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Peter's Model Railroading | Articles | Layouts | Layout #7

I wanted these to be as light as possible, so I built them out of 1/8" Masonite hardboard. The ends are 3/4" plywood for core structure, and the Masonite panels are glued together with 1/4" strips of wood.

I cannibalized a standard 4-foot fluorescent light fixture for the two clips that hold the light bulb in place. Yes, those metal light fixtures are actually heavier than my light bar! I decided to glue them to the light bar, so I first needed to sand off the three nodules that are on the back. The one on the left has been sanded and the one on the right is the original. I used a grinder wheel, which made quick work of it. The clips are made of plastic, but it is a very tough plastic.

I glued the clips to another set of 3/4-inch plywood boards with epoxy glue and let them dry overnight. The clips are one inch away from the top of the light bar. The next day I glued the plywood boards to the light bar (shown here). Their distance from the ends are such that the light bulb, which is just slightly longer than 47 inches, comfortably fits between them. Some test fitting was necessary to get that distance just right.

This photo shows how I routed the red wires of the other clip, as the main power wires for the fluorescent lights are routed above> the layout. Also shown here is a cap filling the gaps between the plywood corners. Those caps will be the bottom of the light bar and they hide any space not used by the lightbulbs.

This photo shows the completed lightbar as it will be viewed from the front of the layout.

This photo shows the underside (layout-aimed) lightbar.

And this is the view of the rear of the lightbar. This area is not visible, and it is within the cavity (between this and the wall) where all of the layout's wiring will be routed.

But, we are not done yet. The layout's backdrop panels are integrated into the light bar. There is a 1-inch space behind the bottom trays of the modules and the wall. To make sure I would allow a bit of a fudge factor, I cut the vertical supports just short of 1 inch (15/16"). I am spacing them 6 inches apart (on center). In the next photo I am gluing the first set of these to the back of the light bar.

Once finished with these furring strips, I cut and glue the backdrop Masonite panel to the lightbar structure, leaving enough open space at the bottom which is where the layout "tray" will sit.

For the two ends of the layout, I cut this Masonite board shape, so that I could hide the ends.

To help diffuse the fluorescent light, I cut strips of this lighting panel material that lays lose on strips of 1/4" wood I glued to the bottom of the lightbars. That way, I could remove the diffuser panel and gain access to the lightbulb to replace them.

I painted the interior space of the lightbar with a white paint to maximize the reflectiveness. Here is a photo of the first lightbar and the end piece being installed on to the layout "tray".

This is what the backside of such a module looks like. The ballast rests on top of the cavity at the top.

The wiring from the layout space itself is routed through the back wall of the tray and attached to a terminal block. One pair is for the main DCC bus, and the other for the accessories (12V) bus.

At the top of the lightbar I couldn't drill into it, so I used construction adhesive to glue a terminal block to the ends, which allows me to connect that module's wires to the jumper wires between this module and the next one.

The module "tray" looks like this now, with the two pair of bus wires coming in from the back of the layout.

Here's the view of the top of the lightbar, the cavity between the wall and the front fascia/valence at the top. All the wiring is completely hidden, and you can see the two pair of bus wires coming into each of the layout "trays" below.