Electrical and Lighting Articles
This page is one place we're trying to collect available articles about electricity and garden railroading. There is no one best practice for any wiring, lighting, or control topic, so we are listing the things we come across or try out that might be helpful to the next person. If you have any content you'd like to see in this place, please let us know, and we'll post it here or link to it if possible - and of course you get full credit for your ideas and photos.
- Large Scale Power and Control - Describes the advantages and disadvantages of all the most popular ways to power and control your trains, including conventional track power and control and most kinds of remote control. If you're thinking about battery-powered remote control, you should probably read this article before you buy your track.
- DC Power Demystified - Describes the kinds of DC power used by model trains and the technologies that provide that power. Also provides an overview of "analog controllers" for track-powered trains.
- Electrical Safety and Garden Railroading - Rules of thumb for safe use of electricity in any garden, especially a garden railroad. August, 2002
- Almost-Free Building Lighting - Use inexpensive supplies and discarded Christmas lights to create building lighting that is all but free. But don't wait until after Christmas to pick up the crucial part - 12v replacement bulbs for Christmas light strands. New December, 2012
- 12 Volt Street Lamps from Specialty Light Strands - A ten-light 110-120v strand with special "lamp-like" fixtures can easily be divided into ten 11-12-volt fixtures suitable for use in street lamps. The complicated part is giving them posts to hang from. In this article I research two ideas but I know there are dozens of other possibilities. This approach gives you working street lamps for a fraction of what they cost to buy. New August, 2009
Building a Simple Power Cart - Jim Satterfield's notes on building a "power cart" to attach his power supplies and remote control receivers to his railroad quickly whenever he is ready to start running trains. Most people who have more than one garden train running at a time need something like this sooner or later. Photos of two other solutions follow Jim's article.
- Lighting Buildings with Low Voltage Garden Lighting - Describes low-voltage garden lighting installations and some ideas for using them on your garden railroad. Updated, November, 2008
- Solar Lighting Update - 2013 - Our third look at solar garden lighting examines the admittedly incremental differences between what was available in 2007 and what is available now. Some bits are more useful for garden railroaders than they used to be.
- Mini Solar "Lamp Posts" - The "2/3 AA" battery is allowing solar lamps to get even tinier. With some stores selling these belowe $2 apiece, it's not hard to shed a lot of light on your railroad quickly. I warn you, though, replacement 2/3AA cells cost more than the whole fixture.
- Ideas for Solar Lighting - Here's the original 2007-2008 article about my early experiments with solar lights.
- External Structure Lights - Originally published in the Miami Valley Garden Railway Society newsletter, this article by Wil Davis gives some great ideas for an easy upgrade that will add character and realism to your buildings, especially after dark. Unlike the lamp stands I described above, these move with your buildings, which can make setting up and tearing down easier, too. April, 2010
Free Project Wire from Bad Light Strands
- When I recently wired my buildings for a garden railroad open house, I found a source of useful project wire in a pile of stuff I was planning to throw away anyway. January, 2009
- Low-Voltage LED Garden Lighting - Using LED fixtures that have been "wired" to work in 12-volt systems - way more light, way less power, a few drawbacks. Updated, December, 2009
Power and Control Articles from Other Folks
- George Schreyer's power and control articles - George likes to try out new things, then tell us what didn't work out as well as what did. He has tried just about every way to power and control locomotives, so his Large Scale Technical Tips page is chock full of useful information. Here are a few articles that will help get you started:
- We have a few more articles to link to as soon as we get the authors' permission, so check back once in a while. :-)
As always, please contact
us with questions, corrections, additions, suggestions, or for any other reason at all.
Best of luck, all,
Paul D. Race