Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lighting the Saybrook Scene

Here's the Saybrook scene with the backdrop in place and (almost) ready to paint. As you can see, it's pretty dark, and before I do my last coat of topping and start painting, I really want to be able to see what I'm doing. So it's time to Install Lighting.

Now, lighting is one of those areas where my reach sometimes exceeds my grasp. In my mind's eye, I see the Saybrook scene lit like a museum diorama - all indirect/spot/track lighting, hidden from view, lighting only the scene. But this is an expensive enough hobby as it is and I'd rather focus my limited resources on more railroady stuff than professional quality lighting. IMHO, this is an area where one can afford to economize. Here's how I do it:

Shop Lights - $10.97 each and bulbs $4/pr at WalMart - though I have to admit, noticing the reviews while preparing this post, I'm wondering how wise this choice will end up being. All I can say is that I've used these over my older section of railroad for 2 1/2 years now without a problem.

If you have an unfinished basement ceiling (first of all - why?? At least cover your ceiling joists with plastic to keep dirt & dust from raining down), you can just attach the lights to the ceiling joists. But if, like me, you have a drywall finished ceiling, what do you do? Well, you can use a stud finder to "see" where the joists are and screw your mounting hardware into them. Or.... you can do what I do. . .

. . . use a combination of drywall anchors and screw hooks. This way you can locate your shop lights anywhere you want, without restriction. And installation couldn't be easier...

Locate where you want the first light chain to go (place the light where you want and mark where the chain will hit the ceiling), drill a 1/4" hole, push & screw the achor in. Note: if you hit a stud when you drill, you won't need the anchor (though you may need topping to fill the hole around the hook)

Screw in your hook and hook on your light chain, adjusting for height.
Now your layout area probably looks like, well, a shop. But this next little innovation transforms the "shop look" into a "museum look." Well, to my mind anyway...

Get yourself a couple of small binder clips and some picture hangar wire. Attach the wire to the clip as above.

Clip to the front (layout) side of the light, in line with the chain - and then attach the other end of the wire to the hook, pulling up the layout side of the light.

Voila!! Instant faux valence! The light is directed away from the viewers and the aisle and directed instead toward the layout.
This isn't a perfect lighting solution, but it's certainly inexpensive. And, with a little adjustment, can be make to look almost as effective as a full lighting valence, with a fraction of the time and expense.

Even though it's not totally necessary (I'm already getting 90% of the desired effect), I'll likely add a valence anyway, if only to hide the shop lights and wires from view. I'm debating using some of that vinyl flooring I have left over (much easier on foreheads) - otherwise, I'll go with a more traditional masonite valence. Thankfully, given how well this scene is now lit, there's no hurry to decide.

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