Light Boxes: The Penultimate Chapter

As is so often the case with “small” layout jobs, the installation of the layout lighting in my new train room has taken far more time and effort than I’d anticipated. I had planned to work on some new benchwork this weekend, I even made an early Saturday morning visit to Bunnings to buy timber and some fittings to allow this to happen but the final installation and painting of the lighting boxes has taken up all my available free time. My plan was to make up two ladder frames for the storage sidings that lead out of the turntable, mount these on legs and top them with some ply but aside from buying the timber I’ve not managed to cut a stick.

Before I could install the face plates for the lighting boxes they needed a hole cut for the installation of the lighting fixtures. In this case it needed to be 90mm dia. holes. Luckily the electrician loaned me one of his hole cutting saws to cut the required openings.

The electrician not only dropped off a light fitting for me to test last week. He also loaned me a 90mm round hole cutting saw that I could use to cut the required opening in the MDF face plates I had ready to be installed in the boxes. I told him I wasn’t having him cutting holes in MDF upstairs in the train room in the process getting dust everywhere and all over the layout. I was going to do this job myself downstairs in the workshop where the dust wouldn’t matter. I mounted the hole saw in my drill press but a 90mm dia hole was a real challenge for the drill’s arbor. The drill kept stalling and the chuck kept dropping out onto the work piece as I tried to cut the ten holes. With a bit of perseverance I managed to get the job done and installed the plates into the boxes. With the pre-cut holes in the plaster board completed all that was required was to fill the screw heads, sand these back and then paint two coats of blue onto the boxes.

I started the painting of the boxes by running some blue masking tape on the white ceiling where the two colours meet to preserve the neat cut line. I then filled the holes left by the counter sinking for the screws and when the filler hardened I sanded this smooth. I’d previously filled and sanded the holes that I was able to prior to the installation of the boxes so this simplified the job but it was still hot work in the humid conditions of the train room with my head close to the ceiling. Today I came back and painted two coats of blue onto all ten boxes and now they are ready for the installation of the light fittings.

I could have come back and filled all the joints between the planes of the various sections of MDF I made these boxes from but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered: this is a room for model trains not a reception room in a royal palace. So while the boxes do show a few gaps and joints here and there from my less than perfect joinery I’m happy enough with the result.

As I sat and looked at the result of this small marathon of a job I did put some though into whether I wouldn’t have been better off with a continuous pelmet running almost the entire length of the room. It would still be relatively easy to install a single, long plank of 6mm MDF to the front of the boxes to provide a neater, continuous sheet across the lighting boxes but I don’t think I’ll go to this extent. The idea of the lighting is to throw light onto the layout and draw the viewer’s eye to the trains. I’m not sure that a long, continuous pelmet would achieve this any more successfully than the row of isolated boxes. With the amount of work and time this “small” job has taken up I’m not sure its something I want to devote any more time to.

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