Cheap, easy, lights for your layout

Lights for model railway buildingLet 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 as Train 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 some lights 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.

Could they be used on my layout?

At the prices they’re sold for, these candle lights can’t be more 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.

It should be easy to extract the bits I want and given these are often sold in quantities of 50 or more for under a tenner it’s a cheaper way than buying the components needed.

After a bit of experimentation it was indeed as easy I’d hoped.

model railway tips

Simple to do but adding lights brings a model railway to life.

Using a pair of pliers I cut and pulled away the outer casing and removed the LED and battery.

The rest of the gubbins made a very simple plastic switch that pressed one of the prongs from the LED to the battery providing an on-off switch. They really are very simple. These bits were discarded.

With the LED and battery, cellotaping the LED to the battery (one prong on each side of the batter) and putting the the contents inside the buildings on a layout to produce an effective illumination for a fraction of the price it would otherwise cost.

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

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

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

If you’ve got some LED candle lights in your house, give this a go now and see how you get on.

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

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.
  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

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.