Just like a good backscene; see my A view from the line post regarding Fisherton Sarum’s backscene here, or my Canute Road Quay backscene post here; another area that I think is vital for any model railway layout, especially if being exhibited, is good lighting. There are a number of reasons for this: firstly and the main reason, is of course to show of your modelling efforts and skills in the best light (pun intended) possible, and secondly due to the fact the ambient lighting at exhibition venues can be variable at best. One key area to bear in mind is the colour / warmth of the lighting that you provide, more of which below…
Over the years a number of methods have been used with mixed results, such as using a number of spot lamps, fluorescent tubes, a mixture of the two and more recently LED strips. I am generally not a fan of multiple spot lamps especially facing in different directions as they can give unrealistic multiple shadows. Note also that technically you plant bulbs but use lamps as a light source in a luminaire…
The colour of white, might sound odd but in fact it’s actually a thing, or rather the colour temperature is. This colour temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). The slightly unnatural yellowy orange tint of a classic tungsten lamp would be in the 2700K (warm white) range, with the light becoming colder and whiter and slightly more natural, up to around 6500K for a cold blue light and even more blue up to 10,000K.
Many of us find doing actual modelling or craft work under a daylight cool blue white lamp (the daylight lamp I use is around the 4000K mark) easier on the eye and also better for rendition of other colours under this artificial light, this especially useful when painting.
Therefore the lighting that we use on our layouts will also benefit from being at the more daylight blue and more natural end of the white temperature spectrum.
On Fisherton Sarum I use, mounted inside the overhead pelmet (painted white inside), two daylight / cool white range (6500K) florescent tubes to give the overall and even illumination, with two additional spot daylight rated (approx 6000K) spot lamps to give additional illumination to the front corners of the layout specifically around the shed and houses areas (these are far enough apart and carefully angled to prevent any unwanted / unrealistic odd shadows).
Many modellers are now using LED lighting for layout lighting and usually via the increasingly widely available strips of surface mounted LEDs that you simply cut to length. They either come with a transformer and or a controller of some description. This is what I have chosen to use on Canute Road Quay. Just like lamps and fluorescent tubes these LED strips can be obtained in a variety of white colour ranges usually: warm (between 2700-3200K), daylight (4000-4500K) and cool (5000-6200K).
I obtained a metre long, cool white, self adhesive LED strip, plug and play kit complete with plug mounted mains transformer from LED Hut this was inexpensive, already the correct length and very easy to fit. The kit came with a simple plug and socket connection to the lead from the transformer, which I have extended to enable me to mount the socket under the baseboard.
With the overcast greyish sky backscene and drab industrial colours I am using on Canute Road Quay I opted for cool white as the more yellowish warm white would conflict with the overall layout colouration and appear to be less natural.
This strip has given a very even natural looking light, that alone slightly too bright for what I will want if and when I exhibit Canute Road Quay, I have therefore now added added an opaque strip of plastic in front of the LEDs to reduce the brightness slightly.
Some of the more expensive LED strips on the market allow you to control both the brightness and colour range, which would also give rise to changing the lighting to represents different times of the day etc. and I can see such effects being utilised more and more in the hobby.