Thinking about lighting...

husafreak May 3, 2019

  1. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    Perhaps there is a comprehensive document covering all aspects of model train layout lighting, or maybe not. I am beginning to realize there are many different ways to do it and most of them look great. But I have a few beginner questions anyway before I charge off on my own.
    First is track power VS a dedicated power source. Pros and cons.
    Second might be whether to use a dimmer box like the Woodland Scenics one or hard wiring various resistors in line. I have no idea which resistors to use to dim LED's.
    Third is types of lights, well, types of LED's. I imagine a variety of different lights would be most realistic. Say bright white for street lamps and car headlights, warm white for other outdoor lighting, maybe diffused warm white like the ones Z scale track center is advertising for interior lighting of buildings, and let's not forget the dim yellow bulbs on my older Marklin trains. They're special. A few of those scattered around might look great too.
    So variety and then more variety!
    Any advice would be great but right now I am leaning toward a Woodland Scenics power supply and dimmer box with all sorts of lights attached to it in groups (they could be a mix of name brand modeling lights or Pico LED's from Ebay), say a dimmer for the building lighting, another for the street lamps, another for exterior lighting on homes like porch lights, another for vehicle lights. Hard wiring all these lights with soldering is no problem. I don't need the plug and play aspect of it.
    So many lights, so little time...
     
  2. poppy2201

    poppy2201 TrainBoard Member

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    Hello husafreak. Right now I'm using the products from Ztrains. These include some lights, the remote dimmer and the Accessory Power Distribution Box all of which are connected to a Rokuhan C004 Accessory Switch which is connected to my RC02 controller. I can say that the Ztrain items are easy as pie to connect and deal with. I am very pleased with the items. When you start lighting in Z Scale there is no turning back. Everything looks so much better.
     
  3. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    I am glad to hear you like those lights. Have you found there is no (hopefully) interaction between the trains and the lighting when using the Rokuhan Controller for power? Is the C004 needed with the ZTR-210? Is the dimmer for controlling the entire layout of lights? I mean if I wanted to dim different lights to different levels would I need multiple dimmers? I suppose I could use resistors to dim the LED's individually and use the Ztrains dimmer for global control of the whole layout.
     
  4. poppy2201

    poppy2201 TrainBoard Member

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    1. So far I only have 3 LEDs set up and being controlled and haven't noticed anything unusual.
    2. The ZTR-210, one end plugs into the C004 or to the Accessory Port on an RC03. The other end is connected to the plug on the A016 or the new ZTR-251.
    3. The dimmer controls all lights connected into the A016 or the ZTR-251.
    4. Finally, check out the new ZTR-250 Standalone LED Power Supply and Rokuhan compatible cable.

    Hope this helps.
     
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    This is a good topic for our Inspection Pit Forum. Lighting has not scale specific, and folks in other sizes may have some good ideas to share.
     
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  6. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    The first question that needs to be answered is: how much? How much lighting do you want to install? How much do you (want) know about the electronics? How much time do you want to spend on lighting? How much money do you want to spend?

    If you are looking at using only a couple of lights, the solutions from Ztrains, Woodland Scenics, Rokuhan or Märklin are good solutions that won't break the bank. But as you increase complexity of the lighting, lighting a number of buildings, multiple lights and colors per building, special effects, these solutions start getting costly in terms of wiring and money.

    One can learn the electronics and the skills to produce their own lighting in about an hour and it takes me about twice as long to build and install lighting over the manufactured solutions. It also costs me about 1/3 the price. These days I use exclusively LEDs and wire them myself.

    I'd be happy to discuss the how-to future if there is interest, perhaps as E50 (if I can be familiar) in a different area of the board.

    Mark
     
  7. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    Right Mark, I know you have tried to help me with this question before. I guess a table or chart would be most helpful. One showing what voltages and resistance values go with the LED’s to be used. I did like the idea of having the lights on dimmers and using different types of lights. Bright lights VS diffused ones. I would limit myself to however many lights my power supply can handle, say less than 40, probably more like 30 for my layout. You know how it is, the pre packaged lights look perfect but expensive and with all those plugs! I would rather solder. Then I google Pico LED’s and I’m bewildered. It’s just hard to know what they will look like until it’s done via the DIY route, prepackaged seems like more of a sure thing.
    I will look for discussions on this outside of the Z scale forum too, good advice.
     
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  8. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Supporter

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    For Dimmers, there are the classic LED 'strip' dimmers, like this:
    LED dimmer - classic.PNG
    no matter what the box says, they'll do 24 volts, 6 volts or whatever. 8 Amps is pushing it but for nominal layout street, building and such lighting, you'll never get close to 8 Amps, likely not even 1 . . . unless . . . you are using light bulbs which may get you 1-3 amps but still WELL within this type of dimmer. You can buy these on Amazon, Alibaba, anywhere. Just search LED dimmer 12v or 12 volt. As low as $2

    Don't like the big box (<3" square)? Unscrew and take the board out, mount where ever you want. They'll look somewhat like this (many of the listings will show you the actual circuit board)
    LED dimmer - board.PNG
    These are PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), just like your DC loco controllers. You can use them to run your trains too
     
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  9. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    Hey that’s great. I can buy a few of those and a variety of Pico LED’s and using a battery or wall wart I can see what I get. Then I can group the lights and assign them their tasks.
     
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  10. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Supporter

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    For just about any white LED you use, they will be WAY too bright. It's just the nature of the market, making flashlights and such. You can dim them, but only with these PWM type controllers. You can't just use a larger resistor for less current (LED's work on Current flow). LEDs, especially 'White' LEDs are design to make a 'white' color temperature. Compared to a Red, Green or Blue which the light comes from the LED chemistry, 'Whites' come from phosphor stimulation from a near-UV spectrum LED. Its almost like your old TV tube phosphors. The phosphor emits green but combined with the blue you see 'white. If the current is reduced, trying to dim them, the 'white' color changes. So use a PWM dimmer.

    Most all LED's generally work fine with 10 milliamps (10 mA) or .01 Amps. Resistors can be determined by: Voltage/Current (Volts, Amps = Ohms. (Volts, mA = Kilo Ohms or K)

    Voltage is 12-(LED) or ~12-3 (for 1 white LED) = 9 Volts / (divided) by 10 mA = appoximately 1 K ohm
    For up to 3 White LED, ~12-(3x3) = 12-9 Volts = 3 Volts / 10 or ~ .3 K ohm or 330 ohm (that typical 10% tolerance value) Just 1 resistor for 3 LEDs in series.

    You can parallel the white lights (in principle, not a good design idea due to LED thermal properties) so that math would change the Current from 10 mA to say 30 mA for 3 whites in parallel or:
    ~12-3 = 9 Volts / 30 mA = ~.3 K ohm or 330 ohm typical 10% tolerance.

    Just so ya know Watts (as in HEAT) is produced by: Current (squared) x Resistance. Amps units: (.01x.01) A x 1000 ohms = o.1 W Use a 1/4 watt resistor, *not* a 1/8 watt resistor !
    For 30 mA example, (.03x.03) A x 330 Ohm = .3 W. A 1/2 resistor will get quite warm. So, its better to use 1 LED with 1 Resistor.
     
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  11. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Hi, husafreak. FWIW I am modeling an urban railroad with lots of buildings and have had the same issues about lighting. LED's are intensely bright. Without a dimmer the light is more of a distraction (my opinion) than dimmed, pre-set LED's. I have been using the Woodland Scenics system. The real drawback as you have pointed out is all those light hubs. What I'm trying to do is consolidate all of them into the smallest space and then use the auxillary switches to light each building. I have some buildings with 10 or more individual lights. I have posted several pix on the railimages section showing some of these buildings and the mess of boxes some of them have. I would like to find a simple way of consolidating them. Each hub has 2 mounting holes. I am thinking they can be stacked and stored vertically and then preset and controlled by the rocker switches . From WS's literature each wall wart will power up to 50 individual lights. I am almost at that capacity now and am nowhere near done. Conundrum? Challenge? Jim
     
  12. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    Jeff I found those PWM dimmers on Amazon 3 for $10, slightly cheaper on Ebay but come direct from China. Difference of a few cents. I noticed the big heat sink is integral to that dimmer!
    I also found an online retailer for LED's and a lot of useful products for lighting models:
    https://www.modeltrainsoftware.com/collections/hobby-leds
    I had a nice talk with him and learned a bit more about LED's and hobby lighting. His shop is a great place to see what is available although he does not sell the hard wired dimmers. With the dimmers and LED's, some wire, odds and ends, and a power supply it should all go pretty smoothly. You could definitely save money buying LED's in bulk on Ebay but I'll place an order with him just for his time and enthusiasm for the hobby and to get the ball rolling. I'll start with a 12v system as that is what the Rokuhan system is running on so I can use the same power supplies/batteries for my Rokuhan and Snail Speed controllers, rather than going with naked LED's on 3v.
    I know 12v is high for Z but that is what the Rokuhan wall wart puts out. I just have to avoid drag racing my trains.
     
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  13. husafreak

    husafreak TrainBoard Member

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    And Jim, not to put too fine of a point on it but you can buy 50 12v Pico or Nano LED's on Ebay for $25. Now we have to figure out how many can connect to a single dimmer, it's 8A less a conservation factor divided by...
     

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