Cheap, easy, lights for your layout

Lights for model railway building‘Tis the season of goodwill and festive cheer, so let me brighten up your railway with this quick and cheap way of adding lights to your layout.

In the past I’ve written about wiring up LEDs. As discussed, these little lights are normally powered by a suitable DC supply and with appropriate circuitry (such asTrain Tech’s marvellous mini LED controllers mentioned in the article) can create a pleasing glow or flicker in your buildings.

They do require a power supply and wiring however and while I use them in various places on my layout I’m always on the look out for easier and cheaper options.

It was while admiring the festive decorations Mrs. MRE was putting out, and some imitation candles she’d picked up in a local shop in particular, that a thought dawned on me.

Basically, these are just an LED, battery and perhaps a few other bits and wires encased in a tea-light style package dressed up to look like a candle.

Discarding the outer casing and bury the contents inside the buildings on a layout and they produce an effective illumination for a fraction of the price it would otherwise cost. (Pending the candles you get, some have a built-in flicker effect, such as the ones I used. If you’ve got these, they make ideal bonfire flame effects).

They probably don’t have a long life and need turning on individually* but if you’re looking for a quick, simple and above all cheap way of bringing lights to your model railway buildings nothing can hold a candle to Christmas decorations.

Update: Thanks for @passengeraction for the following extra tip:


Now to explain to my wife why we don’t have as many Christmas decorations as before…

* You can get remote control versions but these cost more which defeats the point of this tip.

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  1. I used a set of poundland Xmas lights on my boys layout I built him for Xmas drilled under the houses etc and soldered it all together…looks a treat

  2. Thank you so much for your instructive, helpful and wonderfully presented tips – I still haven’t started my layout but the first place I’ll go for advice is here. We wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and all you’d wish for yourselves next year. Kind regards, Chris and Pauline.

  3. I’m so glad you pinched your wife’s christmas lights Andy because I’ve been pondering about lighting up the whole of my town section on my layout with the same idea. I’m going to illuminate all the houses and businesses by pushing the lights, which are luckily on 35mm stalks, up through the bass board and into all the buildings and all for a fiver. I’ll let you know if works out, but first I must finish soldering the track. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
    Steve Broughton

    • Hi Steve, no Turkey for you this year LOL. Good luck with the soldering, hope it goes well. As always let me know how you get on and if there’s anything I can help with. Have a fabulous Christmas and great New Year. Andy

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