foam sandwich and are attached with Velcro. This arrangement ensures that that graphics can be removed and safely stored without damage during transit of the baseboards. The graphics include a map of the extended railway, a brief description of each scene and brief history.