After all the wiring was done, I installed standard single-bulb 4-foot fluorescent light bulbs. These were Philips low-mercury "Daylight" bulbs. When I flipped the switch to turn the lights on, I was greeted by the harmonious buzzing of 18 light fixtures at around 60Hz, with a distinctly blue tint to the "Daylight" bulbs. Not quite what I was looking for, and, considering the amount work and money put in, quite disappointing...
After days of searching on the Internet, I finally settled on Natural Full Spectrum Lighting. They manufacture and sell electronic ballasts that are quiet. Their fluorescent light bulbs are full-spectrum with a CRI of 91 (an index that shows how close the colors reflected off of subjects match colors that would be seen on that subject in broad daylight; scale: 0-100). I ordered and installed the fluorescent light bulbs product number VL-06430, and the Workhorse 7 ballast (shown here). A costly investment, but each of the ballasts provides support for up to 4 single-bulb 40W light fixtures. Because of their length (about 17 inches), I had to come up with some creative ways to install them, while still keeping them within the right distance of the light fixtures they support (although the leads can be up to 18 feet for these ballasts). From the photo you can see a black (hot) and white (neutral) set of wires which serve as the input to the ballast. With the Workhorse 7 there are one yellow and four red wires coming out at the other end. The yellow serves as the common lead between the up-to-four light fixtures, and the red serves as the hot wire to the fixtures. There is no specific connection for a ground on the case of the ballast, but I created one, because that is too important to ignore.
The light bulbs have arrived. They were carefully packaged and all worked great. Update: even though these features are expensive, I am currently using these light bulbs and ballasts in my new S-scale layout (almost 10 years later). They will remain in use for as long as they last.
This photo shows the light bulbs installed. The ballasts are absolutely quiet. Not a peep, hum, or buzz to be heard. What a blessing! As an added bonus, these ballasts turn the lights on instantaneously; no start-up flicker that we're used to with fluorescents. Conclusion: The room is very bright. After being in the room for a few minutes, it feels like real daylight. They really work!
With the lights finished, I can now focus on the valances. The valances are made out of 1/8"-thick Masonite hardboard. They will be cut to 18-inch wide strips for the valances, with the remaining pieces to be used for the layout's fascia panels.
This photo shows 20 of the 21 panels needed for all the valances for the layout. I spread two sheets of plastic drop sheets on the floor. The photo shows the primer coat painted onto the back of the valances. The blue masking tape is to prevent paint from coming onto the area that will be used to glue these sheets up to the overhead lighting cabinets. Over the next few days we will put a coat of primer on the front of these panels, and then we will paint the back side white and the front side dark green.
After covering the back of the valances with primer and then a bright white latex paint, I covered the front with the same dark green paint I used for one of the walls in the layout room.
The valances are installed. As you can see in the ones by the window, there are gaps between the sheets. This is unavoidable considering walls and ceilings aren't straight and square.
I filled any gaps between the panels with joint compound, and sanded the surfaces smooth. I taped off the ceiling to get ready to paint the joint compound with the same dark green paint used on the panels.
The valances are finished. I am quite happy with how they turned out. It will really highlight the layout area later on.
The whole layout room will be trimmed with oak, so the corners between the valance panels and the ceiling will be covered with quarter-round molding, stained with Miniwax' Red Oak. The wood in the background is of the next thing to be done for the layout.
Although a bit dark, this photo shows the Oak trim installed at the intersections of the ceiling and the valances.
This close-up photo shows the trim around the valances much better. This is up against the dark green wall. I put trim around the edge where the valance meets the wall as well. It gives the room a very professional appearance.
Here's a view of the main model railroad room with its valances and trim installed.
A close-up photo of where the valance meets the oak wood door frame.