Where darkness resides

Building Interiors FurnitureAdding internal lighting to the buildings on a layout is increasingly easy and growing in popularity amongst railway modellers but if you’ve done it you’ll quickly encounter another challenge.

If you read my last post on soldering you maybe using the techniques covered to add lights to building interiors. With a few wires, a resistor or two, some switches and well placed LED’s the insides of your houses, shops and offices can spring to life. An extra dimension added to your layout.

But illuminating the insides of your buildings has a dark side.

As soon as you flick the switch and shine a light on the shadowy interiors of your railway buildings it becomes obvious how barren and stark they are. With no decoration, they look artificial and fake at best.

Even without internal lighting the internals of buildings can sometimes be visible, especially taller structures such as office blocks, when at eye level.

What’s needed is furniture to adorn the station waiting rooms…

Adding furnishings makes whopping a difference.

Take a look at the picture above. I snapped this during my last visit to Miniature Wunderland a few months ago. Look at the Red brick building in the centre. And the white office block behind it.

With the darkness banished you can see into the rooms. Now rather than featureless empty spaces furniture is clearly visible. Brilliant!

It’s amazing so many model railways don’t do this.

The reason is that, strangely, there are very few tables, chairs, desks and beds in N, OO and HO scales available from model railway kit manufactures. It’s hard to believe but apart from a few of the main kit manufacturers provide suitable accessories.

With a little imagination and ingenuity however this can be overcome.

N Scale

If you’re working in 1:148 UK N scale you’re in luck.

Take a look on Amazon and eBay for doll house accessories. There’s a whole range of furniture available at 1:144 scale which can work on N Scale. From beds and chairs to wardrobes its available.

Being 1:144 they’re slightly out of scale but as they’re only visible through windows – and don’t forget the curtains – it’s possible to get away with it. For tables and chairs you can also cut the legs down to reduce their height.

OO scale and above

For OO, HO and O scale modellers its slightly more challenging but with a little bit of crafting there’s actually no limit to the furniture you can have.

The reason is that with aid of a little pack of Daz clay you can make whatever item you need.

Daz is easy to work with and air dries so no special equipment is needed. Just pinch off a lump of clay, shape it into whatever chair, table , bed or other furnishing you want and then use a scalpel to carve the fine detail. (For size, make it alongside an appropriate scale figure from Preiser etc. See more tips for working with clay)

Finish it off with appropriate paint layer and its ready for placing inside your building before you can say Home Base!

For floor and wall paper, find a appropriate image of the Internet and scale it using a photo editing application on your computer. Once done, print it out and glue into place.

Plan B. And C…

If you can’t get or make furniture there’s an alternative.


Photograph of building insidesUse photographs of building insides – appropriately scaled of course – and fix them to the windows! I started this post with a picture of furniture done right at Miniatur Wunderland, but they also use this other technique as seen in the photo here.

This gives has the double advantage that it gives the appearance of the buildings being illuminated without having to fit LEDs and is easier to do but it is the easier way out.

What it won’t give is the satisfaction or enjoyment making and positioning models within you structures will give.

I have occasionally used this to try out different interiors prior to making the furniture.

I’d love to see photos of your illuminated buildings. Share them on Instagram or email them to me (info at modelrailwayengineer.com) if you have photos.

> 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. Affiliate notice: If you plan to buy the products on this page or similiar, please use the links here. These will take you to carefully selected businesses, including Hornby, Rapid Online, Amazon, eBay, Scale Model Scenery and Element Games, through which you can buy products mentioned. These links are made under their affiliate schemes which means that although the price to you does not change I receive a small commission on the orders you place which helps me maintain this site and allows me to create more articles like this. Please see my disclaimer for more information. Thank you for your support, Andy.

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